BY: MARY JANE BRYAN
Committed to winning a challenge from friends, he falls in love with a woman who is not what she appears to be…
Brent Walker receives a challenge from friends to interview and photograph Margret Barnett, the elusive heir to a newspaper fortune. His only clue is Granville, a small Southern town. But when he gets there, no one in town will tell him where she lives. Still, all is not lost. While in Granville, he meets and falls in love with Tali, a beautiful young woman who lives on a farm with her grandmother.
She loves him, but she’s afraid to let him know who she really is…
Tali is used to people trying to find Margret Barnett, but she knows the town will protect her identity. She’s afraid if Brent finds out who she really is, he will only want her money and she wants to be loved for herself. Besides, he’s as secretive as she is about his life away from her, and she suspects he’s not the humble journalist he appears to be.
Can these two strong-willed people find a common ground of trust and acceptance, or will pride, stubbornness, and deception keep them apart?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In No Small Deceit by Mary Jane Bryan, Tali is a small town farm girl, or so Brent Walker thinks when he meets her. But she isn’t what she seems to be. Of course, neither is he. With deceit on both sides, it’s hard to have an honest relationship as both parties have something to hide. Add to the deception, the normal male/female misunderstandings and no relationship has much of a chance. But when they both get caught deceiving each other, pride and stubbornness make it hard for either one to forgive.
The story is cute and clever, the plot strong, and the characters believable. It’s a classic love story with an unusual twist, a very good read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: No Small Deceit by Mary Jane Bryan is just what the title says it is: the story of two people who start a relationship with a little white lie and find that it soon balloons out of control. Love is hard enough when the two people involved are honest with each other. But when you add omissions and deceptions, taking the relationship where you want it to go is nearly impossible. Our heroine, Tali, is a small-town girl, or so she tries to pretend, but her innocent façade is hiding a big secret—she’s really a newspaper heiress everyone thinks is an old lady. Into her life walks Brent Walker, humble journalist and mouth-watering gorgeous. But he isn’t what he appears to be either. Can these two complicated people wade through the deceit and mistrust to find true love, or are they doomed from the start?
No Small Deceit is a complicated tale of deception, mistrust, and two people who want to be loved for who they are and not what they have. Add in the machinations of Brent trying to get an interview with the newspaper heiress, and you have a charming, funny, and entertaining story.
Tali spotted the man when she was about halfway across the meadow, walking her horse at a slow pace. This was familiar territory for both of them.
The man was getting out of the driver’s side of a vehicle, the side opposite her. He walked toward the back of the car. He opened the trunk and started rummaging around.
She wondered what he was doing on this rocky, dirt road, and then she grinned to herself. She bet Burt, owner of Burt’s Gas and Tire Repair shop on the highway, had probably told this man to turn down this road as a shortcut to get to Granville.
The man had probably asked for the nearest way to Granville.
Since Burt was a great practical joker, he always told people who stopped and asked that to go this way.
Well, Tali thought, it actually is the closet way to get to Granville in terms of distance, that is true. But, as far as time is concerned, the man just found out the problem.
As Tali approached the car from the front, she could hear the man talking to himself. She could not make out exactly what he was saying, but she caught the words “flat,” “stupid pot-holes,” and a couple of other words she decided she would forget she heard.
She brought TD, her horse, to a stop at the front of the car. They had approached quietly, but the man probably would not have heard them, anyway, talking to himself as he was.
Just then a hand reached up, grabbed the top of the open trunk lid, and slammed it down with a loud bang.
He rose up.
“Whoa!” he cried when he saw Tali on TD just a car length away. He took a step backward.
The slamming of the trunk lid and a man suddenly appearing and crying out caused TD to rear up suddenly, which was unusual for him. He was generally a calm horse. Nothing ever seemed to affect him.
Tali barely had time to adjust in the saddle. If she wasn’t as excellent a rider as she was, she would have been thrown off at the unexpected move.
TD may have reared up because Tali had been so startled when she saw the man, she was sure she jerked the reins backward suddenly. TD was not used to having such a command from her. He probably just reared, confused as to what he was supposed to do.
The man was, by far, the best-looking man she had ever seen in her life. Dark blond hair was cut in an upsweep to frame his handsome face. His blue eyes looked as startled as hers did, she was sure.
Brent, on the other hand, had taken even another step backward. He knew he was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Tali had somewhat recovered her composure and calmed TD, but her heart was still racing. She was sure the man could see it pounding through her T-shirt.
“Flat?” she asked.
She knew the answer, of course. That was the major problem with this road. It seemed every time someone tried to go this way, for whatever reason, the result was a flat. That is, if the person were lucky. A ruined tire was more common. The locals avoided this road as much as possible.
She would have to talk to Burt about telling people to come this way. It simply wasn’t fair to them, practical joke or not.
“Yeah,” Brent answered, “an elderly gentleman at a gas station told me to come this way and I would be in Granville in ‘no time flat.’ I guess he was right!”
Brent grinned, sheepishly. He knew the joke was on him. He should have turned back when he was only a few yards down this road. At that time, he could tell what it looked like ahead for as far as he could see. He had hoped it would get better. But it hadn’t.
He should have at least turned around at the farmhouse he saw on a hill about a half a mile back.
“I’ll have to talk to Burt about that,” the woman said.
Brent brought his thoughts back to her. But his thoughts had never really left her. How could they?
“What’s that?” he asked.
Tali could have kicked herself. Here was her dream man, obviously from the city and wealthy, also, by the make of his car. And all she could do was say something stupid! He would surely think she was just a “hick from the sticks” and never want to be near her again.
She took a deep breath. She knew she wanted to keep him talking. His voice sent chills down her spine. She had never had such a reaction to any other man before.
Brent wanted to keep her talking. Maybe evasive answers or idiotic questions would keep her here.
“The elderly man you probably asked about how to get to Granville. He thinks it’s funny to send people this way. A little ways up the highway, you would have seen a sign at an intersection, with directions on how to get to Granville. It’s a very decently-paved county road. Nothing like this.”
“I guess I’m just lucky,” Brent replied. In more ways than one, he thought, because I may have never met you otherwise. Here you are, out in the middle of nowhere, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
Tali smiled. Actually, she would thank Burt and give him a big hug the next time she saw him. She had been leisurely walking TD across the meadow, going home, with really nothing to do the rest of the day. Sitting on the porch swing at the farmhouse could only be done for so long.
“I bet he gets lots of tire repairs from sending unsuspecting people this way, right?” he asked, sarcastically. It seemed logical to Brent–send someone to a place where they would have a flat, then offer your services.
“I really don’t think he looks at it that way,” she responded, bristling at his tone. She had known Burt Madison all her life. It was just his way.
Brent caught the narrowing of her eyes and the almost-resentful tone of her voice. He sure didn’t want to offend her, not at this beginning stage of what he hoped would be a delightful relationship.
No, one should not offend such a beautiful woman as this. He didn’t want a strike against him from the get-go.
She dropped the subject, much to his relief.
“What’s the problem?” she asked. “Can’t you fix a tire?”
This time his eyes narrowed. What kind of man did she think he was? A wuss?
“Of course I can change a tire, if, and that’s a big if, I have a tire iron, which seems to be missing from this trunk. And, no, I’m not so irresponsible as not to have one. I let a friend borrow my car last weekend, and I do admit I didn’t think to look in the trunk to make sure everything was still there when he returned it. He didn’t mention having a flat or using the tire iron, but there it is. You just assume everything will be there as you left it.”
He was sweating, his forehead covered. His shirt was soaked. He was stuck in the middle of nowhere. And he had just met a beautiful woman looking like this. He was in no mood to be friendly or even courteous. What right did she have to look so cool, to be so happy and friendly?
“Hop up behind me. TD and I’ll take you to town. Eddie at the station will bring you back out, fix your flat.”
The horse had been prancing, never still, as she made her offer.
Her voice was melodious, a lovely sound.
But Brent had never been on a horse in his life, much less such a magnificent beast as this.
“No way,” he said, shaking his head. “Thanks for the offer, but not me.”
“Suit yourself,” she responded, shrugging.
In one fluid motion, horse and rider turned, crossed the ditch, and jumped up the other side to the open meadow.
“Wait!” Brent called, but his voice fell onto deaf ears.
A second before he called out the horse had sprung into a gallop.
As she galloped across the meadow, she almost forgot about the horse. She had just met the best-looking man she had ever seen. She was still shaking.
Why had she offered to take him to town on her horse? Obviously, he was a “city slicker,” and was probably afraid of horses, especially one as big and powerful looking as TD.
He watched as they crossed the meadow. The horse seemed to glide across the grass, the rider in perfect harmony. They were one.
Her long, beautiful hair flowed out behind her. He watched until they disappeared among the trees.
Then he noticed the silence again.
“That was dumb. Really dumb,” he said aloud to himself.
He straightened up. He reached for his cell phone and flipped it open. No service.
Great, he thought. This must be a “dead zone.”
He tossed the phone onto the front seat of the car.
He was not sure how far it was to town, but he knew that the farmhouse was about a half mile behind, so he decided to go that way. He could telephone for help from there.
He reached into the backseat for his jacket and slung it over one shoulder as he began walking. He wasn’t going to reach any town in time to find and try to interview anyone this evening, let alone Mrs. Margaret M. Barnett, heiress to the Quincy fortune and newspaper baroness.
© 2016 by Mary Jane Bryan