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Excerpt Reveal: Such a Lovely Family by Aggie Blum Thompson

Such a Lovely FamilyThe cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Washington, D.C., and the Calhouns are in the midst of hosting their annual party to celebrate the best of the spring season. With a house full of friends, neighbors, and their beloved three adult children, the Calhouns are expecting another picture-perfect event. But a brutal murder in the middle of the celebration transforms the yearly gathering into a homicide scene, and all the guests into suspects.

Behind their façade of perfection, the Calhoun family has been keeping some very dark secrets. Parents who use money and emotional manipulation to control their children. Two sons, one the black sheep who is desperate to outrun mistakes he’s made, and the other a new father, willing to risk everything to protect his child. And a daughter: an Instagram influencer who refuses to face the truth about the man she married.

As the investigation heats up, family tensions build, and alliances shift. Long-buried resentments surface, forcing the Calhouns to face their darkest secrets before it’s too late.

Such a Lovely Family will be available on March 12th, 2024. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

Trying to be this perfect hurts.

The silk dress compresses Danit’s ribs, the three-inch espadrilles squeeze her toes, and the incessant smiling for the photographer makes her face sore. But pain is a small price to pay to belong. To finally be, at twenty-six years old, part of a family.

And not just any family—the Calhouns.

Ellie Grace slips her arm around Danit’s waist as the photographer calls out, “Fromage!” The pressure of her future sisterin-law’s arm against Danit’s ribs unleashes a warm feeling, the same sensation she used to get as a child when her mother would play with her curls. An almost primordial sense of belonging. I will finally have a sister, Danit thinks.

Danit fell hard and fast for Nate last year. That first month or two, it was hard to imagine wanting or needing anything more than him. But then she met his little boy, Malcolm, and saw pictures of his parents and brother and sister and realized that he came with this incredible family. And that by marrying him, she would instantly belong to his family as well. It was more than she had ever dreamed of.

Although this morning did get off to a rocky start with Ellie Grace, Danit attributes that to the stress of organizing the annual Calhoun cherry blossom party. When she and Nate and Malcolm arrived late last night to Nate’s childhood home, Ginny and Thom were already in bed. So her first introduction to the Calhoun family was this morning, when she came down for breakfast and found Ellie Grace fuming about missing flowers. When she turned on Danit, she was abrupt, bordering on rude.

“You’re not wearing blue-and-white gingham.” It wasn’t a question but a statement. Ellie Grace was wearing a sleeveless shirtdress in the checkered pattern.

“I . . . didn’t know I was supposed to,” Danit stammered, ashamed to have stepped in it so soon with Nate’s sister. When Danit was back in California packing for the trip, she had asked Nate if there was something special she should bring for the party. It was the first time she would be meeting her future in-laws, and she wanted to make a good impression. She knew they were wealthy, and she was nervous that what she had would not be good enough. But Nate had said nothing about blue-and-white gingham.

Thank goodness Ellie Grace had shown up with a collection of shirts, dresses, skirts, and wraps—all in gingham. Ellie Grace hustled Danit into the wood-paneled study off the living room to change. “I knew someone would forget. I’m sure I’ve got something in here that will fit you. Coastal Cues, that’s one of the brands we collaborate with, sent me a whole bunch of these. Here we go, this is cute!” She held up a sheath dress—navy blue on top and gingham from the waist down. You’re what, a size eight?”

“Ten, actually.”

Really, Danit is a twelve. Sometimes a fourteen. But it was nothing that a little Spanx and holding her breath wouldn’t take care of. And she wanted to please Ellie Grace.

“Give me that Calhoun smile!” the photographer orders with the verve of a cheerleading captain.

The Calhouns shift ever so slightly for the photographer, their stately white house in the background. From the corner of her eye, Danit glances at Nate’s parents—Thom, with his athletic build and perpetual tan, and Ginny, whose smooth, unlined face belies her sixty-two years. She hasn’t had a chance to really talk to them yet, not with the chaos of the party, and she has no idea what she will say to them when the opportunity arises.

Danit worries she might pass out from the warmth of everyone’s bodies and the constriction of the dress. The late-spring sun isn’t helping. It was much cooler in Mendocino when they left yesterday. Next to her, Malcolm fusses in Nate’s arms, and she takes the baby happily. He plays with the diamond on her ring finger

“Since you’re not yet technically a Calhoun . . .” Ginny winks at Danit, letting her finish the thought for herself.

“Oh, of course!” She steps away from the group and out of the photo.

“That’s ridiculous,” Nate says, but Danit shakes her head at him and smiles to let him know she understands. Which she doesn’t, of course. She’s never been in a family portrait—there was just her and her mom growing up. But she can kind of see where Ginny is coming from.

After all, Nate has already been divorced once.

This photo will go out this Christmas and feature the whole clan, all of them wearing some iteration of blue-and-white gingham. The men in button-downs, their sleeves rolled up, a little bow tie for baby Malcolm, a headband for Ginny, and so on. Even matching collars for the two French bulldogs, Asti and Spumante.

Ginny might be worried that the marriage will not go through and they will be stuck with photographic evidence of a failed relationship.

But it will. Danit is sure of it.

Out of the corner of her eye, Danit can see the first guests arriving. And just like that, the photographs are over and the party has begun. Light jazz begins to play from hidden speakers, and it seems to Danit that the pink and white tulips planted along the front border stand up and salute as if on cue. The Calhouns scatter and, almost like magic, waiters appear, circulating the lawn with shrimp puffs and mini quiches and trays of fizzy pink drinks.

Suddenly finding herself alone, Danit grabs a drink off a tray and takes a big sip. She doesn’t want to get drunk, of course. She wants just enough to take the edge off. Meeting all your future in-laws at once is tough to tackle sober.


Click below to pre-order your copy of Such a Lovely Family, coming March 12th 2024!

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