IF ONLY Bonus Story Blog Tour: RED GIRL, BLUE BOY by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Hi, all! Today I’m revealing a bonus story from Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s Red Girl, Blue Boy, a politically themed YA about the daughter of a Republican candidate and son of a Democratic candidate who fall in love. As part of this tour, Bloomsbury is providing a full set of IF ONLY books for one lucky winner, so check out the link to the Rafflecopter at the bottom for a chance to win Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore, Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae, and more!

RED GIRL, BLUE BOY (IF ONLY #5)

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Sixteen-year-old Katie and Drew really shouldn’t get along. After all, her father is the Republican nominee for President of the United States while his mother is at the top of the Democratic ticket. But when Katie and Drew are thrown together in a joint interview on a morning talk show, they can’t ignore the chemistry between them. With an entire nation tuned into and taking sides in your parents’ fight, and the knowledge that–ultimately–someone has to lose, how can you fall in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate?

This title in the If Only line is a frank and funny romance that shows how sparks fly when opposites attract.

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Lauren Baratz-LogstedAUTHOR BIO

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of more than twenty books for adults, teens, and young readers, including Little Women & Me, The Twin’s Daughter, Crazy Beautiful, and the Sisters 8 series, which she co-writes with her husband and daughter.

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Of Cookies & Kisses

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

A bonus scene to Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s novel, Red Girl, Blue Boy

part of the IF ONLY romance line of books about wanting

what you can’t have!

Drew and Katie are keeping their attraction a secret. The reason: Drew’s mother is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, running against a Republican rival who happens to be Katie’s father. The two sides don’t mix; in fact, they’re supposed to hate each other. In this bonus scene to Red Boy, Blue Girl, a surprise encounter with Drew’s twin younger brothers leads to moments that are hilarious and romantic.

***

DREW

Katie and I are in my garage. We tell each other that we’re working on my Corvair, but what we really do in the garage is talk and kiss. As much as I enjoy this small world we’ve created here, I really wish we could take this show out on the road—you know, talk and kiss in other settings, even in public. But if this is all we can have, because we’ve agreed that our parents’ individual campaigns for the highest office in the land would shine too bright a light on our budding relationship, I’ll take it.

We’ve dispensed with the talking portion of this particular meeting, at least for the moment, and I’m moving in for my kiss. I’m feeling all the usual sensations—heart pounding faster, head feeling a little dizzy like I could spin off the planet, and the amazing combination of peace and excitement I feel inside when I can see from the hungry look in her eyes that she wants to kiss me just as much as I want to kiss her. But then the sound of kids screaming penetrates my brain, and when that is immediately followed by the sound of someone beginning to raise the garage door, I have just enough presence of mind to step away from the girl. In fact, we jump far away from one another so quickly, it’s as though each regards the other as a hot stove.

It is, of course, the six-year-old twins, Max and Matt, still in their school uniforms, ties perfectly tightened at their necks, everything all crisp like they’re just starting their day even though it’s well into afternoon.

Immediately, I grab the first tool my hand touches, a wrench, and pretend to do something with it.

“Yo, what’s up?” I say, trying to adopt a nonchalant tone.

Out of the corner of my eye, I note that when Katie and I did the hot-stove/leaping-apart thing, she made it to the other side of the garage, where she’s now standing stiff against the wall from which hang garden tools, like she’s playing Statues among the rakes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having twin brothers, it’s that little kids can be hopelessly unobservant; so busy and all-consumed with whatever is in their minds, they don’t notice anything else.

So, maybe they won’t notice Katie standing there? Although, it certainly would’ve been better if I’d had the time to slide her under the car—like I did the last time they surprised us with a visit.

Yo?” Matt says. “Who says yo?

Not me, not usually, and may I add, you’ve never been properly dissed until you’ve been dissed by a six-year-old. Oh, the indignities.

“Nanny Stella has a migraine,” Max says. “She had to go lie down.”

“That’s too bad,” I say.

“And you’re supposed to keep us entertained,” Matt says. “Nanny Stella says so.”

So far, they don’t seem to have noticed Katie. Like I said, they’re little kids; they focus on what’s in front of them, which, at the moment, is me.

My goal for the moment? Get them out of the garage as quickly as I can. And after that, get at least one good, deep kiss in before Katie has to call her chauffeur to come collect her earlier than originally planned.

“Oh, yeah?” I say, still doing the nonchalant thing, although, frankly, this wrench isn’t helping any. I’ve been comfortable around tools all my life, but in this moment, hyperaware of Katie across the room, I can barely remember what a wrench is for, much less what to do with this one.

Then I seize on a brilliant idea.

“Video games!” I practically shout.

“Excuse me?” Matt says.

“You know,” I say, wiggling my thumbs like I’m some old fogy unfamiliar with modern technology. “Your devices. Why don’t you go play whatever games you’re into these days on your devices.”

“We can’t,” Max says.

“We’ve already reached the extent of our screen time for the day,” Matt says.

“No more until tomorrow,” Max says glumly.

“Which technically starts at midnight,” Matt adds.

I don’t believe these guys. Are they like the only two kids in the world who are honest about screen time?

“And we’re done with our homework,” Max says.

“So you have to entertain us,” Matt says. “Besides, Nanny Stella says we can’t be without supervision.”

I wrack my brain, trying to remember what I did at their age, those few times in which technology wasn’t involved one way or another.

Then I have a memory of my mom and me, in our tiny kitchen, back in the old place, before life got crazy.

“You want to make chocolate chip cookies?” I suggest.

“Define ‘make,’” Max says suspiciously.

“You know, from scratch,” I say. “You gather all the ingredients and then you make the cookies yourself.”

“Really?” Matt says skeptically. “People do this?”

“Come on,” I say. I put down my useless wrench. “It’ll be fun.”

Then I place one hand on each twin’s shoulder and turn them toward safety, which in this instance would be anywhere but the garage.

“OK,” Matt says. And I think, yes! “Only, there’s just one thing?”

“Hmm?” Lame, I know, but it’s all I’ve got.

Matt stops moving. Then he shoots an accusing forefinger to the side, gesturing toward the garden tools.

“What’s the enemy doing hanging out with the rakes?” he says.

So much for little kids only focusing on their own stuff.

“She’s not the enemy,” I say.

“Mom and Dad wouldn’t agree.” Max gives a sad shake of his head.

“She’s a Republican,” Matt says, as though once he’s said that, he’s said it all.

“Yeah?” I say. “Well, Republicans are people too.”

Matt rolls his eyes at me.

“Well, they are!” I insist. “They just think about certain things differently.”

Again with the eye roll.

“Look, I’ll show you,” I say. “Katie?”

She emerges slowly from among the rakes.

“Katie,” I say again more firmly, “I’d like you to meet my brothers, Max and Matt. Max and Matt? This is Katie.”

Give the kids credit. For all their rudeness with “the enemy” and “Republican” talk, their well-trained politeness kicks in and they offer their hands for a firm shake.

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Katie says. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“You have?” Max says.

“Which begs the question yet again,” Matt says, reverting to form. “What’s she doing here?”

“She’s my friend,” I say simply. And as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I realize just how true they are. Sure, she’s the girl I kiss in the garage, the girl who in so many ways is coming to mean more than I ever imagined. But, at core, she is my friend. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

“Your friend?” Matt snorts.

I ignore that snort. I’d really like to reprimand him for it, but it occurs to me that I need him on my side.

“Guys,” I say, “I need to ask you a favor.”

Matt crosses his arms tight against that perfectly tied tie and Max follows suit.

I ignore their rigidity and plow on.

“I need you to not tell Mom and Dad that Katie was here today,” I say. “They wouldn’t understand.”

“You want us to lie?” Matt says.

It’s hopeless. What was I thinking? These are the kids who are honest about screen-time usage, for crying out loud.

Then I seize on an idea.

“Not lie.” I squirm a bit. “After all, it’s not like anyone’s going to come home and say, ‘Oh, by the way, did the enemy stop by today?’; in which case, if you answered ‘No,’ that would be a lie. But what about simply not offering the information?”

I wait for what feels like the longest time for a response.

Finally, Matt says, “You sound just like a politician.”

I’m about to object when a big smile breaks across his little face.

“I like it,” he says with an approving nod. I think this may be the first time he’s ever been impressed by me.

Katie clears her throat and we all look at her.

“Could I come bake cookies too?” she says.

“Seriously?” I say.

She shrugs, embarrassed. “I’ve never done it before. It sounds like fun.”

For the first time, the twins smile at her. Apparently, they’re bonding over a shared lack of experience in the cookie-making department.

I think, wondering if it’s possible, wondering if this could possibly work. What did my dad say was on the day’s schedule for him and my mom? Oh, right. My mom’s campaigning in the Pacific Northwest, while my dad is doing events for her in Connecticut until at least after dinnertime. Normally, a presidential candidate can depend on his or her own state to come through at the polls. But when both candidates are from the same state, it’s a whole different horse race.

Thank you, complicated election. And thank you, nanny with a migraine. Not that I want Stella to be in pain; or have my mom going through a tougher time than she needs getting votes in her own state.

But come on. I’m finally going to do something with my girl outside of this garage.

We’re going to make cookies together.

* * *

As the twins and I lead Katie through the first floor of the house, I half expect her to make some kind of snooty comment like she did when we first met—you know, something along the lines of, “Wow, everything is so nouveau, are you sure it qualifies as riche?” But all she says is that it’s nice and the look in her eyes says that she means it.

In fact, the only tense moment comes when Matt notices Katie’s feet; specifically, the light-gray Converse High-Tops she’s wearing on them.

“I’ve seen footwear like those before,” Matt says thoughtfully.

The last time the twins saw those shoes they were sticking out of the bottom of my Corvair and I’d told the twins they belonged to my best friend Sandy, he of the supposedly tiny feet.

“Huh,” Matt says. But then he shrugs it away as he tells Katie, “You’ve got the same taste in footwear as Drew’s best friend. No offense, though, your feet look bigger.”

Phew. I guess it wouldn’t have been catastrophic if he’d made the connection, but then if he realized Katie’s been here more often than just today, he might further realize she’s more than a simple friend.

Can’t have that.

Don’t want that.

Once we’re in the monster-sized kitchen, I begin going through cabinets, assembling ingredients. Since the campaign started, every meal around here is takeout this, delivered that, and catered the other. Despite it all, the larder is nothing if not well stocked.

Soon, I’ve covered the counter with flour, baking soda, salt, butter, two kinds of sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and chocolate chips, a baking sheet, bowls, measuring cups and spoons.

“You know how to do all this by heart?” Matt says.

I shrug. “I did it enough times when I was younger.”

For the first time Matt and Max both give me a wistful look.

Poor little guys. They’ve had everything in life it seems sometimes, but they’ve never had this.

“Hey!” I clap my hands together. “Why don’t you guys go change out of your school clothes so we can get started?”

I’m thinking, kill two birds with one stone, right? The kids don’t get their school clothes dirty, and I finally get to kiss my girl today.

But apparently, I am to be thwarted at every turn.

“Not necessary,” Matt says. Then he removes his blazer, carefully drapes it over a chair; unbuttons his cuffs and rolls up his sleeves; and finally flips the ends of his tie over one shoulder.

Max mirrors everything Matt does.

These guys. They’re like two candidates at a clambake or a barbecue. They could be politicians themselves.

And, you know, I don’t get to steal my kiss.

I clap my hands together again, not quite as enthusiastically as before.

“OK, let’s get started,” I say.

After showing them how to preheat the oven to 375, I’m about to show them how to do everything else, when I remember something I learned from baking cookies with my mom: kids have the most fun when they get to do everything themselves.

Plus, if I get them busily occupied enough, maybe I can sneak Katie out of the room for a few minutes.

I verbally direct Max and Matt on how to beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract together. Once they’re doing that, I hold out my hand to Katie.

But she just looks wistfully at the twins. “Is there anything for me to do?” she asks in a small voice I’m unaccustomed to hearing from her.

“I don’t know,” I say. It’s against my own interests, but as much as I’m dying to kiss her right now, I want even more to give her whatever she wants. “Guys? Is it OK if Katie does something?”

They’re having so much fun creaming the butter into everything else, they don’t even look up.

“Sure.” Max shrugs.

“Just not this part,” Matt says. “We like doing this part.”

So I direct Katie on taking a big bowl and then measuring out the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt.

She’s very intent on getting everything right, the ingredients measured perfectly, she’s not even aware that she’s got flour on her nose.

But I am.

And OK, maybe it’s a cliché—I mean, come on, flour on her nose?—but I find it incredibly sexy.

Wait. Does this make me a sexist? Does it mean I want to keep my girl in the kitchen?

No. It’s just so great to be finally out of the garage, finally doing normal things.

I want to do normal things with her forever.

You know what really makes someone want to kiss another person? Not being able to kiss that person. Of course, being able to kiss them only makes you want to kiss them more. But this? This is some kind of torture.

I can’t help it, though, thinking about Katie.

I love how she’s soft where I’m not. I love how she’s smaller than me. Would I feel the same way if she was as tall? Taller? Yes and yes. Because she’d still be her. But I love how, when we’re alone together, and I put my arm around her shoulders, she fits just so at my side; how, when I put my arms around her and she’s facing me, and I pull her close, her head fits perfectly, just under my chin, against my chest.

Aargh! Did I really just use the word love, like, how many times?

I close my eyes tight, trying to push the thoughts and images away. Because, you know, we’re supposed to be making cookies.

But the thoughts, the images—they just keep coming. They are relentless.

I keep my eyes shut against them, yet all the while, all I can do is picture myself, putting my palms on the sides of Katie’s waist—right at that sweet spot where her waist joins the swell of her hips. I picture myself pulling her in close so her body is right next to mine, with nothing to separate us, feeling that softness against me, lowering my face to hers, and then kissing her until we’re both too weak to do anything else.

And when I finally do open my eyes? Because someone is calling my name, no doubt wanting to know what to do next?

The picture is still there, an afterimage I can’t escape, even with Katie and the twins standing right before me, waiting expectantly. That afterimage? Not only can’t I escape it, I realize I don’t want to. Oh, am I ever in trouble.

Hot damn.

We haven’t even gotten to the eggs yet.

***

Enter the IF ONLY Rafflecopter giveaway!

Ten Books That Celebrate Intersectional Diversity

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Happy Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the Broke and the Bookish! Today’s topic asks bloggers to focus on an area of diverse representation and pick our faves, so I picked my favorite characters who showcase intersectional diversity.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “Intersectional diversity” is when characters belong to more than one marginalized group, and relates to how those different identities intersect with each other. (For example, in my last book, Under the Lights, Vanessa is both Korean-American and gay, and those things largely play into her decision making regarding career moves, as well as her relationship with her parents.) It’s something we don’t see a lot of in YA or NA, but here are 10 great examples of when we do:

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera – main character is Puerto Rican, gay, and growing up poor in the Bronx. (Also definitely check out Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz for another book featuring great gay Latino boys!)

Pointe by Brandy Colbert – main character is a black ballerina with an eating disorder struggling with a harmful past relationship, and both the fact that there is tremendous extra pressure on her in a massively white industry and that black girls are often highly sexualized from a young age are hugely relevant.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan – main character and love interest are both Iranian girls, and highlights both the attitude toward homosexuality in that country and the unexpectedly differing attitude toward being transgender there.

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell – main character is a Japanese boy with ALS making end-of-life decisions, partially inspired by the poetry of samurai, who consider suicide to be an honorific end.

Vanished by E.E. Cooper – Kalah is Indian-American, has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is in love with her (missing) best friend, Beth, a fact she accepts with really welcome confidence.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe – main character is bisexual and suffers from chronic pain after an accident, and her dependence on painkillers is not helped by the death of her best friend/the love of her life.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz – Etta is black, gloriously proudly bisexual, and in recovery from an eating disorder.

Lies We tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – not only are Sarah and Linda falling in love across racial lines in 1959, but they’re hooking up during a time when being out and queer pretty much did not happen, ever.

Cam Girl by Leah Raeder – Vada is Puerto Rican, bisexual, and disabled, making the art she used to live for impossible.

Pinned by Sharon G. Flake – this is such an interesting read with really strong alternating voices, both of which belong to black characters: a genius boy in a wheelchair and an athlete girl with a learning disability. While I had more complicated feelings about the relationship between them than I’ll go into here, from an intersectional diversity standpoint, I thought this book was a great read, especially in the scenes with the very-present parents that give you an eye into the backgrounds the kids are coming from.

Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession

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Happy Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the Broke and the Bookish! This one was easy enough, so voila! The last ten books that came into my possession, whether as review copies or purchases or whatnot (but not counting review copies sent to me that I already owned):

Little Peach by Peggy Kern – bought this one at the Strand, because of the review I read for it on Cuddlebuggery

Jubilee Manor by Bethany Hagen – book sent to me by Penguin (Thanks, Penguin!)

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd – bought at the Strand because Ashley Herring Blake posted a great pic of #PrideRecs on her Instagram last month and it was literally the only book I didn’t own

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel – bought at the Strand, because various things I’ve heard about it make it sound like a Me book, and I met the editor at Teen Author Festival and she mentioned it and was lovely

Joyride by Anna Banks – bought at the Strand, because it’s a contemporary with a Mexican-American MC, as is my next book, and I was curious to read another one

Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne – ARC sent to me by Bloomsbury (Thanks, Bloomsbury!)

Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil – book sent to me by HarperCollins (Thanks, Harper!)

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz – ARC I nabbed from Oblong Books after my LGBTQ in YA panel there, since ARC giveaways are part of their fabulous events! (Thanks, Oblong!)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – see above!

Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo – see above!

Have you read/loved any of these? I’m excited to dig in!

Cover Reveal: More than Fashion by Elizabeth Briggs!

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I am so excited to be hosting the cover reveal for this book, not only because this is such a fun NA series, but because I am alllll over the few and far between NAs that showcase diversity, and it is so great to be able to take any part in a racially diverse NA! I could say so much about this cover’s beauty and how cool it is that Liz set up a photo shoot in order to make it happen and ensure it wouldn’t be Two White People Kissing, but thankfully, she’s here to share with way more insight and insidery info. So, behold! The blurb and gorgeous cover to More than Fashion, by Elizabeth Briggs!!

They’re enemies who will do anything to win…including each other.

When pre-med student Julie Hong wins a spot on a fashion design reality TV show, she celebrates by picking up a hot English guy in a hotel bar. But too many drinks leads to a night of embarrassment and a major hangover, and wow is she glad she’ll never see him again.

Until the show starts, and he’s on it too.

Julie quickly realizes she’s out of her league among the other designers, and Gavin Bennett, with his cocky grin and sexy accent, is her biggest competition. Julie can’t decide if she wants to kiss him or kill him. Or both.

After she’s almost kicked off, Julie convinces Gavin to pretend they’re sleeping together for the camera. The ploy works, but as they get closer to the show’s finale their fake relationship starts to become too real. But only one of them can win the show—and they might both end up heartbroken.

MTF_Ebook

Isn’t the cover amazing? I love everything about it, from the two models on it, to the sewing machine on the table behind them, to all the details around the title. My cover designer, Najla Qamber, really did a wonderful job with it (as I knew she would!).

If you’ve seen my other covers, you’ll notice this one is purple, not blue. This was a deliberate choice because More Than Fashion isn’t focused around the band from the other books in the Chasing The Dream series. It can be read as a stand-alone, and I wanted to reflect that in the cover. But if you’re a fan of my other books, don’t worry because the band does make an appearance in this one!

However, the road to getting this cover wasn’t easy. I always knew the main character, Julie Hong, was Korean-American and I really wanted her to be on the cover—especially because I couldn’t think of a single romance cover with an Asian girl and a white guy on it. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to find good stock photos with people of color. And interracial couples? Forget it! Things are starting to change with stock sites like Mosaic Stock and The Reed Files, but neither one of those had exactly what I was looking for—so I decided to do a custom photo shoot.

I hired Vania Stoyanova, who did the beautiful cover for Cora Carmack’s Inspire. She was amazing to work with and sent me dozens of head shots for different models to choose from. In the end, we picked the gorgeous Agnes Mayasari for Julie Hong, and the very sexy Tim Baumgarten for Gavin Bennett.

Vania soon brought them into her studio and they got to work! First, I was sent a photo of Tim so I could check his scruff level. He had a little too much beard, so we had him trim it down. Here’s a before photo:

download_20141121_121334Next, Vania set up the sewing machine and dress form to give the photos the perfect Project Runway inspired background.

20141121_195325Then it was time to pick outfits! I made poor Agnes try on at least a dozen dresses, but none of them were exactly right. I wanted something fun and sexy that would stand out on the cover. In the end, I chose this dress because I liked the color and the lace and the way it showed off her pretty shoulder.

20141121_194109Next we got them on the table and made them pretend to kiss, ha! Vania took a ton of photos, including the one that made it on the cover. You’ll notice we darkened Agnes’s hair for the final photo, since Julie has black hair.

untouchedcoverphotoOnce that was done, Vania sent them into her shower to get a few more photos for my teaser images, which will be revealed later this month. But here’s a candid shot from just before they got in—aren’t they cute together?

20141121_211907Fun fact: I wasn’t planning on my hero Gavin having any tattoos—but when I saw Tim’s tattoos, I added them to the book. I especially loved the rose tattoo on his hand in the cover photo, so I made it an important part of Gavin’s backstory. But to find out more, you’ll have to read the book when it comes out July 30!

More Than Fashion is available for pre-order exclusively from iBooks at the discounted price of 99c. But don’t worry, it will be available everywhere on July 30. Add the book to Goodreads and sign up for my newsletter to make sure you get an update when it comes out!

Thank you so much Dahlia for hosting my cover reveal and for being such an avid supporter of diverse books!

lizphoto(1)Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Sociology, currently mentors teens in writing, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She’s the author of the new adult Chasing The Dream series and the upcoming young adult novel Future Shock. Elizabeth lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of fluffy dogs. You can find her online at http://www.elizabethbriggs.net/

Under the Lights Pub Day!!

I am incredibly blessed.

I am blessed to have had great CPs and betas and editors and designers for this book.

I am blessed to have the words of my friend Leah Raeder on this book.

I am blessed to have had the Fantastic Flying Book Club reach out to me to offer to organize me a blog tour.

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I am blessed to have had wonderful blog hosts, reviewers, interviewers, and artists make this past week – month, even – a truly beautiful and incredible one.

I am blessed to have amazing readers and fans and friends who’ve supported and advocated for this book in every channel possible.

I am blessed to have gone to Barnes & Noble and looked at the shelves and seen the first romantic, kissy f/f YA I ever have, and see my name on it besides.

I am blessed to have experienced this pride month, this SCOTUS ruling, this enormous outpouring of love and rainbows, and to release my super queer book on its final day.

I am blessed that you’re still reading this post when I’ve gotten sappy as hell. So I’m gonna stop with that, and move on to the logistical stuff.

Under the Lights is officially out today, and if you want to buy it, A) that would be awesome, and B) you can do so here: Amazon | B & N | The Book Depository. For a signed book, you can order at Oblong Books, one of the two places I’ll be doing panels with some other fabulous authors of LGBTQ YA.

LGBTQ Tour Graphic

Or, if you’d rather try your hand at winning a copy, you can either hit up one of the official blog tour spots to enter to win an annotated ARC (int’l), or check out this macaron-licious review+giveaway being hosted by the lovely Gillian Berry for a chance to win a signed copy (US only).

One last place to buy it: come see me and six other romance authors read scenes from our books at a special RWA edition of Lady Jane’s Salon on July 21st at 7 p.m.! I may or may not be reading a certain kiss aloud ;)

In addition to the blog tour, which has some amazing amazing interviews, dreamcasts, and playlists, here’s where you can find some scattered stuff on both Under the Lights and other books of mine from the last couple of months!

  • My dear friend and awesome author of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertalli interviewed me for the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog
  • This gorgeous fan art by Sil creates four Vogue covers – one each featuring Josh, Van, Ally, and Liam – and please excuse me while I wallpaper my entire office in it
  • She’s a Girl and So Am I – an amazing playlist by Sue at YA Hollywood inspired by Under the Lights
  • The ABCs with Vanessa Park from Under the Lights – I contributed to Andi’s super fun series and an ideal accessory, book, and clothing for Van
  • Summer of Series: Dahlia Adler Interview and Giveaway – talking about Behind the Scenes and Under the Lights with Lili of Lili’s Reflections, and giving away a copy of Behind the Scenes with its new cover!
  • Sophomore Spotlight on…Dahlia Adler – A great series highlighting authors of 2014 debuts with 2015 releases (including my accountabilibuddy, Lindsay Smith!), in which I got to talk about all three of my YAs with Kaitlin of Reading is My Treasure
  • Diversity in Books: What it Means and How Bloggers Can Contribute – an interview by the lovely Viv of Beaute de Livres
  • Mabuhay! – Wonderful bloggers Alexa and Rachel invited me to talk about writing Filipina-American character Lizzie in Last Will and Testament to help celebrate Philippine Independence Day
  • Her Story: Ladies in Literature with Dahlia Adler – I absolutely love this monthlong series created and hosted by Jen of Pop Goes the Reader, which featured some of my absolute favorite author friends. We each talked about a lady in literature who inspired and/or affected us, so go check it out and see who I picked!
  • Book and a Beverage Author Edition: Dahlia Adler – this is me taking part in The Book Addicts’ Guide’s supercute series, discussing my books, my writing, and of course, my beverages!
  • Making Choices in LGBTQ YA – A post I wrote for Gay YA about the choices we make regarding things like sexual content, self-identification, and more, and why I made the ones I did for Under the Lights.

Also, some cool places Under the Lights has appeared:

So, it’s been some wild times, and I thank everyone so, so much who’s helped me through them and supported this book. Thank you to everyone who’s reviewed it, who’s fallen in love with Josh, Van, and/or Bri, and who’s recommended it. Thank you for kind words, amazing f/f gifs, and tweets of excitement and general wonderfulness. You have made this release an amazing experience, and I am so, so grateful for you all.

If you haven’t yet read Under the Lights but plan to, I hope you enjoy. And remember:

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Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

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Happy Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish! Thanks to my job blogging for B&N Teens, my TBR is always shifting, but as of now, here are the top 10 books I definitely plan to read during the summer of 2015, in no particular order:

Slasher Boys and Monster Girls edited by April Tucholke. I usually save my Horror reads for October, but with a story by Nova Ren Suma, am I really gonna wait? Let’s be honest.

Paperweight by Meg Haston. When my picky contemp-loving friend Meagan says a book nails something like an eating disorder right, I make it my business to check it out.

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz. You didn’t miss the “Hannah Moskowitz” part, did you? Though this isn’t my usual thing, after how much I loved Not Otherwise Specified earlier this year, and how much I’m anticipating Your Machine Anatomy, there is no not giving this a try.

Not After Everything by Michelle Levy. Mea culpa because I requested and received this arc a billion years ago, but that’s just how blogging goes. But it’s an August release and August is fast approaching, so I’ll finally get to read this baby.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I mean, this is basically on every YA reader’s TBR, right? If not, it should be, given all the praise I’ve heard of it! And now I have my very own pretty and personalized ARC from BEA <3

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham. This was a release day buy for me, because between that cover and the Veronica Mars comp, how could it not be? But I’ve been late to read, and it’s time to rectify that!

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith. Yes, it’s not out until October, but lucky for one of my Twitter followers, I’ve been charged with giving away a signed ARC as soon as I’m done with this baby, so you probably want me to read it sooner rather than later ;)

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes. Another one I bought earlier this year and still haven’t gotten a chance to read, but I’m excited to change that! I’ve been on a solid thriller kick lately, and after Endangered I’m definitely interested in another that incorporates technology.

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman. Hopefully and supposedly there’s an ARC coming my way, but it comes out in August, so either way, I’m reading it this summer!

Finding Center by Katherine Locke. Yeah, as if I’m not release-day buying the sequel to Second Position, my favorite NA debut of the year. OK.

So that’s my top 10 for the summer; what’s on yours?

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015

Thank you, The Broke and the Bookish, for this topic of my dreams. LET’S DO THIS:

But first, today is June 9, which means my CP Gina Ciocca’s Last Year’s Mistake is out, which is one of my most anticipated release in the history of life, because I love G and loved this book and read it twice back when it was just a manuscript FOR FUN. I had literally no hand in betaing this book, but I feel enormously attached to it anyway, and HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, GINA!!!!! I LOVE YOU! <3

Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn’t ready to let her go…

After:
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

BUY IT: Barnes & Noble * Amazon

And now, on to the rest!

*Please note I’m only including books I haven’t read manuscripts/ARCs of yet; I’ve also read a lot of excellent fall books!

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith. A) Graceling meets Inception. B) Lindsay. C) THAT COVER. D) It’s 1/3 dedicated to me, which is just the greatest thing and basically made my heart explode with happy <3

Finding Center by Katherine Locke. I’ve already talked ad nauseam about how much I love love loved Second Position, so desperately wanting the sequel (and more Zaly) is a no-brainer.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. I’ve been warned that this book is utterly gorgeous, and I happen to know personally that so is Anna-Marie (which sounds really superficially but I meant internally, but then again also externally? I’m gonna go now.)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I’ve heard nothing but fabulousness about this book, and got an ARC last month, so I will be reading this one ASAP.

Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones. Illusive was one of my favorite reads of 2014, and is one of my favorite YA sci-fis, period, so I’ve been dying for this one forfreakingever.

For the Record by Charlotte Huang. This one could not sound cuter; it’s exactly the kind of book I love and always want to see more!

Trust Me, I’m Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer. I loved Julep in the first book, and my body is READY to ship her super hard with teen Russian mafiosa, Dani.

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman. I love love love historically inspired fiction, and cannot wait for this one!

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. Finally getting to meet Adi in person was such a bright spot of BEA last year, and hearing him talk about this book all the more so. I’m always dying for fun stories of friends hanging out, and this sounds like exactly my crack.

First & Then by Emma Mills. This just sounds so damn cute; how can I not??

Also, *coughs*, I have two more releases coming out this year, so, I’m pretty highly anticipating both Under the Lights (June 30) and Just Visiting (November 17), but, in fairness, I’ve read those, too.

I’m totally leaving out a billion more but if I also mentioned Dumplin’ and Blood and Salt and and and I’d probably go nuts, so I’m just gonna chill and read all of these ASAP! What’s on your TBR for the rest of the year?

Madcap Writing Retreats: Retreat to Advance (+Giveaway!) by Natalie C. Parker

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Back in 2013-14, before I was ever published, I clung to my debut group, OneFour KidLit, for dear life. And one of the people keeping it running super smoothly and making a massive difference in all of our experiences was the incredibly talented author Natalie C. Parker. (Seriously, if you love atmospheric reads, especially of the Southern Gothic variety, her Beware the Wild is so not to be missed.)

When Natalie asked if she could hop onto my blog to talk about her new business organizing writers’ retreats, I was thrilled to be able to do any little think in thanks for all she did when I was a newbie. Though I’m personally never able to attend retreats because of my dayjob, I’ve seen tons of evidence from mutual author friends of fabulous ones she’s organized; I’d hire her in a hot second. But anyway, this isn’t about me, so, voila – Natalie.

MCR_bannerNothing has changed my career so much as writing retreats.

In the winter of 2011, I was invited to attend a large retreat in Branson, MO at which there would be 25 established YA authors. I was unagented at the time and though I found the idea of joining such a gathering an intimidating one, I also found it was impossible to pass up.

The experience was a game-changer. Not only did I meet a group of authors who were as encouraging as they were successful, but I sat in a room in which those same authors opened laptops and worked quietly together. There were headphones and tea and snack breaks and chat breaks and there were word documents that looked much like my own, growing one word at a time.

I left the Branson Retreat with a new network of contacts who would guide my career in different ways, determined to repeat the experience as quickly as possible. Only this time I wanted to be the one issuing invites. One year later, that’s exactly what I did: I made my first retreat of 11 authors on the side of a mountain, in a house that also had a turret.

Since that time, I’ve hosted 1 or 2 retreats every year, always with the goal of bringing authors together to create the kind of community we just can’t get in 140 character bites. I’ve hosted authors in turreted mansions in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in French Quarter apartments, in the Texas Hill Country, in historic Savannah townhomes, and in the sleepy Smoky Mountains. And here are the top three lessons I’ve learned from organizing retreats for writers:

  1. There must be internet. It does not matter if you write to your group ahead of time and say the words “there is no internet in this mountain chateau IS THAT OKAY?” It does not matter if they uniform answer is, “Yes, Natalie, we are not so addicted to the Modern Age that going without Wi-Fi for 3 days will kill us.” I promise you, none of that matters because when you get to the house someone will build an antenna out of aluminum foil and desperate tears and stand on the roof searching for a signal.
  2. Never underestimate the importance of every bedroom having its own bathroom. End of explanation.
  3. You may begin the adventure with plans of leaving the house, but trust me, this will not happen. To appease any group of authors, I advise picture windows and something that suggests power and mystery. Mountains are an obvious choice, but lakes work very well as do abandoned sugar plantations, rolling hills, and oceans. This way, even if you get snowed in after throwing out all the perishable food so that all that remains are Oreos and a handle of gin, no one will every complain about the view!

I love retreats. They’re fun and exciting and sometimes lead to creating things like Sh*t Writers Say. But I started this by saying that retreats have altered the course of my career in significant ways and that is absolutely true.

After Branson in 2011, I had half a dozen authors willing to weigh in on my query and help me cull my agent list.

After the Wi-Fi-less chateau in 2012, there were authors ready to blurb my first book.

After the Hill Country in 2013, I received crucial advice on how to develop a retreat business.

But more than that, I’ve seen anthologies born over the course of a retreat, I’ve seen mentor and critique relationships gain footing, and I’ve seen the direction of manuscripts shift dramatically and to great effect. And I know there’s even more I haven’t seen.

Like so many writers, my writing time is bound and hedged in on all sides. My writing time is also my “down” time, my “free” time, my “in between this and that” time.” It’s a challenge to find hours that flow from one into another with nothing binding them except the promise of words. Madcap is one way I can offer time and opportunity to myself and to others, and I’m truly excited to be able to do that.

Madcap is for writers at any stage in their career – aspiring, agented, and published. My goal is to continue what was done for me at that first Branson retreat and create the kinds of opportunities it’s nearly impossible to create for yourself. Welcome to Madcap Retreats, join us for an adventure.

MADCAP RETREATS: Web | Twitter | Tumblr

And now we come to the giveaway portion of this post!

I’ve asked a few amazing bloggers to help me spread the word of Madcap far and wide via a Blog Hop. Each participating blog will be giving away 2 e-copies of my debut novel Beware the Wild. And each of those winners will be entered to win one of two grand prizes! They are:

  • A $300 discount on the upcoming workshop – The Anatomy of Publishing: Story & Marketing, August 27 – 30. The workshop will be lead by Courtney C. Stevens and will feature a few fancy guest authors who will workshop pages and queries one-on-one! (More info can be found here).
  • A short stack of ARCs including: JUBILEE MANOR by Bethany Hagen, DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy, and THE ANATOMY OF CURIOSITY by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, & Brenna Yovanoff.

The contest is open to US/Canada ONLY. You may enter via each blogger if that pleases you. Contest closes at midnight on Sunday, June 7th. Winners will be announced by noon on Monday, June 8th.

Additionally! If you’d like to stay up to date on all retreat and workshop offerings by Madcap, you can subscribe to the mailing list by visiting this page. The first 50 subscribers will be offered a free download of either:

To enter on The Daily Dahlia, just tell me (either in a comment below or by tweeting with hashtag #MadcapNCP) your dream retreat destination!

Full list of participating blogs:

Blog tour: Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (Interview + Giveaway!)

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So, it is 99% true that I only ever do blog tour stuff for really good friends. Today, I welcome you to the 1% – a book I was asked to feature because I tweeted about loving it so damn much, and I said yes because A) I loved it so damn much, and B) I’ve seen such sad little talk of it, despite the fact that my immediate reaction was “For fans of Mosquitoland who are also intrigued by the premise of Everything, Everything,” and those are two of the biggest debuts of the year. This book definitely leans more toward the sci-fi than either of those titles (think maybe double the sci-fi quotient of the fabulous More Happy Than Not), so, be prepared for that, but if you love the wonderfully weird and refreshingly different, I hope you’ll give this debut that strongly highlights physical disability and really unique voices a shot! So, full disclosure: These aren’t my questions, but I do love them, and I absolutely love the answers. And the book. So while the content here isn’t mine, the endorsement for it absolutely is. And now, because we’ve wasted enough time on me when you could be learning more about this beautiful (and strongly diverse, by the way) book, let’s get to it!

BYNMM CoverOllie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie has a life-threatening allergy to electricity, and Moritz’s weak heart requires a pacemaker. If they ever did meet, they could both die. Living as recluses from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him. But when Moritz reveals the key to their shared, sinister past that began years ago in a mysterious German laboratory, their friendship faces a test neither one of them expected. Narrated in letter form by Ollie and Moritz—two extraordinary new voices—this story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances blends elements of science fiction with coming of age themes, in a humorous, dark, and ultimately inspiring tale is completely unforgettable. Buy it: B&N * Indiebound * Amazon

  1. Have you ever been in a long distance relationship/friendship?

Half-no, half-yes. Half-no because often I feel as though the phrase “long distances” has hardly any relevance these days. I mean, I can remember Skype coming into existence when I was growing up, and calling my family in the UK for the first time, and how after we hung up it seemed to me as though Star Trek technology was becoming a reality (but dang it, why aren’t we in deep space yet?). For the most part, in recent years we’ve seen the idea of “long distance” die at the hands of technology. Hooray! Hooray for that! But here’s the half-yes: while I can message my friends in Sweden and England and Taiwan in a heartbeat, there is something to be said for seeing people face-to-face. There is a distance that won’t budge. Regardless, I choose to see the upside. Some of the best friends I have are nowhere near me geographically, and still somehow close by. How wondrous is that?

  1. Have you ever met anyone you knew you’d most likely never see again and how did that influence your time together?

Oh, gosh. Yes. I’ve been here. I mean, we could even take this back to summer camp! More recently, I lived in Taiwan for a year or so to gain teaching experience. During that time I was aware, always aware, of the transience of living abroad. Some people would stay in Taipei for years, others only months, others a lifetime. There was something very tragic about that knowledge. I was very conscious of the strange wonder of my life in those days – yes, I’m meeting people I’d never have met otherwise, from so many places I’ve never been, and I’ve got the chance to see perspectives I’ve never seen before. But at the same time, there’s the weight: if you know you’re leaving in a few months, you put up barriers. You make this sort of unconscious decision not to fall too much in love with a place, though really you can’t help yourself. The way I see living abroad: it creates horcruxes. Every time you move away from a place you called home, you leave a tiny piece of your soul behind. And not in an evil Voldemort-y way, because leaving pieces of yourself doesn’t really make you less of a person. But it can make you very sad, very torn-up. I shudder to think how much worse this would be in the days before the internet. How would you ever piece your soul back together? I am grateful to be living in an age where distance is no longer a murderer of friendships, where goodbyes hold less water. (They’ll still make you sob, though, peering out rearview mirrors.)

  1. Do you think pen pal/long distance relationships are easier maintain when you’re a teenager, like Ollie and Moritz, or when you’re a bit older?

Nowadays, I don’t think teenagers think twice about having long distance relationships or online friendships. I think that’s a wonderful evolution. It’s completely natural that you’d have a best friend who blogs from Malaysia or games in Austria. For my part, the friends I knew in my youth: if I’m honest, I really failed to keep our closeness intact when distance split us apart. It was hard. I mean, who doesn’t have yearbooks full of “friends forever” and at some point, the certainty that friendships can withstand anything? You take it for granted, when you live next door to people, that they’ll always be a part of you. Maybe that’s the case for some friendships, but it’s one heck of a burden to place on others. And at the same time, friends I’ve never met – or met only rarely – have remained friendly, because proximity was never essential to the friendship. Those friendships grew from mutual interests, shared love of movies or books or television, kinship in fandoms and fun in conversations. I think for a lot of young nerds (oh, my people!), this is friendship, no bones about it. I’m going to give the points to the youth on this one. J The next generation doesn’t see the need to qualify these things. Near or far, those friends are real.

  1. A lot of YA novels feature female friendships. What drove you write BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME from the perspective of two male best friends?

Oh, okay. I want to be careful with how I answer this, because we need diverse books, and starting any answer with a statement about how I chose boys over girls for a YA series would just make me gag a little (I certainly didn’t sit here and think, “Gosh, we need more angsty white boys in literature!”). For me, it’s more about subverting expectations of what two male friends can be. Hyper-masculinity is daunting to me, and it’s an aspect of culture that I think sometimes puts a damper on a lot of male-male friendships in western societies. Why can’t guys say they love each other? Why can’t men be weak or feminine without being labeled? And why were those considered negative traits in the first place? (I can see a positive change in this area, but we’ve got a ways to go.) But more than this. I am very determined to increase visibility of characters with disabilities. It’s at least in part a side-effect of my upbringing by social workers, but also a result of teaching middle-schoolers. So while Oliver and Moritz identify as male (although not necessarily as cis), that’s secondary to where they stand in the world: where they stand is apart from the world. And their unusual friendship humanizes them, makes them part of it, helps them overcome what others might call weaknesses. People identify themselves as so many things, in so many ways, and there are so many great words for those things, and I…well, I didn’t want gender to define this story, unless I was subverting some of those expectations. I’m trying to reclaim the bromance, thank you very much. And witnessing this strange friendship – a friendship that may not be so strange after all, when we look at the world and the progress we’ve made against stereotypes – can hopefully help us rethink what the “norms” for growing up in the modern world should be.

  1. If Ollie and Moritz were real and you could tell them anything, what would you say?

Um. Ollie and Moritz are totally real. Just because they’re fictional doesn’t mean they aren’t real. But okay, okay, I’ll play nice. Ahaha. I guess I would tell them what I’m trying to tell everyone by sharing this story: we all mess up. It’s inevitable. It’s human, and it’s necessary, and it can be ugly. But what makes our lives worthwhile is overcoming the trials that lay us low, especially when the trials are our own regrets. I think Moritz and Ollie spend a lot of time feeling worthless because they make mistakes, but our mistakes help make us. So I’d say the usual: Stand up, Ollie. And Moritz: Cheer up; soon be Christmas. :)

**Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for the book!**

Leah Thomas Leah Thomas frequently loses battles of wits against her students and her stories. When she’s not huddled in cafes, she’s usually at home pricking her fingers in service of cosplay. Leah lives in San Diego, California, and Because You’ll Never Meet Me is her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter @blunderkinder.

Macarons: a Brief BEA 2015 Guide

macaronsHey, city-bound fellow book lovers! I’m sorry I couldn’t make this the beautiful, glorious post I had dreamed, but I have been super swamped lately and while macarons are my top priority, none of my bosses/editors seem to share that, oddly enough. So, pardon the quick and photo-less rundown; I’ll beautify it at some point if I can find the time.

Please note that there are many places in Manhattan that serve macarons, and branches of some of the places I’m listing to which I haven’t been. I can only work with what I know. Also, please note that while I do admittedly eat macarons that don’t officially have kosher supervision, I don’t eat them from anywhere that has a bacon-flavored macaron; you’re on your for those.

Also, you’re responsible for your own nutritional information details. Macarons are naturally gluten-free, but not everywhere that serves them is. They’re by and large made from almond flour, so mind any allergies you may have. Nearly all fillings all dairy (either buttercream, caramel, or chocolate) so if you can’t have that, seek out ones with jelly fillings – almost any place will have raspberry at the bare minimum. As for kosher supervision, the strongest is what I think are originally Dana’s but are actually served at several places, including the coffee shop across the street from The Strand and all branches of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. (You’ll recognize them by that there’s a “fruity cereal” one – it’s my favorite.)

And now, onward.

The most common question I get is “Where are the best macarons in NYC?” but unfortunately that can’t really be answered that simply, because there are really a whole bunch of factors there. Since I’m writing this post on a time crunch, instead of waxing poetic on it all, I’m just gonna lay out the important stuff:

Single best macaron: obviously this is going to be very personal taste, but my favorite is the milk chocolate-banana macaron at Sugar Plumm in SoHo. (Or I guess it’s just outside of SoHo? Ugh, I don’t know.) It has real banana inside – not fake banana flavor – is covered in yummy milk chocolate, and gleams a little with gold dust.

Best salted caramel macaron: Salted caramel is the best universal flavor of macaron, obviously, so this is an important question. In my opinion, the best is at Bisous Ciao, which is half a block from Sugar Plumm. So, obviously, if you’re taking a macaron journey through NYC, this block of Bleecker Street is very important.

Best overall macarons: I wouldn’t say they do the best of every flavor (see above) but I think the most reliable best comes from Macaron Cafe. They’re also the closest I know of to the Javits Center, somewhere like 37th and 6th-ish? But that’s a really crowded space. If you want a nicer Macaron Cafe experience with the potential for sit-down, hit up the one on 60th and Madison. (Macaron Cafe does have the best pistachio macaron in the city, though, just FYI.)

Best macaron salon experience: If you wanna sit somewhere gorgeous and eat your macarons, nothing compares with Laduree on West Broadway in SoHo. Honestly, I find the macarons whatever – fine but nothing special, despite that they’re supposed to be the best – but the entire restaurant is gorgeous salon after gorgeous salon leading out to a beautiful garden in the back. It’s delightful.

Have any burning questions about macarons in NYC? Hit me up!

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