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Secrets are every where

The Pleasure Trip

The Pleasure Trip, February 2006
Spotlight
by Joanne Rock

Signature Select
Featuring: Harrison Masters; Rita Frazer
320 pages
ISBN: 0373836821
EAN: 9780373836826
Paperback
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"Two romances make this book doubly delightful."

Fresh Fiction Review

The Pleasure Trip
Joanne Rock

Reviewed by Jessica Smith
Posted January 15, 2006

Romance Series

Just as Rita Frazer is about to make her costume design debut, her wayward and unreliable sister, Jayne, abandons her to elope -- of all things! Working together on a cruse ship to support their mother, Rita and Jayne have very different lives. As the ship's seamstress, Rita finds herself in the shadows, making sure the showgirls look their best. And Jayne, as the best dancer in the group, is always in the spotlight, the only girl with a solo. Although it looks like Jayne's solo might go un-danced tonight, seeing as how she's eloped with her scumbag boyfriend.

Rita has watched every practice, attended every lesson, and although she has two left feet, she knows Jayne's number as well as Jayne does, and tonight she'll have to swallow her fear and dance in order to save her sister's job. All Rita needs is to focus.

Sitting in the front row, Special Agent Harrison Masters is brooding into his beer, wondering how he's going to find a lead on his missing ex-girlfriend and the money she stole from him. He's so consumed, that he's missed most of the performance, but something about the music makes him look up, only to find himself the subject of the dancer's undivided attention.

Meanwhile, on the island, Jayne is being forced to acknowledge that she's been stood up, in the rain, in a see- through dress. Her no-good fiancé only proposed to get into her pants, and now that he's a no-show, she's stuck. The only person she knows is the only man to ever break her heart. One year ago, he asked her to marry him, and when she asked for time to think it over, he took it as a "no" and left. Jayne never expected to lay eyes on him again, much less have to ask him for help.

Emmett MacNeil thought he could get over Jayne Frazer by marrying the next woman he met. Never had he been so wrong! And he certainly doesn't expect to see a soaking wet Jayne walk through the door on the very day his divorce is final. But to Emmett this is fate, a chance to win back the woman he loves, if only she'll let down her guard a little.

When these two couples are drawn together to help expose an international gambling scam, tempers flair and passions ignite. Rita and Harrison find that they make a great team and that they can't keep their hands off each other. And Jayne and Emmett rekindle their lost love and realize that it was never really gone. But the challenges of catching the bad guys, keeping their mother from losing the shirt off her back and protecting each other from harsh pasts, may prove to be too much for the budding romances.

THE PLEASURE TRIP is a great read; all the better for its "two-for-one" romances. I recommend picking up a copy today.

Learn more about The Pleasure Trip

SUMMARY

She may be on a cruise liner, but lately, Rita Frazer's life looks more like a shabby dinghy. Working as a seamstress on a ship called the Venus, Rita hasn't been feeling very goddesslike. More like a Swamp-Thing with red hair and a mouthful of pins. When the ship hosts a fashion show, Rita figures she finally has a chance at being a designer — until she finds herself on the runway, instead of her designs.

But Rita's found her muse. And he's watching the fashion show. Harrison Masters is capable of making any woman drop sails, anchor and most of her clothes. And he might be successful with Rita, but she panics when her sister disappears. Now Rita's little dinghy — which was ready for an upgrade to full-on Love Boat only moments ago — is starting to leak. Bail water...or bail out?

Excerpt

EVEN FOR A WOMAN with two left feet, pounding down eight flights of stairs in cheap flip-flops didn't present a challenge when fueled by anger and the desire to give a well-deserved butt kicking.

Silently fuming, Rita Frazer shoved open the stairwell door on the basement level of Roman Cruise Lines' flagship, the Venus, where she and her sister had worked for over a year. She glanced down at her insubstantial footwear with blue plastic flowers between the toes. No doubt about it, her flip-flops were a sorry excuse for butt-kicking shoes. But where there was a will, desperate women found a way.

"Jayne!" Rita shouted down the narrow corridor reserved for the ship's employees, steam hissing from her ears like the boiler beside her cabin. Everyone but her younger sister the showgirl was at work this afternoon, prepping for an influx of passengers after a day docked in St. Kitts, the second island stop on a ten-day Caribbean cruise.

Rita had done the same trip plenty of times as official seamstress for the Venus. But this wasn't just any cruise, and Jayne knew it. This particular excursion could be Rita's big financial break since she'd gone out on a limb to create new outfits for the show — outfits five times as good as what they'd bought from manufacturers in the past. She just hoped the cruise management company would agree and pony up an appropriate payout.

And of course, she hoped Jayne — one of the show's featured performers — didn't mess up Rita's big night.

When no answer was forthcoming, Rita stomped her way to the end of the hall, following the scent of the Chanel No. 5 Jayne preferred even though none of the dancers were supposed to wear perfume out of deference to the costumes. The familiar fragrance wafted from the same interior stateroom from which a warbling rendition of "Stand By Your Man" currently emanated.

Rita let herself into the compact room they shared in the bowels of the ship, a room Jayne never bothered to bolt no matter how many times they discussed the potential dangers with an ever-changing crew of nine hundred. The drone of shower water mingled with god-awful singing.

"You are so dead." Rita figured it would be okay to strangle her sister today since Jayne hadn't bothered to show for dress rehearsal this afternoon when she knew damn well this was Rita's one chance to shine in her peon job as a seamstress.

The singing stopped as Jayne popped her head out of the shower, all smiles amid a cloud of steam. "Rita? What time is it?"

"Past time for rehearsal and Danielle already wants your head on a platter for not checking in with her. Star status doesn't buy you exemption from attending show preliminaries." She torpedoed a towel against the shower curtain, nailing Jayne in the hip through the white waffle weave. "Besides that, do you know how many corporate managers I corralled into seeing the show tonight to see the new outfits? The boat pulls out in twenty minutes."

"Crap." The reference to the timeline at least got Jayne moving as she ducked back into the shower spray to rinse. "I've got to hurry."

Mildly disappointed no butt kicking had been needed, Rita gave her flip-flops the rest of the day off. She stalked out of the closet-size bathroom, noting the unholy mess scattered about their cramped cabin now that she wasn't focused solely on her beef with Jayne. Clothes were strewn everywhere, the twin beds both covered in discarded silk tops, scarves and skinny hot pants.

"I'm not even going to ask what happened in here." Rita flung her plastic thongs into the closet and reached for a more forgiving pair of sneakers to wear with her jean shorts. "I've got too much on my mind to wade through your wardrobe crisis."

"That's okay." The shower curtain rings scraped over the rod with a metallic ting as Jayne toweled off. "I solved my own crisis, thank you very much, although God forbid you give me any credit for it. I know we're all excited about your foray into costume design, but you forget your sister is the Queen of Vintage and a fashion force to reckon with in her own right."

Rita needed to be back at the rehearsal stage to help dress everyone before show time, but her sister's comment slowed her reach for the door. "What do you need a great outfit for anyway? You're going onstage as soon as the ship sails."

She peered across the wardrobe tornado at Jayne sliding into a floral sundress in record time.

"Can't a girl dress up for her man?" She winked over her shoulder, one long red curl plastered to her cheek. Presenting her back to Rita to zip her up, she smoothed the hem of her short skirt. "How do I look?"

"Flushed and overexcited." Rita fastened the hook and eye over the zipper and wondered for the umpteen-millionth time how Jayne could appear so movie-star gorgeous with her confident stride and graceful moves while Rita lumbered through life with as much finesse as a linebacker. They were sisters, for crying out loud. Same genes. Same ballet lessons. Same basic looks and size. Where was the justice? "You're practically bubbling over for that matter. What gives?"

Jayne shuffled around her makeup table that doubled as a desk and poked Rita in the arm with a lipstick case. "Can't I be excited for you? I'm still in shock you finally talked the management into new outfits for the opening number. They're normally so stingy about wardrobe." Uncapping bright fuchsia lipstick, Jayne smeared it on her sister's mouth in a futile effort to make Rita look pulled together. "Now all you need to do is drag me out of show business and you'll be happy, right?"

Rita rolled her eyes and tried to stand still for the makeup job even though she'd rather not have her face lacquered while she was working. Didn't Jayne realize they were going to be late? But some things weren't worth arguing with her over. Makeup for one. And the fact that Rita hadn't truly sold the costumes to Roman Cruise Lines quite yet. Jayne would have had a conniption to think her big sister — by all of eleven months — had accepted a work- for-hire job to force the higher-ups into appreciating her. But they'd worked the cruise ship for minimum pay long enough after back-to-back six-month stints. Time to move on to greener pastures.

"Oh please. As if I'll be able to haul you away from this business or Horatio the Latin lover any time soon." Although Rita could always hope. She'd tried before to get Jayne to consider moving to New York to make the most of her dance talent, but Rita had never succeeded in convincing her to leave boy-bimbo Horatio behind.

"You're addicted to all that glitters, remember? I'm just happy my costumes came together in time for tonight."

Rita had been trying to coax her starry-eyed sibling into developing interests outside of dancing since high school, but Jayne had the same stage aspirations as their mother and no promise of any stable, long-term work had ever wooed her away. The job on the cruise ship had been reliable and working on a luxury liner gave the illusion of being on vacation all the time — a welcome fantasy after they'd done their share of waiting tables in dive bars while waiting for Jayne's big break.

Showbiz opportunities hadn't been hiding in any of the trucker hangouts on Interstate 95 north of Fort Lauderdale where they'd grown up. And Jayne couldn't be convinced to try Broadway since their mother had a gambling problem along with a mixed bag of other addictions that kept her daughters on their toes and perpetually bankrupt unless they hid their money very carefully. The cruise stint allowed Jayne to keep tabs on Mom while Rita kept an eye on her baby sister.

Somehow, it all worked. For now. "I mean it, Ree." Jayne coated her sister's eyelashes with industrial-strength mascara. "I think I'm ready to blow this showgirl gig once and for all. Finally, we're both going to have everything we dreamed about."

"You really think my outfits are going to be a hit?" Rita had sewn until her fingers bled to pull together the new costumes to unveil at tonight's program. She'd paid off one of the other dancers to model the extra garments informally around the tables before and after the house lights went up at the main performance. When the dancers weren't onstage, they spent plenty of time walking around the ship in full showgirl regalia to pose for pictures with the guests, so it wasn't like Missy didn't have experience preening while she mingled.

"Absolutely." Jayne smeared gloss on her lips and finger combed her damp hair into waves around her face.

"You're going to knock 'em dead tonight. It's high time you came out of hiding to show your talents to the world."

The words of sisterly support were as welcome as they were rare in a relationship marked by old rivalries and very different perspectives. But deep down, she knew Jayne wanted her to succeed. Didn't she?

"Thanks." Rita pulled open the door, feet itching to get back to the stage. She hated it that suspicion held her up once again. "You're not planning anything unusual for the show, are you? No special theatrics to highlight my outfits or impulsive gestures sure to get us fired?"

Flashbacks to their childhood and her sister charging money from their friends to see her inline skating on a train rail came to mind. Jayne lighting the neighbor's garage on fire when she practiced her flaming baton routine as a teenager. Jayne slipping a note to the star quarterback in high school, saying that Rita liked him.

And although that last stunt had worked out with rather exciting results for Rita, she'd officially started her first ulcer while waiting to find out if A.J. liked her, too. No way would she tread down Jayne's road of recklessness again. She'd weathered enough emotional storms from her sister's revolving-door romances to know she was better off focusing on work.

"Trust me." Sliding into her high heels, Jayne smiled that angelic grin that had won her Sweetest Sugar Plum in the school Christmas pageant three years running.

"You're going to be very happy tonight."

Reassured she'd covered her bases with Jayne, Rita sidestepped the elevator that only came to the bottom deck once in a blue moon. With paying passengers finishing up boarding from their shore excursions, the elevator would be too jammed to make the trip to the employee-only level anytime soon.

Not until she hit the second flight of stairs did she remember she'd never pinned down her sister for an estimated arrival time in wardrobe. No doubt, Jayne figured she could slide into her spot late since she didn't go out until the second number. And for the first time, Rita realized she didn't care if her sister failed to play by the book.

For just this once, maybe Rita and her two left feet could enjoy a little of the spotlight for herself.

"TRY BENDING OVER and jiggling." Sweaty and frazzled two minutes before the curtain went up, Rita waited while the platinum-blond showgirl decked in buttery-soft blue leather leaned forward and shook her considerable assets.

Straightening, the jittery young dancer covered in self- tanning cream and a healthy dose of body glitter looked to Rita for approval.

No luck, damn it. Rita ran a skilled finger along the inside of the other woman's bodice and tugged the material upward. "The twins are still a little uneven, Missy. Do you want me to take in the costume before you go onstage?"

Sighing, the stressed-out blonde waved away the help as she dove for a pink duffel bag on the dressing room table. "My right is bigger than my left. I've got a silicone lift in my bag to fill out that side a little."

Ignoring the usual pandemonium in the cavernous backstage of the Aurora 2 Theater, Rita silently critiqued every costume that streaked by her as dancers and acrobats scrambled for last-minute makeup fixes and hair touch-ups. They were three days into the February cruise with two performances down, but tonight's show marked the first appearance of the new outfits.

And surprise of all surprises, the costumes looked fantastic for their debut number. As long as the dancers did their part tonight and Jayne showed up soon, Rita was well on her way to getting reimbursed for her hard work with — hopefully — a hefty bonus to show for it, too.

"Places, ladies!" Danielle Divine, a former showgirl and the current Aurora floor-show manager, gave the familiar nudge to her dancers over the backstage P.A. system. "I need everyone lined up now."


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