• LJ Evans

Did you see? Charming is HERE!


Charming and the Cherry Blossom is here!!!!!


I seriously haven’t been this excited about a book since I first hit publish back in 2017. I hope you’ll feel the same way if and when you get a chance to read it! I hope it brings you a bit of joy and a lot of magic.


I’ll be celebrating all day today in my Facebook group, LJ’s Music & Stories, and going live in there with a chance at a signed hardback edition of the story. Tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating in the Do Not Disturb Book Club!


The reviews for the book have sort of made me teary-eyed. Here are just a few that made my heart sing:

  • “This story is charming, delightful, and yes, magical!” — New York Times bestselling author, Melanie Moreland

  • “An experience I will never forget.” — Author Megan Keith

  • “Spellbinding! One of the best books I’ve read this year.” — BookBub Review

  • “LJ’s most romantic book yet.” — Goodreads Review

  • “A book with the power to heal.” — BookBub Review

  • “Five Charming Stars! This book is a decadent dessert.” — Goodreads Review

  • "Whimsical. Heartwarming. Enchanting. Extraordinary. A little gem of a book." — BookBub Review


Keep reading for new chance at a signed paperback and a sneak peek at the first chapter of the book.



Charming and the Cherry Blossom is a modern-day contemporary fairy tale with a free-spirited, sunshine girl, and a sort-of-famous theater major who show each other exactly what it means to be truly seen and really loved.


👩‍🎓 Old-soul college students

👑 A surprise inheritance

🏡Small town

🧚‍♀‍ Magical Realism

🏰 Fairy tale vibe

💘 Complete standalone


Today was a fairy tale…

I inherited a fortune from a dad I never knew,

And a thoroughly charming guy asked me out.


Unfortunately, my fairy tale could disappear in ninety days...

Because there’s an impossible task to complete,

And a greedy cousin plotting against me.


Plus, I’m not your typical fairy tale princess.

I have a secret that might send my charming running,

And threatens my future if the press finds out.


If today was a fairy tale…

Why does my happily ever after look so far out of reach?


From award-winning author, LJ Evans, comes a contemporary romance filled with all the magic, hope, and love of a fairy tale plus the slow-burn, old-soul vibe her fans adore. Inspired by Taylor Swift’s “Today Was a Fairytale,” this small-town romance is pure escapism.


Want a chance to win one of three signed paperbacks I’m giving away on Goodreads? Just click the button to take you there.


Want more chances at signed copies and book swag? Come visit me in LJ’s Music and Stories today and/or the Do Not Disturb Book Club tomorrow!


Did you miss the character cards I shared of Elle and Hudson on my social media this week? You can check out what colors and foods are their favorites, what songs should be written about them, and what music they love by checking the cards out on my website:


https://www.ljevansbooks.com/charming-cc


If you haven’t read any of my books yet, I absolutely would recommend starting with this beautiful standalone. It has a little bit of everything I love. Resilient characters who find their “true” family and a path to believing in themselves and others. It’s a slow-burn romance with old-soul characters and I truly believe it’s my best writing yet. I’m incredibly proud of this story.



I seriously hope this book brings you some moments of delight this weekend! And if you want to listen to the music behind the words while you read, you can check out the playlist below!


Thank you so much for being on this book journey with me and for all your love and support!


Don't miss the first chapter below!


Happy Reading and Stay Safe Out There!

LJ

♬ "𝒲𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓂𝓊𝓈𝒾𝒸 & 𝓈𝓉𝑜𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓈𝒸𝑜𝓁𝓁𝒾𝒹𝑒." ♬


Charming and the Cherry Blossom Sample

CHAPTER ONE: ELLE


STANDING IN THE MIDDLE of the cherry blossoms felt like dancing in pure joy, as if my heart and my soul couldn’t take in even one more inch of happiness.


The early morning sunlight was shimmering through the cherry trees and spreading its rays through the branches. It sparkled off the soft pink-and-white petals as if bouncing off of rose crystal. The strong breeze wafting in from the Potomac River caused the buds to drift down in waves of pastel colors where they were joined with ones swirling upward from the ground.


I closed my eyes and spun with the smile on my face growing. I gathered the blossoms on my hands and clothes much like catching the first tentative snowflakes of winter, the airy drops melting into your skin. The velvety petals didn’t melt away. They lingered on my skin, sticking to me, silky and smooth, and embracing me in their heady floral scent.


I inhaled deeply before exhaling and grounding myself to the energy of the life that was teeming around me, both seen and unseen. I let the power of the earth fill me, the force below the surface recharging me like a phone on its charger. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the moment.


A soft snicker of laughter tugged my eyes open.


Two blonde heads were bent close together, and their gaze darted away from me.


I knew them.


Or I should say I knew their names and the nature of their scorn for me. I knew they sat near the front of our oceanography class. I knew they were a floor down from me in the dorms. But I didn’t really know them, because I didn’t know many people at Bonnin University beyond the professors.


Even though their disdain and the solitude over the last few months could have dragged me down, I wouldn’t let it. I shoved aside their negativity, allowing only my pure connection I felt with the world around me to remain, knowing what I put out into the universe would come back to me, eventually. I shut my eyes again, coating my fingers with the petals and then twining them through the deep-brown strands of my two low ponytails.


I let the sunshine and the wind center me once more before I opened my chestnut eyes back to the scene in front of me. Beyond the twirl of falling flowers, students plodded along. Pace fast. Heads down. Coffee cups in hand as they scurried to their first class of the day. Bags heavy on their shoulders. The weight of expectations pressing them down.


I was grateful I didn’t have that burden to bear.


Mina only wished for me to follow whatever path my feet set me on. The smile on my face was genuine, and my heart was full as I picked up my small bag. It had a notebook, my phone, a sea of colorful pens, and my ID. The entire thing weighed less than two pounds compared to the heavy backpack the guy storming past me was hauling with him. He kicked more of the petals in the air as he went, not even seeing them as they landed on his shoes and his pants, journeying with him. Hopefully, they would bring luck to his day.


I was certain they would bring it to mine.


I shoved my hands into the pockets of my canvas jacket to take away the chill working into them. The drawstring at the hem dangled and swayed, and my lips curved upward even farther at the sight of a pink petal stuck on the knot.


I shuffled my feet, hoping to bring more of the blossoms with me as I headed to the metal-and-glass building. Once known for its liberal arts programs, Bonnin had entered the twenty-first century determined to stretch its might into the sciences, to change our world with more than philosophy. These days, students came from all over the globe to enroll in the university’s technological and environmental programs.


The original brick-and-ivy buildings now stood shoulder to shoulder with the modern marvels built beside them. Old and new blending together. I loved how Bonnin was merging the two. No matter what degree you were getting, you were required to take classes in other fields. The administration wanted students who were balanced and whole, not siloed into one way of thinking.

It was why Mina had loved teaching here. She strived for balance in our lives as well. As a child, I’d loved sitting in on her classes, listening to the students debate not only with each other but with my mother. The discussions were always fact-based and calm, just like Mina herself. The classes I attended these days didn’t always embrace the Socratic teaching style Mina had favored, and it made me miss her with an ache that almost threw out the entire joy of the morning.


Instead of letting the negative emotion overtake me, I pulled out my phone.


ME: The air is full of cherry blossoms.


The response came back almost immediately.


MINA: The sun just lit up the kitchen.

ME: I miss you today.

MINA: I miss you always. Are you on your way to oceanography?

ME: Yes.

MINA: And are you still having dinner with Albert on Sunday?

ME: Yes.


Albert was the Dean of the Archaeology Department. He’d taken my mother’s spot when she’d stepped down and moved us to Pisac in Peru where she could dig her hands in the earth again. We’d lived in Peru for four years before I’d left her behind to come back to Virginia. For the eight months I’d been at Bonnin, Albert had invited me to have dinner every Sunday with him, his husband, and their five toy Doberman pinschers. It felt both strange and comforting to join them in the house that had once been my childhood home before Mom had sold it to them.


As I entered the science building, a guy walking backward crashed into me, and my phone went skidding across the hallway. It smacked into the baseboard with a loud crack that caused my first real grimace of the morning.


When he turned with eyes wide and apologetic, my frown completely disappeared, and awe took over. He was perfect. As if he could have jumped to life from the pages of a book. His face was square, but his chin jutted downward ever so slightly, as if accenting the lines with a dramatic statement—an exclamation mark at the end of a short sentence. The brown of his irises was as dark as mine, but a black circle surrounded his, making them look like a reverse eclipse. His face was smooth and tan compared to my fair skin, and the mass of wild curls dancing away from his face was brown lit with fiery tones. The tantalizing loose spirals were neither short nor long, landing somewhere in between.


He was so beautiful it seized my chest. Another glorious image filling my day like the tornado of cherry blossoms outside.


While I stood there, frozen, he moved into action, striding across the hall.


“I’m so sorry,” he said, retrieving my phone and bringing it back, thick eyebrows burrowing as he assessed it.


When he handed it to me, our skin touched, and a well of emotions bubbled from him to me along with the flash of an image too quick for me to retain. Both were enough for me to sense that he carried a different kind of weight on his shoulders than our fellow students. While there was an aura of cheerfulness surrounding him, there was also a shadow lingering at the back. It wasn’t large enough to invade the sense of peace emanating from him or to keep the smile from his face, though.


“I think it’s broken,” he said. The depth of his baritone added to the intense awareness of him that was filling me. The entire tenor was a soothing balm. “I wasn’t watching where I was going. Can I fix it for you?”


My smile returned, causing my cheeks to push up into my eyes. “You have a spare screen in your possession?”


His eyes widened, and then he chuckled. “No. I meant can I maybe give you some money to help replace it? I have no idea how to fix it. Technology and I barely function on a daily basis as it is. There’s no way I could take your phone apart safely.”


When he spoke, there was a focus on each word as if every one of them meant something. No drawl or slur. The syllables clear and concise.

I had a hard time drawing my eyes from his face down to my phone and our fingers that were no longer touching but still mere millimeters apart. I could touch him if I wanted. The sudden desire to do so was a much bigger surprise than the cracked glass. It hit me in the chest, causing my heart to beat wildly.


I pulled the phone completely away from him, eyeing the break on the screen. It ran down the middle, from top to bottom, an almost mirror image of the nearby Potomac River winding from Washington D.C. to almost Quantico. In the middle of the line―as if it was marking the location of Bonnin along the river―sat my last response to Mom’s question.


As I was eyeing it, my alarm buzzed, singing out the lyrics of “Africa Landó” in the hallway that was getting quieter and quieter. Doors were shutting. Students were disappearing into seats.


I was a minute away from officially being late to class. I hit the side button to turn it off, and when I looked back up at my phone destroyer/rescuer, he was smiling. It lifted his full lips, causing a partial dimple to appear and crinkling the corners of his eyes in the very best way.


“Is that Novalima?” he asked incredulously.


I smiled back, equally amazed he’d identified the band no one in the U.S. seemed to know. “I can’t believe you recognized them.”


“My parents are from Brazil,” he said. “My mom listened to a lot of Brazilian and Latin rock bands while I was growing up. To be fair, she listened to a lot of rock bands period, but Novalima was one of her favorites.”


My heart pattered fiercely again, feeling seen by someone my own age for the first time in months.


“You have…” He stuck out a hand and pulled several of the cherry blossoms from one of my ponytails. “Were you lying on the ground or something?”


There was no scorn in his voice. No judgment. Only a sparkle of something in his eye that might be considered interest.


I looked at the pink and white blooms covering his long fingers.


“It was for luck,” I said before I could stop myself. I tried harder these days to hold back the things that other students considered odd. Things that would only make the whispers seem true.


The laugh that burst from him was joyful instead of mocking as he said, “I don’t think that worked out the way it was supposed to.”


He was looking at my broken phone.


My eyes met his again, and the scent of the cherry trees seemed heavier.

“Maybe it did,” I breathed out. Because I’d had this moment with him. Felt connected to someone instead of just the earth and the trees and the sky.

His smile wavered as the meaning of my words hit him.


He was the first one to break our stare, glancing both ways down the now empty hallway. “I have to go. My boss is going to kill me if I’m late again, but…” He pulled something from the stack of papers in his hand and gave it to me. “If you show up here with the cost of the repair, I’ll pay for it.”


I looked down at the flyer. It was for a free yoga session in the quad on Sunday. Attending it would mean skipping or postponing dinner with Albert and Drake. Attending it would mean surrounding myself with people in a way I rarely did these days unless I was in class or grabbing food in the cafeteria.


He walked backward toward the door, moving away from me, and I realized I didn’t even know his name.


“You’re going to show, right?” he asked with that contagious smile he’d sent in my direction several times in our brief encounter.


“You’re going to crash into someone again,” I called after him as he almost ran into a door that was opening.


He saw it out of the corner of his eye and barely sidestepped it.


“Tell me you’re going to come,” he said. There was a lure to his voice, calling me.


“Maybe,” I said.


He shook his head as if he was sad, but his lips were turned up.


“Make it my lucky day,” he said.

Squish, squish, squish went my heart. When was the last time anyone had thought it was lucky for me to show up? When was the last time someone wanted me to be with them? Someone who was not Mina or her group of friends, that is. I couldn’t remember.


“Geez, watch where you’re going!” a girl walking into the building said as my phone destroyer/rescuer ran into her at the entrance. He put his hand to his heart and looked from me to her and back to me again.


“Sorry, was getting the life knocked out of me.”


I shook my head, but my lips couldn’t stop their upward curl.


I thought he knew the truth even though he left without waiting for me to give him an answer. I couldn’t imagine not finding my way to the quad come Sunday.


KEEP READING NOW!

© LJ Evans 2021

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