by Louise McBain
Charlie Kincaid has moved to Washington, DC, to get away from her spoiled ex-girlfriend Madison and an unsavory association with a popular item at her trendy Portland bakery, The Charlie Pie™. The delicious treat is a frosted blueberry tart secretly named after Charlie’s vagina. Now what was once a sexy secret has turned into the most talked about dessert in southern Maine—with knockoffs in every store and a radio jingle on repeat.
Renaming herself Charlotte, Charlie moves with her twin brother Daniel to the Georgetown guest house of their great aunt, internationally known artist Wellesley Kincaid. On a wild night out, Charlotte notices green-eyed Lily and sparks fly. When chance throws them together again, the sparks take fire. Charlotte finds herself hopeful that a relationship with the young lawyer might grow.
Then the fledgling romance is threatened when Madison makes a surprise trip to DC—looking for a way back into Charlotte’s life. Will the trust Charlotte and Lily have built withstand the test of Madison’s return?
Maybe Charlotte is the story of two women overcoming the disappointments of past relationships to forge one that is uniquely their own.
A Sequel to Claiming Camille.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"The name for Maybe Charlotte literally popped up on my phone two years ago when the daughter of a friend texted me about an apartment I was renting. I didn’t have Charlotte recorded in my contacts but my phone guessed who she was because her mom had previously texted me her phone number. Maybe Charlotte? I seized on it as a book title and wrote my story around it. The funny thing is that the real Charlotte, former tenant-current neighbor, has a sister named Lily, who is love interest in the novel! I’m totally giving them the book for Christmas."
Pin's Reviews - With each book McBain's growth as an author and storyteller is unmistakable, and Maybe Charlotte is the best proof of it. It is a full-blooded romance with very charming and likable protagonists who have great chemistry together. There are also numerous perfectly done secondary characters who give the story depth and interest. The writing is very good with an interesting plot, nice dialogue and pacing.
Overall, this is a lovely book very well worth reading. I recommend it, and am looking forward to the next romance by this author.
Emma A. - Maybe Charlotte by Louise McBain is wonderful! ...one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in awhile.
Charlotte and Lily are both looking for love, but it starts off a little chaotic. The story really explores Charlotte's family and her ex girlfriend Madison, and it turns into this delightful, funny, witty and charming story!
I don't want to give too much away, but the family of Charlotte's twin brother, their great aunt (and her two male friends), just bring so much heart and love to the story.
I highly recommend this book!
Cathy W. - This is the first time for me reading a Louise McBain book, and I wasn't disappointed. Maybe Charlotte is a good read, a romance with some funny moments thrown in. Great story with an added bonus of fantastic secondary characters.
Skip S. - I really enjoyed the fact that this was a page-turner full of small but interesting moments. There were some amusing capers that really made the secondary characters shine, including a couple of story line threads that run through the majority of the book. Charlie’s ex plays a part in the story line, but even this is done in an engaging way.
One of my favourite parts about this book is the setting. I love DC and spending time there, so it really made me happy that the story takes place there. I also really liked the descriptors of art that feature in the book. Overall this a sweet romance full of moments to keep you interested and great chemistry between the main characters.
Karen C. - What sets Louise McBain apart for me is that her books are so funny, but it's not artificially hilarious sitcom dialogue funny. She sneaks in random observations that maybe some readers don't notice, but I found myself chuckling several times. Some terms that have completely new meaning now are Madness, Charlie Pie, The Geoffrey Problem, and Laurel Jaguar.
I loved the entire cast of characters—not only the MCs Charlotte and Lily, but Charlotte's twin brother Daniel is really a MC too. Maddie, the obsessed ex, and Wellesley and her two house mates all added interest and depth. This book is set in the same universe as Claiming Camille, and although it can totally be read as a standalone I would highly recommend reading Camille first—I loved it so much.
Betty H. -This is a lovely romance about two women who have been very unlucky in their past relationships. Both Charlotte (Charlie) and Lily have exes who have hurt them in the past, so they are a bit skittish about beginning a new relationship. However, they can’t deny the chemistry they have for each other. If only Charlotte’s ex, Madison, would accept the fact that her relationship with Charlotte is really over.
This is a beautiful (and sometimes steamy) romance with just enough angst to make the story interesting. The setting (Washington, DC) is perfect for the tale since Lily is a budding artist and Charlotte’s aunt is a famous artist in the story. Since there are many art galleries and museums in this area, it provides plenty of venues that could be used in the book.
I loved watching Charlotte and Lily grow as characters through the story. Both had to learn to trust again, and to stand up for themselves. The way they grew in the novel is a good example of creating depth in characters. I connected with the two at the beginning of the book, but I grew to love them by the end.
Maybe Charlotte is listed as a sequel to Claiming Camille in the blurb, and this book does take place in the same “world” as the former with some of the same characters, but honestly, you could read this book as a standalone if you haven’t read the first one yet. However, both are excellent romance novels, and I recommend you read both in order. I certainly enjoyed them both.
Like Claiming Camille before, Maybe Charlotte—which can be read as a standalone despite being set in the same universe— is a light and sweet read. Both Charlotte and Lily are good people who only want the best for everyone. They have their flaws too, but they act like adults and communicate instead of making assumptions, and that’s really refreshing.
There’s also a great ensemble of secondary characters, especially around Charlotte. A lovely romance with very lovable characters, both main and secondary. I’m looking forward to more by this author.
The Coming-Out Party
“Don’t call me Amelia.”
“But you’re my wing woman, Charlie.”
“Don’t call me Charlie either.”
Daniel wrapped an arm around his taller, broader-shouldered twin sister. “Okay, Charlotte. But without your hand on the throttle, none of my adventures would get off the ground.” He squeezed her arm. “Thanks for coming tonight.”
Charlotte looked down at her brother and smiled. Their nearly identical hazel eyes met and held. “First of all, you know I never touch anyone’s throttle. Ever.” She paused as Daniel let out an appreciative cackle. “And second, can we please pick another pilot? Amelia Earhart went down in the South Pacific.”
“Sounds like heaven to me,” Daniel deadpanned then flicked a finger toward the stage at the back of the bar. “We’re on next, by the way. Want any water? Another bourbon?” Without waiting for her answer, he motioned to the waiter for another round.
Charlotte glanced at the small stage where a man was finishing a comedy routine about nude grandparents on Skype. “I can’t believe you talked me into this.”
“Talked you into what?” Daniel raised his cosmopolitan in a toast. “We’re the Charlie Daniels Band, remember? The devil’s just down in Washington, DC, now.” He took a sip of the pink cocktail and grimaced.
Charlotte shook her head and a few pieces of dark hair fell loose from the bun at the nape of her neck. “We called ourselves the Charlie Daniels Band exactly once, in middle school,” she reminded him. “And why do you drink cosmos when you clearly hate them? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m trying to grow, Charlotte,” he said, and for a moment looked like the little boy who’d been so scared of thunderstorms he’d slept under his bed. “You know this.”
Charlotte felt guilty. Daniel had been very open about his goal of wanting to become more sophisticated. It was his stated reason for leaving their hometown of Portland, Maine. There had to be more to life than lobster rolls and L.L.Bean. Who could empathize with this sentiment more than she could? Known as Charlie her entire life, Charlotte had only recently made the switch to her proper name. New town, new name. It made sense. What didn’t compute was how drinking a cocktail you despised counted as personal growth. But it wasn’t fair to press the point. It had been nice of Daniel to let Charlotte tag along on his life adventure.
“I’m sorry. I’m just nervous about performing,” she lied.
“Don’t start that.” He took a stoic sip of the cosmo. “You’re a professional singer.”
“I am not.”
“You’ve been paid.”
“It’s not the same thing.”
“Definitely not.” Writing and recording a catchy jingle for her ex-girlfriend’s bakery to help pay for nursing school was not the same thing as being a professional singer. It had been a trade-off, nothing more, a means to an end.
“I respectfully disagree,” Daniel said. “You’ve got a great voice and you know it. I have to shake my tallywacker to get anyone to notice me.”
“You mean your money-maker?”
“I mean whatever it takes.”
“Stop it.” Charlotte waved away his anxiety. “You don’t need me to tell you that you’re fabulous.”
Daniel handed the waiter his empty glass and accepted a refill. “Yes, I do.” He took a sip and shuddered.
“Okay, you’re fabulous, you’re fabulous, you’re fabulous. How’s that?”
“Better.” He directed her attention to the comic now taking a series of small bows. “Showtime at the Apollo, Amelia.”
Charlotte rose from the table and followed him obediently through the crowded room. Though in a new bar in a new city, this wasn’t a new scenario. It was as Daniel had said earlier. They were a duo. Daniel fueled the fun but Charlotte insured safe passage. She’d always served as either his cohort or support staff. The dynamic had developed in early childhood out of necessity and continued because it worked.
Their father, who’d been head of the science department at Bates College, had died suddenly of a heart attack when they were infants leaving their mother to support the family. Charlotte had no memory of him and very few photos. Sarah Kincaid was also on faculty at Bates. A research scientist, she specialized in insect pathology. Though always physically present in family life, her mind rarely left the lab. After long hours on campus, she’d continue writing up experiments and planning new ones late into the night. Charlotte and Daniel had turned to each other by default. Charlotte loved her mother, but if she needed to ask an embarrassing question that she was too scared to Google, she called Daniel.
Tonight was supposed to be about him. Charlotte still wasn’t sure what had changed. For weeks, Daniel, an enthusiastic amateur pianist and singer, had been plotting his DC coming-out party. It was open mic night at Birdie’s piano bar in Georgetown, the perfect place for him to shine. He’d carefully chosen an outfit, practiced a song and then another song in case someone else sang his first song. Every detail had been planned. Why, at the eleventh hour, had he suddenly asked Charlotte to sing a duet?
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been on stage. She’d often performed with Daniel in high school. They’d participated in every school production and twice scored parts in community theater. But Daniel had been the driving force. Daniel had picked their audition pieces, chosen their clothing, guided their talent. Charlotte still loved to sing but now, aside from karaoke and Christmas carols, she rarely did so outside of the car.
The emcee steered them toward a baby grand piano positioned in a spotlight. Charlotte took a seat next to Daniel at the polished bench. “Tell me again. What happened to your solo?”
He swiveled his head in a practiced gesture of surprise she remembered from their ninth-grade improv class. The hazel eyes were all innocence. “Oh sweetie, I’m still doing my solo. This duet is for you, Charlie Pie. I’m not the only Kincaid twin who needs a coming-out party.”
He was saved by the emcee who was back in front of the crowd. “Hello my little birdies. Can we have another round of applause for the comedy stylings of Sami B?” He stroked his uneven beard. “Next time, maybe don’t give Nana the Wi-Fi password, Sami.” The crowd laughed and he tipped his porkpie hat. “Up next, we have a real treat. They’re a delicious duo. A brother and sister who’ve just moved here from Portland, Maine.” The crowd started whooping.
Someone yelled “Rock Lobsters!”
Charlotte glared at Daniel. “What did you tell him?”
“Not too much.” He kept his gaze on the piano as the emcee shouted the last of the introduction.
“They’re twins, they’re gay, they’re single and looking! Please give a big Birdie’s welcome to the Charlie Daniels Band!”
“I can’t believe you.” Charlotte jabbed an elbow into her brother’s ribs.
“Sure, you can.” He smirked and began playing the short introduction to the song “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease. The crowd’s reaction was instantaneous and loud. After the opening bars a woman in a tiara gave a guttural shout and rushed the stage followed by a gaggle of her friends wearing matching pink T-shirts. They were mostly drunk and mostly gorgeous. It looked like a bachelorette party. Charlotte locked eyes with a curvy blonde at the edge of the group and missed the opening lyrics.
It was Daniel’s turn to throw an elbow. “Pay attention,” he hissed and played the introduction again.
“Sorry,” Charlotte stammered and tried to focus on the performance. It was a well-rehearsed piece. They’d developed it years ago when Daniel was conspiring to audition for American Idol. The hook was that Charlotte sang the Danny Zuko part and Daniel sang Sandy. The gender-bender routine never failed to bring down the house. The fact that everyone in the room had screamed the words into a hairbrush at some point in their lives did not lessen its appeal. Nostalgia mixed with alcohol was a potent combination. Daniel knew his audience.
When he played the intro a second time, Charlotte was ready. She exploded into the lyrics, her rich alto expressing the joy and wonder of first lust while Daniel answered back all coy-boy, sweetly owning a newfound infatuation.
The crowd loved it. More people left their tables to collect around the stage but the sexy blonde from the bachelorette party maintained her position in front of the piano. Every time Charlotte looked up she found green eyes watching her. After the fourth or fifth time, Charlotte couldn’t help it and blushed. The woman noticed and started blushing too. Moments later, to Charlotte’s disappointment, she disappeared into the crowd.
Daniel was working the room like a seasoned cruise ship performer. When a beautiful young man with gorgeous ebony skin began singing along, Daniel motioned him onstage to be part of the chorus. In no time, half the bar was crowded around the piano begging Charlotte and Daniel to tell them more. When Daniel slammed into the penultimate verse in teetering high falsetto, Charlotte didn’t hold back. Trading lines with her brother, she dug deep into her lower register and brought home the brazen innuendo of the lyric.
As the chorus screamed their back-up Daniel turned to Charlotte and grinned. “Take us home, Amelia.”
Her spirit lifted as she moved upward toward the crescendo. Where John Travolta had taken the pitch high and tight, Charlotte squared up and knocked it over the fence. The crowd roared their approval. When the song was done, the twins were beset with enthusiastic applause while the emcee snapped his fingers from the side of the stage. “Show some love for the Charlie Daniels Band!”
The crowd cheered again and Daniel kissed Charlotte on the cheek. “Thank you.”
“I’ll hold you to that.”
“I know you will.”
The weight on the bench shifted as the young man with the beautiful ebony skin slid in next to them. Charlotte took it as her cue to leave. Slipping off the bench she stepped down from the stage onto the dance floor where a tall man in a gold, sequined T-shirt pulled her into a hug.
“Love a duet. Love! A! DUET! And twins! I could eat ya’ll up.”
“Thanks.” Charlotte smiled politely but stepped away from the embrace. She didn’t like to be rude but generally reserved hugs for people she knew.
“I’m going to be singing that song all night. Tell me more! Tell me more!” he hooted and spun off into the crowd.
Charlotte turned and caught a pair of electric green eyes watching her. The bachelorette-party woman was back. In closer proximity Charlotte found her gaze even more unsettling. She was exceptionally pretty, but it was more than that. She looked at Charlotte as if she knew a secret. When Charlotte looked pointedly back at her, the woman colored but did not look away. Maybe it was the confidence of a successful performance, or the anonymity of being in a new city, but Charlotte felt uncharacteristically bold. She took a step forward.
“Hey,” she said quickly.
“Hey,” the woman responded. Her lips tipped at the corners but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. “You were great, really great,” she said begrudgingly and then seemed to hear herself. “I mean that. I do,” she asserted, though her expression was still oddly forlorn. Charlotte wondered at her attitude. Did she know this person?
“Thanks,” Charlotte said as she tried to match her familiar demeanor. “I thought you’d left.”
The green eyes widened a fraction but didn’t lose their intensity. “You noticed that?”
“I noticed you.” Charlotte doubled down. She now felt as if she was acting a scene. Whatever was going on with this enigmatic beauty she wanted to see how it played out. “I have to ask, have we met before?”
The question seemed to surprise the woman and she jerked her head back. “I don’t think so. No. But I noticed you too.”
Once again, Charlotte was struck by her air of resignation. “Is that a bad thing?” she asked and the woman’s face softened.
“No, it’s just that I haven’t noticed anyone in a long time,” she said. This time when she smiled it reached her eyes. “You can tell that I’m off my game. Listen to me, blabbing all my secrets.” She lifted a finger and pointed to the woman in the tiara who was now standing on the stage adjusting the microphone. “And for the record, I didn’t leave. I went to get the bride a drink.”
“I wondered if it was a bachelorette party,” Charlotte said. As interested as she was to discuss being noticed, the look in the blonde’s eye said it was a story better left for quiet conversation. She let her eyes drop to the woman’s chest. Her T-shirt had an illustration of two women tied around each other in a heart-shaped knot. The design was provocative but couldn’t compete with the soft swell of the woman’s breasts. Charlotte allowed her gaze to linger a fraction longer than polite before looking into the emerald eyes again. “The shirts are cool.”
“Yeah, I love Gowear. Cost more but they’re worth it.”
Charlotte shook her head. “I meant the illustration. Gowear gear is great but that design is wonderful.”
“Thanks.” The woman gave a shy smile and leaned in to be heard. Charlotte caught the scent of her perfume. Whoa. “The design is actually mine.”
“You’re an artist?” Charlotte was thrilled to have stumbled onto a valid talking point.
“Not a professional.” The woman shook her head. “It’s just something I do for myself, and friends when I get the chance.” She looked down fondly at the illustration on her shirt then back at Charlotte. “Right now, visiting galleries and museums is about as close as I get to real art. But that’s the great thing about living in DC.” Her smile broadened. “There are so many great venues.”
“Do you go often?”
“Almost every Sunday.”
“What makes art real?” Charlotte asked.
“When someone pays you for it.” The woman laughed. “Right?”
“That’s one way to think of it.” Charlotte smiled. It was not lost on her that she and Daniel had just had the same conversation. “What else do you do for yourself?” Oh, God. Had she really just said that?
The woman gave a tiny start but rebounded quickly. “Not enough. Making the shirts was the most fun I’ve had in a while. They’re my wedding gift to the bridal party. I’m also designated driver tonight. I don’t go out much so I was happy to volunteer.”
“Very cool.” Charlotte tried to put her at ease. She wanted to ask her why she rarely went out but opted for a safer subject. “How do you know the bride?”
“I work with Sheen,” she said and her eyes flicked toward the door. “In about two minutes the other bachelorette party is going to be here.”
“Who’s the other bride?”
“Beth. She’s an active duty Marine. Been home for about a week from a six-month tour in Afghanistan. Sheen is going to serenade her. It’s all terribly romantic. They’re getting married this weekend.” There was a wistfulness in her voice that made Charlotte’s heart squeeze.
“Thanks for telling me.” Charlotte flashed her warmest smile. “It’ll make Sheen’s performance so much better. I’m Charlotte, by the way.” She offered her hand.
“Hi Charlotte, my name is…”
Feedback from the onstage microphone drowned out the last word but Charlotte was too caught up in the feel of warm fingers clasping her own to care. At the first moment of contact she knew she was in trouble. It wasn’t just that the heat of the woman’s hand matched the blush on her face. It was how Charlotte’s body reacted to it. She knew if she were to look in a mirror her pupils would be dilated and her cheeks flushed. If they were naked, other things would give them away. Naked? Was Charlotte seriously already thinking of getting naked? Though it was a normal response to being near someone you were attracted to, this level of reaction usually didn’t happen in the first two minutes. It certainly never happened to Charlotte. But so far, everything about the encounter felt decidedly abnormal. The woman stroked her thumb lightly across Charlotte’s hand and then let go with a squeeze.
“You’re the gal who put the Charlie in the Charlie Daniels Band,” she said softly and Charlotte released a breath. The tables had definitely turned. The woman seemed to have made up her mind about something and was now on the offensive. Though Charlotte found nothing offensive about it.
“That was not sanctioned. My brother can be a real rascal.”
“Rascal?” The woman smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. “You make him sound like a raccoon.”
Charlotte laughed. “That’s not too far off.”
“Are you really twins?”
A cheer went up in the room as a group of women wearing purple turbans entered the bar and began snaking their way toward the stage. One turban was twice the size as its counterparts making its occupant look like a swami. In one hand she held some kind of bejeweled stick and in the other an oversized wineglass.
“Is that Beth?” Charlotte said.
“That’s her.” The woman nodded. Charlotte still didn’t know her name. Before she could ask, the emcee was at the microphone again calling for the crowd’s attention.
“Love is in the air tonight, my little birdies! In two days’ time this lovely lady will marry the woman of her dreams. Please welcome Sheen!” The crowd screamed as the guitarist began to strum a slow song. Charlotte vaguely recognized the tune but couldn’t pin it down. The lights dimmed to a spotlight on Sheen. Her tiara winked at the crowd as she cradled the microphone in her hands.
“Would you like to dance?” The blonde was now at Charlotte’s ear. Warm breath tickled her skin and her nipples tightened reflexively.
Two more chords and Charlotte had the song. Sheen was singing “At Last,” the torch song immortalized by the late Jazz singer Etta James. She’d never heard it performed with a single guitar, but it worked. And Sheen was giving it her all. The song started strongly and so did her dance partner. Slipping her arms around Charlotte’s neck, she pressed their chests together causing Charlotte’s already fevered body to pulse even more hotly. Charlotte was a few inches taller but their bodies fit like puzzle pieces. The woman seemed to enjoy this and pushed herself decisively against Charlotte. She smelled like a perfume sample from a fancy fashion magazine. Charlotte was seized with the impulse to drive a thigh between her legs but willed herself to relax. When Daniel told Charlotte to put herself out there, dry humping a stranger in a Georgetown bar was not what he had in mind. She was almost sure of it.
The song came to a close and Beth joined Sheen on stage as women in both bachelorette parties wept and shot video. The blonde released her arms from Charlotte’s neck but kept one slung low around her waist so their bodies remained in contact. Charlotte leaned into the touch.
The emcee tipped his hat. “Mazel tov! Ladies! Mazel tov! That was beautiful. But I’m not sure who wants to follow that?”
“Me!” A familiar voice shouted somewhere to the left. Charlotte didn’t have to turn her head to know who it was.
“Wonderful!” The emcee gushed. “My Maine man, Daniel!”
The brides exited the stage to another thunderous round of applause. The emcee repositioned the microphone into the stand by the piano and Daniel bounded back into the spotlight.
“Your brother is adorable,” The blonde whispered into Charlotte’s ear as Daniel started playing the opening notes of an Elton John classic.
“He claims I cannibalized him in the womb,” Charlotte replied, earning a laugh. “Would you like to dance again?”
“I would.” She looped an arm around Charlotte’s waist and they moved to the song. “You don’t look that much taller than him.”
Charlotte shrugged. “It’s only about three inches, but my shoulders are so much broader people think I’m his mother.”
“One hot mother.”
“Thank you.” The fact that she was larger than Daniel had never bothered her. But it was nice to hear that this lovely woman found her attractive. She looked down at her lips and wondered if it was okay to kiss someone when you didn’t know their name. “Listen carefully to the chorus,” she said instead as Daniel finished the first haunting verses of the song “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
“Okay.” The green eyes danced with anticipation as Daniel built to the crescendo.
Charlotte held a hand to her ear. “Wait for it...”
“Please let your sons go down on me!” He sang and the crowd roared with laughter. Charlotte couldn’t hear the blonde’s reaction but she had a hand over her mouth and her eyes were streaming. Everyone around them was smiling. The man with the beautiful ebony skin was in front of the stage with his hands swaying in the air. The turbaned ladies had their arms around each other and the brides were dancing. Daniel milked it for everything it was worth. If this was his coming-out party, he’d definitely arrived. When the song concluded he executed one tight bow and did a high guitar kick off the stage. Not stopping to sign autographs he made a beeline for Charlotte.
“Great job!” The blonde was enthusiastic. “You were so funny.”
“Thank you!” Daniel flashed her a brilliant smile but then grabbed Charlotte by the hand and began tugging her away. “Time to go.”
“Hey!” She tried to shrug him off but he tightened his grip and pulled harder. Charlotte looked apologetically back at the beautiful woman who, until a minute ago, had been nestled in her arms. “What are you doing?” she hissed at Daniel.
“We need to make our exit. Like now.”
“Because it’s time to go.”
“Because you always leave them wanting more.”
“But what if I want more?” The woman, now surrounded by other members of the bachelorette party, suddenly seemed very far away.
“Pace yourself, Amelia, it’s a long flight.”