by Laina Villeneuve
Podcaster Sarah Cooper is used to giving others advice but when her own relationship crumbles, she’s left floundering. Determined to heal, she decides to turn all her love and focus to her daughter—not on reentering the dating pool. Her resolve is tested when her backyard swimming pool turns green and requires the attention of a tempting new pool technician.
Jasmine Dìaz knows the importance of family, especially found family. She is far too committed to carrying a baby for her best friend to consider a relationship. Even if it means ignoring how her favorite podcaster seems to be flirting with her.
Soon they both start to believe it would be safe to dip just a toe into the dating pool. But can they stop before they fall all in?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"I hate to admit to people that I listen to country music. There are plenty of songs that force me to change the radio station, but there are also songs that get me singing along, especially when they have clever lyrics. I was immediately taken with Russel Dickerson's "Love You Like I Used To." I knew from the moment he sings that he doesn't love his partner like he used to that the song would be about love deepening over the years. I was already finished with Falling All In and looking for a title when I found myself singing along to the song again. "We thought we knew what it was way back then/ Oh, but I keep fallin' all in/ Higher than I've ever been." It hit me that when I talked to Alex, the owner of my local pool store, about writing this story, he said that in all the years he's worked on pools, he's never fallen in. Now that I've wrapped up the book, I crank up Dickerson's song whenever it comes on, tickled to sing along when he hits the title of my book. To find out whether Jasmine Diaz has ever fallen into one of her pools, you'll have to read the book!"
Women Using Words
This is fresh and original storytelling. Villeneuve works to tell a story that affirms identities and validates struggles inside the lgbtq+ community. It’s honest and it’s enlightening. If you are looking for something that’s representative of diverse families and relationships, then be sure to pick this one up.
Jande B. - Laina Villeneuve masterfully crafts a narrative that explores the complexities of love, friendship, and self-discovery. The author adeptly captures the nuances of human connection, intertwining themes of trust, sacrifice, and personal growth throughout the story. Villeneuve's writing style effortlessly draws readers into the lives of Sarah and Jasmine, making us empathize with their struggles, laugh at their witty exchanges, and cheer for their personal triumphs. Falling All In is a refreshing take on the romance genre, offering a poignant and affirming portrayal of love beyond traditional boundaries.
Sophie - It’s an opposites attract romance, packed with emotions and endearing characters.
Jamie R. - The story is engaging and the characters are easy to like and become invested in.
Reading with Caz - Villeneuve delivered a lovely romance. One that will make you re-evaluate what it is to be a family. A great read!
Bonnie K. - Falling All In, is a great read. I loved the characters and was invested in how they think and get through any challenges. It touches on self-discovery, embracing vulnerabilities. family and true happiness. This will keep you captivated from start to finish.
“It’s too hot,” Chloe whined.
Suck it up. Sarah cringed at her crabby reaction. She’d had an entire day to herself. It wasn’t her daughter’s fault that she had not met the work quota she had set for herself. She should have more patience and understanding. But it was hot as hell, and in the time she’d waited for Chloe outside her kindergarten classroom, the temperature inside her Subaru had spiked even hotter. She didn’t remember California hitting the nineties in September when she’d been a kid, but she did remember how awful it felt waiting for the air-conditioning to reach the back seat. She hurried her child into the car seat, careful to keep the hot metal from touching her skin.
“Can we get ice cream? Mama says when it’s this hot, that’s the only thing that helps.”
Absofuckinglutely not. Sarah clenched her teeth, wishing it wasn’t so easy for her child to light the fuse of her ever-present anger with Chloe’s other mother. “I disagree. When it got this hot when I was little, my mommy always took me to the library. What do you say we go find some new books?” She combed the girl’s light curls with her fingers, coaxing ringlets away from her daughter’s sweaty face.
“I don’t want to read.” Chloe batted her mother’s hand away. “I want to go swimming.”
With Chloe watching her every move from the back seat, Sarah cranked the engine, rolling down the windows to let the blast of hot air from the air-conditioning out. She fought the urge to tip her head to crack the tension from her neck. “I wish you could go swimming, too, but the pool hasn’t been fixed yet,” she said. That was the honest truth, not an accusation. Nothing beat being able to throw Chloe in the water after school. But she wasn’t about to toss her child into a green pool.
“Mama didn’t fix it?”
“Not yet.” She kept her voice neutral. Even with this new disappointment, she was careful to swallow any criticism, to avoid contaminating Chloe’s relationship with Tricia. She recalled the words she had recorded in a podcast shortly after the divorce. “The grown-up hurt is real, but it belongs to the grown-ups, not the children. It’s so important to treat and talk about your ex with respect both in their presence and when you are alone with your child. Your child deserves to have an unpolluted relationship with their other parent. Try to recall what it was about that person that once called to your heart and save the disappointments for your journal or a lunch out with your friends where you know you will not be overheard. Your children are counting on you to be the grown-up, so be the grown-up, even when you want to throw a childish temper tantrum.”
Be the grown-up.
She took a deep breath and peeked in the rearview mirror. Chloe was staring out the window, her posture deflated. Sarah scrambled to find something that would reinflate her child without spoiling dinner. “We could feed the peacocks! How does that sound?”
“How about this. You can get your swimsuit on and run through the sprinkler until it cools down.”
Sarah wished that it was as easy to improve her own afternoon as it was to fix Chloe’s. She sagged into a lawn chair, spent from lathering sunscreen onto her sweaty, wiggly child. She took a long sip of her lemonade, longing to splash in some gin to smooth the edges of her frayed nerves.
“Mommy, watch this! I can do a cartwheel!”
“Mmm hmm.” Sarah couldn’t open her eyes. Thankful for her dark sunglasses, she said, “Marvelous, honey.”
“You’re watching?” Chloe asked.
“I’m watching!” Sarah aimed for more enthusiasm this time and managed to push open one lid to see Chloe’s hands hit the grass and her feet swing around to the side. She’d never learned to cartwheel, herself, so she could offer no advice. Tricia should have been there to hold her hips or something to help her get her legs up above her head. She was the athletic one.
She finished her drink and sank down in the chair, half an ear tuned to Chloe’s chattering. She must have dozed off because the cold hand on her shoulder startled her all the way to her feet.
“Sorry!” Chloe said.
“You’re fine,” Sarah said, her hand over her rapidly beating heart. “Ready to find some peacocks? Let’s get your shoes and peanuts.”
They held hands as they walked several blocks up and then to the left to the street where all the peacocks congregated.
“Will we see babies? I miss the babies.”
“Probably not until next year, sweetie. They have to grow all summer, so when the days get shorter, they are strong enough to fly up into the trees for the night.” She didn’t actually know if that was true, but it sounded good, and she hoped it would settle the matter. Luckily, they found a cluster of birds who strutted over to take the peanuts Chloe tossed to them.
Sarah jumped at the slam of a door nearby. Why was she so jumpy? She shielded her eyes from the still-blazing sun. Up the block, a pool guy was leaning deep into the cab of his cherry-red truck. Not a guy, she corrected herself, noticing the bright orange shorts and the long, lean legs they housed. The figure emerged fully. So not a guy. While her orange shorts were loose, the pink tank molded to her trim figure.
She’d barely glanced in the pair’s direction before unloading her cart and striding toward the driveway.
Chloe’s head snapped up at the sound of her mother’s voice.
Sarah was just as startled that the words had left her mouth. But they had had their effect. The woman paused on the sidewalk. “Stay here on the corner,” she ordered her child before walking briskly toward the pool…girl? “Hi!” she said, wishing she looked less disheveled. When was the last time she’d washed her hair? She quickly scooped it up and twisted it into a knot. She scolded herself for feeling self-conscious of her faded tee, self-made jeans shorts and dirty Keds in front of this stranger. It shouldn’t matter, but the closer she got to the woman glowing in front of her, the dowdier she felt.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” Sarah said, a touch out of breath. “It’s just that I have a pool…” She gestured toward Chloe. “We live a few blocks from here, and our pool is green. My ex was supposed to keep up with the maintenance, but…” She puffed air through pursed lips. This woman did not need her spilling her whole sad story. She tilted her head. In recognition? God, she hoped not. What were the chances that this woman listened to her show? Not likely, she hoped.
“You want me to take a look at it?”
“How much does a pool service run?” Tricia had always said it was a waste of money to hire someone, but if she couldn’t manage to keep it swimmable, Sarah would have to hire someone.
The woman pushed her wide-brimmed straw hat from her head with the back of her wrist, letting it hang behind her on a cord. She ran her fingers through sweat-soaked bangs and looked at her with the brightest brown eyes Sarah had ever seen. There was something radiant about her. In the months since Tricia had left, Sarah had shrunk back into the darkest corner of herself, building a cocoon. Even through all those thick layers, her body was reacting to this woman. “Ninety,” she said. “I’d be happy to take a look when I’m finished up here.” She returned to the cab and ducked inside again.
Sarah did her best to keep her eyes from lingering on the woman’s smooth legs but was utterly unsuccessful.
“Mommy! I’m out of peanuts.”
Sarah jumped again, her daughter startling her from behind. “We’re going home now, anyway. I’ve asked…” She couldn’t supply the woman’s name.
“Jasmine Dìaz,” she said, her voice full of humor. “Jass.”
Was she amused by how Sarah had jumped, or had she felt Sarah ogling her backside? Or worse, had she recognized her and was inwardly laughing at how scruffy she looked? Sarah tried to shake off her insecurities. “I’ve asked Jass if she can fix our pool.”
“Hooray!” Chloe bounced like she had springs in her shoes. “I get to go swimming!”
“Probably not today, honey,” Sarah said. She lifted apologetic eyes to Jass and experienced the same intense pull.
Jass extended paper and pen to Sarah. “Jot down your address for me. I’ll be there in about a half hour.”
Sarah took the items from Jass, careful not to touch her. “Thank you. We really appreciate it.”
“No problem!” She tucked the paper and pen into her pocket and waved as she strode up the sidewalk.
Sarah turned her attention to Chloe, so she would not get caught staring at Jass a third time. “Did you have a good time feeding the birds?”
“Do you think Jass has a magic backpack?”
“Why would Jass have a magic backpack?”
“Because she’s dressed like Dora. If she had a magic backpack, maybe she could fix our pool today.”
Sarah took her hand and walked home, listening to Chloe talk about all the things she could do if she had a magic backpack. Chloe. She was Sarah’s whole world. She had no right to be thinking about Jass’s smooth legs, no right to think about how the back of her shirt had been damp with sweat. A longing to taste Jass’s salty skin cracked her cocoon. She had to patch these cracks, and quickly, before Jass came to look at the pool. She needed to pull more protective layers around her and keep her focus on raising Chloe. They were the Two Musketeers, taking on the world together.