Life Is Full Of Surprises
Teresa “Toots” Amelia Loudenberry has her quirks, but no one—especially not her trusted friends Sophia, Ida, and Mavis—would ever question her loyalty. So it’s no surprise when Toots decides to extend her stay in Charleston to help care for her ailing housekeeper.
Though the Charleston air is drenched with azalea and honeysuckle, and there’s always a pitcher of sweet tea close to hand, the ladies have little time for relaxing. Ida’s new line of cosmetics is about to launch, and Toots, Mavis, and Sophia are relishing new careers as models. And Abby, Toots’s daughter, is getting hitched. In the middle of so much change, Toots is almost too busy to notice her own unexpected romance. After eight husbands, she’s sworn never to get involved again. But fate—and her friends—may have other plans. And every godmother, fairy or otherwise, loves a story that ends with happily-ever-after…
Praise for Fern Michaels and The Godmothers Series
“Whoever thought the ‘golden years’ were boring never met the Godmothers.” —RT Reviews
“Pure recession-proof fun.” —Publishers Weekly
Teresa Amelia Loudenberry, aka Toots to those who
knew and loved her, smoothed a wrinkle from the
cream-colored duvet at the foot of her bed. Restless after
spending the night tossing and turning, she’d been up for
over an hour. Toots glanced at the clock on her night table.
Five fifteen, and she was already showered and dressed.
Most likely Bernice would be up and about, even though
technically she was no longer Toots’s housekeeper and was
not to do anything without assistance. After Bernice suffered
a massive heart attack and underwent coronary bypass
surgery, Toots had put her foot down to her dear
friend of almost twenty-five years. It was time to call it
quits, but like Toots, Bernice wasn’t one simply to stop
working just because she’d had—Bernice’s exact words—
“a little setback.” The “little setback,” unfortunately, just
happened to be five clogged arteries, which required open-
heart surgery, extensive physical therapy, and major changes
to her diet and lifestyle. Toots had categorically refused to
allow Bernice to do anything strenuous since being released
from the hospital. Toots had hired a temporary service
to do the heavy cleaning in her Charleston home.
Bernice might moan and groan until the cows came
home. Toots was absolutely not going to let her wash windows
and mop floors. Bernice’s days as a housekeeper
ended the day Jamie, Toots’s partner at Charleston’s finest
bakery, The Sweetest Things, found her curled in a heap
on the kitchen floor. Had Jamie not paid a visit that morning,
poor Bernice would most likely be six feet under.
Toots did not want to say good-bye to Bernice, certainly
not yet. She’d already buried eight husbands in her lifetime.
Doing the same for one of her dearest friends was
nowhere to be found on her agenda. Not now. Not tomorrow.
Not next week, next month, or next year. They still
had too much life to live, they meaning Sophie, Mavis, and
Ida, Abby’s three godmothers, Toots, and Bernice.
Bernice had acted strangely since coming home from the
hospital, but Toots put it down to her age and the fact that
she’d almost kicked the bucket. Bernice swore she had
died and gone to heaven but had to return to help Sophie
investigate the odd events that were going to take place at
the house of Mrs. Patterson, Toots’s recently deceased
next-door neighbor in Charleston. Mrs. Patterson’s house
was empty, up for sale. She’d passed away while they’d
been in California, at the beach house.
Toots feared that Bernice might be skirting the edges of
dementia, but refused to discuss the possibility with anyone.
Not even Sophie. But for now, Bernice was alive—
above the grass, not below—and that was really all that
And, of course, there was Ida, who’d lived in New York
City, where she’d spent almost all of her adult life. She’d
married three or four times—Toots lost count after the second
time. Ida’s last husband, Thomas, had died of E. coli,
or so everyone had thought. Following Thomas’s death,
however, Ida had morphed into a different person. Since
she’d believed Thomas had died from eating a piece of tainted
meat, Ida developed OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder.
With the help of Toots, Sophie, and Mavis, plus the unsavory
Patel Yadav, who’d been impersonating the famed Dr.
Benjamin Sameer, a very successful doctor in Los Angeles
who specialized in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The fake Dr. Sameer had tried to bilk Ida out of the three
million dollars she had inherited from her deceased husband.
Nonetheless, Ida had overcome her bout with germs
very quickly with the aid of the unscrupulous Patel, who
was also her lover at the time. It was after Ida’s almost
miraculous recovery that Sophie made contact through the
spirit world and learned that, unknown to Thomas or Ida,
he had an illegitimate daughter. His death was investigated,
and it was determined that he had been the victim
of a homicide. His daughter had poisoned him in hopes of
gaining access to his fortune. After she got rid of Ida. The
daughter was successfully prosecuted, sentenced to life
without the possibility of parole, so she would not have
another day of freedom in this lifetime.
Ida, a former photographer, now had a successful line of
cosmetics for the deceased, Drop-Dead Gorgeous. She was
quite content with her new business venture and life, one
lacking any morbid fear of germs.
Mavis, another of the childhood quartet of friends, had
barely been surviving on the pension she received as an
English teacher when Toots had e-mailed, inviting her to
Charleston. Living on the coast of Maine, with nothing for
company except her little Chihuahua, Coco, and daytime
television, Mavis had ballooned until she was more than
one hundred pounds overweight. When Toots had first
seen her that day as she struggled to walk through the airport,
she’d had her doubts about Mavis ever having had
any quality of life. Right there, on the spot, in the airport,
before Mavis barely had a chance to say hello, Toots knew
she would do whatever it took to help her friend lose all
Toots immediately called Dr. Joe Pauley, her longtime
friend and physician. Dr. Pauley announced that Mavis
was physically sound in all the areas that mattered. Toots
took this as a sign. After a visit to Catherine’s, a clothing
store for plus-size women, which outfitted Mavis in gorgeous
clothing, boosting poor Mavis’s self-esteem tenfold,
all Toots had to do was sit back and watch as the pounds
practically dripped off Mavis. Now a hundred pounds
lighter, and a successful businesswoman as well, not only
was Mavis new and improved, but she was hip, sexy, and
proud of it. Coco still tried to rule the roost, but Toots figured
that was okay as long as Mavis didn’t fall back into
her trap of eating and feeding the little dog more than they
needed. Mavis had truly worked her ass off.
Over months, unbeknownst to Toots, Sophie, and Ida,
Mavis had created a secret Internet business. During her
period of massive weight loss, Mavis had insisted on remaking
the clothes Toots had purchased for her when she
was so heavy. As she was doing so, she discovered that she
truly loved making her old clothes into new ones, and it
was in this way that she started her own line of clothing
for those in mourning, aptly naming it Good Mourning.
The line became so successful that Mavis went one step
further by designing clothing for the dearly departed
themselves. This, too, was another moneymaking venture.
Between Mavis’s clothing and Ida’s makeup, both women
were sought after by morticians and funeral directors
across the country. Once the two began to work together,
they attended special classes in San Francisco that enabled
them to “lay out” the deceased. They were more popular
than ever in the world of those who dealt with the dearly
And then, of course, there was Sophie. Toots was closest
to Sophie. Why? Maybe they were more alike in some
ways. She didn’t know why, but Sophie had always held a
special place in her heart, just a wee bit more than Ida and
Mavis. Sophie had always been the toughest of the bunch.
Strong and street-smart in ways that Toots, Ida, and Mavis
would never be. Sophie had met and married only one
man in her life—Walter Manchester, an alcoholic banker
who’d kicked the bucket just about a year ago. He’d died
of cirrhosis of the liver. Big surprise there. He’d spent most
of their marriage slugging Sophie around as though she
were his own personal punching bag.
Sophie was a great believer in her marriage vows. She
would not divorce him, because, as bad as her situation
was, divorce was contrary to her Catholic upbringing.
Toots had always known that something was not kosher
in her friend’s marriage. Once, when Toots had made an
unannounced visit to New York City, she’d found Sophie
with her arm in a cast. She didn’t have to ask her friend
what had happened. She just knew. Toots had tried to convince
Sophie to leave Walter, told her she deserved better,
but Sophie had been adamant in her decision not to divorce
him. “Till death do us part,” she’d said, all those
And so she survived. And she’d been smart. Working as
a pediatric nurse her entire life had taught her a couple of
things. One: people don’t live forever; and two: she was
going to outlive Walter so she could collect the fivemillion-
dollar insurance policy she’d worked her tail off
to pay for. After Walter’s death, Toots took control of the
“event” so that Sophie could mourn for a few minutes,
about all the mourning she had in her. Walter was laid to
rest efficiently and quickly. Toots even honored the old sot
by singing a very off-key version of “Ave Maria” before
they sent him to the fires of hell via one of New York’s
finest crematoriums. They’d done what was required and
not a single thing more.
It wasn’t too long after Walter’s death that Sophie’s psychic
abilities blossomed even more than they already had.
And now she was sought after like those Hollywood starlets
whose lives and loves Abby reported on at The Informer.
Though Bernice wasn’t an official godmother in the true
sense of the word, she’d helped raise Abby when the three
of them had moved to South Carolina a little less than
twenty-five years ago. Not one to wallow in self-pity or
overanalyze a situation, Toots put all negative thoughts
aside. They would only depress her, and her life was anything
but depressing. She had more reason than ever to
greet each new day with an abundance of enthusiasm and
a positive attitude.
First and foremost, Toots no longer had to hide behind
the screen of LAT Enterprise as the owner of the tabloid
paper The Informer. She’d purchased the paper a little less
than two years ago, when she had learned that the former
owner and editor in chief had gotten himself into such a
humongous financial disaster that Abby and the team of
reporters employed by The Informer feared losing their
jobs. Toots, being Abby’s multimillionaire mother and also
being addicted to reading the tabloids, saw this not only as
a possible business venture, but also as an opportunity to
make sure Abby kept the job she loved so much. Knowing
how independent her daughter was, Toots, along with Sophie,
Mavis, and Ida, agreed to keep the new owner’s identity
a secret until the right moment came along to tell
Abby. That moment happened shortly after Bernice was
stricken with her heart attack.
Toots was very sure that Abby would disown her and
the three godmothers when she learned that the four of
them had been lying, if only by omission, since The Informer
had been sold to LAT Enterprise. However, when
an unexpected situation presented itself, Toots had known
it was time to reveal that she was the secret owner of The
Abby’s reaction hadn’t been what she’d anticipated. It
brought tears to her eyes just thinking about it. Though
that had been quite the emotional time for all of them, the
fact was that Abby listened to the explanation of why
Toots had felt compelled to purchase The Informer and
had felt the need to keep her identity a secret. Her daughter’s
reaction had practically blown her away.
Abby had phoned Toots to tell her about how the noted
physician from Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr.
Bruce Lowery, whom Toots had engaged to perform open-
heart surgery on Bernice in Charleston before discovering
in a séance that he had been involved in a homicide, had
been arrested for murder in an entirely different case.
Toots recalled asking for details, the who, what, when,
where, and why. Abby laughed, telling her she’d never
make it as a news reporter, tabloid or otherwise. At that
exact moment, Toots knew it was time to reveal her secret.
Toots remembered holding her breath, waiting for Abby
to reject her, to tell her she was the worst mother alive, tell
her she would never speak to her again, but what she
heard was anything but a rejection. Prepared for anger,
Toots would never forget her daughter’s words.
“Mom, come on! I’m not three years old! I can’t believe
you’d go to such lengths. Oh, what am I saying? Of course
you would go to whatever length necessary to see that I
was happy. Oh, Mom, I’m not angry at all. I’m honored
that you would do something so phenomenally, fabulously,
off the wall just to make me happy. There isn’t another
mother in the world who would do something so
gigantically crazy. Why should I be angry? I’m humbled
and bowled over, but angry? No way.”