Thursday, May 4, 2023

Excerpt from Zora Books Her Happy Every After by Taj McCoy

 Zora Books Her Happy Ever After by Taj McCoy

Publication date: April 25th 2023
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance


“Doesn’t miss a romantic beat . . . McCoy expertly crafts a well-balanced love triangle between empathetic and passionate characters—and delivers plenty of comic relief in the form of Zora’s lovable matchmaking grandmother.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

A heart-pounding, curvy romance about an indie bookstore owner who finds herself in a love triangle when she meets the author she’s had a crush on for years…and his best friend.

Zora has committed every inch of her life to establishing her thriving DC bookstore, making it into a pillar of the community, and she just hasn’t had time for romance. But when a mystery author she’s been crushing on for years agrees to have an event at her store, she starts to rethink her priorities. Lawrence is every bit as charming as she imagined, even if his understanding of his own books seems just a bit shallow. When he asks her out after his reading, she’s almost elated enough to forget about the grumpy guy who sat next to her making snide comments all evening. Apparently the grouch is Lawrence’s best friend, Reid, but she can’t imagine what kind of friendship that must be. They couldn’t be more different.

But as she starts seeing Lawrence, and spending more and more time with Reid, Zora finds first impressions can be deceiving. Reid is smart and thoughtful—he’s also interested. After years of avoiding dating, she suddenly has two handsome men competing for her affection. But even as she struggles to choose between them, she can’t shake the feeling that they’re both hiding something—a mystery she’s determined to solve before she can find her HEA.

“Excuse me,” a deep voice resonated from the other side of the counter, “can you tell
me where I can find Ms. Zora Dizon?”
Zora closed the book in front of her to look up and see Lawrence Michaels standing in
front of her. Her heart thudded, as she took in his brown skin, long lashes, deep brown
eyes, and megawatt smile. Be cool. “Oh hi, Mr. Michaels, I'm so glad that you made
it! I'm Zora.” Behind the counter, she tried to covertly slip out of her ballet flats and
into her cutest high heels, gripping the counter for balance.
“Please, call me Lawrence.” He smiled down at Zora who fluffed her curls under his
gaze. If he noticed that she grew four inches behind the counter, he didn’t show it.
“It's so nice to see a Black-owned independent bookstore in my old neighborhood.”
“That's right, you grew up in Petworth didn't you?”
He looked impressed. “That’s right—just down the street. Wow, you really did your
She smiled, her lips lacquered a deep bluish-red. “We try to make sure that we have a
good understanding of where our authors are coming from when we host an event. We
were really excited to learn that you agreed to join us for this. I’m glad you’re here.”
He tilted his head. “Are you?”
Tension built between them as they stared at each other, his dark eyes boring a hole
into her. Tiny hairs rose and prickled on her skin as Zora felt a flush crawl up her
chest and neck to her cheeks and ears. “I—I mean, I am a fan of your writing.”
Emma appeared. “Hey, Z? I think we’re all set to begin. Are you ready to announce?”
She nodded, turning back to Lawrence and smiling brightly. “Ready?”
“Always.” His gaze lingered on her for a long moment, the word vibrating at Zora’s
core. He gestured toward the seating area. “After you.”
Hyper aware of Lawrence’s eyes raking over her and settling on her ass as she walked
in front of him, Zora ignored the wobble in her ankles and added a little extra zing to
her switch. Somewhere off to the side, she heard Emma whisper, “Yesss, bitch!”
Smiling to herself, she stood at the front of the group gathered in a semi-circle of
chairs and benches. “Good evening! Thank you all for joining us today at Opus

Northeast. Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing one of Petworth’s own,
author Lawrence Michaels, whose bestselling mysteries have been flying off of
shelves. Central to the series are Langston Butler and his extraordinary partner
Annette, who hunt down the most notorious murderers in the Mid-Atlantic. Prior to
the Butler series, Mr. Michaels tugged at our hearts with a beautiful memoir on three
generations of community activists in his family. That window into the issues raised
and challenged by the Michaels family gave a poignant view of what it means to be
Black in D.C., and it was so beautifully portrayed in documentary form this past
spring. Please join me in welcoming Lawrence Michaels.”
The crowd whooped and applauded, and Zora moved aside to sit on the end of the
back row so that she’d be able to get back up to direct patrons to refreshments after
the talk. Sitting, she whispered a greeting to the bearded, spectacled man next to her
only to receive an icy stare in response. Rebuffed, she turned her attention forward,
focusing her attention on Lawrence.
“Good evening,” he said, surveying the room.
Three or four people in the audience replied back.
Lawrence shook his head. “Let’s try this again. Good evening!” He projected his
voice, deep and rumbling enough to make Zora squirm in her seat.
“Good evening!” The crowd projected back, some laughing.
“Thank you so much for coming out tonight. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a
successful, Black-owned independent bookstore just a few blocks down the street
from where I grew up.” He nodded in Zora’s direction. “Thank you, Ms. Dizon, for
the warm invitation and welcome. Hopefully, this will be the first of many events we
can host here at Opus Northeast.”
She beamed, her cheeks warming.
“Laying it on thick today,” the man next to her muttered.
Zora’s head snapped to her left. “Sorry?”
The man glowered at her through his glasses, dark brown eyes piercing through her.
He turned back to face forward. “Nothing.”

Oakland-born law grad, Taj McCoy, is committed to writing stories championing Black and biracial women of color, plus-sized protagonists, Black love, Black joy, and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds.

Taj started writing as a small child, enjoying the success of her first publications in elementary school. Since then, her dream has always been to become a professional writer. As a law student, she attempted her first novels and joined the Twitter writing community. Though Taj has spent more than ten years working in higher education administration, she continued to pursue her goal and ultimately finished her first novel in 2018, securing her agent in 2019.

When she’s not writing, Taj may be on Twitter boosting other marginalized writers, trying to zen out in yoga, sharing recipes on her website, binge-watching her favorite reality tv, or cooking private supper club meals for close friends. Catch her producing and co-hosting the Fat Like Me Podcast, which celebrates body diversity in publishing and entertainment, or watch her join forces with several writer friends on Sundays for the Better Than Brunch video podcast. When time permits, she serves as the #DVdebut Program Manager for Diverse Voices, Inc. and as a mentor for 2020 Pitch Wars.