Love Me Tender


By Laurie Horowitz

Foreword by James Patterson

Read by Christopher Ryan Grant

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Elvis is in the bedroom.

Journalist Leslie Stern never wanted to write entertainment stories. So when she interviews Patton King, a rising country singer who claims to be Elvis’s grandson, she decides to uncover the truth and write a scathing review. But there’s more to Patton than meets the eye, and Leslie can’t help falling for “The Next Elvis.”

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Dear Reader,

I hope that you’ve been enjoying my BookShots books. I came up with the concept because I thought the publishing industry could use some big stories delivered in small packages—so people can fit them into their busy schedules. Since reading is one of my favorite hobbies, I like to pick up an extra book whenever I can. I hope that you’re the same way, and that these BookShots have been the perfect supplement to all your other favorite pastimes.

Love Me Tender by Laurie Horowitz is one of those big stories. Or at least our main character, Leslie Stern, plans to make it one. She wants to make a name for herself as a journalist, and when she’s asked to write an article about a man down in Nashville who thinks he’s the next Elvis Presley, she thinks she’s hit solid gold.

But when Leslie meets the musician, she becomes entranced by his spell. Just like the great Elvis Presley, Patton King has a way of capturing the crowd—and every woman’s heart. He’s handsome and talented, and he’s got his sights set on Leslie.

This is a heartwarming story of a woman torn between her aspirations in life and in love, and author Laurie Horowitz’s pacing and lighthearted voice kept me entertained on every page. Reader, this is a BookShots Flames title—so be ready for that quality story you’ve come to love. You’re going to devour this one.


—James Patterson

Chapter 1

People are looking at Leslie Stern.

Leslie, a tall blonde in a short plaid skirt, is worth looking at, but that’s not the reason everyone on the subway is staring. They are eyeing the huge stuffed toy she is carrying. She has just come from the Fluff Festival in Cambridge, an annual event in honor of Marshmallow Fluff, and she has acquired this pillow-like item, with its resemblance to the Pillsbury Doughboy, for her boss, Olive Poynter.

Olive will hate it. She’ll despise its little brown derby hat. That’s why Leslie spent fifty dollars on it. Leslie figures that buying things to horrify Olive is money well spent.

Leslie is holding the toy around the neck as if she’s about to give it a noogie. She’d like to give Olive a noogie: hold her with one hand and give her a hard poke with the knuckles of the other. Olive is editor of Features and Entertainment at The Commonwealth Courier and Leslie, who went to Columbia Journalism School, is fed up to the teeth with covering the charity balls and curiosities that Oliver refers to as “human interest.”

Leslie pops out of the subway at Government Center and walks down to The Courier offices on State Street. Joe Leary is, as usual, doing the day shift at the front desk.

“Another souvenir for Ms. Poynter?” he asks.

“I do so love to give her presents,” Leslie says in an exaggerated drawl. She pulls a box from her L.L.Bean tote and gives it to Joe. “Whoopie pies. Homemade.” Leslie puts them on his counter. “Not by me, of course. They were selling them at the Fluff Festival.”

“I thought you covered that last year.”

“Indeed, I did,” Leslie says. “My second week at the paper.”

“Bad for my waistline,” Joe says, looking at the sweets.

“That’s never stopped you before,” Leslie says. She hits the elevator button and waits. When Leslie’s grandfather was alive, it was operated by an elevator man—or woman. In those days, Leslie dreamed of being a hard-hitting reporter, a regular Lois Lane. All these years later, her mother’s family, the Arlingtons, still own The Commonwealth Courier, though they are in the process of trying to offload it for cash. Everyone’s job is at risk so Leslie’s extended family can maintain their lavish lifestyles, but Leslie gets no special treatment. At best, most of the other employees try to hide their resentment toward her. After all, it isn’t Leslie’s fault that her family is made up mostly of dilettantes and miscreants.

Olive Poynter has been hazing Leslie since she arrived at the paper. Leslie imagines that this is the way Olive might have once tortured a new sorority pledge at Tri Delta.

Leslie pokes her head into Olive’s office.

“Enter,” Olive says.

“I brought you a present,” Leslie says. She drops the big stuffed toy onto Olive’s pristine desk.

Olive stands up and steps back. “What is this?”

“It’s a Marshfellow Plush,” Leslie plunks down in one of the guest chairs. “Do you know who invented Marshmallow Fluff?”

“I’m sure you are going to tell me,” Olive says.

“Archibald Query in 1917. That’s one of the fun facts I’m going to put in my article.”

“Fascinating,” Olive says. She is wearing her usual outfit of a pencil skirt, a pair of stilettos, and a silk blouse that reveals too much of her bony chest.

“Of course, I might have mentioned that last year. There are only so many fun facts about Fluff.” Leslie digs into her tote and pulls out a T-shirt. She holds it up. It says, What the Fluff? “When I saw this, I thought of you.”

“But I never wear T-shirts,” Olive complains.

“Never? Not even when you’re hanging out at home?”

“Hardly ever.”

“Well, it’s the sentiment I liked. It has a certain insouciance.” Leslie continues to dig into her tote until she retrieves three clay figurine marshmallow men and puts them on Olive’s desk. “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. Get it?” Leslie gives Olive a big smile, as if Leslie thinks these kitschy statuettes are the cutest things anyone ever conceived of.

“You shouldn’t have,” Olive says.

“If you can’t go to the festivals, the least I can do is bring the festivals to you.”

Olive’s office is immaculate. Her desk is glass. Her credenza is stainless steel, and there is nothing anywhere except for an étagère in the corner that holds glass pumpkins, bobbleheads, hideous statues, ashtrays, snow globes, and refrigerator magnets, all courtesy of Leslie. There isn’t enough room for Mr. Marshfellow, so Olive puts him on an empty guest chair.

“I don’t want you spending your money on me,” Olive says.

“I’m happy to.” After all, Leslie is an Arlington. She could buy these trinkets from now until the day she dies, and it wouldn’t make a dent in her trust fund. “You know, I’m not saying that I didn’t have fun last month at the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival. And I think I made a really nice piece out of the Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship. I’ve covered every charity ball in the last year, and it’s not that I feel these things are trivial. I would never say anything like that. But I was hoping my next assignment would be something I could sink my teeth into.” Leslie takes out a tin and puts it on Olive’s desk. Leslie has been trying to find the last straw, the thing that will make Olive throw up her hands and beg Leslie to stop giving her these tacky treasures. The two of them are at a standoff. Olive won’t admit that this detritus drives her mad and Leslie is going to continue to bombard Olive with junk until she gives Leslie a decent story to write.

Olive moves toward the desk warily and opens the tin as if there might be a bomb in it.

“It’s chocolate Fluffernutter bread pudding,” Leslie says. “Guaranteed to put you into a diabetic coma.”

Olive looks into the tin. “I think I’m going to be sick.” She sits down heavily, which must be hard for such a skinny woman. “Look, if you promise to take that revolting stuffed thing away, I promise I’ll find you a juicy assignment.”

“That would be great.” Leslie picks up the Marshfellow, leaves, and takes him to her own desk. She puts him in an empty chair and sits down to write a kick-ass article about the Fluff Festival.

Chapter 2

The Stompin’ Ground isn’t exactly one of Nashville’s hot spots. It’s squeezed into the corner of a strip mall and isn’t what anyone would call picturesque, but Patton King is glad to have a job here. He plays a set three times a week, standing on the small platform they use as a stage. His Gibson acoustic guitar was a gift from his mother on his eighteenth birthday. This is the same guitar that Elvis had, she said. And I want you to have the best.

There are only a handful of customers on this Tuesday night, and four of them are playing pool in the corner. A red-haired girl from last week and her buxom friend are back. Maybe they like his music. He wouldn’t mind having a couple of fans. Though he’s been at this since he left Memphis after he graduated from high school, he doesn’t have all that much to show for it. Still, he sings his heart out. He always does. He plays a couple of his own songs and mixes them up with a bunch of covers. The people who come here like the old and familiar. They aren’t looking for cutting-edge entertainment.

Patton can sing the hell out of “Love Me Tender,” and his “Heartbreak Hotel” would bring the house down if there was a house to bring down. But instead, Patton decides to sing a song he wrote the other day, “Broken Spirit, Broken Dreams.” The song is so damned depressing that he almost makes himself cry. He never gets anyone’s attention with his sad songs. It’s the rockabilly with some whooping and hollering that people like, at least from him. Patton’s at his best when he plays Elvis. No matter which Elvis tune he chooses, he can transfix an audience.

But Patton didn’t get into this game to be a pale imitation of someone else, even if that someone else is his hero. Nevertheless, he ends with “Hound Dog” and even the pool players pay attention. There’s a smattering of applause and Patton jumps off the stage. He moves toward the bar, but he doesn’t stop and take a seat. He slips through the opening and picks up where he left off—serving drinks. Patton is the bartender. Up on stage, it’s time for karaoke.

The redhead approaches the bar. “I’ll have a whiskey, straight up. And do you know how good you are?”

Patton dips his head and blushes. “Thank you.”

“You look so much like Elvis Presley. People probably tell you that all the time. I’m Nola Grayson.” The girl sticks out her hand, and Patton shakes it.

“He’s heard it a few times.” This comes from Hunter, who is sitting on a nearby barstool. Hunter is Patton’s oldest friend and housemate. Hunter shows up whenever he’s not working as a waiter at the 1808 Grille. “The reason Patton here looks like Elvis is because they’re related,” Hunter says.

Patton shakes his head and laughs.

“How you figure?” Nola asks.

“Haven’t you ever heard of the seven love children of Elvis Presley?” Hunter asks.

“I have,” the shorter, curvier girl says. “I’m Sarabeth.” She sticks out her hand.

“Well, we’re happy to meet you both, aren’t we, Patton?” Hunter says.

“Pleasure.” Patton always enjoys watching Hunter make a play for a couple of girls. Patton’s been witnessing these shenanigans since he and Hunter were in fourth grade.

“Is Patton really related to Elvis Presley?” Sarabeth asks. She looks up at Hunter from underneath long, curly eyelashes.

“You’d better believe it. Patton’s the King’s grandson,” Hunter says.

“I’d believe it,” Nola says. “Spitting image. Different coloring, but those lips and those eyes…”

Patton puts two shots on the bar. “These are on the house.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Nola says.

“It’s the least you deserve for listening to my friend spout a load of crap.”

“More like the honest truth,” Hunter says.

“You should wiggle your hips a little more,” Sarabeth says.

“Sarabeth, you’re turning this boy into a sex object,” Nola says.

“And what’s wrong with that?” Sarabeth leans on the bar, revealing an abundance of pretty cleavage.

Patton moves down to where another customer is waiting.

The girls glide toward a table in the back. Patton sees Nola saying something to the people who are sitting there. She looks over at Patton, points, and winks.

Patton goes back to the end of the bar where Hunter is sitting.

“Why’d you tell them that?” Patton asks.

“Tell ’em what?”

“That thing about Elvis.”

“You could be related to him. It’s not impossible. Your momma even told me once that she met one of Elvis Presley’s bastard children.”

“Love children. She calls them love children. She’s a romantic. And she’s way too fond of her fantasies.”

“Still, it’s not like you know who your father really is.”

“And I love being reminded of that.”

“You should force her to tell you.”

“I wouldn’t force her even if I could. If she knew, she would have told me. If he was around. If he mattered. And it doesn’t matter. I’m grown.”

“Doesn’t mean you stopped caring.”

“I have. Take my word.”

“Still, you could be Elvis’s grandson.”

“That’s bull, and you know it.”

“No, I don’t. And neither do you.”

Chapter 3

How many times


On Sale
Aug 1, 2017
Hachette Audio

Laurie Horowitz

About the Author

Laurie Horowitz is the author of The Family Fortune, published by William Morrow. Her short fiction has been published in Fiction and at

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