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Switch and Bait
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- ebook $8.99 $11.99 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 12, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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We switch. I bait.
Let me help you snag a date.
All through college, Blanche Carter was known as the love doctor in her sorority. Now she’s parlayed her talent into a unique consulting business: she runs the online dating profiles of Washington D.C.’s most eligible women.
Armed with a battalion of rules, Blanche expertly helps her clients optimize their profiles and ace that first date. But although she’ll happily message handsome strangers (and fend off dick pics) for other ladies, Blanche’s most important rule is the one she has for herself: no relationships. She’s seen too much heartbreak to believe in real love anymore.
When a former fling pops up among the matches for one of her favorite clients, Blanche gamely messages him on her behalf. Blanche is definitely over him, and this is how she’ll prove it. But if she doesn’t watch out, Blanche might end up not only screwing over a client–and possibly tanking her entire business–but breaking her rule about love as well . . .
Ricki Schultz’s trademark irreverent humor and wry insight into the absurdities of modern dating are both outrageously funny and genuinely moving in her unforgettable new novel.
“A wry, audacious romance that is perfect for our contemporary moment…[with] sparkling, irreverent banter that is so good you might be tempted to steal it for your own online dating one-liners.” — Entertainment Weekly
“Funny, sexy and unexpectedly touching…An often-hilarious and surprisingly endearing read, perfect for beach season!” — RT Book Reviews
“Romantic and funny…a great summer read.” — BookTrib
“Ricki Schultz’s relatable novel will have readers LOLing.” — US Weekly on Mr. Right-Swipe
“A brilliantly funny debut novel about a 21st century girl searching for her happily ever after.” — Bustle on Mr. Right-Swipe
“Breezy, brazen…a fun beach read.” — Seattle Times on Mr. Right-Swipe
“This book gave me my absolute favorite feeling: laughing out loud alone in a room, chased immediately by the swoons.” — Christina Lauren on Mr. Right-Swipe
The girl sits. She waits.
I scribble this into my tattered notebook.
Her hair is swept over one shoulder, the almond-shaped tips of the manicure (she likely got this afternoon) drum on the black linen placemat.
Her eyes twinkle. They're fireflies. There's a sparkle of hope within them. Every time the door opens and lets in some of the chilly March air, her anticipation pulses through the pub.
Other than that, she seems pretty chill. She doesn't even check her phone. The lilt to her voice when she makes polite conversation with the server tells me she's a regular. She's been to this place a hundred times. But her bag, her shoes, the whole Kate Spade thing she's got going on? Says she's full-on Georgetown.
This wouldn't exactly be my first choice in first-date locales; it's too hole-in-the-wall for me.
However, I can understand her reasoning—you don't want to run into anyone you know in real life when you're about to do an online date meet-and-greet. But there are too few patrons around here for my taste—you know, in case this guy turns out to be a murderer, or worse.
I like its secluded vibe nonetheless. The waitstaff each has some sort of hipstery embellishment—a fisherman beard here, dreadlocks there, a combat boot on every foot. And everyone is smart. You can tell because of the thick Tom Ford frames they're wearing.
That, and it's two doors down from my bookshop, which is why I'm drinking here in the first place.
It's a good twenty minutes before some Young Republican type bursts in, eyebrows high with recognition when he spots her. They share a manufactured meet-cute as she goes in for a hug while he bumps her in the chest at a handshake attempt.
I shake my head and record it into my tome as I strain to hear their conversation over the banjo-tastic music on the air. The bits I catch are nothing short of painful. This résumé one has to present in these situations. Like it's less a date and more an interview. A pissing contest of Here's What I've Done to Be Interesting. What Have You Done to Be Interesting? Do You Even Deserve to Be Here?
Why I don't date, I write.
And I smile. Take a swig of bourbon.
Yeah, that's not why.
It looks promising at first. His guffaw echoes off the messy mortar walls, but it's too loud for this place. Too loud for a Tuesday. And like the part in his hair, it's too careful, too precise to be real.
"Can I get you another one?" The bartender reaches for my glass.
"Shh—I'm not here!" I drain the last two drops and shove the cocktail napkin at him. "And, yes, of course! Hurry!"
I hunch on the barstool. Slide my glasses back in place. Return to my notes, just in time to hear the scrape of the guy's chair against the distressed hardwood floor.
"It was nice to meet you," he says, extending a consolation-prize hand to her. "I'm sorry it's not going to work out." He flashes his veneers one last time, and then he's gone. Without so much as leaving a ten spot to cover his half-drunk Stella Artois.
I shake my head once again.
I allow a few minutes—let her compose herself, her red lips parted in what seems like abject horror—and gather my thoughts. Let her gather hers.
And then: "Excuse me." I climb down off the stool, drink in hand, ballet flats squeaking as I approach.
She does a double take, hair swinging over the other shoulder in one swoop. "Me?"
"Yes. You mind?" I indicate the empty chair but sit anyway, before she can answer. If I'm going to secure her as a client, there's no time to be timid. "I couldn't help but overhear—"
"Um, I'm not into women. No offense." She's already going for her shoulder bag.
I dig her confidence.
"None taken—me neither. But that?" I hitch a thumb toward the door. "That right there is what's wrong with America. Chicks like us strutting around in our best Ralph Lauren just to be rejected by some side part with a briefcase?"
She yanks back. Flicks her stare up and down my attire, apparently giving me the once-over. A heat curls in my cheeks, and I'm back to my sorority days—do I look the part enough? Is this girl gonna be friend or foe?—and I clap a palm to my sternum.
Enough of that.
"I'm coming from work," I say. "I run the bookstore down the street. I don't always look so…bookish." I pat my top knot. "And anyway, that doesn't matter. You're obviously fine in the looks department. That's not where you need my help."
Her eyes light. She seemingly ignores my last statement. "Literature & Legislature? I love that place!"
I nod. Allow a grin. "But I also have a little side business. Now, it's none of my business, although it is my business"—I pause for the laughter that doesn't come—"but where did you find that guy? Which dating site?"
She blushes, like it wasn't obvious they were on an online date. Clears her throat. "The Spark app," she manages and frowns into her rosé.
"No need to be embarrassed…uh…what's your name?"
Of course it is.
"Kelly. Nice to meet you; I'm Blanche. Carter. Now that we're friends, tell me: What in the hell just happened?"
There's a moment like there always is, where the potential client weighs whether or not I'm some psycho. And really, I don't ever blame them. It's always this way when I'm being this pushy, but I've only gained three clients with this side work in the last two weeks, and Momma needs to pay off her student loans. Most of the time, though, I think these women could stand to be less trusting.
Yes, even of me.
But I also know what I know about love. It's intoxicating. It's magic.
(It's bullshit, but I don't ever say that. That's for me and not for them.)
But everyone who believes in love wants to believe that magic is real. And so, to get that knight in shining armor, people will listen to almost anything, if presented in the right way.
I sink my teeth into my bottom lip. Maybe I was too awkward this time? Hold my breath and brace myself for the boot—
When the tautness in her face softens and what looks like amusement touches her delicate features.
Phew. Maybe I'll make rent this month.
"It's fine." She casts her eyes to the tablecloth. "We hadn't been chatting that long anyway. It's just annoying, you know? He didn't like that I said I'm a vegetarian. He said it was way too liberal for him and there was no point in ordering a meal or taking this any further because he'd never be able to enjoy eating a bloody rib eye in my presence, knowing I was some kind of hippie tree hugger."
"Oh, I see what happened." I give her the ol' pointer finger. "That's Rule Number 5: Don't talk politics."
"I know, I know. You didn't talk politics per se, but you talked beliefs. You talked stance. You cared about something. And—hey—" I snap my fingers. "That's Rule Number 3: Never care."
She squishes her forehead at me, and I realize I've said too much.
"Look," I say. "I know I look like some bad Zooey Deschanel knockoff this evening, but I'm telling you, I can help you. I know about this stuff." I'm talking with my hands, and while I do so, I flag down the barkeep for another round. "Back in college, I was the 'love guru' of Delta Gamma. I'm just always able to sniff out a bad deal, you know what I mean?" I make like I'm smelling something foul in the air right now. "I gave dating advice to my sorority sisters for free—which guys were pure bullshit, how to call them on it, et cetera—until one of them said…" I think back to Sue Ellen in her giant pearls waving a DG flask around like a scepter. "'You should start charging! One day, being a bitch will make you rich. Hey, that should be your slogan!'" Then she fell onto the beer pong table immediately afterward and had to get, like, four stitches.
I can't help but crack up at the memory.
"So you're rich now?" Kelly brings me back to reality.
My lip curls, and my drink arrives just in time. I blink at her. "Not exactly." I let my next sip warm my tongue before I swallow it down. "I know I'm barging in on you here, and—look—I'm not saying I want to help you with that guy." I nod toward the door. "But if you're ever interested in a little help, hit me up."
I snap my business card to the tabletop and slide it her way:
WE SWITCH. I BAIT.
LET ME HELP YOU SNAG A DATE.
* * *
I get home just in time for my prime freelancing hours, that special time of night where dinner's long been had and people are either well into their third drink…or they're staring at the ceiling and contemplating the poor life choices that resulted in them being alone at this moment. By the time I hear the jingle of Gordon's keys, I'm already pretzeled into position—sitting cross-legged at my makeshift desk, a card table, with tabs to three dating sites open on my laptop.
He walks in looking all Neil Patrick Harris in a blue suit and surveys the scene; I'm looking all Quasimodo hunched over the table.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm living with a member of the CIA." He eyes my electronics. "What are we dealing with tonight?" He hops onto the kitchen island with the elegance of a swan and starts sifting through the mail willy-nilly.
"At the moment, Catch dot com, HoneyBae, iHart, and these two phones are fired up to Spark and GetHookd."
He makes like he's gagging. "Yeah, I did that one. They should rename it GetHep."
I frown. "Aww, no judgies!"
He waves it off with the Penny Saver. "You'd make a killing if you started taking on some queer clients."
I consider that with a nod. Open the eCompany site and log into the profile of a girl named Lily.
"I can read straight guys, sure. But I wouldn't want to mess up and somehow, like, piss off every member of the gay community. I'm already white and originally from the South. Let's not make things worse."
We both cackle, and he's already up and fetching the Trader Joe's wine we didn't quite finish off last night.
"I'll drink to that." He clinks our glasses together, hands me mine, and plops down on the adjacent ottoman. "Details?"
I stretch my arms overhead. "Lily Avondale. Twenty-two. Dental assistant."
"Looks cute enough…" He leans over my shoulder.
"Yeah, but her spelling? Yowza."
Gordon pulls a pair of folding reading glasses from his shirt pocket and they assemble with one flick of the wrist. Still, he's an inch from the screen.
"Is she for real with that phonetic shit?"
We spend the next half hour finishing off the white zin and catching up on the day while I fix Lily's profile and, hopefully, her love life: Gordon worked on setting up an author event (some political analyst with a book coming out); I heard from Isla (having dinner at her place tomorrow night); we're out of cereal, and almost out of TP.
"How's Isla…doing?" He cradles his wineglass like it's as delicate as this subject, his fingertips skimming the thin neck.
"Okay, I guess," I answer, tone bright.
I keep my gaze trained on the profile and twirl a loose lock of hair. "She's not great, all right?"
He flips his palms up in surrender, and I know I've gone one-eighty, but whatever.
"She's losing a lot of weight, she says. I don't know. I haven't seen her in a few weeks."
"Is that common with Huntington's?"
"Supposedly, yes. But what she's most upset about is not the fact that she's twenty-nine years old and, you know, dying—"
It's the first time I've said this word out loud, when referring to Isla, and the sound of it is harsh in the quiet of our little apartment. It almost feels like it rustles the tie-dye curtains adorning the one window facing the street.
I rest a hand on Gordon's knee. "I'm sorry," I say. "It's just not fucking fair, you know?"
"I know." His voice is soft. He pats the space next to him and I squeeze my way onto the ottoman. "What is it she's most upset about then?"
"The girls." I sit up. I'm better.
He shakes his head. "Understandable she'd be sad to leave them before they're grown—"
"It's not even that." The ice skates back into my voice, but I keep it steady. "She's worried they're going to have it too. There's a fifty percent chance they will, I guess." I face him now and talk with my hands. "She feels guilty. Because, in college, you know, we used to just think 'There's Crazy Isla, can't hold her liquor…gets fucked up and walks all weird…'"
He chuckles, and then promptly covers his mouth with an apologetic hand.
But then I burst into laughter.
I can't help it. I think about all the insane stuff Isla used to do in college and I can't. I don't even know if Gordon knows why he's laughing, but we're both cackling until we're choking and then finally the moment's gone.
"And here"—I wipe at my eyes—"those were the first symptoms, and no one knew."
We sit there for what feels like a long time, sipping wine, contemplating our own mortality. Super uplifting. And then the depressing silence is broken—thank GOD—by the buzz of one of the cell phones.
"Jesus!" Gordon gasps, hand over heart.
"Nope—GetHookd," I say.
He scrunches his face.
And we die all over again.
* * *
Not long later, Gordon is sprawled across the couch, a gentle snore crackling on the air, like he's my mother's Himalayan cat.
I snatch the wineglass from his outstretched fingers before it falls and we're done for. No use in wasting a decent Malbec. Drain the rest of bottle number two. I already finished my portion and this represents the last of the alcohol we have in our two-bedroom, so I can't afford to be weird about germs this eve. He snoozes? My boozes.
Now I can focus. I study the profiles in front of me. Danica. Melanie. Lily. Elaine. Not a damn thing wrong with any of them, except they're going online to find guys—and they're paying a complete stranger to spruce things up a bit.
I tinker with Danica's profile. Flip through some of her photos.
Tits and tank tops. That's all she's got. Or—wait—here's one with a cowboy hat, but—yeah. Tits and tank tops.
I rummage through the rest of the pictures she texted me.
She's an attorney—there's not one with a suit?—but then I find it. I can see why she didn't use it. It's a pantsuit, which I'm sure was intentional, but it just doesn't look very soft. Regardless of the pantsuit, however, her smile is forced. It doesn't touch her cheekbones, her eyes. And although she looks super professional, she doesn't look very…approachable.
A pang of guilt hits me in the chest as I look for something else. It's a damn shame she can't be powerful and pick up guys, but I know how this online game works. One look at a picture like that, and they can't Swipe Left fast enough.
I find another shot—one of her and a group of people in what must have been a Tough Mudder.
I shudder at the thought of exerting that much physical energy.
Or getting that dirty.
But it's not a tits and tank tops pic.
And although she's sporting some shorty-shorts, Danica looks like a badass, but a fun one. Her jersey is sleeveless, but she's wearing a sports bra, which is holding those puppies down so they're not the focal point of the photo.
I think that'll filter out some of the garbage monsters.
Messing around with my photo editor, I add a big ol' arrow to the pic to point out THAT'S HER, instead of leaving the guys to guess which one of these sweaty, muddy ladies dear old Danica happens to be. Best not to make them think too much—they Swipe Left for that too.
I do the same with the rest of her gallery until what we're left with is Tough Mudder, gleeful laughter/holding her teacup Chihuahua while it gives her tiny smooches, and scoop neck evening dress (must have been at a wedding or something).
It's only three pictures, but we've raised her stock several points, if I do say so myself.
I barely have time to admire my handiwork, when: Ding!
Gordon awakens with a start, eyes wide and aglow with the light from my laptop screens. "Did I—spill?" A frantic dab at his button-down.
"You finished your wine," I lie.
I check the notification, and it's a message for the girl whose profile I doctored just last night.
"What's he saying, 'Elaine'?"
I snicker. "Well…" Fingers flying over the buttons. "He says, 'Hey.'"
"Articulate. What's his name?"
"Very." I give an eye-roll. "Doesn't really matter yet, but it's Joe."
I start typing.
"Ooh, flirty. I like."
The phone buzzes again.
Hey is for horses
Gordon and I just look at each other.
"Oh honey," he says. "Unoriginal and misspelled."
I put up a one-minute finger and then type Elaine's response.
Are you calling me a horse?
And before I can even get in another jokey-joke, Joe's responded. Ding!
IDK but if ur into horses, I'm hung like one. Wanna see?
"Dear God." A flicker of excitement lights his blue eyes as G scoots to the edge of his seat. "And now? The kill."
I cackle. Take a second before I take to the keyboard.
And then—flash—it hits me.
It's elementary, really.
That's what it feels like I'm being reduced to anyway. About the second grade in terms of what we're dealing with here.
That's okay—I believe you. I mean, you certainly have horse TEETH!
And then I block him from Elaine's profile.
"Yooooo!" Gordon guffaws and I catch it again too.
"That was mean, I admit. And I do feel kinda bad…" My gaze glazes over as I stare at the message. "But when a guy starts in with Penis right away, anything is fair game."
"Makes sense. Why not just ignore, though?"
It's a reasonable question, and I squish my face at him.
"Rule Number 1: Always get the last word. Ignoring someone has a certain power, sure. But any guy who's asshole enough to put his dick out there first thing wants to get a rise out of you. He deserves that extra zing, which will leave him sputtering and trying to think of a comeback, but—oops—he's blocked. BOOM." I shrug. "Plus, it's just more fun."
"Always." I wink.
And then I drop the electronic ball buster from one hand to the other like I'm dropping the mic.
By the time work is over the next day, my feet are killing me. I limp my way to the Metro and ignore the dirty looks I get from the put-together types riding the train out to Georgetown as I shamelessly massage the day out of my arches. I hobble like my grandmother, perpetually bent from fifty years of backbreaking work as a nurse. Dramatic much? All I did was frickin' stand for eight hours. Log ISBNs into a computer. Chase down authors and publicists by phone, by e-mail; yell at my idiot employees who can't arrange anything right. (Except Gordon, of course.) It certainly feels like I spent a lifetime doing manual labor…
But I digress.
When I reach Isla and Graham's brownstone, it's an oasis of espresso-colored brick. Whatever fancy coffee my girl's got a-brewin' catches my senses before I even hit the door, and I'm already feeling more awake, feeling better, feeling home.
As I walk up, I catch a glimpse of Isla in the window. Her hair is more strawberry than blond these days, and it sashays down her shoulders as she sways to what sounds like some old-school Florence + the Machine tune—hard to tell because the music is muffled against the pane. I watch her eyes smile as she sings along, washing whatever it is she's got in the sink, and my chest feels light and heavy all at the same time.
One cleansing breath, and I can almost taste the coffee on my tongue.
Juggling my Hemingway tote bag full of books for the girls and the bottle of vino I managed to pick up on my lunch break, I find my phone and hammer out a knock knock text.
Isla looks up from her work and a grin brightens her whole face when she sees me on the stoop.
Suddenly Graham's at the door, a giant bear hug in an Ole Miss jersey, and the music's been lowered to a mere hum in the background.
"Hey, stranger—good to see ya." He gives me a kiss on the cheek, and I'm thankful he hasn't lost any of the Southern charm he inherited during college. "Guess who's here, girls!" His dimples stand out as he calls up the stairs.
"Uncle Henry?" one of them yells back.
I attempt to give him a look, but before I do, I've got a three- and five-year-old stampeding me.
I make the sound of a NOPE buzzer on a game show as they crash into my middle. "Sorry to disappoint you, ladies, but it's just me. I can take back these presents if you'd rather it were Uncle—"
Both girls squeal as I brandish my bag.
"Did you bring Paw Patrol?" Olivia asks.
I dig around for a sec like I didn't, and the baby, Ella, starts to get a quiver in her lower lip. I decide I can't tease her any longer.
"Of course I did! Is this America?" I make a big show of it and produce three picture books like a champion.
And then I'm engulfed in an amoeba of fingers and arms as the girls grab with their chubby little hands for all the books. Graham reaches with his giant, rough ones for my bag.
He ushers me into the kitchen, takes my jacket, and without a hitch: "What can I get you to drink?"
"Marry me." I sigh.
"He's taken. But he does have a brother…" Isla steadies herself on the edge of the sink—That's new, I think—but the sparkle never leaves her stare so I choose not to acknowledge it.
"Ha! Don't remind me," I say instead, making big strides to meet her where she stands so she won't have to exert herself any further.
She swallows me in a hug.
"Pretty spindly," I say, faux examining one of her arms. I give her a side-eye. "But they were always spindly. You're not fooling anybody. You're fine!"
"That's what I keep telling her," Graham follows suit, and everything feels normal. Light. He hands me a glass of white zin, and we're gabbing over the island like it's just another Friday night.
Because it is.
"Speaking of the brother…why is it that little Liv here"—her brown curls bounce in my direction when I say her name and mischief permeates those round cheeks—"thought I was 'Uncle Henry'?" I throw them both an accusatory eyebrow.
Isla giggles and makes for the stove. "Better check on the lasagna."
"Are you serious?" I leap to a stance from the wooden stool.
"What's wrong with Henry?" Graham's pointy face takes on a tinge of fake hurt. "He's the best!"
"Yeah yeah yeah." I cross my arms and give another side-eye.
"Did I miss something? When's the last time you even saw him?"
I groan. "You didn't tell him about New Year's?" I bark over Graham at my friend across the room.
She giggles into the oven and keeps shaking her head. Dismisses me with a fish-shaped oven mitt. "That was three years ago. And he wouldn't get it."
"Get what?" Graham wants to know.
- "A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy."—USA Today
- "Funny, sexy and unexpectedly touching, Schultz's new novel is [like] Hitch...with its own twist. Blanche is simultaneously sincere and snarky...the kind of character who would be easy to befriend and root for in real life.... With smart writing, sharp wit and intense sex scenes, Schultz shines an irreverent light on modern dating and its many potential pitfalls....An often-hilarious and surprisingly endearing read, perfect for beach season!"—RT Book Reviews
- "A well-paced story and vivid characters...A delight. Schultz adds considerable depth and appealing layers with a strong array of supporting characters, including Blanche's best friend from college, plucky Isla, who is living with Huntington's disease; her endearingly klutzy client Ansley; and her sleazy occasional boyfriend, Cliff. She also shows a flawed and vulnerable side of seemingly immaculate Henry. Fans of women's fiction and contemporary romance will be sure to keep an eye out for Schultz's future books."—Publishers Weekly
- "Romantic and funny...Schultz's second book is a great summer read."—BookTrib
Praise for Ricki Schultz's debut MR. RIGHT-SWIPE:
"This book gave me my absolute favorite feeling: laughing out loud alone in a room, chased immediately by the swoons. Nick is my new book boyfriend. But even better? Rae is my new best friend. MR. RIGHT SWIPE is exactly the book I needed."—Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of the BEAUTIFUL BASTARD series
- "Schultz's book is a delightful tale which highlights the modern struggle of finding love when you're single. With an easy writing style and language that would fit in with any group of millennial women, it's a greatly relatable story. For a fun read that feels like an adventure in everyday life more than it does a book, this comes highly recommended."—RT Book Reviews (FOUR STARS)
- "Ricki Schultz's relatable novel will have readers LOLing."—US Weekly
- "Rae is a Heroine Who Keeps It Real...She's blunt, she's sarcastic, she's honest. You'll want to be her best friend....A brilliantly funny debut novel about a 21st century girl searching for her happily ever after."—Bustle
- "Breezy, brazen..a fun beach read."—Seattle Times
- "In her hilarious debut, Atlanta-based writer Ricki Shultz delivered a relatable tale of the horrors and triumphs of online dating....[With] sharp, insightful humor, the book is riotous summer fun."—The Red & Black
- "This is my first time reading a Ricki Schultz novel and I know it will not be my last. Her witty sarcasm and fun characters in MR. RIGHT-SWIPE has created a forever fan in me and I will be looking for more."—The Book Quarry
- "If you're looking for something light, funny, and an all around good book, this one will not disappoint!"—The Lovely Books
- "Schultz is a kindred spirit... I could be here all day including excerpts from this book detailing what I mean but, honestly, you just have to read it. It's hilarious."—Bell of the Literati
- "This is a fantastic debut. If you want an easy, beach read that will have you laughing, I'd say this book is for you."—Where The Reader Grows
- On Sale
- Jun 12, 2018
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Grand Central Publishing