Practice Makes Perfect

A Novel



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May 2, 2023 | ISBN 9780593663608

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About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A small-town sweetheart and an emotionally unavailable bad boy try to find some common ground in this chemistry-filled romance from the author of The Cheat Sheet and When in Rome.


Annie Walker is on a quest to find her perfect match—someone who complements her happy, quiet life running the local flower shop in Rome, Kentucky. But finding her dream man may be harder than Annie imagined. Everyone knows everyone in her hometown, and the dating prospects are getting fewer by the day. After she overhears her latest date say she is “so unbelievably boring,” Annie starts to think the problem might be her. Is it too late to become flirtatious and fun like the leading ladies in her favorite romance movies? Maybe she only needs a little practice . . . and Annie has the perfect person in mind to be her tutor: Will Griffin.

Will—the sexy , tattooed, and absolutely gorgeous bodyguard—is temporarily back in Rome, providing security for Amelia Rose as excitement builds for her upcoming marriage to Noah Walker, Annie’s brother. He has one personal objective while on the job: stay away from Annie Walker and any other possible attachments to this sleepy town. But no sooner than he gets settled, Will finds himself tasked with helping Annie find the love of her life by becoming the next leading lady of Rome, Kentucky. Will wants no part in changing the sweet and lovely Annie. He knows for a fact that some stuffy, straitlaced guy won’t make her happy, but he doesn’t have the heart to say no.

Amid steamy practice dates and strictly “educational” tutoring lessons, Annie discovers there are more layers to Will’s usual stoic attitude. As the lines of their friendship become dangerously blurred, Annie reconsiders her dream guy. Maybe her love life doesn’t need to be perfect—it just needs to be real.
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Praise for Practice Makes Perfect

“I want to stay in the pages of this book forever. . . . Whimsical and swoony with unmatched banter, you’ll be rooting for Will and Annie from the very first page.”—B. K. Borison, author of the Lovelight series
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Practice Makes Perfect

Chapter One 


I am convinced dating was created by an evil villain to torture humanity. Dramatic? Not in the least. For introverts like me with social anxiety, the process of dating is equivalent to waxing your
bikini line. Menstrual cramps on day two of your cycle. An emergency dental procedure you weren’t expecting—and guess what: they’re fresh out of novocaine.

“Again, I’m so sorry about the beer,” I say to the man sitting across from me.

“It’s fine,” he says in a clipped way that means it’s absolutely not fine.

This is not going well. Not that it has ever gone well for me in the past, but this time it really isn’t. I think turning a man off in the first ten minutes of a date is my new record. Because John, the man sitting across from me with a sopping-wet, beer-stained polo and khakis from the drink I accidentally knocked across the table onto his lap, looks ready to bolt. Can’t blame him.

Why did I think I could do this? It’s been years since I dated, and even back then I never liked it much. I’m a person who avoids attention at all costs. Who can’t think of a single thing to say when a man sitting across from her is intently staring at her.

Again, I ask myself, Why are you here, Annie?!

Oh right. It was the brownie. Well, first it was the realization that even after opening the flower shop my mom had always dreamed of, the nagging something-is-missing feeling still pesters me. So I decided it’s time to put a plan in motion to settle down with my perfect someone—because that’s the only box left unchecked in my life. And since I’ve been drooling over John (the man my sisters and I always refer to as Hot Bank Teller), I thought he might be the perfect candidate for the job.

The job in question has very strict criteria based on the bursting-with-love marriage my parents had. One, he must live in town and have roots here in Rome, Kentucky; two, he must have a stable job; three, he must be kind and also be supportive of my career; and four, he must want a family.

Those are the only things that matter to me.

So the last time I went to the bank to deposit a check, I used up my Once-a-Year Extroverted Moment and asked him if he’d like to go out sometime. He miraculously said yes, and I spent the next week recuperating from the stress and anxiety I suffered in asking.

Anyway, when I proposed meeting somewhere a little outside of Rome to have fresh scenery (and keep our nosy, single-stoplight town out of my business), he suggested Peppercorn, a nice restaurant about thirty minutes away. And when I looked it up, Yelp said this place has an excellent giant brownie. It doesn’t get better than that.

The dessert is literally the only reason I’m still sitting here on this painfully awkward date.

I wish I could text my sisters right now and ask them what to do. But that requires them actually knowing I’m on a date, which would open me up to the sort of attention I’ve been trying to avoid.

The very minute my sisters find out about my quest to find a husband—everyone else will know too. I would really hate to have Mabel (the woman who’s like a grandma to me) attempt to set me up with every eligible bachelor she knows. So I’m keeping it a secret—like most things in my life.

The only reason I’m pushing through my terrible social anxiety now is because I’m fully confident that marriage is the Thing that’s missing. I wish I could call my parents to get their opinion, but because they died when I was three, that will never be an option. So instead, I’m following in their footsteps. Happily married by the age of twenty-eight. That gives me just under a year to find the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Too bad I have to date first.

I smile up at John, hoping that’s going to lessen his annoyance at wearing my drink. But I’m Annie Walker: shy, socially anxious, introvert extraordinaire who senses this man doesn’t want to spend another second in my company. And that makes my smile feel like a wobbly grimace. I imagine it resembles a snarl. My nostrils might even be flaring.

I can’t do this.

John clears his throat and tries his own attempt at a casual smile. Admittedly, his is better than mine. “So  .  .  . what’s it like owning a flower shop?” He sounds bored.

I want to unzip my skin and run my bones all the way to Mexico. My heart is racing, and this swanky restaurant is too loud. I don’t belong here. My sisters, Madison and Emily, however, would love it.

“Annie?” John prompts again when I don’t answer right away.

Right! Conversation. You can do this, Annie. No need to clam up because the man asked you about a topic you actually like. Flowers. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I swallow and prepare for my answer. “Um—it’s fun.” John waits a moment and then tips forward slightly, clearly expecting me to say more. “Really fun,” I tack on to appease his desire for a sentence with a higher word count.

I would elaborate, but now the only thing swirling around my brain is the reproductive cycle of flowers (which I find deeply fascinating), but I have a distinct feeling that John is not the type to marvel at life science. So I clamp my mouth shut again.

“So it’s  .  .  . really fun?” he asks and I nod. “Well, good.” He breathes in deeply and then settles back in his chair and looks away. We bathe in uncomfortable silence. This would prompt most people to say something—anything—but not me. I freeze up even more. The weight of carrying on a conversation is too heavy for my shoulders.

I am the quiet one in my family. The one with her nose always in a book because she prefers worlds where she doesn’t have to interact with other humans. It’s so much easier to read about relationships than to foster them. Less dangerous too. I can’t offend anyone written into a book. I can’t say the wrong thing. And book characters don’t make judgments about me.

When John pulls out his cell phone and starts scrolling, I realize I have to take a stab at some sort of conversation, or this night is going to be over before it starts. “So, John,” I begin, and then during the next ten minutes I pretty much black out as I blabber nonstop, only regaining consciousness as I’m finishing up with, “And that’s why the primary purpose of the flower is reproduction.”

“Wow. Okay. That was . . . a lot of information about flowers,” he says with an expression resembling something close to haunted. Clearly my stab at conversation went right through him, and he’s bleeding out.

I smile timidly and glance around for our waitress. It’s so busy in here she hasn’t been around to take our order after getting our drinks. I could really use an interruption right about now. Nothing.

“So—uh—do you at least have any hobbies?” he asks.

Oh geez, “at least.” I’m already so far off his dating radar that he’s looking for an at least to redeem me in some small way.

I clench the fabric of my dress under the table. I do have a hobby—but even my sisters don’t know about it, so I sure as crap am not going to share it with this man who looks like spending time with me is causing him physical discomfort.

“Flowers sort of are my hobby as well as my career.”

“Right,” he says blandly because I’ve once again shut down any conversational avenues. Why am I like this? I need to talk. Ask him questions! Why can’t I think of any? My brain is a whiteboard, polished clean.

But he’s tapping his finger on the table now and looking away from me.

In a fit of panic, I blurt the first thing that comes to my head. “I want to get married.”

About the Author

Sarah Adams
Sarah Adams is the New York Times bestselling author of The Cheat Sheet and Practice Makes Perfect. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, she loves her family and warm days. Sarah has dreamed of being a writer since she was a girl, but finally wrote her first novel when her daughters were napping and she no longer had any excuses to put it off. Sarah is a coffee addict, a British history nerd, a mom of two daughters, married to her best friend, and an indecisive introvert. Her hope is to write stories that make readers laugh, maybe even cry—but always leave them happier than when they started reading. More by Sarah Adams
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