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Lunch Tales: Suellen

Coming February 13, 2025

Grand Prize Winner | A Woman's Write 2023 Novel Competition

Old scars. New love?


Suellen Atkins’ trust fund has given her everything except love. As the youngest attorney in a major law firm, her life is filled with reckless spending and meaningless flings. But when she dumps her latest wild guy, he doesn’t leave quietly.


Unable to shake the feeling she’s being watched, Suellen runs into an old classmate at a colleague’s farewell. Adam Isaacson is one of the good guys — and that might be more scary than her stalker ex. With the echoes of her parents' tumultuous marriage still ringing in her ears, Suellen can’t imagine anything this promising.


When a shock medical diagnosis complicates things, her proclivity for self-sabotage goes into overdrive. As life turns upside down, her lunch friends at the law firm become a lifeline in the storm. But even they, with all their good intentions and well-meaning advice, can’t save Suellen from herself. Nor can the man who’s fallen in love with her. Only she can do that.

Cover To Be Released
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Praise for Lunch Tales: Suellen

The grand prize winner of A Woman’s Write 2023 novel competition, Lunch Tales: Suellen is rich and engaging. Embracing powerful issues that snag the lives of contemporary women by addressing Suellen’s world of work, love, and a life-changing diagnosis, Lunch Tales: Suellen is tough to put down and worth the read. I promise you.



Lunch Tales: Suellen is a perfect book for lying on a beach or cozied up in front of a warm fire. Author Guarino draws you into conversations between Suellen and her cohorts over shared lunches so adeptly, moving the plot along with a first-person narrative that makes you feel everything she feels. A charming book and enjoyable read.

– BARBARA A. LUKER, author of The Right One

Law office gossip, relationship advice, emotional support... there's nothing that these co-workers won't tackle. But there are some challenges that even the lunch bunch can't fix.

– GAIL WARD OLMSTED, award-winning author of Miranda Quinn: Legal Twist series

Lucille Guarino creates an honest, raw, heartfelt journey embedded in beautiful prose, characters you won't forget, and love for the protagonist. Suellen's journey to give and receive love, learn to trust herself and others, and fight through life's obstacles, will touch your heart and you'll swoon for more.

– E.D. HACKETT, author of The Havoc in My Head

How does a wealthy, shopaholic, professional woman with horrible taste in men find love? Wrong question! Lucille Guarino's Suellen turns the question upside down…what will Suellen do when true love finds her?

– CAM TORRENS, best-selling author of Stable and False Summit

A tender love story sprinkled with a bit of angst. Slip it into your beach bag and enjoy

– LINDA ROSEN, author of The Emerald Necklace

A warm tale of friendship, struggle, and eventually love. Lunch Tales: Suellen follows a confident young attorney from New Jersey as she searches for meaning in her career and relationships.

– KATHRYN DODSON, author of Five Tries to Get It Right

You hand it all over to fate, with its cruel sense of humor and equally astonishing grace.

Sample Chapter

I refuse to die today. A gulp catches in my throat, and I remind myself that breathing is imperative to staying alive. I clutch the thick lap bar with a death grip; white knuckles stiffening with strain as a trail of screams detonate from the back of my throat, ear-piercing shrieks that sound as if they belong to someone else. A plummet and twist whip my body from weightlessness to heaviness in just under four terrifying seconds, a dizzying array of visuals catching up to my mind’s eye.


Steve flings his dark, wind-whipped hair from his eyes and smirks. “And that’s why they call it the rocket.”


I step out of the orange train car—the color of Jack-o-lanterns—dazed, heart decelerating, and breathe out one long sigh of relief as soon as my feet touch the earth.

“Let’s go again.” I hear him say, even as my brain tries not to let it in. 

My stupor waning, I stare into his eyes with an intensity I want to be certain he sees. “Are you fucking kidding me?”


Steve squints in response. He’s not kidding. When’s Steve ever kidding?

“I drove sixty miles so you could get your adrenaline rush. That’s all I agreed to,” I say. We would have to live one hour from the tallest, scariest roller coaster in the world, fastest in North America. “That’s what your coaster enthusiasts group’s for.”

Steve didn’t hear a word I said. He’s walking backward, his eyes riveted on Kingda Ka. We go over to sit on a bench with a panoramic view of the king of all roller coasters and I pass Steve a water bottle. “So . . . was it everything you hoped it’d be?”

He picks up on my sarcasm. “No, Suellen. Had you helped me ‘get off’ while we were up there, now that would have been somethin’.”

Oh Suellen . . . Suellen, when did dangerous and exciting turn into such irony?

“If only I hadn’t wasted seconds screaming my head off. How clumsy of me.” If only I hadn’t wasted ten months in an on-again, off-again relationship. It’s a toxic cycle – breaking up, going back for more. Dependable familiarity, thrilling uncertainty.  

Steve takes a deep slug of water. “You need to work on your multitasking skills, Babe.”

I roll my eyes. This is how it goes with us, the back and forth. Which one of us will top the other? It’s getting old.

It’s a beautiful, clear September day. The sky is crystal blue. My mother told me it was a day like this on the fateful date of 9/11, bright and perfect. It’s strange how I’m thinking about this right now. I was young when that happened, but I imagine it’s embedded in northeasterners how tranquility can turn into calamity with almost no warning.

I didn’t go into a relationship with Steve thinking it had long-term prospects. I’m not an idealist. We are fighting more, a consequence to living on the wild side of life, I guess. What I once thought exciting about him infuriates me now. But it’s his birthday this week and I’m a sucker for birthdays. I promised I’d celebrate it with him as he saw fit, although I may have had a couple of drinks in me at the time I said it. Steve’s wild side is what attracted me in the first place, the beautiful bad boy I couldn’t resist.

I wish I had.

Lately, even my short-term expectations leave me feeling deflated. While I consider Steve’s autonomy a strength, he runs hot and cold so often I never know which I’m with until it’s too late.

“Look at that,” Steve says. “Those lucky bastards.” A green train car does a rollback on the coaster, giving its riders an extra hydraulic launch.

I can’t understand Steve’s obsession with outrageous adventures, one more thrill-seeking than the next. Don’t get me wrong. I can keep up with the best of them. Or used to anyway. Between my brother and me, I was the daring one growing up. My twin was cautious and analytical. I was spontaneous, the risk-taker. Simon hated to get dirty; I was the textbook tomboy. But Steve’s fixation on danger is something different. In a maniacal way, death-defiance powers him up. It’s like a drug to him.

“Can we go now?” I say, trying to contain a sigh.

Steve stands up from the bench. I still marvel at his muscular twenty-nine-year-old body, his strong stubble-haired chin, beguiling blue eyes. I have seen them go from a dark iridescent blue to a murky gray within seconds, illuminating the unstable man within. What will you look like ten years from now, Steve? After years of too much drinking and too much anger?

We exit the Six Flags park jungle scene. “I hope you’re satisfied,” I say.

“Nah. We still have to go bungee jumping.”

“I’m never going bungee jumping.” I cross my arms over my chest. “That’s asking for it.”

“Let’s stop somewhere for dinner,” he says.

Dinner that consists of several drinks, but I’m driving. “Sure.”

I first met Steve Holt a year ago when he pulled me over for speeding. I couldn’t have been doing more than ten miles over the speed limit, but Officer Holt begged to disagree. His eyes fell to my lap, and I flushed as I looked down at my bare legs under a short skirt. I squeezed my thighs together. He continued writing me a ticket despite my protests. “Thanks,” I grumbled. An impervious crooked smile met my frustrated one. I threw it onto the passenger seat and didn’t look at it until days later. On it he had written, “Call me” with his cell phone number. 

I didn’t call.

Several weeks later, he spotted me at the Ringside Pub. My co-worker, Carol Bonetti, had invited me to hear her boyfriend’s band. I had only been there once before and didn’t know any of the locals there. Before long, his eyes were laser-focused on me, the new girl with the long, glossy dark hair who never called.

The bartender placed a Tootsie Roll shot in front of me, nodding toward the man at the end of the bar. “It’s on him.”


At first, I didn’t recognize Steve without his policeman’s uniform. He was dressed in a hunter-green button-down shirt, his chiseled chest teasingly exposed in its top opening, long sleeves pushed up on his forearms. Only his sleek black police haircut gave him away.

He shot me a blatant look in total indifference to the blonde woman who was with him at the time. Men and women couldn’t help but stare at him when he was nearby, as if drawn to his good looks, and he knew it. Mischief gleamed from his eyes.


I drank my shot and bought him the next one. I wanted to learn everything I could about this brazen, exciting man.


“He’s a cop,” Carol said under her breath.

“I know. He pulled me over once.”

“I see him here a lot, sometimes in uniform, sometimes not. As far as I know, he’s unattached and bent on keeping it that way. There’s always a different woman chasing him. My instincts tell me you should probably stay clear of him, but I’m not telling you what to do.”

“You just did.” I smiled.

Carol scowled, her mahogany curls springing around her face. “He’s the trouble type. Just saying.”

“He’s a type?” I laughed. “I’m a big girl.”

Two things stood out. One, he enjoys the chase and two, he likes to play it tough, so at least he’s not the needy type.

Coupled with my propensity for going after things I’m told to stay clear of, the perfect storm brewed.

I challenged myself to change the trajectory of this man’s dating life by falling back on a tried-and-true method. I threw my hair behind me and turned away from him, engaging Carol in more conversation. I could feel him watching me, but I continued playing hard-to-get, feigning disinterest.  As I moved to the ladies’ room, his eyes followed me. When I returned, he had somehow ditched the blonde and was talking to Carol.

I returned to my seat, Carol giving me her look-who-showed-up-while-you-were-gone stare. His words were with Carol, cajoling, and cunning, but his eyes were on me, who I was sure was his real target. Carol was blushing; her earlier opinion of him I could tell was now thrown by the wayside. She giggled so much I wanted to shake her back to her senses. He had her complete attention. Carol, can’t you see what he’s doing? He’s using you to get to me. Remember what you told me?

Steve added more conflict to the game by luring Carol to his side. I’ve always been able to think on my feet. I wasn’t about to stop now. 

With clever finesse, I started a dialog with the guy on the other side of me. Alone and nursing a drink, he was staring up at a basketball game being played on one of the televisions overhead. “Who’re you rooting for?” I asked, turning toward him. Two could play at this game. The chase was on.

By the end of the night, while Carol helped her boyfriend’s band pack up, the guy on my left slouched over the bar fully inebriated, thanks to Steve buying him more drinks. The two of us found ourselves alone.


“You’re in no position to drive home,” Steve had said. He was tipsy but in control, a man on a mission, his penetrating blue eyes laser focused and clear.

“Good thing I’m not,” I said. “My friend’s boyfriend is driving.” I glanced over at Carol and the band members disassembling instruments.

Steve’s face fell and my impulsive smile radiated in triumph. 

“So, you’re a lawyer,” he said.

What else did he manage to extrapolate from my intoxicated girlfriend? “Did you lose my number?” Steve was not put off.


“Must have misplaced it.”

“Ready to go?” Carol said, her eyes glazed, head swaying.

I looked at the guy still smashed over the bar. Somehow, I felt a little responsible. “Is there room for one more?”


“No,” Carol said. “Car’s full.”

“Okay. I’ll be right along.”

I sighed. “Clearly, this guy needs help,” I said to Steve. “He can’t drive himself home.”

“What’re you getting at?” Steve said.

I ripped a piece of cocktail napkin and wrote on it. “He lives in town. See him home safe, and you can have this.”

“What is it?”

“My phone number.”

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