The China Doll (Book 3 of The New Pioneers)

Hypocrisy, half truths and lies... 

Sick of being treated like she's going to break, Jessie Bartolome is back to her old ways and calling everyone on their hypocrisy. Sheesh! One little breakdown and even easygoing Martin Shepard thinks she's too fragile to handle their age difference. Good thing her older and equally yummy teaching assistant Robert Lester thinks otherwise…right? 

After spending so long cleaning up after everyone else, Jessie's cousin Richard has never had the time to start a life of his own. However had he managed to find his girlfriend Zainab? So what is Richard going to do now that everyone else has grown up? Marry Zainab and start a family? Things have never been that easy for a Hendrickson…just ask his cousin Michael. Richard's mother, Lucy, is one of the most powerful women in Boston... so when is she going to put a stop to the blackmail ruthless Alex Sheldon has been holding over her for years? And if Richard knows more than he's letting on, why hasn't he gone after Alex himself? The question is, how much does heor anyone elsereally know? 

Welcome to the Bartolome/Hendrickson family.


Jessie threw her notebook onto the desk and sat down into the chair. She absently rubbed her pen between her hands. Why did she still feel guilty? She’d made breakfast this morning for Richard, Zainab and Miranda. Miranda said thank you. Miranda smiled. Miranda gave her a kiss on the cheek as she left, just like she always did. Jessie sighed. Always, as of two years ago. Before that she hadn’t come out of her room. Before that she’d been tormenting herself with her own loneliness. Miranda, who had always been so good to her, who went to the mat with Alex and Lucy. To protect her from Michael.
Jessie flipped her pen in the air and caught it. She’d been out of it when that had happened. She couldn’t understand. But Emily didn’t understand either. And Zainab, who had seen so much of it, hadn’t given a better explanation than a shrug and an acknowledgement that they’d loved each other. Jessie scowled. Sometimes she hated Zainab for being so God damned nonjudgmental.
“Careful with that,” someone said. Jessie jumped and her pen crashed to the floor. A man with red hair and a wicked smile bent over and picked it up. “Careful. You might poke your eye out.”
Jessie smiled back and grabbed the pen. “That’s if you’re running. With a pencil.”
“I stand corrected. So let me guess, you’re the class know-it-all?”
“Not yet—it’s just the first day.”
“Oh, so I’m going to have to watch out for you.”
He had to be at least twenty-five. “Well, if you play your cards right, I might let you look at some of my work.” She winked conspiratorially. “We’ll make sure you finally graduate.”
“Oh, I guarantee I’ll be looking at all of your work.”
“Wow, aren’t we overconfident? Don’t you think you should at least buy me some coffee first?”
He leaned in, still smiling. “I’m Professor Hazlett’s teaching assistant for this class,” he whispered.
She looked up. “I never would have guessed,” she said honestly. “Lucky me. I guess that means I’m going to have to come in for a lot of extra help.” She stuck out her hand. “Jessie Bartolome.”
His hand went limp. “Bartolome?” he said as his face froze.
“Oh, Jesus!” Jessie said, rolling her eyes. “Yes, that Bartolome. My great-grandfather was one of the founders, my grandfather had some building dedicated to him, and then my aunt went and had another one built after he died. But don’t worry, I haven’t gotten anyone fired for flirting with me—yet.”
“Good to know,” he mumbled as he moved to the front of the room.
Before Jessie could get up, Joanna Hazlett walked into class. “Good morning! Glad to see all of you made it on time today.” The door opened and two people walked in. “Or just about,” she smiled. “Please be on time from now on. Attendance is part of your overall grade, and tardiness will count against you.” She clapped her hand. “Okay, onto the good stuff. This is Greek Mythology, Level Three. We are way past who was an Olympian and who was a Titan. We have moved on from the Odyssey and the Trojan War. I’ve picked just a few epics and myths, but now we are going to dig deep. I don’t just want you to know our myths by the time we’re out of here. I want you to understand them. I want you to see the archetypes. I want you to be inspired. And that, dear friends, is part of your grade too. Not just for my class—I’m the only one telling you about it though. How am I going to judge inspiration? By reading your papers. And just to make sure that I catch everything, I have a new teaching assistant for this class. Everyone, this is Bobby Lester, and he’s pretty sharp.”
There were a couple of quiet groans, but no one left while Professor Hazlett gave out the initial assignment and preliminary lecture. Jessie took notes, but she kept stealing glances at Bobby. A couple of times, she was sure he was looking at her too, but he always looked away. Jessie smiled throughout the class.
Professor Hazlett asked Jessie to stay back when the class was over. “Ms. Bartolome, I see from your records that you’re only a sophomore. Did you miss the note that said that this class was for third-years and up?”
Jessie took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to be coquettish with her professor. “I didn’t miss it, Professor Hazlett. But your class came highly recommended to me, and I really wanted to take it.”
“And of course the registrar’s office isn’t going to use the same fine-toothed comb that they should against someone whose last name is Bartolome,” Professor Hazlett said sternly.
“I suppose not,” Jessie said simply. “I didn’t realize I needed to use an alias when I registered.”
“I’m sure you would have found a way in no matter what,” Professor Hazlett said. “But now that you’ve found your way in, I don’t care what your last name is and I don’t care whether you’ve had the prerequisites. You’re going to be held to the same standard as everyone else in this class. Is that clear?”
“But just in case, I’d like you to set up some time during my TA’s office hours. I’ll let him be the one to determine whether or not you’re up for this class.”
Jessie could hardly restrain herself. “If you think that’s best,” she said quietly.
“I do. Please make an appointment—tomorrow. He and I have a couple of things to go over now.”
“Thank you Professor,” Jessie said as she gathered her books. She didn’t look at Bobby, but she smirked when she passed him. She practically skipped out of the building and dialed Emily’s number. “Oh my God, Em—you didn’t tell me Hazlett had such hotties for her TAs!”
As soon as the door closed, Joanna turned to Bobby. “Do you know her, Bob?”
“I just met her today,” he said, holding up his hand as if taking an oath.
“That’s good. Because I think I’ve made my expectations quite clear.”
“You have. But you have to understand, I’ve got to have a certain amount of latitude, or this isn’t going to work.”
“Just keep it professional, that’s all I ask.”
“Thanks Joanna, but I know how to do my job.” He gathered his things, then walked out. Joanna sighed when he left. It was too late to reconsider. She just hoped that she hadn’t made a mistake.

"Mystery, family drama, forbidden love… The China Doll has it all! The third instalment of The New Pioneers series starts off exactly two years after The Family You Choose ends. It’s Helen Louise Graham’s second birthday! Emily and Mitch are parents… God help us all! I’m not judging, but I don’t think they’re coping very well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This time, the story revolves mostly around Jessie Bartolome the once youngest member of this family until Helen’s arrival. She’s old enough to vote now and goes to university. After all that happened to her in the last book, you would think that the author, Deborah Nam-Krane, would give her a free pass, but that’s not how genius work. Jessy is in for the ride of the life because whether we like it or not, she’s in the centre of it all. How about that for mystery! (No spoiler)

Of course, there is drama, enormous, jaws dropping, eyebrow raising, Oh no, he didn’t! saying drama. Mitch is being is usual self, and I love him for it! Classic Mitch… Emily is always in other people’s businesses, classic Emily… Miranda is still dealing with her very unhealthy love triangle, classic Miranda… Then you have Zainab and Richard to soften or harden the blows… or not, classic, classic and classic.

It’s great to have the whole cast back and finally getting to the heart of their issues, while creating or rekindling new old ones… classic Pioneers! I love this series and I have been recommending it to everyone. I will keep doing it so until the words best sellers are attached to it!" Danielle-Claude

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