by Laura Heffernan

In AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, Jen is cast on a reality show after she loses her job, her boyfriend, and her home. She hopes to win the cash prize but finds she also wants to win the heart of fellow contestant Justin. Fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic won’t want to miss this charming, witty read published by Kensington’s Lyrical Shine.



Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.


Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

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He touched my chin with two fingers, bringing my gaze up to meet his. Damn those green eyes. I searched them for answers, wishing I knew whether he was putting on an act for the audience. Even with the lights off, the cameras stationed in the yard would capture us. The producers filmed everything, day and night. Everyone in America would know if we kissed. For a moment, I struggled to remember why that was bad.

“I guess it’s not your fault, since I got the question right,” I said begrudgingly, shifting slightly backward.

“If that is the best I can get, I’ll take it. But I’m going to work on complete forgiveness. I’ll pay you double interest on our bet—six cents.”

“Well, then,” I laughed. “Maybe I’ll have to reconsider once I get my money. I’d hate to have to send Birdie to break your kneecaps.”

The image of five-foot-tall Birdie coming after Justin with a baseball bat cracked him up. I laughed, too, crossing my legs and settling more comfortably in the lounger. My knee practically touched Justin’s leg. He didn’t move.

We sat quietly for a few minutes. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding. Even not wanting to get caught kissing on national television with a near-stranger, I found something about Justin irresistible. Possibly his smile. Or his dimples. His brains. The ease of talking to him. His personality. The fact that he was practically perfect for me in every way.

That line of thinking wasn’t helping. I needed to change the subject before I started calling him Mary Poppins.

“It’s a beautiful night.” I gestured at the sky.

“Yes, it is,” Justin said, his eyes never leaving my face. Did he lean forward slightly? Only inches separated our lips.

The warmth definitely wasn’t the beer. I licked my lips nervously and leaned in, closing the gap. If he moved the tiniest bit…


Copyright © 2017 by Laura Heffernan

Hello out there, reality TV fans! This is Talky Ted from Shocking Entertainment News Podcasts. Joining us tonight is Jen Reid, a participant in the reality TV hit, The Fishbowl! For those who don’t know, The Fishbowl is a competitive reality show where viewers actually got to vote on what the participants did. And they certainly made some interesting choices. Welcome, Jen, and thank you for joining us!


Hey, Ted, thanks for calling me. Congratulations on getting your own podcast.


First, tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from.


My name is Jen Reid, I’m 25-years-old, and I appeared on the first season of The Fishbowl. I’m originally from Seattle, which is a great place to live and doesn’t have nearly as much rain as most people think. Still, it was great to spend a summer in Los Angeles, soaking up the sun.


What made you decide to try out for The Fishbowl?


Oh, absolutely, it was for the money. I do love traveling and trying new things, and this particular show seemed like it was tailor-made for someone with my skill sets, but I never would have seriously considered it if I hadn’t been completely broke. I was never someone who wanted to act or appear on TV, but my fifteen minutes of fame has been interesting.


What quote best describes you?


I would go with, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken” by Oscar Wilde, but there’s a huge debate over whether he ever really said that. So maybe, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anyone else?” by RuPaul. I’ve always been kind of a nerd, but I’m totally OK with that. I’ve lived a good life, and I’m happy with who I am.


What ability do you wish you had?


Like, superpowers? Being able to read minds would be awesome. It would certainly make dating easier! If you’re talking about regular abilities that people actually have, I always wished I could sing well. I admire people with that kind of talent.


Before Going on the Show, What Was Your Greatest Concern?


The producers were pretty tight-lipped about what type of show we’d be going on and what we’d be doing once we got there. I was very concerned they’d make us eat bugs. I’m a fairly adventurous eater, but you have to draw the line somewhere.


Did they?


You’ll have to watch the show to find out!


What was the most difficult part of The Fishbowl for you?


Getting along with the other contestants, LOL. I mean, I tried, and I’m usually fairly personable, but they sure cast some personality types that would strain anyone. Other things, like walking into glass walls and not having my cell phone, required an adjustment, but the forced interactions got pretty rough sometimes.


Without giving anything away, what was your favorite part of The Fishbowl?


Oh, absolutely, the friendships I made. You get to know people really well when you’re locked in a house with them and completely cut off form the outside world. I know I’ll be friends with some of the other contestants for the rest of our lives.


What would your tombstone say?


They charge by the letter, right? So “RIP” would be fine. But if we assume I can make some money by the time I pass, I’d like it to say, “Everyone dies, but Jen truly lived.”


Now for some easy questions:

Cookies or cupcakes?


When I’m baking, cookies. Otherwise, cupcakes.


Lyft or Uber?


Public transit, mostly. Or I walk.


Wine or beer?




Coffee or Tea?


Coffee, definitely. I only drink tea when I’m sick.


Blonds or Brunettes?


Blonds. Definitely blonds.


I happen to be a fan of blonds myself. Well, it has certainly been a pleasure chatting with you, Jen. We can’t wait to see what you do next! You can catch The Fishbowl Season 1 on Netflix or Amazon Prime if you missed it.

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off: AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, the first book in the REALITY STAR series, is coming from Kensington’s Lyrical Press in March 2017. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.


Some of Laura’s favorite things include goat cheese, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, the Oxford comma, and ice cream. Not all together. The best place to find her is usually on Twitter, where she spends far too much time tweeting about writing, Canadian chocolate, and reality TV.




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