Read an excerpt from Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne

Excited about Sex, Lies and Sensibility? We've got an early look for you!
Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne. Image Credit to Berkley.
Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne. Image Credit to Berkley. /

There are some authors who can put their spin on a classic tale and make it fresh. That's exactly what Nikki Payne is doing with Jane Austen which includes her upcoming release; Sex, Lies and Sensibility.

While Jane Austen has been retold many times, Payne manages to not only pay homage to the author but also give these stories a modern and fresh take. You might recall her previous release which was Pride and Protest which was a remix of Pride and Prejudice.

Considering that I read Pride and Protest in a day, I knew I wanted to feature Nikki Payne on Culturess and give her some love. That's why I'm so excited and honored to be able to share an early excerpt from Sex, Lies and Sensibility.

Obviously, a twist on Sensibility, this book is unlike any Jane Austen reimagining I've read before and honestly, ended up being a book I couldn't put down once I started. Spoiler alert for my review, but I really enjoyed it so let's get into the excerpt.

See this excerpt from Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne.

Before getting into the excerpt, I'd like to thank Berkley and particularly, Dache' for being so amazing to work with. Also, I'd like to thank Nikki Payne because all of this wouldn't be possible without her and her amazing writing so let's get into it.

From SEX, LIES AND SENSIBILITY by Nikki Payne, Copyright Berkley, 2024 

“I know this is difficult, so we’re giving you thirty days to vacate.” Felicia said it as if she were doing them a favor. 

Nora stood, nearly flipping the chair. “Thirty days! We’ve lived there for twenty years.” 

Yanne looked up at Nora in surprise. “Y’all done messed up now.” She looked like she was watching Wimbledon as her eyes volleyed between Felicia and Nora. Yanne knew what Felicia didn’t, that Nora had not many—but just enough—fuck its left to be dangerous. 

Nora turned her whole body toward the lawyer. “Can they do this?” 

“I’m afraid they are within their rights. You never established a landlord‑tenant relationship, so you don’t have renters’ rights.”  

“The Montgomery County sheriff will be there in exactly twenty‑nine days to help you pack,” Felicia said. 

Nora looked up to find the kind eyes of one of many Black Jesuses looking down at her. Off-the-wall behavior got you on the internet, Nora, He said. She sat down and fiddled with the collar of the dress. The one that looked like LeVar Burton whispered, Blessed are the meek. Nora found Mrs. Dash’s eyes. “You said there were two things.” 

“Yes, well, there is a—” She faltered. “There is a property that he owned. He mentioned you two. In a last‑minute change. There is . . .” 

“Please say something before I have to pay for the extra half hour at the parking garage,” Nora said. “You know we can’t afford it now.” 

Mrs. Dash spat it out. “He left you Barton Cove.” 

Felicia tittered behind her hands. Even Mrs. Dash looked down at the carpet. 

“What is Barton Cove?” 

 “It’s a lovely—” 

Felicia sighed. “Mom, tell them the truth. Please. There have been enough lies to last a lifetime.” She reached out to touch Yanne’s hand. “It’s a dump. Most of the year, it’s freezing. It’s in the worst part of the woods and the deadest part of the beach. It’s on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island in Maine.” 

The lawyer spoke over Felicia. “The decedent has provided Barton Cove and a substantial inheritance for you and your sister.” 

Nora’s face tightened. “Define ‘substantial’.” 

“He has set aside two hundred fifty thousand dollars each, but—” He paused, and his voice cracked like a teenager. “Barton Cove is currently in foreclosure.” 

“So he stopped paying for our inheritance?” 

“It seems that way. The bank requires full repayment of the outstanding loan amount in a single payment before Labor Day of the following year.” 

“How much is owed?” Yanne asked. 

“Five hundred seventeen thousand dollars.”  

“Our inheritance can’t cover it?” 

Felicia snorted. “Your inheritance won’t even cover the renovations.” 

The lawyer pulled off his glasses. “However, if Barton Cove meets the foreclosure agreement, you and your sister will be entitled to the entirety of your father’s Estate Improvement Fund or EIF for the estate.” 

Nora nodded. “How much is the EIF?” 

“Three million dollars,” the lawyer and Felicia answered in unison. 

“So we get three million for paying off the foreclosure? How would we even do that?” Nora worried her bottom lip. 

“You can’t. Which is why we’ve drawn up an alternate agreement.” Felicia pushed a manila folder full of documents under Nora’s hands. But Nora held her hand up. 

“What exactly happens if we can’t pay off the foreclosure amount?” Nora asked. 

“Then the money goes to the new owners of Barton Cove,” the lawyer repeated. 

Within her, something flickered—then caught. Something she hadn’t felt for a long time—maybe purpose. She’d watched more hours of HGTV than anyone she knew. Yanne could bake her ass off. They could renovate the space and turn it into a cool bakery or an inn. 

Felicia must have noticed the spark of hope in Nora’s eyes. “Nora, I know you have some pretty impressive and”—she raised her eyebrows—“lucrative skill sets, but you’d have to open a brothel full of Noras to make that kind of money.” 

Nora’s cheeks flared. She couldn’t tell if it was anger or embarrassment. But something cracked and groaned inside of her like ice giving way under the weight of a heavy boot. Once again, Yanne’s wide eyes bounced from Nora to Felicia. She could always perfectly calibrate when her older sister was about to blow. Sure, it took three times as long as most people. But it was worth the wait. 

She might have to slide off her earrings at her own father’s funeral. 

“We’ve drawn something up that we think you’ll like.” Felicia finally pulled open the manila folder and passed out a thick stack of papers to Nora and Yanne. “This is all silly lawyer‑speak, so let me make it plain. We’ll give you both something for financial stabilization, say, 200K.” She paused here for effect. And suddenly Nora could read her whole play. Snatch their home from underneath them so they would be desperate to sign over the other property. “We pay the foreclosure and take this ridiculous Barton Cove project off your hands.” 

“If we sign this, what happens to the three million?” Yanne asked. “The EIF?” 

Good question, sis. 

“It’s a hypothetical three million, in the miraculous event that we ourselves could scrape up enough money to pay off the foreclosure.” It was a wicked lie. 

“What happens to the three million?” Nora asked again. Yanne’s fingers were tapping the table. Her nervous energy rip‑ pled around the room. 

“That is, of course, transferred to the new owner to make improvements.” The lawyer clarified, “To Ms. Felicia.” 

Yanne and Nora didn’t even have to glance at each other. “No.” It might have been the first thing they’d agreed on in years. Maybe they would fail. But they could at least deny these assholes an easy lap. 

Felicia’s cool face snapped with a flash of anger. “Fine. In that case, here is an itemized list of all goods of value purchased under the Dash of Love name that we will have to collect in one month.” Felicia slapped the paper on the table. “The highlighted items need to be collected ASAP.” She took out a highlighter and circled the seven‑thousand‑dollar black Balenciaga. 

Nora stood up and walked to Felicia’s chair. 

She flinched when Nora stood, perhaps expecting the slap across the face she richly deserved. It was the only language bullies understood—their own violence thrown back at them. Felicia had miscalculated. Though Nora’s hands itched to make contact with her face, instead, she clenched her teeth and, hands shaking, reached back behind herself to grab her zipper. Nora held Felicia’s gaze, pulling the thin zipper down to her low back. 

 To wide eyes, she shrugged the dress off. The soft crepe pooled at her ankles. She’d be damned if these people thought they owned her choices because they had the money or power. If the dress was a shackle, she would release it. 

She stepped out of the dress, only slightly chilly in her black bra, panties, and six‑inch heels. She sat back down and crossed her legs like she was in a power suit. Yanne whooped and threw her long puffer coat over her sister’s shoulders like one of Elvis’s crewmen. The LeVar Burton Black Jesus painting shimmied its approval as the heat powered on in the room. 

Nora was shaking with anger, adrenaline, and indignation. One of the worst things that the video had robbed her of was something to care about. After track, she struggled mightily to feel deeply about anything, too afraid someone might snatch it away. But this simmering in her belly felt like home. 

She cared. 

Her hands still shook, adjusting the coat, and her skin burned hot. She had that elated queasy feeling you get unbuckling from a wild roller‑coaster ride. She had touched the bright corona of something in herself, and she . . . well, she liked it. 

Yanne raised her glass of water, practically vibrating with open admiration. She blew an exaggerated kiss, Nora’s old move after she’d won a race. “To unpathed waters, undreamed shores,” she toasted when Felicia sputtered derisively. 

Yanne clapped Felicia on the back. “That means we’re taking our asses to Barton Cove.” 

Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne is set for release on February 13th, 2024.

What do you think of this early look at Sex, Lies and Sensibility? Which Jane Austen title do you think Nikki Payne will write about next? Let us know your thoughts!

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