Excerpt from ‘Kiss the Girl’ by Zoraida Córdova introduces us to modern-day Ariel and Eric

Our Kiss the Girl excerpt gives you an adorable look at Zoraida Córdova’s modern twist on The Little Mermaid, which happens to be the latest installment in the Meant to Be collection.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy and By the Book by Jasmine Guillory are modern takes on Cinderella and Belle, respectively, and it’s no secret that this series has captured the hearts of plenty of fans. Zoraida Córdova is the latest author to join the ranks, and her twist on Ariel and Eric’s love story holds plenty of promise.

We’re all familiar with The Little Mermaid—a mermaid princess is obsessed with the human world and trades her voice to join them, falling in love with a prince in the process—but what happens when you fit that magical story into a contemporary world? Kiss the Girl is perfect for anyone looking for a delightful rom-com that lets them escape the monotony of life for a few hours.

About ‘Kiss the Girl’ by Zoraida Córdova

Ariel del Mar is one of the most famous singers in the world. She and her sisters—together, known as the band Siren Seven—have been a pop culture phenomenon since they were kids. On stage, wearing her iconic red wig and sequined costumes, staring out at a sea of fans, is where she shines. Anyone would think she’s the girl who has everything.

But lately, she wants more. Siren Seven is wrapping up their farewell tour, and Ariel can’t wait to spend the summer just living a normal life—part of a world she’s only ever seen from the outside. But her father, the head of Atlantica Records, has other plans: begin her breakout solo career immediately, starting with a splashy announcement on a morning talk show.

The night before, Ariel and her sisters sneak out of their Manhattan penthouse for a night of incognito fun at a rock concert in Brooklyn. It’s there that Ariel crosses paths with Eric Reyes, dreamy lead singer of an up-and-coming band. Unaware of her true identity, Eric spontaneously invites her on the road for the summer. And for the first time in her life, Ariel disobeys her father—and goes with him.

Caught between the world she longs for and the one she’s left behind, can Ariel follow her dreams, fall in love, and, somehow, find her own voice?

kiss the girl excerpt

‘Kiss the Girl’ excerpt

“I believe I promised pizza.”

When Ariel del Mar recognized his voice, she turned around so quickly, she nearly crashed into him. Good thing she was quick on her feet. She’d already done enough rookie football for one night.

“And I believe it was a drink, or pizza, or both, even.”

Slightly out of breath, Eric raked his dark waves back. He’d changed his shirt, and when the breeze shifted, she caught the pleasing scent of a spicy bergamot cologne and sweet sweat. She remembered the way he held his guitar. How toward the end of a booming bridge he’d swing it up and rest the base against his pelvis. She had never, in her entire life, wanted to be a guitar. That guitar, if it meant being held by him. A warm sensation spread across her torso, up her neck, and to the tops of her ears. Was that a heart attack? Was she too young for full-bodied hot flashes?

“Melody,” he said, and offered his arm.

Her initial crush on Eric Reyes had quadrupled in intensity after seeing him perform, and now deepened with that small, kind gesture. As she linked their arms together, Ariel realized that she was a girl taking a stroll with a guy who was the perfect combination of hot and sweet. A normal girl getting a drink and pizza. A girl, surrounded by people, who no one paid special attention to. It was glorious.

“How’d you like the show?” Eric asked, after walking a block in silence. “Please, lie to me.”

“In that case, it was awful. Really, the worst show I’ve ever been to.”

She craned her head back to watch him smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me.”

“I mean every word.”

He clapped a hand over his heart, and she felt a slight tremble go through him like he was releasing all the pent-up nerves and stress that come with a performance. “Well, it’s a compliment for someone who is allegedly doomed.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, just my entire band believes we’re doomed”—he paused to think—“or cursed. Maybe both. I’ll tell you about it, but I require sustenance first.”

About fifteen minutes later, they were at a crowded pizza shop, Laucella’s. Her first instinct was to raise her palm to hide her face. But even though she caught heads turning toward Eric, she went completely unnoticed. Ariel didn’t feel like a different person. Yes, her stage persona was superbly extra. But it was like dialing herself up to full volume, not like being someone different. At least, she used to think that. Without her signature red wig, her lashes, her layers of makeup, was she still Ariel? If no one recognized her, how could she be the person she’d always thought she was?

She decided a pizza parlor around the corner from the Brooklyn Bridge was not the place for an existential meltdown.

They slid into an empty corner booth. Eighties hair bands played from a jukebox, and a tired-looking waitress dropped off menus and tap water, promising to return to take their order.

“What’s your poison?” he asked.

“Half of my sisters have been obsessed with cauliflower pizza crusts, so definitely not that. What about pineapple and ham?”

Eric grinned, but wrinkled his nose. “You’re one of those.”

She smirked at him. “One of what?”

“Monsters who think pineapple goes on pizza,” he said playfully. Everything about him was playful—the way he rapped his knuckles on the surface of the table, the way his straight white teeth bit at his plump bottom lip, and the way he glanced up at her from behind the black fringe of his lashes. Everything.

She feigned offense and pretended to study the menu. “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who love Hawaiian pizza, and those who are wrong.”

He laughed so hard, people turned around to look at them. The sudden attention made her shrink. Scratch the side of her temple, even though it didn’t itch, just to cover her face.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Trust me?”

He phrased it as a question, but it could have easily been a plea. Sophia had always warned her against people who were too quick to ask for trust, especially in a romantic situation. But this was innocent enough.

She held up one finger. “No anchovies.” Then another. “And no mushrooms.”

“You have my word.”

The waitress returned, and he rattled off a combination that seemed like the best of both worlds—a large pizza topped with rosemary sausage, pineapple, and pesto. She ordered a cider, and he said, “Make that two.”

“So, Eric Reyes, tell me about this curse.” Ariel leaned slightly toward him on the squeaky pleather seat.

He told her about what sounded like a nightmare day. With every word she noticed the way his hands were so animated, the way his thick black waves kept flopping over his forehead no matter how many times he finger-combed them back. She wanted to reach out and brush a thick lock but fidgeted with her necklace instead.

‘Kiss the Girl’ by Zoraida Córdova published on August 1, 2023

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