Guest Post: Katharine Schellman – DEATH AT THE MANOR

Happy Monday, my bookish peeps. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and were able to find some time to read. After having an allergic reaction to some coconut, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday heavily medicated and reading. I enjoy reading mysteries, suspense thrillers, romance, and romantic suspense, but there’s a special place in my heart for gothic romance (hey, Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite reads!). Whether a story is a traditional gothic tale or gothic-inspired, count me in. I’m very pleased to welcome, Katharine Schellman, author of Death at the Manor to the blog today. Ms. Schellman will be defining gothic storytelling and providing us with a list of suggested gothic reads. I hope you’ll take note and add a few of these titles to your TBR or TBRR (to-be-re-read) list, along with Death at the Manor. Thank you, Ms. Schellman, for stopping by and sharing your insight into gothic stories.

A Gothic Reading List
by Katharine Schellman

If you’ve read one of the Lily Adler Mysteries before, you might have noticed a slightly different flavor in Lily’s third adventure. With a wandering ghost, a run-down manor full of unsettling residents, and a romance brewing, it has a distinctly Gothic feel to it.

That isn’t by accident. During the nineteenth century, when Death at the Manor is set, the Gothic romance was wildly popular. These books were often mysteries that reflected a fascination with the supernatural, the grotesque, or the horrific.

Death at the Manor is still a traditional mystery, but parts of it borrow heavily from the Gothic canon. So what makes a book truly Gothic? It’s a genre that can vary a lot, especially in its modern version, but you’ll usually see a few elements in common.

1. The threat of supernatural events or creatures, such as ghosts, monsters, or vampires
2. Dark, ruined settings, such as old castles, monasteries, or haunted houses, often with secret passages and trap doors
3. A feeling of fear or claustrophobia
4. The past intruding on the present, often through curses, prophecies, omens, or portents
5. Themes of vengeance, imprisonment, or murder
6. Doomed or persecuted romance

The tropes of Gothic writing could easily become overblown and absurd, but they served an important role in the history of literature. Books about ghosts, fear, vengeance, and persecution gave women something other than the marriage plot to write and read about. And they allowed writers and readers to explore the darker side of the social expectations, taboos, and power structures that shaped their lives.

If you’d like to brush up on your Gothic reading, here’s a starter list for you:

1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
2. Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
3. The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve
4. Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre
5. The Giaour by Lord Byron
6. The Wanderer by Frances Burney
7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
9. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
10. The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It’s not a Gothic tale itself, and like Austen’s other works, it doesn’t stray far from the marriage plot. But it’s a brilliant satire of the Gothic genre, which can only be fully appreciated once you’ve read some of the books she was spoofing. ♦

Death at the Manor

by Katharine Schellman

August 8 – September 2nd, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman

 

The tortured spirits of the dead haunt a Regency-era English manor—but the true danger lies in the land of the living in the third installment in the Lily Adler mysteries, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn.

 

Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to spending the autumn away from the social whirl of London. When she arrives in Hampshire with her friends, the Carroways, she doesn’t expect much more than a quiet country visit and the chance to spend time with her charming new acquaintance, Matthew Spencer.

But something odd is afoot in the small country village. A ghost has taken up residence in the Belleford manor, a lady in grey who wanders the halls at night, weeping and wailing. Half the servants have left in terror, but the family seems delighted with the notoriety that their ghost provides. Intrigued by this spectral guest, Lily and her party immediately make plans to visit Belleford.

They arrive at the manor the next morning ready to be entertained—only to find that tragedy has struck. The matriarch of the family has just been found killed in her bed.

The dead woman’s family is convinced that the ghost is responsible. Lily is determined to learn the truth before another victim turns up—but could she be next in line for the Great Beyond?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: August 9th, 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN10: 1639100784 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781639100781 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781639100798 (eBook)
ISBN: 9781666613636 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B0B13RB3XG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09LGVHT9S (Kindle edition)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #3
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Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and now the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries and the Nightingale Mysteries. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Her second novel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Catch Up With Katharine Schellman:
KatharineSchellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @katharineschellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

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Book Showcase: THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR by Bianca Marais

THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR by Bianca Marais cover, blue background with title in yellow print above yellow cauldronThe Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais
ISBN: 9780778386995 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369722454 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488215506 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09VYH1XRQ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09SD4NCGB (Kindle edition)
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Publisher: MIRA Books
Genre: Fiction | Magical Realism | Feminism

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

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Read an excerpt:

1

Saturday, October 23rd
Morning

Half an hour before the alarm will be sounded for the first time in decades—drawing four frantic old women and a geriatric crow from all corners of the sprawling manor—Ursula is awoken by insistent knocking, like giant knuckles rapping against glass. It’s an ominous sign, to be sure. The first of many.

Trying to rid herself of the sticky cobwebs of sleep, Ursula throws back the covers, groaning as her joints loudly voice their displeasure. She’s slept in the buff, as is her usual habit, and as she pads across the room, she’s more naked than the day she was born (being, as she is, one of those rare babies who came into the world fully encased in a caul).

Upon reaching the window, the cause of the ruckus is immediately obvious to Ursula; one of the Angel Oak’s sturdy branches is thumping against her third-floor window. Strong winds whip through the tree, making it shimmy and shake, giving the impression that it’s espousing the old adage to dance like no one’s watching, a quality that rather has to be admired in a tree. Either that, or it’s trembling uncontrollably with fear.

The forest, encroaching at the garden’s boundary, looks disquieted. It hangs its head low, bowing to a master who’s ordered it to bend the knee. As the charcoal sky churns, not a bird to be seen, the trees in the wood whisper incessantly. Whether they’re secrets or warnings, Ursula can’t tell, which only unsettles her further.

That infernal billboard that the city recently erected across from the manor property—with its aggressive gigantic lettering shouting, ‘Critchley Hackle Mega Complex Coming Soon!’—snaps in the wind, issuing small cracks of thunder. A storm is on its way, that much is clear. You don’t need to have Ivy’s particular powers to know as much.

Turning her back on the ominous view, Ursula heads for the calendar to mark off another mostly sleepless night. It seems impossible that after so many of them—night upon night, strung up after each other seemingly endlessly—only two remain until Ruby’s return, upon which Ursula will discover her fate.

Either Ruby knows or she doesn’t.

And if she does know, there’s the chance that she’ll want nothing more to do with Ursula. The thought makes her breath hitch, the accompanying stab of pain almost too much to bear. The best she can hope for under the circumstances is that Ruby will forgive her, releasing Ursula from the invisible prison her guilt has sentenced her to.

Too preoccupied with thoughts of Ruby to remember to don her robe, Ursula takes a seat at her mahogany escritoire. She lights a cone of mugwort and sweet laurel incense, watching as the tendril of smoke unfurls, inscribing itself upon the air. Inhaling the sweet scent, she picks up a purple silk pouch and unties it, spilling the contents onto her palm.

The tarot cards are all frayed around the edges, worn down from countless hours spent jostling through Ursula’s hands. Despite their shabbiness, they crackle with electricity, sparks flying as she shuffles them. After cutting the deck in three, Ursula begins laying the cards down, one after the other, on top of the heptagram she carved into the writing desk’s surface almost eighty years ago.

The first card, placed in the center, is The Tower. Unfortunate souls tumble from the top of a fortress that’s been struck by lightning, flames engulfing it. Ursula experiences a jolt of alarm at the sight of it for The Tower has to signify the manor; and anything threatening their home, threatens them all.

The second card, placed above the first at the one o’clock position, can only represent Tabitha. It’s the Ten of Swords, depicting a person lying face down with ten swords buried in their back. The last time Ursula saw the card, she’d made a mental note to make an appointment with her acupuncturist, but now, following so soon after The Tower, it makes her shift nervously.

The third, fourth and fifth cards, placed at the three o’clock, four-thirty and six o’clock positions, depict a person (who must be Queenie) struggling under too heavy a load; a heart pierced by swords (signifying Ursula); and a horned beast towering above a man and woman who are shackled together (obviously Jezebel). Ursula whimpers to see so many dreaded cards clustered together.

Moving faster now, she lays out the sixth, seventh and eighth cards at the seven-thirty, nine and eleven o’clock positions. Ursula gasps as she studies the man crying in his bed, nine swords hovering above him (which can only denote Ursula’s guilt as it pertains to Ruby); the armored skeleton on horseback (representing the town of Critchley Hackle); and the two bedraggled souls trudging barefoot through the snow (definitely Ivy). Taking in all eight sinister cards makes Ursula tremble much like the Angel Oak.

Based on the spread, Ursula absolutely should sound the alarm immediately, but she’s made mistakes in the past—lapses in judgment that resulted in terrible consequences—and so she wants to be a hundred percent certain first.

She shuffles the cards again, laying them down more deliberately this time, only to see the exact same shocking formation, the impending threat even more vivid than before. It couldn’t be any clearer if the Goddess herself had sent a homing pigeon with a memo bearing the message: Calamity is on its way! It’s knocking at the window, just waiting to be let in!

And yet, Ursula still doesn’t sound the alarm, because that’s what doubt does; it slips through the chinks in our defenses, eroding all sense of self until the only voice that should matter becomes the one that we don’t recognize anymore, the one we trust the least.

As a result of this estrangement from herself, Ursula has developed something of a compulsion, needing to triple check the signs before she calls attention to them, and so she stands and grabs her wand. She makes her way down the hallway past Ruby’s and Jezebel’s bedrooms at a bit of a clip before descending the west wing stairs.

It’s just before she reaches Ivy’s glass conservatory that Ursula breaks out into a panicked run.

Excerpt from The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais.
Copyright © 2022 by Bianca Marais.
Published by arrangement with MIRA Books
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Bianca Marais author photo by Brendan Fisher
Bianca Marais – credit Brendan Fisher

Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers. She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021. She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.

 
Connect with the author via Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This excerpt is brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Guest Post: David Rabin – IN DANGER OF JUDGMENT

Whew, we’ve made it to another Friday, my bookish peeps. I’m looking forward to the weekend because I get more reading done (as if a book-a-day wasn’t enough for any book lover!). As most of you know by now, I’m an avid reader and enjoy reading from a variety of different genres. Regardless of genre, my fiction preferences are for a well-crafted storyline with a believable plot as well as realistic characters. I’m in awe of the great skill and talent to craft an entrancing read, whether it’s story or character driven. Today’s guest, author David Rabin, will share how he crafted the characters in his character-driven thriller, In Danger of Judgment. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add In Danger of Judgment to your growing TBR list. Thank you, Mr. Rabin, for joining us today, the blog is now all yours.

HOW I CREATED MY CHARACTERS
By David Rabin

My slogan is “Character-Driven Crime Thrillers.” The books I’ve enjoyed most were those with characters I bonded with and wanted to spend time with, characters so charismatic and fascinating that I wanted to buy the next book so I could spend more time with them. When it came time to conceive my debut novel, I created the characters first and then crafted a story I thought would be a good vehicle for those characters.

First, an introduction to the story to get you oriented. In Danger of Judgment follows two Chicago police detectives in 1987 as they investigate a series of drug-related murders that pull them into a much larger conspiracy originating fifteen years earlier during the Vietnam War. As they dig deeper and try to prevent a drug war, they’re caught in a conflict between a drug lord and a man seeking revenge against him.

Now, on to the characters. I wanted to present multiple points of view because each character can bring something different to the story—different pieces of the plot and different personalities expressing themselves.

The two heroes are the detectives: Marcelle DeSantis and William “Bernie” Bernardelli. I wanted two protagonists because I like the dynamic of characters playing off each other. To pull it off, I had to make them different but complementary.

Marcelle is in her late twenties, brilliant and tough. As a female detective in the Violent Crimes division of the Chicago Police Department in the 1980s, she has to deal with sexism from within and without the law enforcement community.

Bernie is twenty years older than Marcelle and has been a Chicago cop for nearly three decades. He’s the book’s moral center, someone who’s seen it all and has learned to adapt to the horrors of his job without losing his sense of empathy and desire to help others. He and Marcelle have a mentor-protégé/uncle-niece relationship.

One of the lessons I learned when reading comic books during my youth was the importance of great villains. The best villains were as well-developed and interesting as the heroes, and I didn’t want a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash (yeah, I’m dating myself now).

The villain is Robert Thornton and he’s the subject of a six-decade backstory. He has a Ph.D., briefly taught as a college professor, served in the OSS during World War Two, spent several years with the CIA, worked as a mercenary in Asia and Africa, and when we see him in the main story, is the chief enforcer for a Southeast Asian heroin cartel. He’s erudite, articulate, unflappable, and has all the social graces, but has devolved from being a hero early in his life to being utterly amoral. I designed him to be not just a formidable adversary but to be equal parts charming and revolting.

The book has two secondary characters, again with the goal of presenting different perspectives and personalities. John Shepard is an accountant who’s a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation division, assigned to work with Marcelle and Bernie to take down Thornton. He’s another complementary character—he suffers from tic and generalized anxiety disorders, which prevent him from developing relationships.

The other secondary character, Ed Stepanek, was the most fun to write. Ed lives in suburbia, is well-liked by his neighbors, dotes on his lawn, kills people for a living, and has a tenuous relationship with reality. Rational characters come with restrictions—once we establish their personality, we expect them to stay within certain boundaries of behavior. But with Ed, I gave myself permission to make him as plumb crazy as I wanted.

It took me twenty-eight years to get from the book’s conception to its publication, and I lived with these characters every day during that span. I’m excited to finally be able to present them to the world. ♦

In Danger of Judgment

by David Rabin

August 8 – September 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

In Danger of Judgment by David Rabin

 

When a covert operation during the Vietnam War ends in tragedy, one of its members resolves to kill the man who betrayed it to the enemy. Now, fifteen years later, he’ll finally get his chance.

 

Chicago, 1987. Home of mediocre baseball teams, gangs that rule the streets, and a Mexican drug cartel that supplies the city with heroin. Chicago Police Detective Marcelle DeSantis and her partner, Bernie Bernardelli, are working a series of heroin-related murders, and their job just got more complicated. The man who sabotaged the Vietnam operation, Robert Thornton, is now the chief enforcer for a Southeast Asian heroin cartel, and after fifteen years overseas he’s arrived in Chicago to eliminate the reigning cartel and seize control of the city’s heroin trade.

Racing to stop a drug war, Marcelle and Bernie don’t realize they’re about to be caught in a deadly crossfire: another man is circling in the wings, one of Thornton’s soldiers from Vietnam, who’s preparing to exact his long-sought revenge against his former mentor. He’s the last person anyone would ever suspect, and when he finally makes his move, the paths of these four people will explosively converge.

Praise for In Danger of Judgment:

In Danger of Judgment does a masterful job of juggling multiple, full-blooded characters through high-octane storytelling as they make their way to a shocking, violent ending. David Rabin is a name that is sure to become familiar among lovers of best-selling, full-throttle thrillers”

––David Shawn Klein, award-winning author of The Money

“Mr. Rabin brings a fresh set of characters to the tried-and-true crime drama, and his breezy narrative style and crackling dialogue kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime.”

––Ronald Aiken, author of Death Has Its Benefits and former president of The Atlanta Writers

“Kudos to Mr. Rabin on the high quality of the prose, the thrilling plot with a twist and surprise ending, and the extensive research that went into this novel. I highly recommend it.”

––Jill Caugherty, author of Waltz in Swing Time

“Well-developed characters drive Rabin’s taut thriller. . . . the story builds to a lengthy, sensational final act, brimming with well-earned suspense.”

––Kirkus Reviews

“A stunning debut, David Rabin’s In Danger of Judgment is an engrossing page-turner. Shocking twists barrel full-speed into an action-packed and tense crime thriller readers won’t see coming… Builds an intricately-plotted crime thriller that’s cinematic and wildly compelling. The author’s prose is concise and ‘unputdownable,’ skilled at giving a tangible sense of the time period these characters inhabit.”

––IndieReader

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: August 4th, 2022
Number of Pages: 369
ISBN10: 1685130593 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781685130596 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781685130008 (Paperback)
ASIN: B09ZVPW2NN (Kindle edition)
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Don’t Miss this Video Trailer

Author Bio:

David Rabin

DAVID RABIN was born in Chicago and raised in its Lakeview neighborhood. He later moved to Atlanta, where he worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-three years. Now retired, he writes fiction, runs a competitive shooting program, and competes in rifle sports, including the discipline of Highpower Rifle, in which he holds two High Master classifications. He and his wife, a former clinical social worker, have two grown sons. In Danger of Judgment is his first novel.

Catch Up With David Rabin:
DavidRabinAuthor.com
Goodreads
Facebook – @DavidRabinAuthor

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Book Spotlight: A DARK AND STORMY TEA by Laura Childs

A Dark and Stormy Tea (A Tea Shop Mystery)
by Laura Childs

About A Dark and Stormy Tea

A Dark and Stormy Tea (A Tea Shop Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
24th in Series
Berkley
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593200896
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9780593200896
Digital ISBN : 9780593200902
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09LH6VG4P

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A possible serial killer on the loose sends tea maven Theodosia Browning into a whirlwind of investigation in this latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series.

It was a dark and stormy night, but that was the least of Theodosia Browning’s troubles. As she approaches St. Philips Graveyard, Theodosia sees two figures locked in a strange embrace. Wiping rain from her eyes, Theodosia realizes she has just witnessed a brutal murder and sees a dark-hooded figure slip away into the fog.

In the throes of alerting police, Theodosia recognizes the victim—it is the daughter of her friend, Lois, who owns the Antiquarian Bookshop next door to her own Indigo Tea Shop.

Even though this appears to be the work of a serial killer who is stalking the back alleys of Charleston, Lois begs Theodosia for help. Against the advice of her boyfriend, Detective Pete Riley, and the sage words of Drayton, her tea sommelier, amateur-sleuth Theodosia launches her own shadow investigation. And quickly discovers that suspects abound with the dead girl’s boyfriend, nefarious real estate developer, private-security man, bumbling reporter, and her own neighbor who is writing a true-crime book and searching for a big ending.

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!

About Laura Childs

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Laura’s Links: Website | Facebook

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Book Showcase: LITTLE DIRT ROAD and JUICED by Ted Mulcahey

Join the O’Malleys, along with their ever-vigilant German Shepherd, Emma, on Whidbey Island as they take on criminals, embezzlers, drug lords, and murderers, putting themselves right in the center of all the danger. With the help of their friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, will they come out on top?

LITTLE DIRT ROAD by Ted Mulcahey book coverLittle Dirt Road: Bad Men on Whidbey Island, The O’Malley Adventures – Book 3, by Ted Mulcahey
ISBN: 9781735493244 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781735493251 (eBook)
ASIN: B09QFLG6PR (Kindle edition)
Release Date: January 12, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Cozy Mystery

The O’Malleys are doing what? How is it possible that dangerous complications arise from their simple vacation in wine country? With their recent move to South Whidbey Island, only the O’Malley’s would stumble upon drug smugglers, embezzlers, and murderers amongst the locals. The quirky, pastoral island, reachable by a less than speedy ferry from Mukilteo or the narrow, deteriorating Deception Pass bridge, is no match for the wicked men about to visit.

A notorious drug lord and a nondescript enforcer with freakish hell-raising skills invade the peaceful Pacific Northwest island—where not even the friendly locales and free-roaming long-eared rabbits can soften his homicidal heart.

Weeding through the facts and surprisingly connected characters with their trusted friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, the narrative swirls from Mexico to Canada and throughout Puget Sound. It’s a heart-racing and outrageously offbeat adventure for two innocent people, proving once again that trouble will find the O’Malleys without the slightest amount of effort on their part.

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JUICED by Ted Mulcahey book coverJuiced: Bad Men on Whidbey Island, The O’Malley Adventures – Book 4, by Ted Mulcahey
ISBN: 9781735493268 (paperback)
ASIN: B09VJPNDCF (Kindle edition)
Release Date: March 13, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Cozy Mystery

Juiced is a fun, thrilling adventure involving secret, breakthrough research

An invention that can save the planet?

Somehow, someway the O’Malleys have found themselves in the thick of things once again. On peaceful, bucolic Whidbey Island, they become entangled in a corporate plot to stifle a paradigm-shattering discovery, one that promises to upend conventional thinking, topple markets, and create an entirely new industry.

Kevin and Jenne, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, find themselves pitted against a band of bumbling criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want—including arson and murder.

It’s another rollicking adventure for the retired interior designers ably assisted by their favorite detective, the FBI, and Emma, their ever-vigilant German Shepherd Dog.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

 

Read an excerpt:

ALERT: Mild Profanity

It was one of those dark, rainy afternoons in the Pacific Northwest. Four-thirty, and already the headlights were bouncing off the slick, shiny freeway.

I was on my way back to Whidbey Island. Playing golf in Seattle in late November was not for the faint of heart. Bundled up with rain gear, umbrella stuck on the push golf cart, wet khakis tucked into even wetter socks, we had slogged through eighteen holes of betting and swearing.

Usually, the Wednesday round was followed by more swearing, drinking wine, and playing gin rummy, but today was different. Today was Jenne’s birthday. It was the big one, double nickels. Well, sort of a big one.

Of course, she told me to stay, have fun and enjoy myself – no big deal. When you’ve been married more than once, you absolutely know for sure that birthdays are a big deal. Unless, that is, you don’t care if your sexual activities are curtailed for, say, a month or two.

Well, not this husband. No sir. I managed to make the 5:30 ferry. And also had the foresight to stop at Walgreens and select a lovely greeting card. From Hallmark. I figured the card with a heartfelt message, along with the bouquet purchased at the Star Store when I drove through Langley, would put me in Jenne’s good graces.

It should have been a wonderful evening.

But it wasn’t.

I made the right onto Little Dirt Road. About five hundred yards up the hill, on the unpaved surface, I turned on the crushed gravel driveway leading to our tidy, shingled home. We live on a bluff that normally overlooks Saratoga Passage. Tonight it was dark and rainy.

And there were no lights on in the house or on the grounds.

This seemed odd. I negotiated the six steps to the porch in the dark. Emma was inside, barking as only a German shepherd can, when anything, and I mean anything, is perceived as a threat.

“Easy girl, easy. It’s me.” She quieted only slightly until I opened the door—it was unlocked—and she calmed down. I flicked the lights on, rubbed behind her ears, and stupidly called out Jenne’s name. She’s not here, you dope. She wouldn’t be sitting in the dark. I walked to the kitchen counter. There was a note in her writing. “Went for a walk in case you get home early. Back around 4:30.” It was followed by a little heart and a smiley face.

What the fuck? It was 6:45. Still not accepting reality, I dialed her cell. The sounds of “The Irish Washerwoman,” her ringtone, came from the little nook with the fireplace, just off the kitchen.

This was strange. Even though she always thought she had forgotten her phone, she seldom did.

I stood there, searching my mind but coming up with nothing. Her car was in the courtyard, her phone in the house. Where the fuck is she?

We didn’t know that many people on the island. We knew our neighbors and a few others, but few were close friends. The only people Jenne was close to lived off-island. And they did not come up in this crappy weather.

One thing was certain, if she left around 3:30, she sure as hell wasn’t still on her walk.

I walked across the dark, grassy area separating us from our neighbors, Tim and Raye. I knocked on the door, perhaps a little too forcefully.

“Kevin. Hi, good to see you.” Tim was a gentle soul and a terrific neighbor, always there if you needed him, and highly considerate in every way.

“Hi, Tim. Have you seen Jenne? When I got home, the house was dark. She left a note saying she’d be back at 4:30. Do you know where she could be?”

“Geez, Kev, no, I don’t. I did see her a little before five. She was headed down the street. I thought it a bit odd because it was getting dark, but that was about it.”

“She was headed south?”

“Yes.”

“She always goes the other way on her walks and finishes by coming up the hill. She says it feels good to stretch out at the end of it.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I’m sure she was headed down. Is there anything I can do?”

“Thanks. Not yet. Let me think about it first.”

Tim’s face showed genuine concern. “You know we’re here if you need anything.”

“I do, Tim. Thanks.”

I went back home and stood in the kitchen. “Emma, what do you think? Where the hell is your mom?”

The ninety-pound black and tan animal looked directly at me and twisted her head to the left. “Ah, I wish you could talk, kiddo.”

If Tim saw Jenne go back down the hill, maybe she was going to one of the homes on Saratoga Road. For some reason. To someone’s house, she didn’t know. Sure.

“Emma. Let’s go. Get in the truck.” Before I went entirely off the deep end, I figured a drive around the area might be productive. Maybe Emma could be of some help. Maybe.

We drove slowly down the hill, past Tim and Raye’s house and past the Robinsons, who lived on the opposite corner. Most of the properties were well over an acre. As a result, there weren’t many homes nearby.

After turning right on Saratoga, where there was no traffic, thankfully, we crept as slowly as possible. I rolled down the rear windows in case Emma caught a scent.

We passed three homes. Emma acted as though this was a simple trip to the store. Maybe even treats if she behaved.

On the left was a huge vacant field where sheep occasionally grazed. Beyond that was a long, straight two-track that served as a driveway for a home hidden by tall firs and cedars.

During our walks, we’d always speculate as to who lived there. Occasionally we would see an island car chug and sputter down the drive. Island cars are beaters that nobody would ever take on the ferry. They frequently break down, and hell hath no fury greater than ferry patrons missing the boat because some yahoo couldn’t start their fucking car.

Excerpt from Juiced by Ted Mulcahey.
Copyright © 2022 by Ted Mulcahey.
Printed with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Ted Mulcahey author photo

Ted Mulcahey has lived throughout the US, for the past 35 years in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an Army vet, sales and marketing VP, entrepreneur, business owner, avid reader, one of nine children, a former caddie, and lover of dogs and golf. The last twenty-five years were spent in partnership with his wife Patte, the owners of a highly respected and published hospitality interior design firm in the Seattle Area. They’re now living on Whidbey Island and enjoying its rural bliss.

Ted writes about things he’s seen and places he’s been. He tries to incorporate the personality traits of people he’s known into his fictional characters, although none of them exist in reality. Many of the locations are real but the names have been changed.

Connect with the author via his website.

 

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Book Showcase: MURDER BACKSTAGE by Nupur Tustin

Murder Backstage: A Joseph Haydn Mystery
by Nupur Tustin

About Murder Backstage

Murder Backstage: A Joseph Haydn Mystery

When murder propels him backstage, Haydn is forced to confront a deadly killer. . .

When the Burgtheater’s impresario unexpectedly meets his maker, Joseph Haydn is relieved to learn no one expects him to look into the matter. The impresario was murdered—and the Salzburger believed to be the killer is already behind bars.

But the impresario’s untimely death is not without consequences. Haydn’s employer insists he take over the dead man’s duties. Handling the tedious technical details of putting on an opera is bad enough. Confronting the suspicious behavior backstage is even worse.

Is an innocent man being sent to the gallows? Haydn is plagued by the question when his brother Michael confirms his worst fears. The Salzburger arrested for the murder is none other than Leopold Mozart—father of the well-known child prodigy currently in Vienna.

Now, egged on by Michael—a close friend of the Mozarts—Haydn must prove Leopold innocent. Or risk his brother’s ire forever!

Historical Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Setting – In Vienna’s Burgtheater in the eighteenth century.
Foiled Plots Press (July 6, 2022)
Print length ‏ : ‎ 348 pages
Print ISBN : 9798986399508
Digital ISBN : 9798986399515
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B34548N5

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo eBook || NTUSTIN/SHOP: https://ntustin.com/product/murder-backstage

 

Praise for the Joseph Haydn Mysteries:

“Tustin orchestrates a concerto of intrigue and deception . . .”– Anna Lee Huber, Lady Darby Mysteries

“A standout in the genre of historical mysteries . . .”– Midwest Book Reviews

Read an excerpt:

Vienna, 1770. Joseph Haydn is in the city with his employer and his orchestra, invited by Empress Maria Theresa to perform his latest opera, Le pescatrici, in the Vienna’s Burgtheater. It is a great honor, spoiled now by the news of impresario Giuseppe Affligio’s death:

“What is the matter, brother?” Johann’s slight figure drew closer, his gray eyes wide with concern.

The music had stopped. The two singers, the entire orchestra, and his Konzertmeister, Luigi Tomasini, gazed upon Haydn expectantly.

“It is Affligio, I suppose,” Luigi guessed.

Haydn nodded, too overwhelmed to speak.

“He refuses to hire another soprano, does he not?” The Konzertmeister lowered his violin and bow and turned to face Haydn. “And rather than settle the dispute himself like a man, seeks like a coward to involve the Prince in the matter?”

It was a reasonable surmise. The impresario had been a source of constant trouble in the matter of singers. Three good sopranos were needed for the opera, but only two—one of them barely passable—had been made available to Haydn. As for the third, Affligio had been adamant that Haydn should content himself with a contralto.

“No, that is not the trouble,” Haydn corrected his Konzertmeister.

“Not Affligio, brother?” Johann looked confused. “I thought you indicated that it was.”

“It is Affligio,” Haydn said, passing the handkerchief over his brow again. “He seems to have chosen this precise moment to meet his Maker.”

Luigi’s jaw dropped open and even Johann—normally imperturbable—gaped at Haydn in stunned disbelief.

“You cannot mean the man is dead?” Johann’s eyes widened as Haydn nodded.

“Dead!” Fräulein Bologna gasped at the same time, her voice ascending to its highest range. “How can that be?”

Even Loretta Renier glanced up from the small mirror in which she had been admiring her features. The color, Haydn noticed, had fled from her cheeks.

“You must be mistaken, Herr Kapellmeister.” A small frown marked her forehead.

Haydn shook his head. “I wish that were the case. But I am afraid he is gone.”

“And His Serene Highness wishes you to examine the matter, no doubt,” Luigi said.

The crease in Loretta Renier’s smooth, white brow deepened.

“Why should His Serene Highness wish any such thing?” she demanded, looking, if anything, paler than before.

Her beautiful blue eyes moved sharply from Luigi’s handsome features to Haydn’s more homely, pockmarked face.

“If Herr Affligio has taken ill and unfortunately met his demise—”

“Nonsense!” Fräulein Bologna was quick to dismiss her colleague’s assumption. “How could the poor man have taken ill all of a sudden? He was in good spirits but two nights ago.”

“Perhaps he ingested something that disagreed with him, then,” Fräulein Renier persisted. “An unfortunate incident, a mischance. Why should anyone be expected to look into it? And why, of all people, should it be Herr Haydn?”

Luigi grinned. “Because Haydn is cursed with an unusual perspicacity when it comes to such matters. The Empress herself is aware of it. If Affligio’s killer is to be caught, then our Joseph is the man to do it.”

Loretta Renier’s lips pressed into a thin line. “Well, I don’t believe anyone killed Herr Affligio.” She drew her shoulders back and met Haydn’s gaze squarely.

“You’ll find we were all too dependent upon him to want him dead.”

The singer’s uncalled-for belligerence took Haydn aback. Loretta Renier could not have acted more put out if he had openly accused her of being a murderess.

Excerpt from Murder Backstage by Nupur Tustin.
Copyright © 2022 by Nupur Tustin.
Published by Foiled Plots Press.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate mayhem in Joseph Haydn’s Austria and to paint intrigue in her Celine Skye Psychic Mysteries about a psychic who takes on the outrageous and still unsolved Gardner Museum theft! In addition to being a storyteller and avid mystery fan, Nupur is a wife and homeschooling Mom who’s recently become a Christian.

Author Links

Website: https://ntustin.com Get Two Complimentary Mystery Anthologies and two 50% Off Coupons When You Sign Up!
Blog: https://ntustin.com/blog
GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61229641-murder-backstage
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/murder-backstage-a-joseph-haydn-mystery-joseph-haydn-mystery-series-book-4-by-nupur-tustin
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ntustinauthor

 

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

August 3 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
August 3 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 4 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
August 4 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 5 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
August 5 – Eskimo Princess Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 6 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
August 6 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 7 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
August 8 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
August 8 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
August 9 – Cozy Up With Kathy – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
August 9 – Books Blog – SPOTLIGHT
August 10 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT
August 10 – Nellie’s Book Nook – REVIEW
August 11 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 12 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
August 12 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

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Guest Post: Laura Oles – DEPTHS OF DECEIT

Good day and welcome to another month, my bookish peeps. One of the many things I’ve discovered as I read different genres is that time and place or setting can be just as important as the characters within the story. Can you imagine To Kill a Mockingbird taking place anywhere else but the deep South in the 1930s? Or possibly reimagine the Harry Potter series without Hogwarts? Most authors choose the location of their stories with great care. Some of these locations might be based on real cities or towns and other locations may be completely fictional. The important thing is the role setting plays within the story, sometimes just a backdrop and other times a character in its own right. I’m pleased to welcome Laura Oles, author of Depths of Deceit to the blog today. Ms. Oles will be discussing with us the use of setting as character. Thank you, Ms. Oles, for joining us today, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Setting as Character
by Laura Oles

Like many readers, I’m often drawn to a strong setting when choosing the next book to read. Louise Penny has given readers the lovely small town of Three Pines in Quebec. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is steeped in setting. Jane Harper’s novels set in the Australian Outback are so vivid that I can feel the dust settling on my skin as I turn the pages.

Setting, in my opinion, is as important as any other aspect of the novel because it, too, is a character and informs the fictional world and the people living in it. It can influence the characters’ choices, increase tension or encourage delay, wrap them in comfort or punish them with force. And like so many characters, it can present itself in one light and reveal a different reality as the story unfolds.

Setting is more than the physical environment of a locale. Experiencing the sights, sounds, scents, and textures are often our first observations, but it is also found in the people, history, and countless stories that call the setting home.

My protagonist, Jamie Rush is a private investigator living in Port Alene, Texas. After growing up as the child of con-artist parents, Jamie traded her nomadic childhood for a home base in this island town. She has found refuge here, this sunny locale kissed by the Gulf Coast and frequented by day trippers and Winter Texans. It’s known as a vacation destination, but Port Alene has a darker side, and this undercurrent is where Jamie spends most of her time.

Port Alene is inspired by Port Aransas, a small beach town that serves as our favorite vacation spot. When things get hectic, we leave the Hill Country for the Gulf Coast. It’s a quick three-hour drive. We can pack the car after work on Friday and still make it to Port A for a late dinner. Over two decades, we’ve learned where to source fresh shrimp, the best time to stop at our favorite coffee shop, and made friends with a few locals who are gracious enough to share their expertise. We’ve learned the off-peak times to take the ferry (although this varies based on season) and how to avoid the army of golf carts driving down Avenue G.

Over the years, my mind began creating stories about this Gulf Coast getaway. Ideas surfaced in my mind like dolphins dancing between the ferry boats in the nearby ship channel. I took my beloved family-friendly beach retreat and created Port Alene. As I watched my kids fishing in the ocean, my mind built a new world filled with characters making deals, sharing secrets, and selling something extra at the local bait shop.

Port Alene is more a sibling than a twin to its inspiration. When creating Port Alene, I decided it would not be an exact replica of the locale I loved. Instead, I took key areas and played with them until they fit into the story. I drew my own maps of Port Alene, fashioning roads and landmarks, bars and restaurants, bait shops, and trinket traps. My protagonist needed these locations because they would prove important in her life. She just didn’t know it yet. But some of the features that make Port Aransas special–Farley boats, the Jetty, the ferry, and the ship channel–all make an appearance to show why Jamie has chosen to call this place home.

The term “island time” is meant to remind visitors to slow down and relax, to not rush unless Happy Hour at Trout Street is almost at a close. Creating a mystery series in an island town meant learning how to honor island time while also escalating the action in the story. In Depths of Deceit, Port Alene’s history is particularly important because Jamie’s latest case reminds her that she knows only a small sliver of her adopted hometown’s story. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider. She must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher. ♦

Depths of Deceit

by Laura Oles

July 25 – August 19, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles

Two sisters.

One deadly secret.

No time to lose.

PI Jamie Rush has her hands full with small-time skip-tracing and surveillance jobs in Port Alene, Texas. The work is steady, though she still struggles to make ends meet. But when her partner, Cookie, brings in a low-paying and potentially time-consuming case, Jamie takes it on out of loyalty.

Cookie’s childhood friend, Renata, needs to find her younger sister, Leah. As Jamie digs into Leah’s past, it becomes clear that the missing woman’s life was shrouded in secrets, the kind that could jeopardize those involved in the case.

To complicate matters, PI Alastair Finn has returned, and he’s willing to reclaim his town by any means necessary. Jamie has never been one to retreat, and Alastair enjoys a good fight. Sparks will fly.

A missing woman. Felonies. Finn’s return. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider in this town. Jamie must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Female PI
Published by: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Number of Pages: 292
ISBN: 9781948051859 (paperback)
ASIN: B09YJ1PNCG (Kindle edition)
Series: A Jamie Rush Mystery, #2
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Author Bio:

Laura Oles

Laura Oles is the Agatha-nominated and award-winning author of the Jamie Rush mystery series, along with short stories and nonfiction. With two decades of experience in the digital photography industry, Laura’s work has appeared in trade and consumer magazines, crime-fiction anthologies, and she served as a business columnist. Laura loves road trips, bookstores, and any outdoor activity that doesn’t involve running. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her family.

Catch Up With Laura Oles:
LauraOles.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @LauraOles
Instagram – @lauraolesauthor
Twitter – @LauraOles
Facebook – @lauraolesauthor

Tour Participants:

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Book Showcase: LONG PAST SUMMER by Noué Kirwan

LONG PAST SUMMER by Noue Kirwan book coverLong Past Summer by Noué Kirwan
ISBN: 9781335448828 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369720719 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488214479 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09NB2KLFH (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09LHVZ6HN (Kindle edition)
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Women’s Fiction | Multicultural & Interracial Romance

With the Southern charm of Sweet Home Alabama and the emotional complexity of In Five Years, Long Past Summer is a sparkling second-chance romance from debut author Noué Kirwan, written from the author’s own perspective in the Black community.

“Kirwan’s excellent debut brings charm, complexity, and plenty of heat…This mature, steamy romance will have readers swooning.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Noué Kirwan’s exquisitely-written debut left me breathless.”—Farrah Rochon, USA Today bestselling author of The Dating Playbook

Long Past Summer is powerful.”—Naima Simone, USA Today bestselling author

It’s hard to move on from a broken heart—and harder to move on from a broken friendship.

Mikaela Marchand is living the polished life she always planned for: a successful New York lawyer, with a promotion in her sights and a devoted boyfriend by her side. She’s come a long way from the meek teen she was growing up in small town Georgia, but the memory of her adolescence isn’t far—in fact, it’s splashed across a massive billboard in Times Square. An old photograph of Mikaela and her former best friend, Julie, has landed on the cover of a high-profile fashion magazine advertised all over the city. And when Julie files a lawsuit, Mikaela is caught in the middle as defense lawyer for the magazine.

Not only will she have to face Julie for the first time in years, Mikaela’s forced to work closely with the photographer in question: the former love of her life—and Julie’s ex-husband—Cameron Murphy. Mikaela needs to win the case to get her promotion—and as a junior partner, she has no margin for error. But unresolved feelings still exist between Cam and Mikaela, and jealousy always made Julie play dirty…

With flashbacks to summers of first loves and fragile friendships, Long Past Summer looks at the delicate and powerful thread that binds and breaks friends and flames.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Powell’s

Read an excerpt:

one

NOW

Mikaela took a deep, cleansing breath and rolled her shoulders back.

Breathe, she chided herself. She hadn’t even darkened the doorstep yet; a heart attack in advance of that seemed premature.

One of the doors to the gallery stood open in invitation, but it was the frigid air escaping from inside that was actually more enticing. It was unseasonably hot. A freak heat wave had made it a blazing, makeup-melting, fire-hydrant-opening, egg-sizzling-out-on-the-sidewalk day in New York City, in only early May. Still, Mikaela wouldn’t reward herself with the tempting relief offered inside. Instead, she just stood on the bottom step for yet another moment, lingering as the various city dwellers went about their business. Another typical Saturday afternoon along a cobblestoned street in Soho.

Despite its swank location, this art gallery was more nondescript than any of the other storefronts that lined the street, rather anonymously tucked in between several ultra-high-end fashion boutiques. Its entrance, an open doorway like an ominous black hole, sat among a sea of gleaming white and vibrantly colored doors. In the single large plate-glass window hung a poster advertising a photographer’s retrospective and the gallery’s address. Adorning the poster was a small reproduction of a picture that even now bedeviled Mikaela from no less than a magazine cover, a thirty-foot sign in Times Square and numerous subway station advertisements across the City. But now, looking at the size of the relatively unremarkable gallery, she guessed most of the exhibit’s undoubtedly extravagant budget must have gone to the rent on this place and the marketing for that poster alone.

The gallery itself was lo-fi, unassuming and minuscule, judging from her spot well outside of it. Mikaela pushed her sunglasses up off her face and peered through the dim doorway, head angling this way and that like an owl. Her feet remained rooted in place, fear-induced moisture popping out on her brow and nose, sweating through her carefully applied war paint. The problem was the sun made it hard to make out what further surprises might lie in wait for her on the other side of the door.

“It’s okay,” a voice said, startling Mikaela from behind.

Mikaela spun around. A young woman with a bright smile and a nearly white-blonde ponytail stood on the sidewalk below. She squinted without the benefit of her sunglasses, which hung neatly tucked in between her breasts on her floral ditsy-print sundress. One open blue eye appraised Mikaela, top to bottom.

“We’re open. They’re just putting the final finishing touches on everything but it’s all in there.” She took a step up onto the old wooden stairs then paused, waiting to see if Mikaela would choose to enter.

Rather, Mikaela stepped aside to let her pass with two large iced coffees in her hands.

Indecision still gnawed at her nerves.

“Is the photographer in?” Mikaela gave a courteous smile as the young woman continued past.

“Yup, should be. This is for him.” She raised one of the coffee cups. “He tries to come in for at least a couple of hours every day—he’ll probably be coming in more often leading up to the opening.”

Mikaela nodded as they changed places, backing down the steps as the young woman ascended. They continued to regard each other: the young woman with mild curiosity, Mikaela with acute wariness.

The young woman paused again at the top, just in the threshold. “Do you want me to get him?” She turned to the photo in the window then back to Mikaela. The beginnings of a smile curving the corners of her mouth. “Or tell him you stopped by? Miss…?”

For a split second, Mikaela saw the omnipresent photo in the window the way any stranger might.

Two girls on a swimmer’s platform on a summer day.

“Oh no, that’s not necessary.” Mikaela stood on the cobblestones again, heart thumping, resolve faltering. Not only the full glare of the sun but also her own discomfort burned her up, urging her retreat. She shielded her face with a palm, partially from shame, and hurried down the street.

She was half a long block away the first time she heard her name. She hadn’t heard his voice in over fifteen years, but she recognized it, quickening her steps.

“Mikaela!” he bellowed again over the ambient noises of the street.

It was still distant but closer.

Mikaela hazarded a quick glance over her shoulder. A figure made his way toward her, dodging pedestrians as he moved. Mikaela stepped into the street, raising her arm, waving her hand.

A passing yellow cab pulled over. She yanked open the door.

“Please drive,” she commanded. “I’ll tell you where to go in a second. Just pull off, okay?”

The cabbie eyed her through the rearview mirror then glanced farther down the street before understanding her hurry and doing as she requested.

A full minute later, he spoke, turning off the small bumpy street and merging into traffic on the smoother avenue. “Where to, miss?”

“Downtown Brooklyn, please.” Mikaela sighed. She swallowed through the lump forming in her throat trying to sort why his voice had upset her.

She had always imagined she would instinctively know if Cameron was in her city. Or that maybe they could walk past each other, simply another two strangers in a city of eight million. But today proved, for her, that wasn’t possible.

He is Cameron Murphy and I am Mikaela Marchand and as long as we remain who we are, that will always be a patently ridiculous idea.

Mikaela pressed the button lowering the window nearest her, sinking into her seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the thick, pungent city air that blew into her face as her cab sped down the windy expressway along Manhattan’s East River.

two

THEN
November 2001

“Here.”

A female sheriff’s deputy handed Mikaela a moist towelette. Mikaela took it and wiped the black ink off her fingers.

“We’ve called your parents, who said they’d be here soon, but we haven’t finished processing you yet.” The deputy raised an arm and waved over an extremely tall young man in a dress shirt and khakis. “As soon as we’re done with this, someone’ll take you to stand in front of the judge and then your folks can spring you.”

Mikaela nodded, meticulously removing every drop of ink from her fingertips.

“Stay here. Cam’ll finish up with you,” she instructed gruffly before switching places with the young man and walking away.

Mikaela and the photographer stood staring at one another for a moment before he leaned forward and whispered, “Judge came in special to arraign y’all. Your parents must be pretty important, huh?”

“Not mine, hers.” Mikaela nodded down the hall in the direction of her best friend, Julie. Julie leaned against the high-top intake counter chatting with the desk sergeant and another deputy. “Her daddy’s a judge too, but Georgia Supreme.”

“Oh, so a real muckety-muck then?” He reached into a tub on a nearby desk and handed her several more wipes.

“I suppose.” Mikaela eyed the stack of wet wipes in her hands.

The young man mimed wiping his own face in a circular motion.

“I gotta take your mug shot,” he explained.

“You? Aren’t you a little young to be a deputy?”

“I’m not… A deputy, I mean. Just takin’ the pictures. Grade two, office support. But I can’t photograph purple-faced perps.”

“Oh.” Mikaela obediently scrubbed at her face, yet every towelette came back with more purple paint. After the fifth one, she stopped.

“Can I please just wash my face in the bathroom?”

The photographer shrugged and directed her down the hall.

Inside the restroom, Mikaela made for the sink and the large mirror above it. She had a hard time, right then, remembering why she had been so obsessed with this “senior prank” for so many years. Although Mikaela could admit, up until she’d had breakfast that morning, she’d still been so excited. Even as she and Julie applied their purple-and-gold face paint, and Mikaela’s little sister, Vanessa, affixed two glittery wigs of opposing colors onto their heads, they’d all giggled with an almost frothy enthusiasm.

“Trust me—no one will ever forget this!” Julie had promised, pulling Mikaela up the vaguely damp football tunnel to the thundering beat of the Harmon Spartans’ fight song—and also Mikaela’s heart.

“Yeah, ’cause we’ll be laughingstocks.”

“We’ll be legends!”

Arm in arm, they’d marched toward the light as the shaggy foil tips of the itchy wig tickled Mikaela’s face.

And as usually happened, Mikaela could feel Julie’s seemingly limitless enthusiasm for high jinks begin to permeate the layers of her own innate reserve.

But now, standing under the harsh fluorescents of the police station bathroom, Mikaela just ripped off the moronic gold tinsel wig and ruffled her short brown hair trapped beneath it. It sprung wild, thick and curly from her scalp, freed from the loose plaits she’d had it in earlier. She took a deep breath and regarded herself, still covered in purple greasepaint. Was it worth it?

She knew that was going to be her father’s first question for her and she didn’t have an answer. Julie had been right—no one in this town would ever look at her the same again. Especially not after the two consecutive cartwheels and back handsprings she’d done on the fifty-yard line while school security chased Julie around the end zone during halftime at their high school’s final football game of the season. At the time, more than half of the stands roared in appreciation. Mikaela stifled a little smirk remembering it.

Of course, that was probably because most of the Tri-County area now knew her better than her own gynecologist did.

But the truth was, for those two hundred and eleven seconds, it had been utterly wonderful. Mikaela let loose and was completely herself, joyful and free and brimming with the most intense hopefulness and excitement about what lay ahead after graduation. Not only for herself but every single young person there. In fact, it had been three and half of the finest minutes of her life.

That is until sheriff’s deputies tackled her to the ground and dragged her off the field in handcuffs. Now, Mikaela stood in the mirror wearing only an extra-large Spartans T-shirt, her pink Keds, the remnants of particularly noxious paint on her face and a slightly lopsided Afro. She was a mess.

“Pull it together,” Mikaela said to the grotesque, mocking face in the mirror.

She pressed the dispenser until there was a mound of soap in her palm. Then, using paper towels to scrub, she washed most of the face paint off in three cycles. Her face was tender from the effort by the time she emerged from the ladies’ room.

“I was just about to come in there lookin’ for you,” the young man said as she stepped out. He stood in front of the door, facing it like a sentry.

“Sorry, it was a lot of paint.”

“Yeah, no kidding. I had no idea what you looked like under all that stuff.” He guided her back toward the intake area.

She glared up at him with lingering suspicion. “And what, were you taking bets?”

Mikaela had always been sensitive about her looks. A month from eighteen, she was still knobby kneed and gangly, with barely a B-cup. The only sizable things on her remained her hips and an ass that kept her from being one long, unbroken straight line from the back of her head to the back of her heels.

“Takin’ bets on what? That you weren’t a Purple People Eater?” He chuckled. “No, I just wondered. Step over there.” He pointed to a plain wall notched with height markings, in front of which stood a camera tripod. “Take this.” He handed her a placard to hold.

“I didn’t know you guys really did this.” She examined the slate with her name, the date and booking ID on it.

“We do.”

Mikaela was not this person. Not a person who got arrested. She was not prepared to forever be identified as one.

“You misspelled my name. Tell me, is it like a parking ticket? You mess it up, and I get to go free?”

“I wish.” He smirked. “You’re funny. What’s misspelled?” He walked up to her looking over her shoulder for the error.

Mikaela could tell what soap he liked to use and the fact that he’d brushed his teeth or eaten something cinnamony recently. She considered that as his eyes met hers briefly. This close, there were flecks of green in the blue of his irises.

“Um, it—it’s actually k with an a before e in my first name. M-i-k-a-e-l-a.”

“Well, Mikaela with a k-a-e, I’m Cameron.” He underlined a small name tag on his crisp white shirt with a flourish of his hand before reaching for the placard.

Their fingers brushed as he took it from her, whisking it back to the booking desk as she stood waiting. She chewed on her nails, staring for a moment at the bulletin board on the far wall. A collection of real-life FBI wanted posters lined it. She paid particular attention to the mug shots and shook her head at the realization that she was about to have one of those too.

A wolf whistle pulled Mikaela’s attention to Julie, standing down the hall. She laughed, galloping around the hall on an imaginary horse until one of the officers made her stop.

Cameron came back from around the desk to hand Mikaela the placard.

“Let’s try that again,” he said.

Julie made a face, mouthing the words “He’s hot” and fanning herself while his back was turned.

Mikaela attempted to hold in a snicker. Cameron looked over his shoulder but saw nothing. “What?” He smiled, trying to read her expression.

Mikaela’s stomach tensed, the kaleidoscope of butterflies that resided in there all suddenly banking hard left as his eyes searched her face for a clue. She shook her head, looking down for somewhere to put her eyes. Her fingers ran over the placard’s velvety felt board and sharp white plastic letters.

“Are you ready?” Cameron asked.

“Seems the real question is—” she cocked her head “—are you?” The second the words were out of her mouth she wondered where they’d come from.

His eyes widened and he chuckled again.

Embarrassed, Mikaela nodded, averting her eyes and stepping back to the wall.

Excerpt from Long Past Summer by Noué Kirwan.
Copyright © 2022 by Noué Kirwan.
Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Noué Kirwan, photo credit DAmbroseBoyd.com

Noué Kirwan is a Bronx, NY native, raised between there and the Bay Area of Northern California. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she currently, and for many years, has lived in Harlem, New York. When she’s not consuming copious amounts of media—binging TV shows, devouring movies, hoarding comic books, and inhaling romance novels—she’s writing herself, dreaming up lives for formidable women and the men who love them.

Connect with the author via: Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | TikTok | Twitter | Website

This showcase and excerpt is brought to you courtesy of Harlequin Books

Book Spotlight: SHIELDING HER SON by K.D. Richards

Shielding Her Son (West Investigations)
by K.D. Richards

About Shielding Her Son


Shielding Her Son (West Investigations)
Romantic Suspense
4th in Series
Harlequin Intrigue (July 26, 2022)
Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
ISBN10: ‎ 1335582088 (paperback)
ISBN13: ‎ 9781335582089 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369731753 (eBook)
ASIN‏: ‎ B09N1PY2PH (Kindle edition)


Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:    Harlequin | IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo eBook

She thought she’d escaped her past…

Has it caught up with her?

Erika Powell has lived in hiding for years to protect her son from his wealthy, tyrannical grandfather. Wary of strangers, she’s suspicious of James West, who’s renting a neighboring cabin, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when attempts are made on Erika’s life, James fears he may have endangered her—because the undercover PI’s investigation of Erika may have led someone dangerous right to her.

From Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.

Discover more action-packed stories in the West Investigations series. All books are stand-alone with uplifting endings but were published in the following order:

Book 1: Pursuit of the Truth 

Book 2: Missing at Christmas

Book 3: Christmas Data Breach

Book 4: Shielding Her Son

About K.D. Richards

K.D. Richards was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs just outside of Washington, D.C. A writer since a young age, after college Kia earned a law degree and worked as an attorney and legal instructor for fifteen years but never stopped writing fiction. She currently splits her time between Toronto and Maryland with her husband and two sons.

Author Links

Website www.kdrichardsbooks.com

Facebook www.facebook.com/kdrichardsauthor

Instagram www.instagram.com/kdrichardsauthor

GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20494862.K_D_Richards

Tour Participants

July 25 – The Mystery of Writing – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

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Enter to win a digital copy of Shielding Her Son by K.D. Richards. This giveaway is hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. See the Rafflecopter form for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: TASHA – The Glam Ones Book #1 by L.R. Starr

TASHA: THE GLAM ONES by L.R. Starr book coverTasha, The Glam Ones Book #1, by L.R. Starr
ASIN: B09KV534YZ (Kindle edition)
Release Date: November 13, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Romantic Suspense

It’s a dangerous business being this rich, this hot, this badass, but someone’s gotta tow the line. The Glam Ones, when they play, they play. When they’re bad, they’re murderously bad.

Meet Tasha. The one with the confident swagger in her stride and a tiger tattoo resting on her back. She’s the bold and sassy fashion designer born from well-to-do parents, yearning to pave her own way in the fashion streets of Ferdale.

She’s part of a tight-knit crew of thirteen, but now they’re down to twelve. Rory’s dead. Someone in the group knows about the death of one of her best friends. They ain’t talking and the police haven’t found the killer.

She’s a got a show that’s gonna blow the world away, but first, she’s gotta fight for her place and there’s a man who wants to help her get there. With all the entanglements, it won’t be easy to get to her cloaked heart.

Amidst competition, backlash, deception, and a killer on the loose, can she rise? Will the Japanese investment banker Mitsuo win her heart in time?

Read on and come along for the ride to find out who Rory’s killer is… be aware this is a cliffhanger series. Just a little bit.

Pre-Order Braden The Glam Ones Book #2, available July 29th, 2022!

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon Kindle

Read an excerpt:

Striding with purpose through the ebb and flow of downtown traffic amongst the mid-morning workers, I observed the drab Ferdale crowd. Not so much color, a duller sea of charcoal black, solemn greys, flashes of white only now and then. A bloom of vibrancy glimpsed in my peripheral, somehow finding its way through the corporate dress code of soullessness.

My mind roamed elsewhere, however, my cheeks flaming from my lunchtime Sake intake. My gaze fixed straight ahead, prevented me from seeing the beautiful ebony woman, breaking the mold in her parade of rebellious fashion intermingled with the dull uniform of Ferdale.

Our untimely collision caused folders and books to flop from her hands. I tried to save them before descending to the asphalt but was unsuccessful.
I bent down to her as people adjusted to the fallout, maneuvering around us. My forehead creased with interest as I saw what I was helping her collect were sketched fashion designs. Stunning and intricate patterns on A4 pages requiring my immediate attention.

Inhaling her sweetness of coconut and peaches, reminded me of a secluded beach somewhere, which would have been significantly better than the high-rise office cage I stared out of every day.

How is it possible to have such a sweet fragrance diffusing from your pores? My eyes pondered. As I lifted my head, I stared into a set of tigerish brown eyes, evoking a chemical reaction of lust screaming through the length of my body. Her rich, brown skin was sleek, her hair bold as the large fro crowning her head.

My response to all this magic in front of me was a stunted smile. I didn’t realize I would be on the receiving end of such beauty.

“Hi. I’m sorry.” I spurted out the sentence in a knee-jerk way. I lowered my head in a perfunctory bow. Her response was a funny squinty one as she shuffled her designs back into a piled order. Picking one up for a closer look, I rose with her. It made my day. “Tasha McCrae Designs,” I said aloud. The design of a sketched lady in a structured cut blazer and tailored pants opened my eyes wide in surprise. “This is a serendipitous meeting if ever there was one.” She had no idea what I was talking about at this stage, but I knew.

Hastily, she snatched her designs from my hands while I continued my drawn-out assessment of her. She placed a hand on her hip, her tight lips sparking my mouth to water with lusty desire.

“Why is that? Do I know you or something?”

Chuckling nervously, I extended my hand, thinking it was the best thing to do as she patted the side of her afro. I didn’t have one word to describe her, as I was busy studying her cute button nose. There was beauty in her palpable strength that all fused together as a vibrant symphony.

I had the sudden urge to tie her up in Japanese knots. Kinbaku is what we called it, gentle holds, and an exquisite art that had long stopped being practiced. Or perhaps it still was performed behind closed doors. I wanted to put her in positions of…

Excerpt from Tasha: The Glam Ones by L.R. Starr.
Copyright © 2021 by L.R. Starr. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

L.R. Starr is a lover of mysteries, witty dialogue, suspense, romance, and fantasy. If you like to travel through your books strap in for the ride, she’ll take you across the country.

When she’s not writing she’s usually exploring, and coming up with yet another devious plot or pursuing her other love which is painting and drawing. Enjoy the bedlam friends!

Connect with the author via  Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube