Character Guest Post: CAKE AND PUNISHMENT by Maymee Bell

Good morning, my bookish peeps. As always, it’s an honor to welcome guests to the Book Diva’s Reads, but this morning instead of a guest author we’re welcoming a guest character, Sophia Cummings from the new Southern Cake Baker Mystery series by Maymee Bell. Sit back, relax with your favorite beverage (and might I suggest some cake), and read what Sophia has to say about Sophia.

A Day in the Life of Sophia Cummings

If you were to ask Bitsy, that’d be my mama, why I became a pastry chef, she’d say that it was to make her life all doom and gloom. I’m not going to lie, it was a little satisfying seeing her cringe on the inside when I strategically told her ten years ago in front of her friend at the Rumford Country Club, RCC for short, that I wasn’t going to college and heading to pastry school. 

Seriously, you would too if your mama had you call her by her nickname, Bitsy, instead of calling her mom, mama, or mother. Yes. Bitsy is as southern as you can get. 

Now, do you blame me for getting out of our small southern town of Rumford, Kentucky right out of high school? 

Becoming a pastry chef was really a dream of mine. I’d spent the better part of the past ten years going to school and moving up in my industry. Can you imagine my joy and excitement when I hired as the head pastry chef at The Manhattan, the fanciest restaurant in New York City. 

It was all mine. All my creations. Then…he walked in as the head chef. I can’t even bring myself to say his name because I swore that after dating him for years and then moving in together and then finding him doing more than cooking food in the kitchen of the Manhattan with the hostess, I’d never let his name cross my lips. 

This was how Bitsy got back into my life. She might be a hard pill to swallow, but she’s a southern mama and no matter what, she’s loyal to me to the end. With my tail tucked and a couple of weeks off work to get my head on straight, I found myself right back in Rumford where I’d tried to escape ten years ago and in my old bedroom. 

Oh, don’t get me wrong, Bitsy definitely dragged me all over Rumford to all her clubs for the first few days. 

“Put on some lipstick and put on some more,” she says before we walk out the door. I had to keep up the appearance even though my heart was broken, and I didn’t have an ounce of creative baking in me. 

That is until Charlotte, my high school best friend who was getting married over the weekend, cake baker had quit, and she asked me to do her wedding cake. What an honor! I was all over it. 

The kitchen at the Rumford Country Club seems perfect until Chef Emile’s body is discovered, sprawled near the stove, a cast iron skillet on the floor close by and Charlotte was the number one suspect. 

Charlotte can be a bit of a southern pill, but she’s not a murderer. I sure hope I can help her figure out who is framing her so her wedding can go off without a hitch and before I head back to my life in New York. 

Besides, I can’t wait to get out of Rumford, like I was ten years ago, because Bitsy keeps telling everyone that I’m staying…forever!

Cake and Punishment: A Southern Cake Baker Mystery

by Maymee Bell

About the Book

Cake and Punishment: A Southern Cake Baker Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Kentucky
Crooked Lane Books (May 8, 2018)
Hardcover 257 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683315711
Digital ASIN: B075QJM2W8

In the first of a delectable new Southern-set baking cozy series, Sophia Cummings, pastry chef extraordinaire, must craft the perfect cake for an old friend’s wedding while sifting through the suspects in a murder.

Bucolic Rumford, Kentucky has glowing fields of bluegrass, a fine selection of bourbons, and now a professional pastry chef. Broken-hearted Sophia Cummings has come home from New York City. She’s not there a minute before she’s charmed into making her high school friend Charlotte’s wedding cake. The kitchen at the Rumford Country Club seems perfect until Chef Emile’s body is discovered, sprawled near the stove, a cast iron skillet on the floor close by.

With one look at the shiny, new frying pan, Sophia knows it’s not Emile’s. She offers her knowledge to Sheriff Carter and her talents to Evelyn, the manager, who needs an interim chef. The mood in the country club is grim: Emile’s peppery personality had burned members and staff alike. Sophia wonders which one of them burned him?

About the Author

Maymee Bell is the pen name of USA Today Bestselling author Tonya Kappes. She lives in Kentucky with her family and her two schnauzers. She likes strong coffee, slow-country days, and fresh-baked cookies – but she like telling stores best of all. This is her first SOUTHERN BAKER MYSTERY.

Visit Tonya:
Facebook at Author Tonya Kappes,

Kappes Krew Street Team





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Book Spotlight: BLUE COLLARS by Catherine McLaughlin

Blue Collars by Catherine McLaughlin
ISBN: 9870932027252 (paperback)
Publisher: Spinner Publications
Release Date: May 2018

Some secrets are unforgivable.

An American mill city. A loomfixer’s daughter.

An imperfect weave of family love, betrayal, and redemption.

Young Finn Kilroy seems on the surface to enjoy an idyllic carefree life in a typical New England mill city. However, a dark secret looms inside the tenement walls of this 1960s blue-collar family.

A compelling story about growing up during the late 1950s and 1960s in a New Bedford, Massachusetts working-class family, Blue Collars details the triumphs and tragedies of the Kilroy family. Told through the eyes of young Fiona “Finn” Kilroy, whose father worked as a loom fixer at the Berkshire Hathaway textile mill along the city’s waterfront, her story unfolds in the city’s South End, a neighborhood where Portuguese, Irish, French, and Cape Verdean immigrant families lived side-by-side in mostly three-decker tenement houses typical of many New England cities.

Surrounded by the love of a caring, extended family, Finn’s life seems, on the surface, to be carefree and idyllic, but a terrible secret haunts her childhood. This is the story of a young girl’s endurance in the face of betrayal and her brave efforts to overcome the shocks that rock her world. Finn’s efforts to present a normal face breaks the reader’s heart. Her story infuriates – even as her determination to stay strong and survive will inspire every reader.

From Finn’s tumultuous childhood to her coming of age, we experience her family’s life of love, abuse, and heartache amidst a backdrop of historical events that shaped this American industrial city—financial upheaval and textile strikes.

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“Coffee. I need coffee,” Molly said.

“I’ll get it,” I said eagerly.

“Ma, I can’t stand getting up at the crack of dawn for these swimming lessons. I’m tired all day.”

“Go to bed earlier, then,” Ma said.

Molly shot her a look but said nothing.

“Besides,” Ma said, “it’s only for a few more weeks.”

I poured the cold coffee, adding sugar and evaporated milk, and handed Molly her mug. Skippy wandered in from the parlor, where he’d been playing happily, stacking wooden alphabet blocks on top of the set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias that he’d emptied from the bookcase.

“Can I play?” Skippy asked.

“No, you’re too little,” I said.

“I want to play,” he repeated.

“You can play when you’re older.”

Ma could see a tantrum coming.

“Come on, Skippy. I’ll read you a story,” she said. Skippy ran to the parlor bookcase and returned with an ancient-looking, fat book.

“Which story?” Ma said.

“‘Cruel Paul,'” Skippy said and snuggled in the chair close to Ma’s ample bosom.

“Oh my God, not that one,” Molly said. “It’s a wonder it doesn’t give little Oedipus nightmares.”

Aunt Joan looked over my mother’s shoulder. “Which one is that?” Aunt Joan asked.

“Who’s Eddy Puss?” I wanted to know.

“It’s the one where this kid named Paul is cruel to animals, pulls off the wings of flies, crushes ants, does all sorts of horrible things, and one day the animals revolt and attack him. They pluck out his eyes and tongue and hair and everything,” Molly said. “It’s disgusting, and it’s illustrated! The whole book’s full of stories like that.”

“That’s awful,” Aunt Joan said, but she was laughing. “I’m going back to the salt mines. Dishes.”

“Who’s Eddy Puss?” I asked again.

“Me too,” Ma said. “I’ve already heated the water four times, and I can’t seem to get to them.”

“Read,” Skippy said.

“Who’s Eddy—”

“Play,” Molly said.

I rolled the dice, deciding to ask again later.

“‘Once upon a time, there was a boy by the name of Cruel Paul,'” Ma began.

Aunt Joan left. She’d be back. She was in and out of our tenement a half-dozen times a day.

Aunt Joan was slender and about the same height as her husband, Callan (“God made ’em, God matched ’em,” Granny said). She had an oval face and eyes I had trouble reading. Her dark hair was streaked with gray. Callan was short and powerfully built, with pale skin and a military crew cut. His eyes were brown and cold. Their identical twins were twelve, my brother Drew’s age. Where Pat was quiet and thoughtful and rather sweet, Little Cal was a hellion. Each twin had black hair in a crew cut, which their father gave them, brown eyes and lithe bodies.

I was afraid of my aunt. She took it upon herself to discipline us as if we were her own children, which I resented mightily. She would come upstairs every morning with her coffee to visit with Ma. They would exchange aches and pains and whatever bad news was going around (Dad used to mutter that they sounded like the soap opera As the World Turns). If she came up at night, and I was in bed trying to sing myself to sleep, she came to my door and yelled, “Stop all that noise in there! Turn your face to the wall and go to sleep!” Then she’d close my door tight, which I hated, for it left me in total darkness. I have often wondered why Ma let her interfere like that.

If Aunt Joan scared me, her husband terrified me. He lost his scattershot temper easily and beat his kids, and I was always afraid he’d do the same to us. In fact, he was used as the household threat: “Stop [whatever we were doing] or I’ll call Uncle Callan!” He was the bogeyman. He’d served in the Army and was stationed in France during World War II. Now he had a civil service job, working at city hall, which paid pretty well compared to blue-collar mill jobs. He also took care of most of the repairs needing to be done around the house—painting, shingling, seeding the “lawn,” pouring cement, building a fence or a garbage coop. He was multi-talented in these areas, where Dad was simply not interested in being the handyman. Maybe he got too much of that at work. At home, Dad’s toolbox consisted of a hammer, a couple of rusted screwdrivers, several bent nails, some random wrenches, and umpteen unidentifiable broken and abandoned things. Uncle Callan had an entire workshop in the cellar, including a workbench with a vise attached, saws, power tools, all sorts of equipment Dad didn’t want anything to do with in his off-work hours. So even if Uncle Callan was the family bogeyman, having him around had some benefits. For me, though, he was more than just the threat of a bogeyman. He was a predator. And for most of my childhood, I was his prey.

Excerpt from Blue Collars by Catherine McLaughlin. 
Copyright © 2018 by Catherine McLaughlin. 
Reproduced with permission from author/publisher. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Author and artist, Catherine McLaughlin grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She received her undergraduate degree from Southeastern Massachusetts University, now the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and her graduate degrees from the University College Dublin and Bowling Green State University. As a graduate student at Bowling Green, Catherine was assigned to be the assistant of writer-in-residence James Baldwin, author of The Fire Next Time. Baldwin mentored McLaughlin and they developed a friendship that lasted the last ten years of his life. Catherine taught English and writing for 40 years at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Framingham State University. In 2015 she published a book of her poetry, Under a Circus Moon. Now retired, McLaughlin is professor emerita of Framingham State University, she lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts with her two cats.

Connect with the author at her Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google+LinkedIn, or Goodreads.

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Book Showcase: THE SLITHERY SHAKEDOWN by Tracey Hecht & Josie Yee

The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals #2) by Tracey Hecht and Josie Yee
ISBN: 9781944020170 (paper over board)
ISBN: 9781944020163 (paperback)
Publisher: Fabled Films Press
Release Date: April 3, 2018

Discover the friendship and humor of the Nocturnals Brigade! In The Slithery Shakedown, three unlikely friends—Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark a loud-mouther sugar glider and Dawn, a serius fox—stand up to a big bully snake. In the process, they find themselves some spec-tac-u-lar snakeskin capes!

Includes Bonus Animal Glossary

Praise for The Nocturnals Grow & Read Series

“Physical characteristics, personality quirks, and the beginnings of their mutual trust and friendship are aptly portrayed through both words and pictures. A few “Nocturnals Fun Facts” at the end should help with any factual queries. Whether listening, reading along, or launching individual attempts, satisfied readers will be ready and waiting for the next installment.”Booklist 
“The pared-down narration and dialogue quickly establish their personalities, as does Singleton’s cartoon artwork, which shows the characters striking expressive poses midconflict….Hecht and Dowling successfully set the stage for more adventurous outings down the road…”Publishers Weekly

Meet the author

Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who has written, directed and produced for film. Her first middle-grade series, The Nocturnals was launched in 2016 with The Mysterious Abductions and The Ominous Eye. The American Bookselling Association chose The Mysterious Abductions as a Kids’ Indie Next List pick. Her third book, The Fallen Star was released in May 2017. The fourth book, The Hidden Kingdom was released in February 2018.
In partnership with the New York Public Library, Tracey created a Read Aloud Writing Program in 10 schools around New York City. During the year, she continued to conduct this program in over 35 schools, libraries and bookstores across the country. In June 2017, she launched a partnership with The Ryan Seacrest Foundation with The Nocturnals program at the broadcast media centers within pediatric hospitals. The first hospital was the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC. In September, events took place in Nashville, TN and Charlotte, NC.
When Tracey isn’t writing, she can be found hiking, reading or spending time with her family. Tracey currently splits her time between New York City and Oquossoc, Maine with her husband and four children. 

Connect with the author at her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Enter to win a paper over board print copy of The Slithery Shakedown by Tracey Hecht and Josie Yee courtesy of Fabled Films Press (giveaway open to US residents only, sorry). Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 04/10/2018 and the winner will be announced after 10:00 AM ET on 04/11/2018. All non-US entries will be disqualified. Void where prohibited.

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The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals Early Reader Series #2)

The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals Early Reader Series #2)

The Slithery Shakedown

Book Showcase: PECULIAR SAVAGE BEAUTY by Jessica McCann

Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann
ISBN: 9780999460207 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780999460214 (ebook)
ASIN: B0793F7RB9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Perspective Books
Release Date: April 17, 2018

Kansas, 1934

The black blizzard is a formidable enemy. The furious dust storm blots out the sun, chokes the life from both man and beast. When RJ Evans finds herself engulfed in inky blackness and holed up beneath her Model AA Ford on an isolated plains road – dirt caked beneath her fingernails, skin flecked with blood drawn by the biting dust – she has no idea this trial won’t be her toughest.

What awaits her in the small farming town of Vanham, when she begins her job as a geologist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, is even more daunting.

Drought and over-plowing have turned the once-lush plains into an unforgiving wasteland. Headstrong and intent on healing the earth through conservation farming, RJ must somehow find her place in a community that welcomes neither women in authority nor changes to their way of life.

She befriends Woody, an autistic savant born in an era long before any medical diagnosis would explain his peculiar ways and unique talents. The locals label the young man an idiot and RJ an armchair farmer. Yet, in each other, they see so much more.

Beating back the dust is a daily battle. It is a clash that creates unlikely alliances. As RJ learns she must rely on her adversaries if she is to survive the dangers of the Dust Bowl, she also grows to realize that she – like the land itself – is in desperate need of healing.

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June 1920

Rosa Jean knew it was foolish to believe her parents had been buried alive. But she couldn’t get the idea out of her head. When she closed her eyes, she could see them sleeping in their wooden boxes. She could hear the rain of dirt pelting the casket lids. She would dwell on their terror – awakening in the darkness, lungs burning from the rank, oxygen-depleted air, and realizing their fate.

How must it feel to be buried alive? To be swallowed up by the earth?

She stretched out in the oblong hole she had dug behind her uncle’s barn. The moist earth chilled her bare legs. She briefly peered at the black mud packed around her chewed fingernails and jagged cuticles. Then, she crossed her tiny hands over her chest and closed her eyes. When Uncle Lou came upon the girl lying there, he howled, grabbed her up by the arms and dragged her like a ragdoll to the house.

“There’s something dreadful wrong with this child.”

Excerpt from Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann. 
Copyright © 2018 by Jessica McCann. Reproduced with permission from Jessica McCann. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Jessica McCann worked for more than 25 years as a professional freelance journalist and corporate writer. Her articles have appeared in Business Week, The Writer, Raising Arizona Kids, Phoenix and dozens of other magazines. McCann’s debut novel, All Different Kinds of Free, won the Freedom in Fiction Prize and was published by Bell Bridge Books. Her second novel, Peculiar Savage Beauty, will be available in hardcopy and ebook April 17, 2018. She lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Connect with the author at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon,  or Goodreads.

Book Giveaway

Enter to win one (1) hardback copy of Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann. This giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry to my international followers) and all entrants must use the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, April 8th and the winner will be announced on Monday, April 9th. The book is being supplied by the author.

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Peculiar Savage Beauty

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Book Showcase: ALICE AND THE ASSASSIN by R.J. Koreto

Alice and the Assassin

by R.J. Koreto

on Tour April 1-30, 2018


Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto

In 1902 New York, Alice Roosevelt, the bright, passionate, and wildly unconventional daughter of newly sworn-in President Theodore Roosevelt, is placed under the supervision of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, ex-cowboy and veteran of the Rough Riders. St. Clair quickly learns that half his job is helping Alice roll cigarettes and escorting her to bookies, but matters grow even more difficult when Alice takes it upon herself to investigate a recent political killing–the assassination of former president William McKinley.

Concerned for her father’s safety, Alice seeks explanations for the many unanswered questions about the avowed anarchist responsible for McKinley’s death. In her quest, Alice drags St. Clair from grim Bowery bars to the elegant parlors of New York’s ruling class, from the haunts of the Chinese secret societies to the magnificent new University Club. Meanwhile, St. Clair has to come to terms with his hard and violent past, as Alice struggles with her growing feelings for him.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: April 11th 2017
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 1683311124 (ISBN13: 9781683311126)
Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #1

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Read an excerpt:

I had a nice little runabout parked around the corner, and Alice certainly enjoyed it. It belonged to the Roosevelt family, but I was the only one who drove it. Still, the thing about driving a car is that you can’t easily get to your gun, and I didn’t like the look of the downtown crowds, so I removed it from its holster and placed it on the seat between us.

“Don’t touch it,” I said.

“I wasn’t going to,” said Alice.

“Yes, you were.”

I had learned something the first time I had met her. I was sent to meet Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, in the White House, and we met on the top floor. He was there, shaking his head and cleaning his glasses with his handkerchief. “Mr. St. Clair, welcome to Washington. Your charge is on the roof smoking a cigarette. The staircase is right behind me. Best of luck.” He put his glasses back on, shook my hand, and left.

It had taken me about five minutes to pluck the badly rolled cigarette out of Alice’s mouth, flick it over the edge of the building, and then talk her down.

“Any chance we could come to some sort of a working relationship?” I had asked. She had looked me up and down.

“A small one,” she had said. “You were one of the Rough Riders, with my father on San Juan Hill, weren’t you?” I nodded. “Let’s see if you can show me how to properly roll a cigarette. Cowboys know these things, I’ve heard.”

“Maybe I can help—if you can learn when and where to smoke them,” I had responded.

So things had rolled along like that for a while, and then one day in New York, some man who looked a little odd wanted—rather forcefully—to make Alice’s acquaintance on Fifth Avenue, and it took me all of three seconds to tie him into a knot on the sidewalk while we waited for the police.

“That was very impressive, Mr. St. Clair,” she had said, and I don’t think her eyes could’ve gotten any bigger. “I believe that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.” She looked at me differently from then on, and things went a little more smoothly after that. Not perfect, but better.

Anyway, that afternoon I pulled into traffic. It was one of those damp winter days, not too cold. Workingmen were heading home, and women were still making a few last purchases from peddlers before everyone packed up for the day.

“Can we stop at a little barbershop off of Houston?” she asked. I ran my hand over my chin. “Is that a hint I need a shave?” I’m used to doing it myself.

“Don’t be an idiot,” she said, with a grin. “That’s where my bookie has set up shop. I’ve had a very good week.”


Excerpt from Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto.  Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. 
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.

He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto On his Website, Goodreads Page, Twitter @RJKoreto, & on Facebook @ ladyfrancesffolkes!

Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for R.J. Koreto. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift card. The giveaway begins on April 1, 2018, and runs through May 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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