Book Showcase: FOREVER HOME by Elysia Whisler

Forever Home, Dogwood County #2, by Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778311607 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369706119 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488212642 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781665105125 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08Y66F6F1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R919BQD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: November 30, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Military Romance | Family Life

 If home is where the heart is, Dogwood County may have just what Delaney Monroe needs

Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.

Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.

Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in—both human and canine—helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.

Read an Excerpt:

ONE

Three Rebels Street.

Delaney should’ve known that this was where she’d end up. This was the kind of street a woman went down when all the big changes in her life were happening at once. You simply couldn’t hit a retirement ceremony, the road and a funeral all in one week and not end up on Three Rebels Street.

Small is not the right word. I prefer quaint.” The real estate agent, Ronnie, gazed around the studio apartment situated on Three Rebels Street, and nodded her head in approval. “You said it was just for you, right? Which means it’s the perfect size.”

Stop trying to sell me on the apartment. Ronnie had described it as an “alcove studio”—not just a studio—because even though the living room and kitchen were all in one large space, the bedroom was situated in a little nook, with its own door. Delaney didn’t care. The living quarters didn’t really matter. Right now the place was dumpy. Dust everywhere, the ceiling fan hanging crooked with exposed wires, and debris in the corners, like the previous tenants hadn’t taken care of the place and then left in a hurry.

“We didn’t have a chance to get this cleaned before your showing,” Ronnie said, following Delaney’s gaze. “Remember, I suggested waiting until Friday.”

But Delaney hadn’t been able to wait.

Ronnie lowered her voice to a near whisper. “They were evicted. But this place cleans up nice, I promise.”

“Can we go back down to the shop?” Delaney ran her hands through her hair, rubbing the weariness from her scalp. Ronnie had whisked them through the front bay door and up the stairs, like the apartment was the prize inside the cereal box. And Delaney supposed it was—small, an add-on, not really the point. For Delaney, the shop downstairs was the entire point.

“Of course.” Ronnie’s voice was bright, forced, like she didn’t give two shits. This was probably her last showing of the day and she wanted to get home, into a hot bath with a glass of red as soon as possible. She clacked down the stairs in her high heels.

Delaney followed, the earthy clunk of her motorcycle boots the bass drum in the cacophony of their feet.

“The shop.” Ronnie swept out her arm. “Look how much space.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice. Ronnie, who probably did mostly living spaces, had no idea how to sell the garage.

Didn’t matter. Delaney sized up the shop herself: concrete floor, perfect for working on bikes. It was kind of dinged up, but that was okay, she was already envisioning painting it beige with nonslip floor paint. Modern fluorescent lighting. Large bay door, wide-open to the cool air, excellent for ventilation. A countertop with a register. Empty shelves on one side for parts and motor clothes. Showroom space for custom bikes, and enough room for at least two workspaces out front. The rest, Delaney would provide. Hydraulic lifts. Workbench. Parts tank. Tools. Parts. Bikes.

She wanted to pinch herself, but chose a poker face. Ronnie stood in the center of the floor, like she was trying to avoid touching anything, to avoid getting any grease or oil on her smart red suit. The shop was in better condition than the apartment, but it still looked like the last occupants had left quickly—or, if they’d truly been evicted, perhaps reluctantly was a better word. Nothing important remained, but the place hadn’t been swept or washed or readied for sale in any manner.

“I’ll consider this.” Delaney rubbed her chin as she strode through the shop. “It’s a little small.” It was actually larger than she’d expected. “Light’s good, but might get a little cold in the winter.” It was winter now, technically. Mid-March. Delaney loved this time of year, when winter and spring intersected, like lovers making up after a nasty fight, the weather edgy and unpredictable.

“There’s a lot of interest in this space.” Ronnie clutched her clipboard to her chest as she looked around. She could be looking at the inside of a spaceship and hold that same expression.

Motorcycle shops were going out of business, all over the place, including the one that had recently vacated. After suddenly finding herself on Three Rebels Street last week, in front of a shop-apartment combo for sale, Delaney had done her research. The previous tenants, who she now knew had been evicted, were brothers who ran a shop by day and lived upstairs by night. They sold mostly new bikes and motorcycle gear. Repairs and maintenance were basic. Their website was still up, despite the fact that Dude’s Bikes had closed. Dude’s appeared to focus mostly on male riders, leaving Delaney to wonder if Dude’s was just about dudes or if one of the owners was, indeed, named Dude.

“What’s the story on this place?”

Ronnie glanced at her clipboard. “The owner wants to sell. After the last renters’ lease ran out, they were given the option of buying or moving. I don’t think their shop was doing well, because they couldn’t afford to buy. They weren’t even paying their rent. And they weren’t quick about moving. The rest, as they say, is history.”

If the last motorcycle shop had failed, buying would be a gamble. But any business venture was a gamble.

Life was a gamble.

“There are a couple of people looking, after you.” Ronnie continued, “About five.”

Delaney could respect white lies in the sales biz but seriously? Five? Five or so people were waiting to check out the bike shop with an overhead apartment suitable for one small, low-maintenance tenant? She had no idea how two brothers had managed up there.

She strolled through the space, wanting a good feel. She needed to touch things, inhale the shop, draw its molecules into her lungs and taste its history before she could decide on the symbiosis of her dream space. Triple M Classics—short for Martin Monroe’s Motorcycles, named after her father—would own her as much as she would it, so this relationship was going to be deep and mutual. Through the front window, she could see the parkway that ran the length of the county. At just past eighteen-hundred hours, rush hour was a jam of red taillights in the waning daylight. No amount of time would erase Delaney’s memory of her last tour here, when she had to commute to work every day. Pure hell. It would be nice to go right upstairs to her cozy little apartment after closing, rather than having to sit in that mess.

Across the street was a row of shops, including a grocery story and an Italian restaurant. Food. Check.

On the south side, the shop butted up to the woods, which had a downward slope of grass and weeds that led to the trees. Privacy. Double check. Plus, Delaney figured if there was a tornado, that slope could count as a ditch, and would probably be the safest place to run. She laughed at herself. This wasn’t Omaha. Virginia tornado season consisted of a few warnings that rarely panned out.

Delaney withdrew the listing, printed from the internet, from her back pocket, crammed together with a grocery receipt for extra firm tofu, Tater Tots and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. “This is the price, right?” She handed over the paper. Money would be tight, but Delaney should be able to manage for a little while until things got going.

That is, if she was going to do this.

Was she really going to do this?

All her adult life Delaney had moved around, from station to station. Forts, camps, bases. Not shops. Not homes. She’d never put down roots. Never had anything permanent other than her childhood home with Dad. Never owned a thing she couldn’t cram into a duffel bag.

Ronnie looked at the paper. “No.” She sniffed. “There’s a newer listing.” She flipped through her clipboard, laid it on the counter and pointed. “Here we go.”

Delaney looked at the asking price, choked a little bit, almost thanked Ronnie for her time and left. That would be the smart thing to do. Sometimes childhood dreams just needed to stay dreams.

She strode around once more, mentally saying goodbye to everything that she’d never even made hers. Even though all of this had been a panster move, it felt like all the blood in her veins had been replaced with disappointment. She stopped by the far wall, where a ratty piece of paper hung by a sliver of tape. Delaney smoothed out the curled edges and read the flyer.

Fiftieth Annual Classic Motorcycle Show.

Dogwood County Fairgrounds.

The event was in July. There was a contest, including prizes. The grand prize for the winning classic cycle was five grand plus a feature article in Ride magazine.

The disappointment started to drain away. Five grand wouldn’t pay all the bills, but exposure in a major motorcycle magazine would be a boon for business. Plus, there was something about that poster, just hanging there like that.

It seemed like a sign.

Excerpt from Forever Home by Elysia Whisler.
Copyright © 2021 by Elysia Whisler.
Published by arrangements with Harlequin Books S.A.
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Author – Elysia Whisler

 

Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Virginia, in true military fashion. If she’s not writing she’s probably working out, coaching, or massaging at her CrossFit gym. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.

 

Connect with the Author:  Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Author Website
This excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Book Showcase: STYLED FOR MURDER by Nancy J. Cohen

Styled for Murder, The Bad Hair Mysteries #17, by Nancy J. Cohen
ISBN: 9781952886225 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781952886218 (ebook)
ASIN: B09DYN9YG6 (Kindle edition)
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Orange Grove Press
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Cozy Mystery

 A dead body in her mother’s bathroom during a home remodel leads hairstylist Marla Vail to flush out the clues and nail the killer.

When hairstylist and savvy sleuth, Marla Vail, gets a frantic call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower, Marla realizes this wasn’t part of the home renovation plans. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had an untrustworthy reputation in town. Disgruntled customers, unpaid suppliers, and the design company’s staff are among the suspects. Which one of them wanted the foreman to pipe down about their shady dealings?

Meanwhile, the lead investigator sets his sights on Marla’s stepfather, Reed, who’s keeping secrets from his family. Reed has a past connection to the victim and won’t come clean about what he knows. As Marla drills deeper, she’s showered with suspicions, but nobody’s willing to leak any information. She needs to hammer down the prospects, or time will drain away and the murderer will strike again.

To flush out the culprit, Marla taps into her pipeline of resources. Can she assemble the clues and demolish the alibis to nail a killer? Or has someone designed the perfect murder? Recipes Included!

 

Read an excerpt:

     “May I ask how long it’ll take to clear this area? My mother will want to get into the bedroom as soon as possible. As for the bathroom, it’s been a loss ever since construction started. This job has had a number of delays and now things will be totally held up.”

     The detective zeroed in on her words with eagle-like sharpness. “Have there been issues with how the remodel is going so far?”

     Marla cringed inwardly at her inadvertent slip. She would blame her ever-present fatigue, but she seemed to have perked up ever since she’d stepped into Ma’s house. Why was that? Because there might be another crime to solve? What did that say about her, with a baby at home and a salon to run?

     “You’ll have to talk to my mother about their project,” she told the detective. “Ma knows the details more than me.”

     He stepped closer and stared her down. She caught a whiff of garlic from his breakfast. “The people we’re closest to are often the ones with the most to hide.”

     “What does that mean?” Marla asked in a sugary tone, refusing to react to his bait.

     “Jack Laredo had not arrived yet when your mother unlocked the bathroom door this morning. From all indications, the man must have died between the time your mom left the house and when Lenny Brooks arrived. This means only one person was home alone with him, and that would be your stepfather.”

Excerpt from Styled for Murder by Nancy J. Cohen.
Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen. Published by Orange Grove Press. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Her books have won numerous awards, including the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is past president of Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising and visiting Disney World.

Connect with the author via: Amazon | BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Website

This excerpt brought to you courtesy of the author, Nancy J. Cohen

Book Showcase: THE LAST SPEAKER OF SKALWEGIAN by David Gardner

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner Banner

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian

by David Gardner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner

Professor Lenny Thorson lives in a defunct revolving restaurant, obsesses over word derivations, and teaches linguistics at a fourth-rate college with a gerbil for a mascot. Lenny’s thirty-four years have not been easy—he grew up in a junkyard with his widowed father and lives under a cloud of guilt for having killed another boxer as a teenager.

Desperate to save his teaching career, Lenny seizes the opportunity to document the Skalwegian language with its last living speaker, Charlie Fox. Life appears to have finally taken a turn for the better…

Unfortunately for Lenny, it hasn’t. He soon finds himself at war with Charlie, his dean, a ruthless mobster, and his own conscience.

A genial protagonist will keep readers enticed throughout this amusing romp.
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller, Academic Setting
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: September 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 308
ISBN: 164599239X (ISBN13: 9781645992394)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Book Trailer:

 

Read an excerpt:

“Why document the Skalwegian language?” Charlie Fox asked. “The answer to your question should be obvious: I want to save the language of my Scandinavian ancestors and preserve their culture for future generations. I’m no longer young, and if I don’t act soon, Skalwegian will disappear forever. And give Professor Lenny Thorson a lot of the credit. He’s a linguist—I sure couldn’t do the job without him.”

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian, Newsweek

Chapter 1

Weegan

A word in the Skalwegian language loosely translated as butthead (impolite usage)

Lenny Thorson watched the red pickup roar into the parking lot, a statue propped up in back. It was the Ghurkin College mascot, an eight-foot-tall gerbil.

Charlie nudged Lenny. “You sure you want tenure at a college with a rat for a mascot?”

“It’s a gerbil. And yes, I do. Jobs are scarce.”

Gerry Gerbil stood on his hind legs and stared into the distance, a football clutched in his right front paw, his rat-like tail draped over his left. He looked hot and humiliated.

Lenny too felt hot and humiliated, and he guessed that Gerry hated parades as much as he did. Lenny tugged his sweaty shirt away from his chest. It was a sunny September afternoon, with heat waves shimmering off the blacktop in front of the building where he lived. He badly wanted the day to be over.

The pickup swung around with a screech of tires and backed up to Lenny’s beat-up Chevy. Two college students in matching black muscle shirts stepped out. Brothers, Lenny guessed. They were a wide-shouldered pair with mussy brown hair and long ears.

Lenny reached out his hand. “I’m Lenny Thorson and this is Charlie Fox.”

“Yeah, I know,” the taller one said, glanced at Lenny’s outstretched hand, then climbed onto the back of the pickup and untied the statue.

Lenny and Charlie dragged the wood-and-papier-mâché gerbil from the bed of the pickup, boosted it atop Lenny’s car and stood it upright.

One brother thumbed his phone while the other fed ropes through the open doors and around the mascot’s ankles.

The boy was careless as well as rude, Lenny told himself, and he was tempted to order him to untie the ropes and start over, but Lenny hated confrontation. Once he was around the corner and out of sight, he would stop and retie the knots. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Gerry Gerbil.

On second thought, did he really give a damn?

Charlie threw his right leg over his motorcycle, gripped the handlebars and bounced once in the saddle. He wore jeans and a T-shirt that read ‘So Are You!’ He nodded toward Gerry. “He looks like a weegan, and so will you when you parade him through the center of town.”

Lenny hadn’t yet learned that word in Skalwegian. “Weegan?”

“‘Butthead.'”

Lenny nodded. He was a weegan.

Charlie looked particularly worn and shrunken today, Lenny thought, especially astraddle his beefy black Harley. His hair was gray, his skin leathery, his chin neatly dimpled from Iraqi shrapnel. He was fifty-one—seventeen years older than Lenny—and eight inches shorter.

At six feet four, Lenny was always embarrassed by his size. He wished he could go through life unnoticed. He wondered if Gerry Gerbil ever felt the same.

The shorter brother slapped the mascot’s foot. “Have fun at the parade, professor.”

Both brothers laughed.

Lenny didn’t expect to have fun. His gut told him that the day would go badly.

* * *

Bob One wasn’t happy about whacking a professor. He specialized in crooked bookies, wise guys who’d flipped, and casino managers caught skimming. But never a civilian. Bob One believed in upholding the ethics of his profession.

He parted the tall tan grass at the side of the road, pinched a mosquito off the tip of his nose and peered westward. No cars yet, but the guy who’d hired him had said his target always took this route on his way into town and would have to slow to a crawl here at the switchback. Bob One figured he’d have plenty of time to pop up, rush forward, blast the guy at close range, then get the hell back to Chicago where he belonged.

* * *

Lenny eyed the brothers, now slouched against his car’s front fender, both lost in their phones. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them on the Ghurkin College campus, the fourth-rate institution an hour west of Boston where he taught French and linguistics. “I didn’t catch your names.”

The taller one glanced up. “You don’t know who we are?”

Lenny shook his head.

The boys exchanged puzzled looks. The taller one said, “I’m Tom Sprocket, and that’s my brother Titus.”

The names sounded familiar, but Lenny didn’t know where he’d heard them. He could memorize entire pages of the dictionary in one sitting, but he was terrible with names.

Tom pocketed his phone and looked Lenny up and down. “Did you play football in college?”

“No,” Lenny said.

Tom snickered. “Afraid of getting hurt?”

“I was afraid of hurting someone else.”

Tom snorted. “Man, that’s all the fun.”

No, it’s wasn’t, Lenny told himself. Hurting someone wasn’t fun at all. Twenty-one years ago, while fighting underage with a fake name, he’d killed an opponent in the boxing ring. Guilt still clung to Lenny, ate into his soul.

Tom gestured with a thick thumb over his shoulder toward the office building behind the parking lot. “You live on top of that thing?”

Lenny nodded.

“You’re weird, man.”

Lenny stiffened. He did feel weird for living in an abandoned rotating restaurant atop a ten-story insurance building, but didn’t particularly enjoy being told so.

But in spite of Tom’s rudeness, Lenny wouldn’t let himself get angry with the boy or even with Dean Sheepslappe who, for some reason, insisted he participate in the Gerry Gerbil Alumni Day Parade, even threatening to block his tenure if he refused. Lenny had grown up angry, had fought with rage in the ring, but after that last fight, he’d promised himself he would never again lose his temper. Some people found this strange, Lenny knew, some sweet. Others used his good nature as a way to take advantage of him. Lenny knew that too.

Titus Sprocket smirked and said, “I heard the place starts up running sometimes all on its own.”

The Moon View Revolving Restaurant had failed financially in just six months, when its motor took to speeding up at random moments, knocking staff off their feet and sending diners sliding sideways off their booths and onto the floor. Lenny moved in shortly afterwards. He was paying minimal rent in the abandoned restaurant in return for serving as its live-in caretaker. He found it oddly comforting to be the world’s only linguist who inhabited a rotating restaurant. “Sometimes it makes a couple of turns in the middle of the night,” Lenny said, “then shuts down. It’s no problem.”

It was in fact a problem. When the deranged motors and gears got it into their head to noctambulate, they did so with a terrific bellow and jolt that made Lenny sit up wide awake, and which frightened Elspeth so badly that she’d stopped staying overnight.

But Lenny wasn’t bothered by the smirking Sprockets. In fact, he felt sorry for the boys, regarding them as underprivileged lads from some sunbaked state where children ran barefoot across red clay all summer and ate corn pone for breakfast.

Lenny wondered what corn pone tasted like and—more importantly—what was the origin of the word pone? A Native American term? Spanish? Skalwegian even?

He turned to Charlie, astride his motorcycle and fiddling with one of its dials. “Is pone a word in Skalwegian?”

“It sure is,” Charlie said without looking up. “It means ‘He who makes a big weegan of himself by driving an eight-foot rat through the center of town.'”

“You’re no help.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

Lenny drifted off to ruminate on pone. The campus newspaper had labeled him the most distracted member of the faculty—misplacing his briefcase, forgetting to show up for class, walking into trees. But he’d also been one of the most popular until he’d flunked a pair of star football players. The school newspaper excoriated him, and fans called him a traitor. A few students considered him a hero, however. Lenny wanted to be neither.

Charlie tightened his helmet and slipped the key into the ignition. “I got to get back to the farm because Sally must have lunch ready by now. Besides, I don’t want to stick around and watch my good buddy make a big weegan of himself.”

“Can you come over tomorrow? We got only halfway through the G verbs this morning.”

“Tomorrow I got to work on the barn roof. Maybe the day after. Or the day after that.”

Charlie started the engine, leaned into the handlebars and roared away in a blast of blue smoke.

Lenny watched him go. There were times when Lenny felt like quitting the project. Charlie used him as resource—”What’s a gerund? Where do hyphens go? What in hell is a predicate complement?”—but had given him no real role in documenting the language itself. Although this was frustrating and puzzling, it was never quite enough to force Lenny to drop out. He took great pride in helping save a language, not to mention that it was a hot topic in linguistic circles and would go a long way toward saving his teaching job.

Tom and Titus simultaneously tucked their muscle shirts into their waistbands. Titus said, “We was football players.”

“Oh?” Lenny said. He paid no attention to team sports but closely attended to subject/verb conflicts.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Titus said. “But we got cheated and ain’t never going to get our whack at the NFL.”

Distracted, Lenny tugged on Gerry’s ropes. Yes, they’d definitely need retying. It pleased him to hear someone say ain’t so naturally and not merely to make an ironic point. He said over his shoulder, “NFL—that would be the National Federation of… uh…?”

“Holy shit on a shingle!” Titus said. “I’m talking about the National Football League—big money, fame and all the poontang a guy could ever want.”

Lenny had read somewhere that poontang descended from New Orleans Creole, from putain, the French word for prostitute, but he wasn’t absolutely sure. He would look into this later, along with pone. He turned to the brothers. “Something went wrong?”

The Sprockets looked at each other in wonder. “Yeah, you could say that,” Titus said. “We got screwed.”

“Yeah, screwed,” Tom repeated.

Lenny said, “That’s a shame.”

“Yeah, well, we’re gonna get payback,” Titus said and patted Gerry’s foot.

Lenny climbed into his car and eased out of the parking lot. Ropes squeaked against the door frames, the statue’s base creaked on the Chevy’s roof, and Lenny was sure he heard Gerry groan in anticipation of the dreadful day ahead.

In his rearview mirror, Lenny watched the diminishing Sprocket brothers waving and laughing. What an odd pair, he thought.

Lenny decided to take his usual route through the arboretum on his way downtown. The beauty and isolation of the place soothed him. He hoped it would today.

* * *

Bob One spotted a car approaching and got to his feet. It was an old black Chevy with a maroon right front fender. Don’t all professors drive Priuses?

But it had to be the guy on account of the statue on top like he’d been told to look for. What was that thing? A squirrel? A rat? Look at how the damn thing wobbles! About ready to tip over.

Bob One slipped closer to the road, crouched behind a bush, pulled his pistol from his belt and slapped a mosquito off his forehead. He examined the bloody splotch on his palm. Shit, stick around much longer, and the damn insects would suck him dead.

* * *

Lenny was scared.

In two days, he had to go on live television with Charlie and discuss their Skalwegian project—not easy for someone wanting to go through life invisible. Would he make a fool of himself? Say dumb things he’d later regret?

Probably.

Lenny’s thoughts turned back to the Sprocket brothers. Strange last name. Scholars could trace sprocket back as far as the mid-sixteenth century as a carpenter’s term but hadn’t yet located an ancestor.

Tom and Titus Sprocket!

Of course!

He’d flunked them in first-year French because they never showed up for class, which cost them their eligibility to play football. The dean had been furious with him but not with the errant guard and tackle. Jocks normally took Spanish with Juan Jorgenson—the other candidate for the language department’s one tenured slot. Juan automatically gave A’s to athletes just for registering.

Lenny reached over and cranked up the radio for the boisterous ending of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, then glanced up to see he was driving much too fast into Jackknife Corner.

Panicked, he jammed on the brakes and twisted the steering wheel hard left.

He felt the car tilt to the right and heard a loud Thunk! just as Beethoven’s Fifth swelled to a crescendo. Puzzled, Lenny drove on, with the Chevy pulling to the right. Probably something to do with tire pressure, Lenny guessed. He’d have that checked later.

* * *

Bob One lay on the side of road. Blood flowed out his left ear and down his cheek. His head buzzed, and his eyes slipped in and out of focus. He pulled himself to his feet, wobbled, then toppled into the ditch. He crawled into the marsh, still gripping his unfired handgun. Puddles soaked his knees and elbows. A possum trotted past. An airplane roared low overhead. Or was that inside his skull?

Bob One’s left temple hurt like a son of a bitch. That damn rat had toppled over and whacked him on the side of the head. Or was it a guinea pig?

Bob One curled up beside a bog. Half-conscious, he watched a fat snapping turtle waddle toward him, stop two feet from his nose, look him up and down, then open its jaw. Shit, Bob One said to himself, the thing’s got a mouth the size of a catcher’s mitt. Bob One didn’t like animals or much of anything else in nature. He tried to crawl away, but things started going dark—warm and dark—not such a bad feeling, actually.

Bob One awoke to see the turtle biting his right forefinger off at the second joint. Bob One felt no pain and noticed that one of his shoes was missing. As Bob One slipped comfortably into his final darkness, he wondered if a missing trigger finger would hinder him professionally.

* * *

Lenny reached the parade route late and swung in behind the school bandsmen in their sky-blue uniforms with “Skammer’s Fine Meats” embroidered in bright yellow across the back.

Spectators to Lenny’s right shouted and pointed. Some ducked, some knelt, some even dropped to their stomachs. Lenny shook his head in disbelief. Had students and townspeople taken to prostrating themselves before the college mascot? Did he really want tenure at a batty place like this?

At the end of the block, a policeman holding a Dunkin’ Donuts cup stepped into the street, raised his palm, and forced Lenny to brake.

As Lenny stepped from his car, he realized that he’d forgotten to retie the ropes.

Gerry Gerbil lay sideways across the car’s roof, projecting five feet to the right, the ankles tied precariously in place. Someone took a photo. Someone fingered the slack ropes and spoke of slip knots. Lenny touched a patch of something red and damp on the mascot’s forehead. Lenny rubbed thumb against forefinger. The stuff looked like blood.

Since when did gerbil statues bleed?

***

Excerpt from The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner. Copyright 2021 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces, and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller” and “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian” (both with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography, and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Facebook

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Book Showcase: LOVE AND LAVENDER by Josi S. Kilpack

Love and Lavender, Mayfield Family #4, by Josi S. Kilpack
ISBN: 9781629729299 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781649330345 (ebook)
ASIN: B09DDKF4F7 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B09BK6MRR5 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Historical Romance | Regency Romance | Inspirational Fiction

 
Hazel Stillman is a woman of rare independence and limited opportunities. Born with a clubbed foot, Hazel knows marriage is unlikely, so she devotes herself to teaching at a private girls’ school.

Duncan Penhale thrives on order and process. He has no interest in marriage, so when Elliott Mayfield, his guardian’s brother, offers him an inheritance if he weds, Duncan finds it intrusive. However, an inheritance means he could purchase a building and run his own accounting firm.

Hazel and Duncan believe they have found a solution to both of their problems: marry one another, claim their inheritances, and then part ways to enjoy their individual paths. But then Uncle Mayfield stipulates that they must first live together as a couple for one year.

Over time, their marriage of convenience becomes much more appealing than they had anticipated. At the end of the full year, will they go their separate ways or could an unlikely marriage have found unsuspecting love?

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 4
pages 39-42

 

“Well, then, I am off to the races.”

Duncan looked up from the ledger he was copying to see Mr. Ludwig pop up from his desk on the other side of the room. Mr. Ludwig did not mean actual horse races; rather, it was a phrase he used regularly to explain that he was leaving the office.

Duncan glanced at the clock on the wall. “It is only a quarter ’til six.”

Mr. Ludwig reached for his coat and hat hanging beside the door of their shared office. They had been working together for several months now, but it seemed like a much longer period of time due to the way the man increased Duncan’s workload and continually grated on Duncan’s nerves.

“I have finished my day’s work, old boy, and will return in the morning to start anew.”

Duncan did not like being called “old boy,” but it was an-other phrase Mr. Ludwig liked to utilize in his regular speech. If the man would speak concisely and not force Duncan to translate the meaning behind the things he said, they would likely get on far better than they did. Oh, and it would be nice if Mr. Ludwig cared at all for accurate accounting practices and did not interfere with Duncan’s relationship with the partners.

“Office hours are until six thirty on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Duncan said slowly, as if he were talking to a child or someone for whom English was not their first language. “If you have finished the Carillon account, you may begin tomorrow’s work.”

On Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, office hours for the junior clerks went to 5:30. Duncan had spoken to the partners on seven different occasions about choosing the same time to end each of the five workdays of the week so as to mitigate confusion, but they did not find the varying times inconvenient since they left whenever they wished.

The varying end time of the workdays was only one of several details that Duncan would change if he were the one making the decisions. But since he was not the one making the decisions, he had no choice but to abide by the stipulations enforced by the partners. He was the senior employee on the premises right now, and therefore it was his responsibility to make sure the rules were followed.

“Hmm,” Mr. Ludwig said as he walked to the clock located by the door and opened the glass face.

Duncan shot to his feet. “Mr. Ludwig!” He came around his desk and marched across the room while fumbling in his vest pocket for his pocket watch while Mr. Ludwig moved the hands of the clock.

Duncan was horrified. He wound his pocket watch every evening and checked the time with the clockmaker, Mr. Handlery, every Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Handlery’s clock was kept to Greenwich Time and cross-checked monthly.

Mr. Ludwig stood in front of him, the grin gone from his face. Duncan stepped left in order to move around him, but Mr. Ludwig stepped in the same direction, blocking Duncan’s path to the clock.

“I have an appointment tonight, Mr. Penhale, and I will be on my way, is that understood?”

“Changing the time on the clock does not change the time,” Duncan said, holding up his pocket watch to prove that he had possession of the actual time of day. The watch chain attached to Duncan’s vest pulled tight. He took a breath and forced himself to look Mr. Ludwig in the eye. Catherine had taught him it was an important social protocol he should use whenever possible, and he found it especially effective when he was trying to make a point, even though it made him uncomfortable.

“Office hours are until six thirty on Tuesday and Wednesdays—that is your appointment. Any other personal business you need to conduct must be done outside of business hours or with the stated permission of one of the partners. Since such permission has not been communicated to me, your early departure is a breach of policy.”

Mr. Ludwig grabbed the pocket watch from Duncan’s hand, snapping the chain, and threw it against the wall. The metal casing hit the wood panel like a stone and fell to the ground.

Duncan stared at the watch, his hands tightening into fists at his side.

“Unlike you, Mr. Penhale, I have a life outside of this miserable office,” Mr. Ludwig said, hissing through his teeth, his misty spittle hitting Duncan’s face.

“You are obligated by both employment and ethics to remain working until—”

“Go back to your desk, Mr. Penhale, and leave me be.” He moved to go around Duncan, but Duncan copied Mr. Ludwig’s earlier practice and stepped to the side, further blocking the man’s access to the door.

“You are not authorized to leave early.”

“My uncle owns this firm, Mr. Penhale, and he has about had his fill of you. One more complaint from me and you may very well find yourself on the street, is that what you want?”

“That is not what I want nor is it worth my concern. Terminating me would be a serious error in judgment, as you are a very poor clerk and I am a very skilled one.”

Mr. Ludwig laughed, but it was an odd sound that did not reflect amusement. He tried to step around Duncan a second time, and Duncan, fueled by his growing temper, once again blocked his passage.

“Take your place at your desk and finish the workday, Mr. Ludwig.”

Mr. Ludwig growled low in his throat and shoved Duncan’s right shoulder to move him out of the way. Upon the violent contact, Da’s voice sounded in Duncan’s head: Never start the altercation, Dunny, but if a bloke hits you first, hit back twice as hard.

Duncan caught himself mid-stumble, looked into Mr. Ludwig’s face to take aim, and punched the other man straight in the nose.

Excerpt from Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack.
Copyright © 2021 by Josi S. Kilpack. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Josi S. Kilpack has written more than thirty novels, a cookbook, and several novellas. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Best Novel 2015 for “Lord Fenton’s Folly, and has been a Utah Best of State winner for Fiction. Josi loves to bake, sleep, eat, read, travel, and watch TV–none of which she gets to do as much as she would like. She writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Jessica Pack.

Josi has four children and lives in Northern Utah.

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

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Book Showcase: DREAM STALKER by Nancy Gardner

Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner Banner

Dream Stalker

by Nancy Gardner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner

Lily Scott had vowed never to dream-walk-again….

Lily is a contemporary Salem witch who descends from a long line of witches born with the power to walk into other people’s dreams to fight crime. But her disastrous first dream-walk almost killed her, and she vowed never to repeat the painful experience.

Now her daughter is falsely accused of murder, and the only way to clear her would be for Lily to enter the dreaming mind of the real killer, risking confrontation with the deadly Dream Stalker.

Can Lily summon the courage?

Book Details:

Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Published by: Bowker
Publication Date: June 1st 2021
Number of Pages: 257
ISBN: 1733919945 (Paperback)
ISBN13: 9781733919944 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781733919951 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B095KL6FGN (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B097Q8YJKC (Audible audiobook)
Series: Dream Stalker, #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | ​Audible | ​Apple Play | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Reedsy | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Salem, Massachusetts—October 1, 2013

I stumbled through the early morning fog blanketing Salem’s Gallows Hill, hurrying to the oak tree that my maternal grandmother, Sadie MacAskill, loved. When I was a child, she’d taught me that witches like ourselves derive energy from working with green, growing plants and trees. I could still feel our arms stretched around the oak’s trunk, listening for the pulsing power within it.

“Feel Mother Earth’s wisdom rising,” she’d said.

I’d never needed wisdom more. The plan I’d cooked up with an old friend had gone terribly wrong. Kitty was supposed to bring my estranged daughter, Sarah, to dinner. Sarah’s favorite dinner, creamy chicken pesto and pasta, was baking in the oven when I got the call.

“Kitty hasn’t come home, and I’m not ready to see you without her. I may never be ready,” Sarah said, her voice cold and unforgiving. She hung up before I could reply.

When I called her back, she refused to answer. If my husband, Sam, had still been alive, he’d have known what to do. But he’d died two years ago.

It was long after midnight when I threw the cold casserole down the disposal and crawled into bed. When sleep proved impossible, I paced the empty rooms of our Chestnut Street home until dawn, then grabbed the nearly empty bottle of homemade dandelion brandy as an offering to Nana’s spirit and rode my Vespa to the park atop Gallows Hill.

Exhausted and headachy, I forgot to watch my step and tripped over a rock. I managed not to fall, but the bottle flew out of my hand. I watched it shatter, watched the last golden dregs seep into the grass. I felt like I was watching my relationship with my daughter ebb with it.

As I dropped shards of glass into the nearby trash can, the wind seemed to whisper that I didn’t deserve to find the wisdom I needed. I’d failed Nana, and I’d failed my daughter.

“Enough self-pity.” I pulled my leather jacket tighter and scurried past the crumbling pavilion and rusting flagpole to the ancient oak. Once again, I pressed my cheek to the rough bark, closed my eyes, and waited. The bark pulsed. A crow landed in the branches above me, cawing and shaking loose a shower of dead leaves. I opened my eyes, and for a moment, Nana’s face wavered before me. Then she was gone, leaving me with my questions unanswered.

My cell vibrated. Who would call me this early? Sarah? Kitty with an explanation? I checked the screen. Neither. Honey Campbell, my landlord and a good friend. She owned the building on Pickering Wharf where we both ran our businesses. Her barbershop took up the first floor. My herbal studio, Healing Thyme, sat above it.

“Hi, Honey. What’s up.”

“Thought you’d want to know your friend, Kitty, came looking for you,” Honey said in her soft Scottish brogue. “And bye-the-bye, she looked like shite. She stumbled off toward Moe’s. You might yet find her there.”

Two months earlier, Kitty had stopped me on the street. I’d taken her for a panhandler and almost turned her away. Then she said, “Lily, don’t you remember me? My parents took us to New York to see West Side Story. We had the best time.”

We’d shared a cup of coffee and Kitty shared her story. She’d been a high school biology teacher until she’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease had taken everything from her: her teaching career, her home, her reason for living. She’d ended up lost on the streets.

Things had taken a turn for the better for Kitty when she found a permanent bed at St. Bridget’s Homeless Shelter and, because of the doctor who volunteered his services there, Kitty’s memory was making a remarkable improvement.

“Thanks, Honey. I’m on my way.” I dashed back to the Vespa, strapped on my helmet, and started the engine. Usually, the thrum of the engine beneath me and the slapping rhythm of my braid tapping against my back soothed me. Not this morning. I pressed the throttle and hurried to Pickering Wharf, determined to find out what had gone wrong last night.

***

Excerpt from Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner. Copyright 2021 by Nancy Gardner. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner writes cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist. The first novel in her new series, Dream Stalker, tells the story of Lily Scott, a contemporary Salem witch who walks into people’s dreams to fight crime. One reviewer called it a gripping tale of witchcraft, family loyalties, and the cost of seeking justice. Her most recent short story, “Death’s Door,” was selected to be included in the 2021 anthology, Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical. She lives near Boston with her writer husband, David.

Catch Up With Nancy Gardner:
NancyGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @nancygardner5
Instagram – @ngauthor
Twitter – @NGardner_author
Facebook – @NancyGardnerAuthor

 

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nancy Gardner. There will be TWO (2) winners for this tour. Each of the Two (2) winners will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card (US ONLY). The giveaway runs November 1 through December 5 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: FAN CLUB by Erin Mayer

FAN CLUB by Erin MayerFan Club by Erin Mayer
ISBN: 9780778311591 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369706102 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488212543 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781665104791 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B094Q6D9C8 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08QSDDSJQ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: October 26, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Psychological Suspense

In this raucous psychological thriller, a millennial office worker finds relief from her crippling ennui in the embrace of a cliquey fan club, until she discovers the group of women is bound together by something darker than devotion.

Day after day our narrator, a gloomy millennial, searches for meaning beyond her vacuous job at a women’s lifestyle website—entering text into a computer system while she watches their beauty editor unwrap box after box of perfectly packaged bits of happiness. Then, one night at a dive bar, she hears a message in the newest single by child-actor-turned-international-pop-star Adriana Argento, and she is struck. Soon she loses herself to the online fandom, a community whose members feverishly track Adriana’s every move.

When a colleague notices the extent of her obsession, she’s invited to join an enigmatic group of adult Adriana superfans who call themselves the Ivies and worship her music in witchy, candlelit listening parties. As the narrator becomes more entrenched in the group, she gets closer to uncovering the sinister secrets that bind them together—while simultaneously losing her grip on reality.

With caustic wit and hypnotic writing, this unsparingly critical thrill ride through millennial life examines all that is wrong in our celebrity-obsessed internet age, and how easy it is to lose yourself in it.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I’m outside for a cumulative ten minutes each day before work. Five to walk from my apartment building to the subway, another five to go from the subway to the anemic obelisk that houses my office. I try to breathe as deeply as I can in those minutes, because I never know how long it will be until I take fresh air into my lungs again. Not that the city air is all that fresh, tinged with the sharp stench of old garbage, pollution’s metallic swirl. But it beats the stale oxygen of the office, already filtered through distant respiratory systems. Sometimes, during slow moments at my desk, I inhale and try to imagine those other nostrils and lungs that have already processed this same air. I’m not sure how it works in reality, any knowledge I once had of the intricacies of breathing having been long ago discarded by more useful information, but the image comforts me. Usually, I picture a middle-aged man with greying temples, a fringe of visible nose hair, and a coffee stain on the collar of his baby blue button-down. He looks nothing and everything like my father. An every-father, if you will.

My office is populated by dyed-blonde or pierced brunette women in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. The occasional man, just a touch older than most of the women, but still young enough to give off the faint impression that he DJs at Meatpacking nightclubs for extra cash on the weekends.

We are the new corporate Americans, the offspring of the grey-templed men. We wear tastefully ripped jeans and cozy sweaters to the office instead of blazers and trousers. Display a tattoo here and there—our supervisors don’t mind; in fact, they have the most ink. We eat yogurt for breakfast, work through lunch, leave the office at six if we’re lucky, arriving home with just enough time to order dinner from an app and watch two or three hours of Netflix before collapsing into bed from exhaustion we haven’t earned. Exhaustion that lives in the brain, not the body, and cannot be relieved by a mere eight hours of sleep.

Nobody understands exactly what it is we do here, and neither do we. I push through revolving glass door, run my wallet over the card reader, which beeps as my ID scans through the stiff leather, and half-wave in the direction of the uniformed security guard behind the desk, whose face my eyes never quite reach so I can’t tell you what he looks like. He’s just one of the many set-pieces staging the scene of my days.

The elevator ride to the eleventh floor is long enough to skim one-third of a longform article on my phone. I barely register what it’s about, something loosely political, or who is standing next to me in the cramped elevator.

When the doors slide open on eleven, we both get off.

In the dim eleventh-floor lobby, a humming neon light shaping the company logo assaults my sleep-swollen eyes like the prick of a dozen tiny needles. Today, a small section has burned out, creating a skip in the letter w. Below the logo is a tufted cerulean velvet couch where guests wait to be welcomed. To the left there’s a mirrored wall reflecting the vestibule; people sometimes pause there to take photos on the way to and from the office, usually on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I see the photos later while scrolling through my various feeds at home in bed. They hit me one after another like shots of tequila: See ya Tuesday! *margarita emoji* Peace out for the long weekend! *palm tree emoji* Byeeeeee! *peace sign emoji.*

She steps in front of me, my elevator companion. Black Rag & Bone ankle boots gleaming, blade-tipped pixie cut grazing her ears. Her neck piercing taunts me, those winking silver balls on either side of her spine. She’s Lexi O’ Connell, the website’s senior editor. She walks ahead with her head angled down, thumb working her phone’s keyboard, and doesn’t look up as she shoves the interior door open, palm to the glass.

I trip over the back of one clunky winter boot with the other as I speed up, considering whether to call out for her attention. It’s what a good web producer, one who is eager to move on from the endless drudgery of copy-pasting and resizing and into the slightly more thrilling drudgery of writing and rewriting, would do.

By the time I regain my footing, I come face-to-face with the smear of her handprint as the door glides shut in front of me.

Monday.

I work at a website.

It’s like most other websites; we publish content, mostly articles: news stories, essays, interviews, glossed over with the polished opalescent sheen of commercialized feminism. The occasional quiz, video, or photoshoot rounds out our offerings. This is how websites work in the age of ad revenue: Each provides a slightly varied selection of mindless entertainment, news updates, and watered-down hot takes about everything from climate change to plus size fashion, hawking their wares on the digital marketplace, leaving The Reader to wander drunkenly through the bazaar, wielding her cursor like an Amex. You can find everything you’d want to read in one place online, dozens of times over. The algorithms have erased choice. Search engines and social media platforms, they know what you want before you do.

As a web producer, my job is to input article text into the website’s proprietary content management system, or CMS. I’m a digitized high school janitor; I clean up the small messes, the litter that misses the rim of the garbage can. I make sure the links are working and the images are high resolution. When anything bigger comes up, it goes to an editor or IT. I’m an expert in nothing, a master of the minuscule fixes.

There are five of us who produce for the entire website, each handling about 20 articles a day. We sit at a long grey table on display at the very center of the open office, surrounded on all sides by editors and writers.

The web producers’ bullpen, Lexi calls it.

The light fixture above the table buzzes loudly like a nest of bees is trapped inside the fluorescent tubing. I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat, shedding my coat like a layer of skin. My chair faces the beauty editor’s desk, the cruelest seat in the house. All day long, I watch Charlotte Miller receive package after package stuffed with pastel tissue paper. Inside those packages: lipstick, foundation, perfume, happiness. A thousand simulacrums of Christmas morning spread across the two-hundred and sixty-one workdays of the year. She has piled the trappings of Brooklyn hipsterdom on top of her blonde, big-toothed, prettiness. Wire-frame glasses, a tattoo of a constellation on her inner left forearm, a rose gold nose ring. She seems Texan, but she’s actually from some wholesome upper Midwestern state, I can never remember which one. Right now, she applies red lipstick from a warm golden tube in the flat gleam of the golden mirror next to her monitor. Everything about her is color-coordinated.

I open my laptop. The screen blinks twice and prompts me for my password. I type it in, and the CMS appears, open to where I left it when I signed off the previous evening. Our CMS is called LIZZIE. There’s a rumor that it was named after Lizzie Borden, christened during the pre-launch party when the tech team pounded too many shots after they finished coding. As in, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks.” Lizzie Borden rebranded in the 21st century as a symbol of righteous feminine anger. LIZZIE, my best friend, my closest confidant. She’s an equally comforting and infuriating presence, constant in her bland attention. She gazes at me, always emotionless, saying nothing as she watches me teeter on the edge, fighting tears or trying not to doze at my desk or simply staring, in search of answers she cannot provide.

My eyes droop in their sockets as I scan the articles that were submitted before I arrived this morning. The whites threaten to turn liquid and splash onto my keyboard, pool between the keys and jiggle like eggs minus the yolks. Thinking of this causes a tiny laugh to slip out from between my clenched lips. Charlotte slides the cap onto her lipstick, glares at me over the lip of the mirror.

“Morning.”

That’s Tom, the only male web producer, who sits across and slightly left of me, keeping my view of Charlotte’s towering wonderland of boxes and bags clear. He’s four years older than me, twenty-eight, but the plush chipmunk curve of his cheeks makes him appear much younger, like he’s about to graduate high school. He’s cute, though, in the way of a movie star who always gets cast as the geek in teen comedies. Definitely hot but dress him down in an argyle sweater and glasses and he could be a Hollywood nerd. I’ve always wanted to ask him why he works here, doing this. There isn’t really a web producer archetype. We’re all different, a true island of misfit toys.

But if there is a type, Tom doesn’t fit it. He seems smart and driven. He’s consistently the only person who attends company book club meetings having read that month’s selection from cover to cover. I’ve never asked him why he works here because we don’t talk much. No one in our office talks much. Not out loud, anyway. We communicate through a private Morse code, fingers dancing on keys, expressions scanned and evaluated from a distance.

Sometimes I think about flirting with Tom, for something to do, but he wears a wedding ring. Not that I care about his wife; it’s more the fear of rebuff and rejection, of hearing the low-voiced Sorry, I’m married, that stops me. He usually sails in a few minutes after I do, smelling like his bodega coffee and the egg sandwich he carefully unwraps and eats at his desk. He nods in my direction. Morning is the only word we’ve exchanged the entire time I’ve worked here, which is coming up on a year in January. It’s not even a greeting, merely a statement of fact. It is morning and we’re both here. Again.

Three hundred and sixty-five days lost to the hum and twitch and click. I can’t seem to remember how I got here. It all feels like a dream. The mundane kind, full of banal details, but something slightly off about it all. I don’t remember applying for the job, or interviewing. One day, an offer letter appeared in my inbox and I signed.

And here I am. Day after day, I wait for someone to need me. I open articles. I tweak the formatting, check the links, correct the occasional typo that catches my eye. It isn’t really my job to copy edit, or even to read closely, but sometimes I notice things, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and I then can’t not notice them; I have to put them right or else they nag like a papercut on the soft webbing connecting two fingers. The brain wants to be useful. It craves activity, even after almost three hundred and sixty-five days of operating at its lowest frequency.

I open emails. I download attachments. I insert numbers into spreadsheets. I email those spreadsheets to Lexi and my direct boss, Ashley, who manages the homepage.

None of it ever seems to add up to anything.

Excerpt from Fan Club by Erin Mayer. Copyright © 2021 by Erin Mayer. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Erin Mayer

Erin Mayer is a freelance writer and editor based in Maine. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Man Repeller, Literary Hub, and others. She was previously an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle.com.

Connect with the Author:  Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Author Website 

This excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

Book Showcase: THE ENCANTO by Arthur Swan

The Encanto, LA Fog Book #1, by Arthur Swan
ISBN: 9780996560535 (paperback)
ASIN: B0994W46CD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Swanfall
Release Date: October 14, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Supernatural Thriller


An ancient Mayan artifact, smuggled into Los Angeles, unexpectedly alters three lives in bizarre ways.

Gray, an aspiring artist struggling to provide for his family, Claire, his insomniac wife, and Ashley York, a wealthy socialite striving to make it as a real actress, find their paths crashing together, their dreams and their very identities threatened.

Meanwhile, Saul Parker, a detective and hobbyist magician who is self-conscious about his weight, strives to solve a strange case that seems impossible to comprehend.

Only Wayob, a mysterious chameleon-like killer, has a grasp on the dangerous power that has consumed his life and now infiltrates the others.

The Encanto, Book 1 of the LA Fog series, is an intricately woven, character-based mystery about how the choices we make inform our identity.

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

 

Read an excerpt:

Would a cloud be too much to ask? The afternoon sky had thinned out and surrendered to the relentless sun. Saul parked on Lincoln Boulevard near the mob of looky-loos pressing in around the barricades on the sidewalk. Behind the crime scene was a carwash with faded fin-toppers that might have looked stylish in the sixties.

He left the engine running for the AC. In front of him was a pink van advertising “Topless Maids $99” and then a squad car. Beside it, Hernandez was talking to the uniforms. She was five foot two and lithe. She only saw him as a partner, but Saul was hoping for more.

He couldn’t bear for her to see him heave his huge belly out. If she would just get in here with him, they could crank up the AC and talk like human beings. Forget all the politics and procedure of the LAPD.

He motioned her towards his car, but she looked away.

He flashed his lights.

Useless signal against the sunlight. He sighed. Grabbed his trench coat from the backseat. Climbed out of the car and put it on. It did little to hide his girth. If anything, the coat made him more conspicuous.

Instantly sweating, he tried to ignore the murmurs from the crowd, the mouths gaping open, all the phones pointing at him as plowed his big belly toward Hernandez.

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye but continued joking with the uniforms, as if unaware of his approach. Her skin was perfect. She would look twenty-five if not for the clump of gray hair always falling across her forehead.

“What’s the status?” he asked.

“Where you been, Barker?” She trotted out her Chicana accent, pronouncing the P in his last name like a B. She was pissed.

“Traffic’s a bitch,” he said.

She pointed inside his coat. “Is that the evidence you were looking for?”

He glanced down. A dollop of ketchup stained his shirt. He hadn’t noticed it escape his burger. He should have told her he was going to the Castle for lunch. She knew he belonged to the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, but she had no idea how much he loved going there. The ornate wood and crystal chandeliers. The deliberate lack of windows which made it feel like stepping out of LA and back in time to an alternate world where the air seemed to spark with possibility.

He’d only lied because Hernandez was working through lunch, and what if, like his ex, she hated magic?

He buttoned his coat over the stain. They needed to focus on the case. At least Saul did. Not that Lieutenant Levy had actually told him in so many words, but she’d called Hernandez with the assignment instead of Saul when he was the lead detective, or he was supposed to be. If Levy had demoted him, she should have at least told him, but Saul wasn’t surprised. She was passive-aggressive and still held a grudge against him for the Brown shooting. Although he’d been cleared of wrongdoing, the fallout had stalled her career.

Hernandez led him away from the uniforms to the black-and-white on the curb in front of Checks Cashed. In the backseat, a middle-aged man with a shaved head, stared at the crowd with a sour expression.

Hernandez turned toward Saul and combed back her shock of white. “Look. I don’t care if you take a long lunch, just let me know where you’re at, okay? We’re partners. We’re supposed to trust each other.”

Her eyes caught the sunlight like honey. Saul tried to memorize every detail. He could gaze into them for hours. “I went to the Castle. If you want to come next time—”

“Hollywood is too far for lunch.”

Was she suggesting somewhere else? A real sit-down meal instead of their usual takeout. Or maybe dinner? The Castle would be ideal for dinner.
Before he could ask, she slapped the roof of the squad car. “We’ve got the bastard dead to rights, and get this: he can’t move his legs.”

“He’s a paraplegic?”

“Exactly. His wheelchair’s in the trunk.”

Saul peered through the back window of the car. The man inside had a potbelly. His arms were cuffed behind his back. He looked up at Saul, his face blank and his eyes, shadowed by a massive brow, just dark hollows.

Saul shuddered.

Excerpt from The Encanto by Arthur Swan.
Copyright © 2021 by Arthur Swan. Published by Swanfall. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Author Photo - Arthur Swan
Arthur Swan

Arthur Swan was raised in North Carolina and now resides in Los Angeles, where his “day job” is a Character Supervisor for Dreamworks. He has contributed to films ranging from ‘A Beautiful Mind’ to ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’

In his spare time, when he’s not writing or swimming his morning laps, he volunteers for Young Storytellers, enjoys fishing and fireworks with his favorite niece and nephew, and on weekends he can be found hiking high climbs in early fog before the sun burns through as mist vanishes to blue sky.

His first novel, Before the Sun Hits, won the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Award.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website
This excerpt and tour brought to you by PR By The Book

Book Showcase: AN IMPOSSIBLE PROMISE by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets

Harlequin Trade Publishing Fall 2021 Women's Fiction Blog Tours Banner, HTP Books, Stories Worth Reading, featuring book covers for AN IMPOSSIBLE PROMISE by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets and more

An Impossible Promise, Providence Falls Book 2, by Jude Deveraux with Tara Sheets
ISBN: 9780778312123 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778332084 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369703071 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488212482 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781665104043 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08QZ29VZ5 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B08YP7WPVM (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Publisher: MIRA Books
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Time Travel Romance | Women’s Fiction

 
9780778312123_LHC_prd

They can’t be together, but they can’t stay apart…

Liam O’Connor has one purpose in this life—to push the woman he loves into the arms of another man. The Irish rogue unknowingly changed the course of destiny when he fell in love with Cora McLeod over a century ago. Their passion was intense, brief and tragic. And the angels have been trying to restore the balance of fate ever since.

Now police officers in Providence Falls, North Carolina, Liam and Cora are partners on a murder investigation. The intensity of the case has drawn them closer together—exactly what Liam is supposed to avoid. The angels have made it clear Cora must be with Finley Walsh. But headstrong Cora makes her own decisions and she’s starting to have feelings for Liam—the only thing he’s ever really wanted.

Liam knows this is the last chance to save his soul. But does he love Cora enough to let her go?

 

Read an excerpt:

 

PROLOGUE

THE CELESTIAL CHAMBER OF JUDGMENT WAS not cozy by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the time it appeared to be nothing more than white roiling walls of mist, which the angel Agon found downright dreary. But his associate Samael deemed it necessary, believing that human souls facing judgment were better off with no distractions. This was probably why Samael’s face was now scrunched in open disapproval—an expression Agon had grown used to over the centuries.

“What,” Samael demanded, pointing an elegant finger at the object against the chamber wall, “is that?” With his blond ringlets and cherub cheeks, he looked like a Renaissance painting of a frazzled choir boy.

It made Agon want to smile, but he refrained. For an angel as old as himself, he’d learned a thing or two. Instead, he drew up to his full height, impressive even by angelic standards, and stretched his snowy wings wide. “It’s called a recliner,” he said cheerfully. “For sitting and resting. Very comforting to humans, from what I gather.”

Samael looked incredulous. “I’ve told you before, this is no place of solace. Human souls are summoned here to face judgment, and not all of them are headed to a comfortable destination.”

“True.” Agon sat on the edge of the overstuffed chair, swiveling left, then right. “But I see no harm in offering them a place to rest while we review their lives. If nothing else, it will provide an alternative to their usual pacing and wringing of hands and stumbling about in distress. It is pitiable when they do that, you must admit.”

Samael sighed, shook his head and turned toward the wall of mist. A good sign, Agon decided. For now, it seemed the new chair could stay. Perhaps later he could bring in a few other earthly things to liven up the place, but what was that human expression? Ah, yes. Baby steps.

“We haven’t time for your antics,” Samael muttered, waving a hand at the wall of mist. “Our wayward rogue is about to learn a valuable lesson.”

The mist cleared, revealing a city street at night. A swarthy stranger in a black leather jacket and designer jeans pulled his motorcycle to a stop outside a sports bar.

Agon rose from the chair and went to stand beside Samael as they watched the scene unfold. “You’re sure this man is just like Liam O’Connor?”

“He has all the same traits as the rogue,” Samael said. “The arrogance, the selfish motives, the questionable morals. He wasn’t originally scheduled to cross paths with Liam, but it was easy enough to arrange.”

Agon tilted his dark head, studying the man who was now sauntering toward the entrance of the bar. A neon sign that read ROOKIES blinked above the door. “And you’re certain introducing this man to Liam will serve a useful purpose?”

Samael crossed his arms. “It will be good for Liam to see his own personality traits reflected in someone else. Perhaps then, through serious introspection, the rogue will realize his many faults and be at peace with the task we’ve given him.”

“Perhaps,” Agon said, though he wasn’t so sure. Liam O’Connor and peace did not seem to mix. The man was hell-bent on winning Cora McLeod for himself, no matter how much he assured the angels he was trying to help Cora achieve her true destiny by marrying Finley Walsh. Agon knew what desperation looked like in a man’s eyes, and paired with determination, it could be a dangerous combination. Liam had both in abundance. “I hope it works. He only has two months left to achieve his task.”

Samael let out a huff. “It has to work. We can’t interfere with his free will, and this is the last thing I could think of to help steer him in the right direction. We’ve already agreed to some of the ‘boosts’ he’s asked for. Rudimentary computer knowledge. Fair warning when we plan to visit. We’ve even made it so he’d no longer feel pain whenever he and Cora touch.” He gave Agon a stern look. “That last one was only because you advocated so strongly on his behalf.”

“I think we can trust him to make the right decisions,” Agon said. “I know he seems like a lost cause, but let us have faith that he will prevail.”

“Mmm, faith,” Samael said as they watched the tall man disappear into the bar. “In a rogue. What could possibly go wrong?”

 

Excerpt from An Impossible Promise by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets.
Copyright © 2021 by Deveraux Inc. Published by MIRA Books. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Authors

Portrait of Jude Deveraux, 2018

Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-three New York Times bestsellers, including For All Time, Moonlight in the Morning, and A Knight in Shining Armor. She was honored with a Romantic Times Pioneer Award in 2013 for her distinguished career. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide. Jude lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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

 

Author - Tara Sheets

Tara Sheets is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her work has earned first place recognition in literary contests nationwide, and her debut novel, Don’t Call Me Cupcake, won the 2016 Golden Heart® award sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Tara lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Website

This excerpt and virtual book tour brought to you by MIRA Books

Book Showcase: THE INHERITANCE by JoAnn Ross

The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross
ISBN: 9781335503190 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781335418562 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781488077968 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488211485 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781665069540 (audiobook – CD)
ASIN: B08NGMVRL3 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0931R1B56 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Romance | World War II

CoverThe Inheritance_Ross
 

With a dramatic WWII love story woven throughout, JoAnn Ross’s women’s fiction debut is a generational saga full of sisterly affection and rivalry, perfect for fans of Susan Wiggs, Mary Alice Monroe and Lisa Wingate.

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.

After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband’s political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father’s final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Aberdeen, Oregon

Conflict photographer Jackson Swann had traveled to dark and deadly places in the world most people would never see. Nor want to. Along with dodging bullets and mortars, he’d survived a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, gotten shot mere inches from his heart in Niger and been stung by a death-stalker scorpion while embedded with the French Foreign Legion in Mali.
Some of those who’d worked with him over the decades had called him reckless. Rash. Dangerous. Over late-night beers or whatever else passed as liquor in whatever country they’d all swarmed to, other photographers and foreign journalists would argue about whether that bastard Jackson Swann had a death wish or merely considered himself invincible.

He did, after all, rush into high-octane situations no sane person would ever consider, and even when the shit hit the fan, somehow, he’d come out alive and be on the move again. Chasing the next war or crisis like a drug addict chased a high. The truth was that Jack had never believed himself to be immortal. Still, as he looked out over the peaceful view of rolling hills, the cherry trees wearing their spring profusion of pink blossoms, and acres of vineyards, he found it ironic that after having evaded the Grim Reaper so many times over so many decades, it was an aggressive and rapidly spreading lung cancer that was going to kill him.

Which was why he was here, sitting on the terraced patio of Chateau de Madeleine, the towering gray stone house that his father, Robert Swann, had built for his beloved war bride, Madeleine, to ease her homesickness. Oregon’s Willamette Valley was a beautiful place. But it was not Madeleine’s child-hood home in France’s Burgundy region where much of her family still lived.

Family. Jack understood that to many, the American dream featured a cookie-cutter suburban house, a green lawn you had to mow every weekend, a white picket fence, happy, well-fed kids and a mutt who’d greet him with unrestrained canine glee whenever he returned home from work. It wasn’t a bad dream. But it wasn’t, and never would be, his dream.

How could it be with the survivor’s guilt that shadowed him like a tribe of moaning ghosts? Although he’d never been all that introspective, Jack realized that the moral dilemma he’d experienced every time he’d had to force himself to re-main emotionally removed from the bloody scenes of chaos and death he was viewing through the lens of his camera had left him too broken to feel, or even behave like a normal human being.

Ten years ago, after his strong, robust father died of a sudden heart attack while fly-fishing, Jack had inherited the winery with his mother, who’d professed no interest in the day-to-day running of the family business. After signing over control of the winery to him, and declaring the rambling house too large for one woman, Madeleine Swann had moved into the guesthouse next to the garden she’d begun her first year in Oregon. A garden that supplied the vegetables and herbs she used for cooking many of the French meals she’d grown up with.

His father’s death had left Jack in charge of two hundred and sixty acres of vineyards and twenty acres of orchards. Not wanting, nor able, to give up his wanderlust ways to settle down and become a farmer of grapes and cherries, Jack had hired Gideon Byrne, a recent widower with a five-year-old daughter, away from a Napa winery to serve as both manager and vintner.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call them?” Gideon, walking toward him, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses, asked not for the first time over the past weeks.

“The only reason that Tess would want to see me would be to wave me off to hell.” In the same way he’d never softened the impact of his photos, Jack never minced words nor romanticized his life. There would be no dramatic scenes with his three daughters—all now grown women with lives of their own—hovering over his deathbed.

“Have you considered that she might want to have an opportunity to talk with you? If for no other reason to ask—”

“Why I deserted her before her second birthday and never looked back? I’m sure her mother’s told her own version of the story, and the truth is that the answers are too damn complicated and the time too long past for that discussion.” It was also too late for redemption.

Jack doubted his eldest daughter would give a damn even if he could’ve tried to explain. She’d have no way of knowing that he’d kept track of her all these years, blaming himself when she’d spiraled out of control so publicly during her late teens and early twenties. Perhaps, if she’d had a father who came home every night for dinner, she would have had a more normal, stable life than the Hollywood hurricane her mother had thrown her into before her third birthday.

Bygones, he reminded himself. Anything he might say to his firstborn would be too little, too late. Tess had no reason to travel to Oregon for his sake, but hopefully, once he was gone, curiosity would get the better of her. His girls should know each other. It was long past time.

“Charlotte, then,” Gideon pressed. “You and Blanche are still technically married.”

Technically being the operative word.” The decades-long separation from his Southern socialite wife had always suited them both just fine. According to their prenuptial agreement, Blanche would continue to live her privileged life in Charleston, without being saddled with a full-time live-in husband, who’d seldom be around at any rate. Divorce, she’d informed him, was not an option. And if she had discreet affairs from time to time, who would blame her? Certainly not him.

“That’s no reason not to give Charlotte an opportunity to say goodbye. How many times have you seen her since she went to college? Maybe twice a year?”

“You’re pushing again,” Jack shot back. Hell, you’d think a guy would be allowed to die in peace without Jiminy Cricket sitting on his shoulder. Though of the three of them, Charlotte will probably be the most hurt,” he allowed.

His middle daughter had always been a sweet girl, running into his arms, hair flying behind her like a bright gold flag to give her daddy some “sugar”—big wet kisses on those rare occasions he’d wind his way back to Charleston. Or drop by Savannah to take her out to dinner while she’d been attending The Savannah School of Art and Design.

“The girl doesn’t possess Blanche’s steel magnolia strength.”

Having grown up with a mother who could find fault in the smallest of things, Charlotte was a people pleaser, and that part of her personality would kick into high gear whenever he rolled into the city. “And, call me a coward, but I’d just as soon not be around when her pretty, delusional world comes crashing down around her.” He suspected there were those in his daughter’s rarified social circle who knew the secret that the Charleston PI he’d kept on retainer hadn’t had any trouble uncovering.

“How about Natalie?” Gideon continued to press. “She doesn’t have any reason to be pissed at you. But I’ll bet she will be if you die without a word of warning. Especially after losing her mother last year.”

“Which is exactly why I don’t want to put her through this.”

He’d met Josette Seurat, the ebony-haired, dark-eyed French Jamaican mother of his youngest daughter, when she’d been singing in a club in the spirited Oberkampf district of Paris’s eleventh arrondissement. He’d fallen instantly, and by the next morning Jack knew that not only was the woman he’d spent the night having hot sex with his first true love, she was also the only woman he’d ever love. Although they’d never married, they’d become a couple, while still allowing space for each other to maintain their own individual lives, for twenty-six years. And for all those years, despite temptation from beautiful women all over the globe, Jack had remained faithful. He’d never had a single doubt that Josette had, as well.

With Josette having been so full of life, her sudden death from a brain embolism had hit hard. Although Jack had immediately flown to Paris from Syria to attend the funeral at a church built during the reign of Napoleon III, he’d been too deep in his own grief, and suffering fatigue—which, rather than jet lag, as he’d assumed, had turned out to be cancer—to provide the emotional support and comfort his third daughter had deserved.

“Josette’s death is the main reason I’m not going to drag Natalie here to watch me die. And you might as well quit playing all the guilt cards because I’m as sure of my decision as I was yesterday. And the day before that. And every other time over the past weeks you’ve brought it up. Bad enough you coerced me into making those damn videos. Like I’m some documentary maker.”

To Jack’s mind, documentary filmmakers were storytellers who hadn’t bothered to learn to edit. How hard was it to spend anywhere from two to ten hours telling a story he could capture in one single, perfectly timed photograph?

“The total length of all three of them is only twenty minutes,” Gideon said equably.

There were times when Jack considered that the man had the patience of a saint. Which was probably necessary when you’d chosen to spend your life watching grapes grow, then waiting years before the wine you’d made from those grapes was ready to drink. Without Gideon Byrne to run this place, Jack probably would have sold it off to one of the neighboring vineyards years ago, with the caveat that his mother would be free to keep the guesthouse, along with the larger, showier one that carried her name. Had he done that he would have ended up regretting not having a thriving legacy to pass on to his daughters.

“The total time works out to less than ten minutes a daughter. Which doesn’t exactly come close to a Ken Burns series,” Gideon pointed out.

“I liked Burns’s baseball one,” Jack admitted reluctantly. “And the one on country music. But hell, it should’ve been good, given that he took eight years to make it.”

Jack’s first Pulitzer had admittedly been a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time. More care had gone into achieving the perfect photos for other awards, but while he admired Burns’s work, he’d never have the patience to spend that much time on a project. His French mother had claimed he’d been born a pierre roulante—rolling stone—always needing to be on the move. Which wasn’t conducive to family life, which is why both his first and second marriages had failed. Because he could never be the husband either of his very different wives had expected.

“Do you believe in life after death?” he asked.

Gideon took his time to answer, looking out over the vineyards. “I like to think so. Having lost Becky too soon, it’d be nice to believe we’ll connect again, somewhere, somehow.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, there are days that I think this might be our only shot.”

“Josette came again last night.”

“You must have enjoyed that.”

“I always do.”

Excerpt from The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross.
Copyright © 2021 by JoAnn Ross. Published by Harlequin Books S.A. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

JoAnn Ross Author photo

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. The author of over 100 novels, JoAnn lives with her husband and many rescue pets — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest.

Connect with the author via: 

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This excerpt and virtual book tour brought to you by Harlequin Books

Book Showcase: THE MATCHMAKER’S LONELY HEART by Nancy Campbell Allen

THE MATCHMAKER'S LONELY HEART Blog Tour banner featuring the book cover on the right, book cover features a Victorian female in a jacketed suit, wearing a hat and using a parasol as a walking stick and a Victorian male in a three-piece suit, wearing a bowler hat and carrying a walking stick; both are facing forward and the cover appears to be a spoof of a Victorian newspaper, the words THE MATCHMAKER'S LONELY HEART appears between the female and male in decorative lettering, underneath the title is the name of the author, Nancy Campbell Allan.

The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen
ISBN: 9781629729275 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781649330284 (ebook)
ASIN: B09FCF33R7 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B094YR2Z2X (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Historical Romance | Historical Mystery | Inspirational Fiction

The Matchmakers Lonley Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen 2021

London, 1885

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe―a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband―Harold Radcliffe―of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 3: pp. 11-14

 

Michael leaned against his desk as he fastened his cuffs. He looked at the empty desk and hoped he would do his friend proud, that he would reach the end of his life knowing he had carried Stanley’s responsibilities to the very last.

Stanley had been the lighter of the two of them, the hap-pier. He’d always teased Michael for being too serious, and he’d been one of the few who made him truly laugh. Michael’s serious nature had settled in with a vengeance after Stanley died, and while he was aware of it, he was at a loss about how to fix it. He wasn’t sure he wanted it to be fixed. If he kept the lightness at bay, the darkness wasn’t nearly so noticeable when it descended.

As he straightened and shrugged into his jacket, he looked at the open file on his desk with Nathaniel Winston’s sketch inside. After hours of work, Michael believed the victim’s name was Marie Verite Radcliffe; her husband had reported her missing the day before. When Winston arrived, the two of them would go to the address provided and speak with Mr. Radcliffe. They would show him a photograph of the deceased woman that had been taken earlier at the morgue and then quickly developed. He would watch the man’s reaction and gauge the showing of shock and grief. He hoped it would be genuine. Everyone grieved differently, but sometimes . . . sometimes it rang false, and Michael simply knew.

He heard Winston’s chuckle in the outer room and glanced up to see him through the glass in the door. Michael had been irrationally resentful when Winston transferred from another division to fill the vacancy left by Stanley’s death. But, while the bond with Winston would never be the same as the one he’d had with Stanley, they got on well, and Winston had been wise enough to ease his way into the department with subtlety.

Winston entered the office and nodded. “Quite the crowd out there today.”

“Indeed. Not so strange for a Friday, however.”

Winston started to shrug out of his greatcoat but paused, motioning toward the paperwork on Michael’s desk. “The new victim’s file?”

“Yes. Not much in it, but I believe we might have a name. Have you time for a visit?”

“Absolutely.” He settled his greatcoat back on his shoulders with a smile. “Have we received word from the coroner’s office?”

“Just the photo of the deceased taken this morning. I believe Neville is beginning his examination. Which gives us time to call on”—Michael consulted the file with the husband’s in-formation—”Mr. Harold Radcliffe, solicitor.” He donned his coat and hat and gathered the slim file in one hand.

As they crossed through the common area, he glanced over at the division director’s office. John Ellis was a shrewd and exacting man in his mid-thirties. He was also the youngest Investigative Director of record and had proven himself worthy of the job, despite the naysayers who’d suggested his position was only because of the far-reaching influence of his titled and prominent father. Behind the glass in his door, Director Ellis was playing host to a pair of minor dignities from Paris.

Winston gave Michael a grin as they passed. “Third consecutive day the director has performed the duties of a diplomat. I see the commissioner has delegated his responsibilities beautifully.”

“They arrived for their appointment thirty minutes early.” Michael pushed the door open, and they stepped out into a drizzly rain. “We’re sure to hear the details later.”

“I certainly hope so. I’ve an aunt who writes romantic novels, and she is ever looking for fresh anecdotes regarding the prestigious and well-to-do.”

They hurried through the rain to a CID carriage, which was different than customary cabs only in the discreet lettering on the side of its otherwise bland appearance. Michael gave the driver the address, and he and Winston settled in for the short ride.

“Bloomsbury, is it?” Winston said. “Respectable, upper middle class—one might think such folk are immune to disasters such as this.”

“We both know disasters do not favor one over another. Our work might be a sight simpler if death restricted itself to one class.”

They rode in silence for a time until Winston spoke again. “I must ask, and hope I do not irritate you with it, but some of the lads at the Yard mentioned your undercover assignment last year. From what I could gather, you played the part of a tailor very well.” Winston’s lips twitched. “A noble enough profession, to be sure, but I’d have thought a cover as a pugilist, perhaps, might have been more readily convincing.”

Michael smiled. “Perhaps my secret personae shall be written in future policing manuals and held up as a shining example.” He sighed. “The long and short of it is my mother was a seamstress and my father was a constable. He died when I was young, and although my mother was accomplished, she was often behind on orders and needed help. I learned quickly.”

Excerpt from The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen. Copyright © 2021 by Nancy Campbell Allen. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Advance Praise

“Allen pairs a matchmaker and a detective in this charming Victorian romance. Allen expertly combines mystery and romance into a fast-paced tale complete with plenty of surprises and a central relationship founded on mutual admiration and respect. Readers are sure to appreciate the strong, well-shaded heroine and twisty plot.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“Allen’s chaste tale of Victorian romantic suspense will also appeal to historical mystery readers, and it would be great for mother-and-daughter reads. This has great appeal for teens who like historical fiction laced with mystery and romance.” —Booklist

 

“I was immediately drawn into the characters’ lives and enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery and the development of the romance.” —Mystery and Suspense Magazine

Meet the Author

Nancy Campbell Allen is the author of fifteen published novels and numerous novellas, which span genres from contemporary romantic suspense to historical fiction. In 2005, her work won the Utah Best of State award, and she received a Whitney Award for My Fair Gentleman. She has presented at numerous writing conferences and events since her first book was released in 1999. Nancy received a BS in Elementary Education from Weber State University. She loves to read, write, travel, and research and enjoys spending time laughing with family and friends. She is married and the mother of three children.

Connect with the author at:
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Virtual Book Tour

Join the virtual book tour of The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart, Nancy Campbell Allen’s highly acclaimed historical novel, September 6-19, 2021. Thirty popular online influencers specializing in historical romance, mystery/suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in London, England.

TOUR SCHEDULE

Sept 06 Timeless Novels (Review)

Sept 07 The Book Diva Reads (Excerpt)

Sept 07 Wishful Endings (Review)

Sept 08 Robin Loves Reading (Review)

Sept 08 A Darn Good Read (Review)

Sept 08 Storeybook Reviews (Spotlight)

Sept 08 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

Sept 09 Bookfoolery (Review)

Sept 09 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

Sept 10 The Bluestocking (Review)

Sept 10 Bookworm Lisa (Review)

Sept 10 The Silver Petticoat Review (Review)

Sept 11 Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina (Review)

Sept 11 My Bookish Bliss (Review)

Sept 11 Nurse Bookie (Review)

Sept 12 The Bibliophile Files (Review)

Sept 12 My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight)

Sept 13 Heidi Reads (Excerpt)

Sept 13 Reading with Emily (Review)

Sept 13 Our Book Confessions (Review)

Sept 14 Rosanne E. Lortz (Review)

Sept 14 Laura’s Reviews (Review)

Sept 14 Beauty in the Binding (Spotlight)

Sept 15 All-of-a-Kind Mom (Review)

Sept 15 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)

Sept 15 Life of Literature (Review)

Sept 16 From Pemberley to Milton  (Review)

Sept 16 Probably at the Library (Spotlight)

Sept 17 Greenish Bookshelf (Review)

Sept 17 Relz Reviewz (Review)

Sept 18 Novel Kicks (Review)

Sept 19 Historical Fiction with Spirit (Excerpt)

 

This excerpt and virtual book tour brought to you by AustenProse