Miss Billings Treads the Boards ($14.95, 266 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-915-2) is Camel Press’ third reprint of a Carla Kelly regency romance. First published in 1993, the novel features a gentlewoman who joins an acting troupe during a time when stage acting was considered scandalous. Camel has also reprinted Ms. Kelly’s first novel, the historical romance Daughter of Fortune, as well as a new title, The Double Cross, the first of the Spanish Brand series, set in the Spanish Colony of New Mexico.
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On Feb. 1, 2014, Camel Press will release Miss Milton Speaks her Mind. With This Ring and Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season will also be released in 2014. Miss Whittier Makes a List and Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour are already available.
Ms. Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; a Whitney Award for Best Romance Fiction, 2011; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand reprint was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 5 romances in 2012.
Ms. Kelly is particularly celebrated for her regency romances. The Romance Reader has called her “the Grandmistress of the [Regency] genre.” According to Romantic Times, “Carla Kelly’s Regency Romances are always superb and a timeless delight.” Wrote Library Journal has called her “one of the most respected Regency writers.”
Cynical, lazy Lord Grayson is coerced into delivering a message to lovely Katherine Billings, whose late father frittered away a fortune on artwork. All his purchases were forgeries, save one, which—if sold—would offer Kate a modest living. Meanwhile, Kate has bowed to necessity and set off for Wakefield to become a governess. Gently reared, she has no plans to become a scandalous actress, but Things Happen.
Injured by a highwayman hired by his greedy nephew, Lord Grayson staggers to a barn where a play is in progress. There he sees Kate, playing a small role. Through a mishap, she has ended up in Wickfield, not Wakefield, and is performing with the Bladesworth Traveling Company, an acting troupe.
What’s a lazy and cynical marquis to do? Using his everyday name, Lord Grayson—Hal Hampton—joins the troupe, partly to protect himself from his nephew, but mostly to get to know Kate better. They both fall under the spell of the impecunious but talented Bladesworths. A charming French émigré, a single-minded Bow Street Runner, and love round out a summer where the repertory includes deception, faux marriage, the law, and enough unsavory characters to suit any would-be Shakespeare. After all, the play’s the thing.
Says Kelly, “The inspiration for Miss Billings Treads the Boards came from my husband. Before he retired, he was director of theater at several universities around the United States. His job, yes, but this meant that we all lived and breathed theatre, up to and including making costumes and acting in some of his productions. My own interest in history compelled me to look back a few centuries to English repertory theatre in the early 1800s. This was an era when the living was precarious, and actors were held in ill-repute—a perfect time to write about. England has long nurtured its repertory theatrical troupes that continue to tread the boards in regional theatres throughout the country. With that knowledge, it wasn’t too hard to imagine the Bladesworth Traveling Company. The result was Miss Billings Treads the Boards. And Billings, itself? I have a lot of relatives in and around Billings, Montana.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-nine novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong interest in history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. You can find Carla online at www.CarlaKellyAuthor.com.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
When Lord Grayson regained consciousness, he found himself facedown on the wagon bed, staring at a pile of wooden swords next to bony, skeletal toes. He closed his eyes again, declaring to himself, “When I open them, I will be in bed at Half Moon Street.”
He opened one eye and then the other, but the view was still swords and toes. He lay where he was, unable to summon the energy to roll over and constricted by the narrow space. His head throbbed like a species apart, pounding like a pile driver on the back of his neck. With some effort he worked his hand up to his head, feeling again the furrow caused by Wilding’s bullet. The wound was crusted with dried blood.
His hand traveled to the back of his neck, where the pile driver was working the hardest, and came away wet with his blood. As he lay there contemplating this new ruin to his head, he remembered a woman with a remarkable bosom. Surely not, he thought. He remembered that she was small and could not possibly have had the strength to deliver the blow that was even now making him queasier by the minute. She must have struck me with something, he concluded. God, what a woman. I hope I do not see her again until I feel better.
Grunting softly, Henry eased himself up. He sat absolutely still until the nausea went away and then leaned back carefully against the pile of old clothing. He thought at first that he would leave the wagon before anyone returned, but he could not. He ached everywhere, and even the tiniest shifting of position made the hairs rise on his back.
As he sat considering his situation, he heard a great wave of applause from the barn. What is going on in that place, he asked himself. It couldn’t be a cockfight. People didn’t applaud like that at cockfights, at least, not the ones he had attended. His hand went to the back of his neck again. And rarely did women with blunt objects and magnificent bosoms frequent such low business. He sighed and resigned himself to whatever fate awaited, sorry that he had taken off his riding coat, now that the night was cooler, and grateful that he still had his wallet in his pocket. Surely he could buy his way out of any trouble.
In a few moments he heard the sound of people leaving the barn. They talked among themselves in low tones, with an occasional burst of laughter. In another moment the light from a candle thrust in his face made him squint and try to cover his eyes.
“Ods bodkins,” boomed out a hearty voice that made his head throb even harder. “Whatever did you catch here, Kate?”
“Oh, please talk softer,” he begged. “My head is killing me.
A great rumble of laughter from the man holding the candle washed over him. “It’s no wonder, m’boy. You’ve been crowned with a candlestick.” The man sniffed Henry’s shirt-front. “Well, you don’t appear to have been drinking. Let me give you a hand up.”
Before he could protest, the giant of a man lifted him to his feet. Henry’s knees buckled under him, and he sagged to the floor. Helplessly he waved the man away. “Please just leave me alone and let me die in peace.”
But the giant wouldn’t leave him alone. The man whistled. “Kate, there’s blood all over his shirt.” The man called to others. “Let this be a warning to anyone who tries to bother Miss Billings.”
One Dog Too Many ($14.95, 292 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-967-1) is a cozy mystery by Lia Farrell about the murder of a scrappy young woman who manages country music performers in Tennessee. This is the first book in a series featuring amateur detective and dog whisperer, Mae December. Coming in 2014: Two Dogs Lie Sleeping.
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Mae December runs a successful dog boarding business in Tennessee. When her neighbor, Ruby Mead-Allison, fails to pick up her unruly Pomeranian from Mae’s kennel, Mae pokes around and discovers the woman’s body. It is clad in one red boot, and there is a vehicle counting cord wrapped around its neck.
While delving into the mystery of Ruby’s death, Mae encounters handsome Sheriff Ben Bradley. Together they find no shortage of suspects. Ruby was standing in the way of a project that would widen the road and make the area safer. Was she killed by an angry neighbor? Her estranged husband? Her disinherited brother? The sheriff may not appreciate Mae’s amateur detecting, but he does respond to her as a woman. Meanwhile the murderer thinks it’s time to put a permanent stop to Mae’s meddling.
Mother and daughter writing team Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons live in Michigan and Tennessee respectively. Both are life-long readers who are also dog lovers. Lyn owns two Welsh corgis and Lisa has two pugs and a Siberian husky. Lisa works as a Muralist and Interior Designer and her mother, Lyn, is a Professor of Medical Education. Click here to find them online.
Says Lyn, “Skimming the Sunday paper together, we found an article about a heated legal battle over the widening of a nearby country road. The Highway Commissioner was working to widen and improve the road, but one resident was fighting the project and had filed numerous lawsuits to stop the action, creating lots of controversy and friction. It occurred to us that the real life situation would make an interesting backdrop for a murder mystery.”
Keeping reading for an excerpt:
“Sheriff, I’m not considered a suspect, am I? I’d be the last person to wish Ruby dead. You know I only wanted to get Elvis out of here and back to her.”
“So you said. Elvis isn’t much of an alibi, though. I’d like to see him, by the way. Is he in the kennel?”
“Actually, Patrick let him out last night and he didn’t come back. He’s the dog I was out looking for earlier.”
“Elvis is missing?”
“Yes, he’s missing, but hopefully not for long. He’s a tough little dog and he’s fast. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. Patrick will tell you the same thing.”
The sheriff looked frustrated. Mae quietly added some fresh coffee to his cup and glanced enquiringly at Deputy Phelps, who shook his head. Mae turned her attention back to the sheriff.
“Miss December, let me read this to you, please. It’s what I have in my notes from our conversations. ‘On March eighteenth, Mae December (of fifteen oh nine Little Chapel Road) went to Ruby Mead-Allison’s house in hopes of finding her at home. She planned to return Ms. Mead-Allison’s dog that she was boarding. She noted a red boot in the flowerbed by the rear of the house, put the boot in her tote bag and brought it to the sheriff’s office.’ Did you do anything else while you were there?”
“Well, I set her mailbox back up on the post—it was down in the ditch. Oh, and it was empty. Ruby must have gotten home before yesterday and picked up her mail. I also peeked in the garage window and opened the side door. Her car was there. Did I mention that she drove herself to the airport? When I saw her car, I knew she’d returned from her vacation.”
“All right, I’ll add that. ‘On March nineteenth, Mae December walked her dogs around eight fifteen a.m. when Mr. Jack Ryan approached, without his dog.’ ” He paused. “Tell me what happened then.”
“I spoke to him about his ankle, which he thought might be sprained, and I walked him home. Then I went past the place where I saw him originally and started calling his dog, Toast.”
He smiled. “There are an awful lot of dogs in this case.”
She nodded absently, still upset at recounting her discovery of Ruby’s body.
“What happened next?”
“I kept calling Toast. I found her near a small grove of trees. When I got close enough, I noticed she was in a full point position.”
“Okay, and this grove of trees that the dog was pointing to is near the road you live on, but about thirty yards off the road, correct? It was actually on Ruby’s property?”
“Yes, right. I went to see what she was pointing at and noticed something red at the base of one of the trees.” She stopped, overcome with nausea.
“Go on. What happened then?”
“Just a minute.” Mae went to the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of fruit tea. She poured a glass and added ice. She stood and looked out her window for a moment, seeing the lush spring morning that contrasted starkly with Ruby’s demise. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself before she turned back to the sheriff.
“When I got over to the trees, I saw a red boot. The boot was on a foot. Ruby’s foot.”
Keeping Secrets ($14.95, 294 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-947-3), the second book in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery series, which began with Telling Lies. Coming in 2014, The Hard Way. After discovering that her fiancé is lying about his identity, a woman goes missing, prompting magazine editor Laurel Imperiole and PI Helen McCorkendale to investigate. As they uncover a collaboration between the mob and the banking industry, they find their own lives in danger.
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“It’s said that books can’t be judged by covers, and the characters in Cathi Stoler’s Keeping Secrets are all more than they seem. And in New York, a city fast and grand enough for anyone to reinvent themselves, it seems identity theft is epidemic. Stoler knows Manhattan and, in this, her second novel, she has her characters, who live and love on that improbable island, well in hand. Those secrets will out.”
—David Simon, Author of Treme & The Wire
“With precise writing and a knowing eye, Cathi Stoler depicts Manhattan’s exclusive clubs, trendy restaurants, and upscale shops, and then, secret by secret, reveals a terrifying underside. No one is safe, least of all Laurel Imperiole and Helen McCorkendale, who must employ all of their considerable courage and savvy to survive. Keeping Secrets keeps you hooked to the very end.”
—Kevin Egan, author of Midnight
“A smart modern mystery with an appealing heroine that I would love to have for a friend.”
—Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Shogun’s Daughter
“Cathi Stoler nails the hip, downtown NY scene in Keeping Secrets, a fun, breezy suspense novel that asks the question How well do we really know those closest to us? When a journalist receives a series of emails too intriguing to ignore it sets her on a path that’s dangerous for the sender—and for herself. Luckily, she’s aided by a smart, female PI and a fashionista best friend who’ll make sure she’s trim and well-dressed as she gets the story and tracks down the truth about two mysterious men. A strong new entry in the series.”
—Rosemary Harris, Anthony and Agatha finalist and author of Pushing Up Daisies and The Bitches of Brooklyn
“It’s great to read a contemporary mystery with two strong female leads who are friends without being sidekicks. Cathi Stoler writes about the problems faced by modern women sympathetically, but in a way that also reminds us that certain dilemmas are timeless. The burgeoning love triangle between Laurel, Matt, and Aaron, for example, is echoed in Helen’s navigation of her own tricky relationships with Mike and Joe. The romances are just as colorful as the mysteries unraveled here, and just as satisfyingly resolved.” Read more ….
—Doreen Sheridan, CriminalElement.com
Laurel Imperiole, a reporter for New York’s Women Now magazine, has just received a series of emails from Anne Ellsworth, a young woman in fear for her life. Anne has discovered that her fiancé has several aliases and is terrified of what he will do if he finds out. Laurel, who empathizes with Anne, sees an opportunity to rescue her and write a story on hidden identities that will help her readers avoid similar predicaments. Helen McCorkendale, a private eye and close friend, agrees to investigate both Anne’s fiancé, David, and Laurel’s banker boyfriend, Matt. Laurel had planned to use Matt as the good guy in the story—the one with nothing to hide—but Anne’s situation and Matt’s sudden strange behavior are making her paranoid.
Soon Helen and Laurel find that they have stirred up a hornet’s nest buzzing with vengeful Mafiosi, greedy bankers, and dirty politicians. In desperation they turn to Aaron Gerrard, Laurel’s ex-boyfriend and head of New York’s Identity Theft Squad, for advice. Aaron, who has never forgiven Laurel for “betraying” him by concealing information important to one of his cases, reluctantly agrees to help.
The women discover that everything is connected, and everyone has something to hide. Will the secrets Laurel and Helen disclose keep them alive or seal their fates?
Says Stoler, “I decided to write Keeping Secrets after seeing news story after news story about identity theft and people taking over other people’s lives. It seemed like the problem had reached epidemic proportions and that few understood how to protect themselves from becoming victims. I wondered about motivation. Was it money, which is a theme I explored, or something else, such as simply wanting to leave their own lives behind? How would this actually affect a significant other, someone who had no inkling that the person they loved was a fraud?”
Cathi Stoler is a native New Yorker who has devoted much of her life to writing. After graduating from The Fashion Institute of Technology, she followed a career path from fashion copywriting to the world of advertising. There, she honed her skills as a Creative Director/Copywriter developing award-winning campaigns. Other than novels, Cathi has published several short stories and posts regularly on the Women of Mystery blog. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and a board member of the New York Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Click here to find Cathi online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Helen grabbed her purse, fished out her keys and walked to the street. She checked her watch and figured there’d be enough time for a really quick look around one of the many thrift shops in the area. She loved having so many to choose from between Twenty-third Street and Thirtieth Street, and checked them out on a regular basis. She also often stopped in at the New York Works Thrift Shop and Yesterday, both close to her Twenty-third Street office. They’re a great source for my disguise closet. Best of all, it never costs me a fortune.
At Yesterday, there was a gently worn navy blue uniform jacket. It had great possibilities. She could add a Verizon or Time Warner Cable TV logo on the front pocket and pass for one of their workers. With a clipboard or utility bag in hand, Helen could instantly gain access to almost any building in the city. After scooping up a few scarves and a big straw hat, she was on her way.
I’m starving. It must be all this poking around to find new disguises. Enough shopping, I need food. Her stomach rumbled in noisy agreement. She walked the few blocks uptown, toward Leonardo, her favorite gourmet shop in the neighborhood. As she entered the shop, the wonderful smells of cheese, bread, pasta and fruit made her mouth water.
“Ciao, Franco,” she said.
“Ciao, Signorina, Helen. What can I get for you today?” Franco, the young man behind the cheese counter with a smile on his face, knife in hand, was ready to slice off a chunk of whatever struck her fancy.
“I’ll take a piccolo piece of Pecorino Pienza,” Helen separated her thumb and index finger about two inches, to show him how much. It was her favorite: a delicate, flavorful cheese made in the tiny Italian town for which it was named. “I’ll also have some Prosciutto di Parma and a good loaf of your Tuscan semolina. Grazie.”
Adding a bag of hazelnut biscotti for good measure, she checked out. I must have been Italian in my last life. All those Italiani living the good life in Tuscany, Lombardi, and Emilia Romagna had it made when it came to the food department.
Then there are those Italian men; she shook her head, thinking of her last two relationships, and her burgeoning one with Mike Imperiole. The problem was that too many of them had a, “I must be treated like an Italian Prince” thing going on, thanks to mothers who doted on them from infancy into adulthood—or quasi-adulthood as it often turned out. Well, she couldn’t put Mike in that category. He seemed to be past all that and appreciated her for the smart, independent woman she was … except when he thought she was doing something he considered too dangerous, which was about fifty percent of the time. She loved spending time with him as long as they didn’t talk about her work.
Laughing at the irony, Helen took in one last deep breath of the aroma of cheese, prosciutto and bread to sustain her for the short walk home, then ambled toward the corner. I’ll have a delicious lunch in my garden, do some Internet searches and phone work for my regular clients, then meet with Laurel, all before tailing Ralphie. What a life!
Helen thought back to when she had decided to become a private investigator. She had attended a seminar on a lark while studying at NYU, doing post-graduate work in sociology. The guest speaker, a representative of the Holmes Detective Agency, made his job sound a lot more interesting than the dry, human behavior courses she was taking, or the counseling job she’d considered accepting while completing her master’s degree. Helen realized sociology and detective work had elements in common, such as understanding different personalities and modes of behavior, and she liked the idea of blending the two.
After the detective’s presentation, she joined the laughing group that had gathered around him to ask more questions. He made it seem like detective work was fun and Helen took his card.
As Helen could now tell anyone interested in the profession, it was a lot of things—exciting, intriguing, dangerous, exhausting and financially rewarding. But fun? Not exactly. Today, with everything going on, she felt like a top spinning out of control, its string wound tighter and tighter before being tossed to the ground with a really hard flip of the wrist.
Breathe. Slow down. Everything will get done when it gets done. Good advice, especially on a beautiful day like today, but hard to follow when there’s so much to do. Helen neared the corner and was about to cross the avenue when a black Lincoln with tinted windows ran the light, flew across Thirtieth Street and headed straight for her. She tried to step back, but with her groceries and thrift shop purchases in her arms, her balance was off. As the car accelerated, she began to pinwheel forward.
She had just managed to straighten up and move back a few inches when the car’s side mirror caught her arm and sent her packages flying. She landed hard on the sidewalk and struggled to catch her breath as the people around her stared. “Are you okay?” A young woman, clutching a large artist’s portfolio to her chest, looked stricken.
“Did you see that?” A man in a denim jacket knelt beside her and reached for her arm, offering his help.
“Yo, lady, you gotta be more careful!” A young boy whizzed by on his skateboard, tossing advice over his shoulder.
Everyone talked to her in that excited mix of outrage and entitlement New Yorkers used for every unexpected occasion.
Looking up from the ground, Helen felt she was bobbing back and forth in a sea of legs, arms, and faces. She peered through a gap in the limbs of the people surrounding her and caught a glimpse of the runaway car. It sped around the corner, right tail light blinking as it took the turn with tires screeching. Helen’s arm throbbed, and her carefully chosen lunch was scattered all over the sidewalk. The people around her helped her stand, but she struggled to feel steady on the concrete. A cold chill ran down her spine. She was sure there were Jersey tags on the big Lincoln.
Looking for your BSI fix as you wait for the latest episode in the From the Files of the BSI series? In coming months Camel Press will be releasing several novellas featuring standalone episodes in the history of the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. The first is “Oil’s Not Well in Odessa.” These will eventually be published in one volume, but for now they are only available on Amazon at the low cost of $.99.
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A year or two after the end of World War II, decorated hero Murph is adrift in Odessa, Texas, plagued by nightmares of the battlefield as he drums up the courage to tell a buddy’s wife about her husband’s death. At a diner he overhears two roughnecks discussing the evil that haunts their oil rig. Having witnessed horrors beyond human understanding in Germany, he believes the men’s fears are well-founded and sets out to investigate.
At the McLean Rig he meets Laney, an agent for a secret branch of the U.S. government, The BSI (Bureau of Supernatural Investigation). Laney’s colleagues are trapped in the caverns below the rig and there’s no time to wait for backup. Laney tries to warn Murph away but in the end has no choice but to accept his offer of help.
The beings Murph encounters below the surface of the earth will test the limits of his courage, imagination, and sanity.
“Oil’s Not Well in Odessa” is the first novelette in the “From the Files of the BSI” series, which to date includes three full-length novels. A fourth, Chicago, The Windigo City, will be released in January of 2014.
A Secondhand Murder ($14.95, 260 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-935-0), is a cozy mystery by Lesley A. Diehl about a consignment shop owner in rural Florida who finds her own life in danger after a customer is knifed to death in one of her store’s fitting rooms.
A Secondhand Murder is the first book in a new mystery series featuring amateur sleuth, Eve Appel. Lesley has five other published mysteries: A Deadly Draught, Poisoned Pairings, Dumpster Dying, Angel Sleuth, and Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.
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“Lesley A Diehl is a very clever writer. Most of the time I can figure out the murderer in a book but this one kept me guessing right until the end.” Read more ….
—Sharon Salituro, Fresh Fiction Reviews
“A full cast of zany and dangerous characters makes this cozy mystery a fun read. With laugh out loud scenes and some scary moments, this book is so hard to put down and when the end did come, I found myself wondering what madcap adventure awaits the reader in the next book. I loved it!!” Read more ….
—Kathleen Kelly, Celtic Lady’s Reviews
“I’ll have to personally recommend this book to all of friends who love cozies. It’s a great mystery, with a little suspense, a little romance, some slapstick, and most of all, characters who feel like family. I read it in one sitting. Is it one sitting if you stop to put another log on the fire, pour a tall glass of apple pie vodka and let the dogs out? At any rate, I didn’t want to stop reading, and stayed up late to finish. It was worth it.” Read more ….
—Ryder Islington, author of Ultimate Justice
“Thrift with a murderous twist … vivid Florida setting with lots of suspense and humor.”
—Kathleen Delaney, author of the Ellen McKenzie Mystery Series
“Author Lesley A. Diehl blends humor and suspense into a delightful tale of intrigue. Diehl has created likable, realistic characters that will have you laughing as you try to guess who the killer is. A Secondhand Murder flows at a steady pace with some interesting twists along the way. The setting is inviting and the story will draw you in.” Read more ….
—Mason Canyon, Thoughts in Progress Blog
“An extremely fun and wickedly entertaining cozy mystery. The quirky characters and the complex entanglements each of them have with the deceased and the protagonist is the best part of the book. The author creates a well-plotted, light-hearted mystery that has some really good laugh out loud scenes. Cozy mystery lovers will thoroughly enjoy A Secondhand Murder; it is an outstanding read from beginning to end.” Read more ….
—Robin T. for Manic Readers
“Humor, adventure, mystery and romance are all blended together to make this a fun few hours of reading. The book kept me guessing until the end—I kept changing my mind about who the killer was and I guessed wrong. LOL—This was a good thing. I enjoyed this one. This is the first book in the series and it’s already off to a great start.” Read more ….
—Yvonne, Socrates Book Review
“[A Secondhand Murder] will delight you. It has a little bit of everything that you want in a murder/mystery, complete with romance!” Read more ….
–Mary Bearden, Mary’s Cup of Tea
“I am absolutely in love with this story. Lesley Diehl has created such a fun character in Eve Appel! She was funny, sassy and smart. She’s a great protagonist. The story has a great mystery and there’s so many different things going on that I was definitely surprised by the ending. I love a good mystery dashed with humor.”
“I really enjoyed the page turning action that even involved getting help from a Mob boss. The story was complex but very easy to follow. The quirky characters including Eve lead the reader through lots of excitement…. I wholeheartedly recommend this cozy for all cozy mystery readers.” Read more….
“There were so many characters that I really enjoyed everyone from Eve’s crazy ex-husband Jerry to Alex the Private Investigator to her grandmother and grandfather. They all had their quirks that I loved. Definitely a great new refreshing series that I can’t wait to read more when the author writes more!” Read more ….
Spunky and outspoken Eve Appel moves from Connecticut to rural Florida intent on starting a new life, free of drama, and more importantly, her soon-to-be ex-husband. The rural Florida town of Sabal Bay, situated only an hour from West Palm, proves to be the perfect spot for her consignment store. Thanks to the recent economic downturn, Florida’s society matrons need a place to discreetly sell their stuff and pick up expensive-looking bargains. But Eve’s life, and her business with it, is turned upside down when a wealthy customer is found stabbed to death in a fitting room.
As accusations fly and business slows, Eve decides to take matters into her own hands. With the help of an unlikely bunch of friends—including her estranged ex, her best friend, a handsome private eye, and a charming mafia don—she struggles to find answers and save lives. Through a maze of distorted half-truths, dramatic cover-ups, and unrequited passions, Eve learns just how far the wealthy will go to regain what they have lost.
Says Diehl, “Where I live in Florida there is no high end shopping, so I thought Eve Appel’s consignment shop might bring it to rural Florida by selling designer clothes previously owned by West Palm society matrons. Eve was a natural for me. I learned my love of secondhand merchandise from my grandmother and reworked my aunt’s clothes for my own use even though she was six foot and I was only five three. Frugal is in our family DNA. I still get more excited about finding a bargain at a consignment shop or yard sale than I do buying new. Department stores hate me.”
Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew. You can find Lesley online here.
Read on for an excerpt:
It was still early so I strode back into the restaurant, indicated to the hostess I wanted a booth and ordered the breakfast buffet. Anger paired with disbelief gave me a hearty appetite. Returning to my booth after loading my plate with eggs, bacon, pancakes, pastries and a slice of toast, I noticed someone had joined me for breakfast. He was seated with his back to me as I approached the booth but I recognized the sun-streaked hair curling over his collar. My favorite PI. I almost dropped my plate.
“Hi.” I tried for nonchalant but sounded more like a hormone-addled teenager.
“Saw you come in. I guess you had an early morning chitchat with the local gendarmes.”
“To be continued this afternoon at the station.”
“Fingerprints?” He stirred a packet of sugar into his coffee.
“Nope.” The tingle in my tummy was more than simple hunger for food. I tried to satisfy it by stuffing a large forkful of pancake into my mouth. I nodded and swallowed. “Like anyone would be dumb enough to leave their prints.”
“Certainly, we know you’re smart.”
“I had no reason to kill Mrs. Sanders. That would be like killing the golden goose.”
“You didn’t like her very much, did you?”
I dropped my fork on the plate. “What do you mean? I hardly knew the woman.”
“So you say, but my sources indicate that’s not the whole story.” He stared at me. Last night I thought those azure eyes looked inviting. Now they looked more like ice. He smiled.
“You said you were investigating Mrs. Sanders. Sounds like you’re trying to nose into my affairs. Why?”
“Don’t get mad. I’m not accusing you of murder, you know.” He took a sip of coffee.
“I’m not mad.” I was a little miffed, peeved even, but not really mad. Okay, I was mad.
“Oh yes you are, and when you get angry, you stick your chin out and turn your head ever so slightly to the right. Your cheek twitches, probably from clenching your teeth. Did you know that?”
I had lost my appetite. I grabbed my purse and slid out of the booth. “I don’t recall inviting you to join me for breakfast. I just remembered I have an important appointment.”
“That would be …?” He also stood.
“That would be none of your business.”
I stalked out of the restaurant, then remembered as I approached my car that I had forgotten to pay my bill. Damn. Now I’d have to go back in there and face him again. I gritted my teeth, stuck out my chin and slammed through the door. He turned from the counter, credit card in hand.
“Don’t worry about it. I got it. Your treat next time.”
“There won’t be a next time.” I spun around and pushed open the door. By the time he reached his car, I was already starting my engine, wondering what the man knew about Mrs. Sanders and me.
Maddie’s Choice ($14.95, 274 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-959-6) is a contemporary romance by Joyce Zeller about an author with writer’s block who finds inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose after she inherits part of a cattle ranch in Arkansas.
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“The tension and anger simmer below the surface but the attraction sizzles off the pages in this unforgettable story of love and courage. If you are a fan of Westerns, packed full of action you will enjoy this work. The Romance aficionado will find the heartbeat of the story holding them hostage even as mayhem breaks loose, cementing a set of feelings long denied. Zeller has given us a romance with teeth and put it in a setting full of possibilities and excitement. The characters are not without flaw and the interaction of people and events take you there, among them.” Read more
–Leslie, Tic-Toc: Book Reviews and General Observations
“A delightful romance with likeable, fallible characters that quickly engage the reader. One of the biggest positives of this novel is the author’s development of both the leading male and female characters. Often in romance novels there is a tendency to have a very well developed female character reacting to a dark, mysterious stranger. That’s not the case here. Although Gideon is certainly sexy enough, his character is well rounded and contains enough human elements to make him truly vulnerable and likeable. Another pitfall in many romances is plot twists and turns that can become distracting from the primary romantic plot. Maddie’s Choice
does enlist the use of a mystery of stolen cattle and drug running, but the additional plot lines serve well to develop the romantic plot line and further engage the reader and do not undermine the romance. As an avid romance reader, I don’t mind telling you that I finished this entire book in one setting and would be delighted to read additional books by this author.” Read more ….
–Erika, Prey Species Blog
“An enjoyable read. I thought the characters were interesting and kept me engaged. Maddie and Gideon are both looking for the same thing, they just don’t know it yet. At the ranch, they both find a family and a home. Gideon is a war hero who has major PTSD. While I was surprised that the character wasn’t seeking help for it, given his intense episodes, I thought the subject was handled pretty realistically. I liked Maddie’s little excerpts of the romance novel she was writing. It was cool to get a glimpse inside the mind of a writer. I do recommend the book. With romance, cattle thieves, and a big chocolate loving bull nicknamed baby, how can you go wrong?”
–From the TBR Pile
“Another incredible romance novel …. I enjoyed the story very much! It was sweet, passionate, a true ‘southern’ life story, and chock full of amazing characters.” Read more ….
“Maddie’s Choice is a love story, a story of forgiveness, and a look at what really matters and the choices that we make. The more I read, the more I was drawn in and I ended up staying up late to finish …. an enjoyable read and a sweet romance.” Read more ….
–Bea’s Book Nook
“I was quickly caught up in the story and I highly recommend Maddie’s Choice!” Read more ….
–The Bibliophilic Book Blog
“A bull hooked on chocolate plays the hero in this love story of two people struggling to restore their destroyed lives. Maddie’s Choice is a touching family story that will have readers laughing and crying simultaneously. Zeller has created flawed but sympathetic characters and a bucolic setting that will appeal to readers of all ages. A must read for anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a ranch. As Maddie is fond of reminding herself, ‘How hard can it be?’ ”
—Velda Brotherton, author of western historical romances
“Joyce has walked the walk with her Western romance set on a cattle ranch. Good read!”
—Dusty Richards, Spur winning author of more than 120 western novels, many under the name, Josh Logan
“This is a book about life and it’s content is very explicit at times. It’s also about cattle rustling, drugs, and the way adults and kids go about getting what they want and need. I thought it was very well written. I give it a thumbs up.”
–Maryann Wakefield, author of A Gentle Sun Coming
Romance writer Maddie Taylor’s career is in trouble. Convinced that true love does not exist outside of her imagination, she can’t complete her current manuscript. When a friend, Jonah Spartman, dies and wills her half of his cattle ranch, she seizes the chance to leave New York City. There is one catch: in order to inherit she must stay in Arkansas for three months.
The other half of the ranch belongs to Gideon Spartman, Jonah’s grandson, a black-ops veteran whose humanity was torn from him in Afghanistan. Rugged and sexy, Gideon embodies the hero in Maddie’s current manuscript. He is far from happy to be sharing an inheritance that is rightfully his with a “gold-digging bimbo” and resents having to care for his two orphaned nephews. But Maddie senses the need behind Gideon’s rough and unwelcoming exterior. She must also contend with the two love-starved boys and an Angus bull who craves chocolate.
The ranch is hardly the safe haven Maddie expected. It is operating in the red, and the area is plagued with drug dealers and cattle rustlers. Maddie can return to her barren New York existence or stay and fight to save the ranch and win Gideon’s love. The choice is hers.
Says Zeller, “Maddie’s Choice features my favorite theme—that being human is a lonely business, but for everyone there is somebody to love. It’s a matter of finding them. There will always be kids and animals in my books, and always humor, because life without humor is unthinkable.”
Joyce Zeller has written articles for a magazine and a cooking column for a chain of suburban newspapers north of Chicago. She has written five books and published two, The Hidden History of Eureka Springs, and Accidental Alien, a work of science fiction, both available on Amazon. Her short story, “Love is a Seed,” is featured in Embrace: A Romance Collection, (2012 Goldmine Press). Click here to find Joyce’s website. You can find her blog here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Glancing up, he saw Maddie and Abe approaching at a near run. The urgency in her step, and that look on her face—a mix of worry and fear, like she expected trouble—alerted him.
He got the picture. Blabbermouth Mark was telling him something he wasn’t supposed to know until she got here to explain, because she didn’t think he’d approve. She was playing him. She was going to try to talk him into doing something she was sure he didn’t want to do. Damn. He was going to enjoy this, but it nettled him a little. Her opinion of him was pretty low if she thought he’d object to a birthday party for Abe. And why the hell should he care what she thought?
Because you want her, stupid. But to get her, she has to return the want. For sure, giving her a hard time isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Eyebrow raised, head cocked to one side, he watched through narrowed eyes as she slowed her pace to a saunter and replaced her worried look with a casual smile.
“Why, Gideon. What a nice surprise to find you here,” she said.
He stared without commenting, liking the little flicker of doubt in her expression.
“But Maddie,” Mark said, “you knew he was here. Remember we saw Uncle Gid’s truck outside?”
She glanced at Mark, clearly exasperated, not saying what Gideon knew was on the tip of her tongue.
Abe said it for her. “Shut up, Mark.”
Sighing, she gave Gideon a falsely sweet smile and fluttered her eyelashes. “I see that Mark told you about Abe’s birthday party.”
“What about it?” He wanted to laugh. He barely managed a glare.
She gazed at him, trying to hide her unease at his response. “Well, it was the funniest thing,” she said, brimming with false enthusiasm, waiting for him to smile in return.
Eyes narrowed, he studied her. His silence was making her fidget.
Damn, she had a beautiful mouth—that lower lip distended softly in a coaxing pout. He imagined taking it between his own lips and pulling on it gently. She’d taste as sweet as strawberries warmed by the sun. Her voice faded. He was lost in a sensual haze that would have him agreeing to anything as long as he could taste that mouth.
“Doris Potter and Genevra Wilson are going to do most of the planning, but I worry about where we’re going to put all those people. Is there some way we can set up tables?”
All those people? Tables? He tried to remember what she’d said, but he hadn’t heard a word. Alarmed, he demanded, “How many people have you invited?”
“Uh, well, I guess most of the town. Genevra said the Spartman barbecue was an annual tradition, perfect for Abe’s birthday party. It’s two weeks from today, but all we have to do is supply beer and sodas and the barbecued beef,” she said.
He stared at her, aghast. “Hell, Maddie, we can’t do this. There could be two hundred people here. Do you know what that would cost? We can’t afford a party like that right now. We’re low on cash this time of the year.”
Her hand was on his arm, patting it soothingly. Sparks of electricity shot along his flesh, clear to his brain, took an awesome bounce and shot toward his groin.
“I’ll pay for it, Gideon. The party is my idea, and I can easily afford it. It’s the least I can do. After all, we’re partners, aren’t we?”
Easily afford it? Irritated because he suspected, vaguely, that his manhood might have been insulted, he geared up to retaliate, but then he caught the cruelly disappointed expression on Abe’s face and changed course. If she wanted to pay for it, why not? How much money did she make, anyhow?
He’d almost accepted the idea when reality hit him. He couldn’t host a party for the whole town. He didn’t know shit about parties or where to begin. He’d make a damn fool of himself. Ask him to kill a man with his bare hands, lead a strike force, or take out a target with a rifle at a thousand yards—yeah, he could do that—but throw a party with the whole town looking on? God, no.
The Double Cross ($13.95, 240 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-945-9), an historical romance by Carla Kelly, takes place at the end of the 18th Century, during the decline of the Spanish Empire in the New World. The story features a brand inspector who saves a lovely orphan from her cruel relatives and sets out to solve the mystery of her lost inheritance. The Double Cross is the first book of the all-new Spanish Brand Series.
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“[The Double Cross] packs a full story with plenty of frontier action and believable, sympathetic characters. I’m already looking forward to the next entry in the Spanish Brand series, but until then I will content myself with rereading The Double Cross.” Read more …
–Heather Stanton, All About Romance
“Each of these characters’ personalities are portrayed so endearingly that at the end of this unforgettable story of honor, love and redemption, we are sad to let them go, making us eager to see what is in store for the next installment of the series.” Read more ….
—The Historical Novel Society
“Kelly skillfully invites readers to share in this romantic adventure that is played out amidst scenes depicting the harsh landscapes and living conditions on the frontier–all punctuated with an assortment of unsavory characters pitted against the heroic.”
“The Double Cross contains clever chapter headings and endearing repartee. The characters, even the secondary ones, are real and lovable. Even through some darker themes, Kelly’s smart writing breaks through and the adventurous heart triumphs. The characters evolve and Kelly hints that the world of the Spanish Brand may be evolving as well.” Read more …
–Tara Creel, The Deseret News
“One of the things Ms. Kelly does best is show ordinary people living lives of extraordinary grace, and that’s a treat. I also enjoy how she shows widows and widowers finding love again, much as real people do. I look forward to more Spanish Brand stories in the future.” Read more ….
–Darlene Marshall’s Blog
“Engaging and highly entertaining, The Double Cross is Carla Kelly at her best. I can’t wait for the next book in what promises to be an amazing series.”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author of Saint’s Gate
“Carla Kelly’s vivid storytelling plunges the reader into a tense, hypnotic tale of love and courage in The Double Cross. A dangerous land filled with memorable characters springs to life and stays with you long after the final paragraphs.”
—Diane Farr, bestselling author, Regency Romance and Young Adult fiction
Kelly’s twenty-nine novels have given her an impressive reputation with readers and reviewers. “Kelly has the rare ability to create realistic yet sympathetic characters that linger in the mind,” wrote Library Journal. “One of the most respected Regency writers.”
Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; a Whitney Award for Best Romance Fiction, 2011; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times.
Romantic Times, now RT Reviews, wrote, in one of its many reviews of Kelly’s romances, “It is always a joy to read a Carla Kelly love story. Always original, always superb, Ms. Kelly’s body of work is a timeless delight.”
“You remember exactly where you were for all of the important moments in your life. Your first kiss. Your first Dove Bar. And your first Carla Kelly book,” wrote The Romance Reader.
The year is 1780, and Marco Mondragón is a brand inspector in the royal Spanish colony of New Mexico. A widower and rancher, Marco lives on the edge of Comanchería, the domain of the fierce Comanche. Each autumn, he takes cattle and wool, and his district’s records of livestock transactions to the governor in Santa Fe. He is dedicated, conscientious and lonely. This year, he is looking for a little dog to keep his feet warm through cold winter nights. He finds a yellow dog but also meets a young, blue-eyed beauty named Paloma Vega. Paloma is under the thumb of relatives who might have stolen a brand belonging to Paloma’s parents, dead in a Comanche raid.
As a brand inspector, Marco has every right to be suspicious of brand thieves. If Marco has anything to do with it, Paloma’s fortunes are about to change. Meanwhile, Marco has other challenges to contend with. An elderly ranchero named Joaquin Muñoz has set in motion events that involve the ever-dangerous Comanches and threaten the uneasy peace of Marco’s jurisdiction.
Set against the mountains and high plains of northeastern New Mexico during the decline of Spanish power in the New World, The Double Cross is a story of loss and love regained, at a time when honor went hand in glove with bravery, and danger was never far away.
As for what inspired The Double Cross, Kelly says, “I’ve long been a whodunnit reader, but never quite found the perfect setting for a crime fiction series of my own. That is, until I came across a footnote description of a juez de campo (brand inspector) in an American Southwest textbook. In the Spanish empire, brand inspectors also solved petty crimes. I’m well-known for my romance fiction. Why not combine the two? And naturally, set the story on the edge of Comancheria, the most dangerous place in Spain’s vast Southwest empire.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-nine novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong interest in history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Marco knew he had said the wrong thing when the light went out of Paloma Vega’s lovely blue eyes. The yellow dog must be her favorite. He had made a mistake. Even worse was the knowledge that he could not make it better. He glanced at her expressive eyes and saw the damage was done, so he avoided looking in them again, concentrating instead on the dog. It was eager as most pups, ever hopeful but unaware that a change was coming.
You will like me, too, he silently promised the dog, even if I disappoint your mistress.
“W-why did you name him Trece?” he stammered, wanting to erase that look of disappointment.
It disturbed him that Paloma Vega couldn’t look him in the eye, either. He knew his eyes were nothing spectacular, just brown like those of nearly everyone else he knew. He watched her, as she bowed her head over Trece, as if to smooth his puppy fur. When she raised her face to his again, her eyes glittered with unshed tears. When Felicia had done that, he’d been mush in her hands. But this was different. Paloma Vega was not Felicia and he wanted the dog.
“I named him Trece because he was the runt of the litter and his mama has only twelve teats, Señor,” she said. “When you are number thirteen, life can be hard.”
He could hardly bear to listen to her words. They were spoken so calmly, yet her eyes shone with her anguish. He realized this was a woman used to schooling her feelings. To show them must invite ridicule. His own brief glimpse of life in the Moreno household had already convinced him how necessary that skill must be to a powerless woman.
“You raised him by hand?”
“Sí, Señor, a little milk on a rag every few hours, then my finger, and then a small bowl.”
Despite her efforts, her struggle revealed itself in the way her teeth pulled in her lower lip—such lovely lips—and in her ragged breathing. He laid his hand on Trece, smoothing his fur, too. “And he follows you everywhere?”
Marco should never have asked that. Paloma Vega bowed her head over her dog and just nodded. He wasn’t sure how to redeem himself, but he wanted to try. O, Dios, how he wanted to try, but the words failed him, he who was accustomed to commanding.
A Colonial-era “ghost” is felled by a poisoned dessert drink. Who wanted him dead? Who didn’t? Murder by Syllabub ($15.95, 298 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-957-2) is Kathleen Delaney’s fifth Ellen McKenzie mystery. The setting of this cozy is a Civil War era plantation in Virginia.
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4 1/2 stars: “I was hooked from the opening of this wonderful cozy mystery. The characters are very real and I wanted to help them…. The story takes place on an old plantation in Virginia, and the past history becomes yet another character. Kathleen Delaney has done her research and her readers are the richer for it. Among other things, I learned all about syllabub, a desert drink, and also sippets, spoons made from stale bread. One of the characters teaches Colonial cooking and it was fascinating to learn about baking and how it was done in the eighteenth century. Everything is described with a richness of language that draws the reader back into the early history of the South. And if that weren’t enough, the action is fast-paced, full of drama and mystery. The plot twists and turns in myriad ways. An old murder is uncovered, along with family feuds, contested wills, and the aftermath of slavery. Delaney keeps her readers guessing right up to the end, and I found that I couldn’t put this book down. If you are looking for a cozy mystery which is filled with history and intrigue, look no further than Murder by Syllabub.” Read more ….
–Cyclamen, Long and Short Reviews
5 Stars: “For history buffs or cozy mystery fans, this is a well-written novel with plenty of historical and regional interest.” Read more ….
–The Self-Taught Cook Blog
“Any story that has a Civil War era plantation in Virginia and a poisoned dessert drink sounds like a winner. And Kathleen Delaney has batted in a home run. Jessica Fletcher from the Murder, She Wrote Television series, as good as she was, was never as good as Ellen McKenzie is. Ellen is up against 100 years of Southern history as she weeds through the motives the various individuals have for the murder and there are plenty of suspects and there is also the cooking …. Loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next…. I am going to go and get the previous four books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.” Read more ….
—Vic’s Media Room
5/5 Stars: “With Murder By Syllabub I have discovered an amazing name in the field of Crime writing and SHE’S FEMALE! I have already downloaded her other books!… I was able to feel, see and the story. The characters were very well described. I particularly liked Ellen and Noah. I very much look forward to reading more of Ellen’s mysteries. I give Murder By Syllabub an amazing 5/5.” Read more ….
–Kate, Read 2 Review
“Each new revelation in the case leads to ever-expanding questions and suspicions. It’s a real ‘whodunit’ novel, with multiple twists and turns, along with a bevy of suspects, each with a strong motive for wanting the disagreeable victim dead. Chapter after chapter is peppered with action and an ever-deepening mystery leading up to an explosive, nail-biting conclusion. Author Kathleen Delaney has produced a cast of endearing characters in this her fifth book centering on heroine Ellen McKenzie. The novel is rife with the often humorous escapades of a group of elderly women.” Read more ….
—Christine O’Connor, I Love a Mystery
“Ellen McKenzie is back to solve another mystery in Murder By Syllabub. This time she helps her Aunt Mary tackle a problem with a ghost in Colonial dress at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house belongs to Aunt Mary’s friend, Mildred. They find the ghost may have been very much alive at one point, but it is now dead, thanks to a poisoned batch of syllabub Mildred made. Ellen doesn’t like the sound of that and sets out to find the truth. Ellen is a sheer delight to read! I’ve enjoyed all five of author Kathleen Delaney’s McKenzie mysteries, and look forward to many more!”
—Joyce Lavene, author, along with her husband Jim, of over 50 books
A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble?
When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator.
Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia.
Says Delaney, “I have always been fascinated by the early history of our country and how people lived in the eighteenth century. My first visit to Colonial Williamsburg intensified my interest and I knew I had to write a story set there. Researching what I needed for this book was as much fun as writing it.”
Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. Click here to find Kathleen on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Mildred leaned back against the drain board, as if she needed it to prop her up. “Do you think he’ll be back?”
I set the dish on the drain board along with the other rinsed dishes. “You mean the murderer?”
I’d wondered the same thing. “I think it was Monty prowling around upstairs, looking for something. Why he was dressed like that, I can’t imagine, but I don’t think he found whatever it was he was looking for. The only reason I can think of for both Monty and whoever slipped him the poison to be here is they were looking for the same thing. I don’t think they found it. So, yes, I think whoever it is will be back.”
Mildred nodded. “I think so, too. That crate was no accident.” She paused before going on, her voice filled with apprehension. “You know, McMann isn’t going to buy the mysterious prowler story. He’s going to take the easy way out. Elizabeth fed Monty the poison before she left for the airport and we’re protecting her.” She sighed deeply and turned to the dishwasher. “Might as well load this. Can you hand me that bowl?”
She opened the door, pulled out the top rack and froze. “How did that get in here?”
“What’s the matter? Oh no.”
We stood, frozen, staring at the immaculately clean crystal glass, sitting on the top rack in solitary splendor.
“That’s one of the old syllabub glasses.” Mildred turned around to look at the glasses on the hutch and returned her gaze to the dishwasher. She pulled the rack out all the way but the dishwasher was empty, except for the one glass.
I’d had a close enough look at the glass next to Monty to know this was from the same set. “It’s the missing syllabub glass.”
“Missing?” Mildred’s hand went out to touch it, but she quickly withdrew. “Where are the others? Cora Lee and I packed these away years ago. There were eight of them. How did this one get in here?”
“Noah didn’t tell you?”
“That boy only tells me what he wants me to know. What was it he should have told me?”
“The set of these glasses were on the sideboard in the dining room where Monty was killed. Six of them. One was beside Monty with the remains of a sticky drink in it. That made seven. One was missing. The one the murderer used.”
We stared at each other then back into the dishwasher. “That’s got to be the missing one, right there.” Mildred took a better look. “It’s clean. Someone’s trying to frame Elizabeth.”
Murdock Tackles Taos presents a new episode in the Matt Murdock Mystery series by Robert J. Ray ($16.95, 350 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-925-1). The adventures of this tough guy detective with a soft heart began with Bloody Murdock and continued through four other novels, all available through Camel Press.
In most of the earlier books, Murdock operates from Newport Beach, CA, although in Murdock Cracks Ice, he goes to Seattle, WA. This novel brings the PI to New Mexico, where he teams up with a sexy writer whose sleuthing instincts are equal to his own.
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** Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Robert Ray is a gifted writer and the Matt Murdock series displays all his many talents. The prose is crisp, the characters vivid and the plot captivating. Read him now! Matt Murdock is part Jack Reacher, part Dave Robicheux. Fans of Lee Child and James Lee Burke will love Murdock Tackles Taos. A brilliant murder mystery with a splash of romance. The Matt Murdock series is one of my guilty pleasures!”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author
“I absolutely loved this book. To me it had a different feel to it than some others of the same genre. It was faster paced than most, and told three different perspectives on the story. Helene’s, Murdock’s, and a third whose identity you will have to find out for yourself. I give this a GIGANTIC 5 out of 5. Recommended for people who love the thrill of the chase, and the feeling of catching the bad guy in the act.” Read more …
—I Read a Book Once Blog
“I must admit to thoroughly enjoying this mystery thriller featuring Matt Murdock who was hired to find and return the daughter of a friend who went missing from an art colony in Taos, New Mexico. What a mesmerizing read this turned out to be! Strong characters, thrilling adventure, psychological deviancy, (is that a word?), strong, well thought out plot and storyline … an absolutely intriguing read!” Read more …
–Beth Art from the Heart Blog
“Action and tension are high in a cleverly weaved ‘whodunit’ mystery. You actually know who did it very early on, but you read on for two reasons; one, the how do they get caught, and two, the why. I guarantee the why will knock your socks off.” Read more …
–Joe Hempel, Top of the Heap Reviews
5 Stars: “A plot that is filled with action, mystery and suspense. This is the first book I have read in the ‘A Matt Murdock Mystery Series’ andwas totally engrossed throughout the whole book. Between the author’s strong, believable, and well developed characters, and the many twists and turns within the story line, I was kept at the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next. Highly recommended for all crime, murder mystery fans.” Read more ….
–Susan Peck, My Cozie Corner
“LOVE this book! It is a roller coaster of a ride from the beginning chapter, with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Ladies, you may find yourself charmed by Murdock, just like Helene in the book.” Read more …
—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog
“Murdock makes me smile. He’s not a suave, sophisticated James Bond. He’s not a disheveled, bumbling Colombo either. He’s real. He’s kind. He’s somebody to share a good adventure with. Helene Steinbeck, retired town marshal turned successful author, is Murdock’s new sidekick and lover. She makes me just a tiny bit jealous. Robert Ray’s novel tossed me back and forth between the feel of a summer read and a study in human nature—either way Murdock Tackles Taos is a read you won’t want to miss.”
—Arleen Williams, author of The Thirty-Ninth Victim
“In Murdock Tackles Taos, Robert Ray takes risks that every good novelist has to take in order to push the limits of the genre without leaving his readers behind. As with all of Ray’s books, this one is so well written it’s a pleasure just to say the words. When Ray brings Helene Steinbeck, his second sleuth, on stage he drags Murdock into the 21st Century with a bang …. In this book, the rich eat the poor. Steinbeck and Murdock set things right.”
—Jack Remick, author of Blood, Gabriela and the Widow and The California Quartet series
“Robert J. Ray has succeeded in doing what Michael McGarrity excels at: developing characters that you want to take home. Murdock Tackles Taos is a can’t-put-it-down kind of book. Ray seduces the reader from the first paragraph, pulls them in with enticing promises, and doesn’t break up with them until the last page. Murdock is the perfect character. He keeps you at the edge of your seat waiting to surprise you with his next move.”
—Marie Romero Cash, artist and author of the Jemimah Hodge Mystery series
“Fast paced, with many twists and turns, told in three alternating points of view, mostly Helen’s and Murdock’s, and a few from the villain’s making it extra interesting. All characters are developed and well-rounded. The society of Taos the author created is beautifully described—picture perfect—including an eccentric group of people taking an obscure place in it all…. An action-packed, fast-paced read with a surprise ending that will stay with you for a while. Definitely worthwhile to take on holiday!” Read more ….
—Fenny, Hotchpotch Blog
“I was immediately engrossed in the storyline and the pace of the book I was constantly trying to guess what would happen next and the who done it. I highly recommend reading and look forward to reading more on Matt Murdock.” Read more ….
—Heather, Saving for 6 Blog
“Game, set, match. Murdock Tackles Taos puts readers through their paces, serving up breakneck action, intrigue and murder in this winner-takes-all mystery thriller set in serene Taos, N.M. Can’t wait for Murdock’s next case!”
—L.M. Archer, freelance author and wine blogger
“In Murdock Tackles Taos, Murdock makes us yearn for hexagonal sights to sharpen our aim. He is aging well, but feeling some ‘techodistance’ between himself and his younger rival for the heroine’s love. Yet Murdock prevails. His love, Helene Steinbeck, silently paces in their bedroom, and suddenly dust from gunshot riddled sheet rock drifts down into the room. Then the pair are on the move again to solve the mystery of more than one missing person. Murdock feels the tentacles of a monster in Taos, ‘reaching out, grabbing up innocent people and squeezing them to the maw of the octopus.’ Bob Ray’s character descriptions and scene settings are vivid. This book seems like a case study for The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery. There is lively writing throughout. Highly recommended to all Murdock Mystery fans!”
—Becky Warden, co-author, along with Kerri Hakoda, of The Currency Mysteries
“Whenever Matt Murdock is in town, trouble can’t be far off. This time it’s Taos, New Mexico, with an international cast of bad guys and more than a few beauties. The prose is tough, the characters quirky, and a depiction of the Taos landscape so vivid you can taste the red clay and the enchiladas. Funny, imaginative, and with a code of honor reminiscent of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Matt Murdock gets his man.”
—Max Detrano, author of “Jasper Rincon’s Loft” and “A Hunk of Meat” published by 10,000 Tons of Black Ink–both nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
“This novel dishes up a whole lot of fun—and just in time for summer. With shades of Raymond Chandler’s tough-minded Marlowe, Murdock is a detective you can root for—slightly above the law, but only in the way we like to think that we are, too. Ray’s plot zips along, sweeping us past murder, seduction, human trafficking, and class issues. And that’s just in the opening pages. But even with the swift plot, the characters were what I flipped pages for: the quick-witted Murdock, his gutsy female sidekick, and a villain worthy of Ian Fleming. And the final line will stick with you for a long time.”
“This eagerly-anticipated installment in Bob Ray’s Murdock P.I. series sizzles with fast-paced action and heats up the high desert nights with steamy chemistry between Murdock and his partner in crime-solving, the multi-talented novelist/ex-cop Helene Steinbeck. The suspicious disappearance of an Army buddy’s daughter from an artist’s colony brings Murdock to the Southwest, where he learns that here, bow hunting is not confined to wild game. In fact, the game gets wilder as Murdock uncovers more about the golden gods and goddesses that rule the country club tennis courts. The beautiful people are far from unblemished, and they have Murdock and Steinbeck in their sights. Those who loved the earlier Murdock books (Bloody Murdock, Dial M for Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Murdock Cracks Ice) will not be disappointed. Murdock may have aged a bit, but he’s still on his game. Action-packed and brimming with memorable characters, Murdock Tackles Taos is perfect summer fare, and required reading for noir fans.”
—Kerri Hakoda, co-author with Becky Warden, The Currency Mysteries
Weary but wise private-eye Matt Murdock is back, and he has met his match—a vital and attractive writer and cop’s daughter, Helene Steinbeck. Helene is hiking in the hills of Taos when she happens upon the corpse of a young woman downed by an arrow. Murdock appears on the horizon just in time to prevent a team of archers from using Helene as target practice. Murdock has been scouring Angel Mountain and vicinity for evidence that will help him discover the whereabouts of Barbi Bellini, the missing daughter of a friend.
Now that Helene has stumbled onto the scene, she has no choice but to join Murdock in his search for answers. Drawn to the detective’s integrity and quiet strength, she becomes both his apprentice and his lover. Their quest leads them to a cult of locals whose charismatic leader believes the “weak” are fair game. But this unholy brotherhood is just the poisonous tip of the arrow. The hunters have forged deadly alliances with the rich and powerful of Taos. Who can Helene and Murdock trust? Will they be able to outthink—and outrun—their many adversaries?
ROBERT J. RAY is the author of nine novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Dial “M” for Murdock, Merry Christmas, Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, and now Murdock Tackles Taos. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing techniques on writing at bobandjackswritingblog.com. A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Helene felt the edge of fear. Maybe not fear, maybe curiosity. The kids were not in the room by chance. They had been sent by someone with a game plan and the sides were uneven. Eight sassy high school kids against one Helene Steinbeck. She was out-numbered, but why was she worried? Over forty people in the workshop. Plenty of adults. She was safe here.
Skye’s reading was a skimpy story about killing his number one rival on the high school soccer team. The killing was preceded by a manhunt, where Skye and his jock-friends chased the victim—identified as Manny Jones the Retard, a fat kid wearing a white polo shirt that glowed in the dark—up a steep hill, sharp rocks underfoot, and then through a wasteland wilderness of trees with witches arms for branches. As Skye finished reading and sat down, Helene looked at her group of teenagers. They had read her book and now they were playing with her. Toying with her, according to some kind of plan. There was an hour left. An hour to kill, or an hour to do her job. An hour before she could escape. Helene changed her workshop strategy—more writing, less reading.
For a solid fifty-five minutes, she had them write using prompts called Firsts and Lasts. “My first day at school,” for three minutes. “My last day at school,” for four minutes. “At my first birthday party,” write for five minutes. No reading, no chance to rattle Helene, just writing, switching back and forth—the beginning, the end, the beginning, and when the timer buzzed, Helene thanked them for coming.
Then the bookstore person brought in books for signing and a line of buyers formed. The senior citizens came first. They paid with credit cards from co-ops and local banks.
“To my sister in Des Moines.”
“To my grandchild in Topeka.”
The last senior walked away. Helene texted Murdock. “HLP.”
The teenagers clustered around the table. Grinning, smug with their sex appeal, confident in their youth, their collective force. The first teen customer was Tommy—handsome and cocky, flashing a black card from Amex that made the bookseller gawk. Tommy signed the ticket with flair.
When Tommy presented his book for Helene’s signature, he said, “What a great workshop, Miss Steinbeck. Oh, yeah, right, make it to my big brother, Gerry Junior—use his initials, ‘To G.J., from Helene, with love’—just kidding, but listen, Miss Steinbeck, I really want to be a writer, I mean, it’s like a lust, a craving, but my folks say no way to the artist’s life, so I was wondering, could we buy you a coke or something, like now? Pick your brain? Get your advice?”
Helene said thank you for the invitation but she was tired and maybe some other time. And the next teenage book buyer said the same thing. A yen for writing, parents doing the old roadblock thing, could we buy you a coke or something, pick your brain, maybe?
It was a rehearsed operation with ritual overtones. Automaton teens, mocking her, setting her up, for what she did not know. Helene said “No thank you.” She was tired. She was meeting someone. The invitations did not stop. She signed the last book and looked around for the bookstore person. Gone. She turned to pick up her rucksack. Skye was holding it out of easy reach. She reached for her cellphone. Moving fast, Tommy snatched the phone. His eyes looked nasty. The circle of teenagers tightened around her. Her Glock was back in the motel room. Where was Murdock?
Treasure among the Shadows ($15.95, 310 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-907-7) is Marie Romero Cash’s third murder mystery featuring forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. This time around Jemimah and Sheriff Rick Romero are looking for answers in the death of a much-reviled female archeologist.
** Click the cover image to order the 5×8 trade paperback online **
** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Jemimah Hodge has guts, heart and a brilliant sense of direction when she’s on the trail of something buried. Cash delivers a thrilling ride from start to finish. Riveting.”
—Chris Rogers, author, the Dixie Flannigan series
“Treasure among the Shadows is a fictional take on the controversial, real-life hunt for a treasure buried by Forrest Fenn that has attracted the attention of treasure seekers worldwide as well as the FBI. The author knows Fenn in real life; in the book he is renamed Tim McCabe and has strong ties to law enforcement, specifically Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Romero, a straight-arrow local boy who is dating his esteemed colleague, forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. Hodge, who gets involved in the murder mystery beyond the scope of her job, has a curious back story: as a teenager, she ran away from a polygamist Mormon community to save herself from being married off to a stranger three times her age. She then put herself through school, earned a doctorate, and eventually landed in Santa Fe. Joining this crew as McCabe’s foil — and then the story’s next murder victim — is Gilda Humphreys, the frumpy, tyrannical state archaeologist who’s been leading a double life as a sex kitten. She’s fixated on the treasures to be found on McCabe’s ranch — property he bought from a pueblo and to which he insists the state has no claim. When real treasure is indeed found, the fun begins.”
—Pasatiempo, the New Mexican’s Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture
“The essence of northern New Mexico permeates the pages of this nonstop murder mystery…. Congratulations to Marie Romero Cash for painting new shades into the rich New Mexico canvas.”
—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Murder Mystery series
“Jemimah Hodge and Sheriff Rick Romero are a great team. The two of them remind me a lot of ‘McCloud’ from the old TV show, maybe because he was from Taos, New Mexico also. There are two murders that our team needs to solve, one without suspects and one with plenty. Treasure Among The Shadows is a wonderful thriller; the tension mounts as Jemimah and Rick are trying to identify the killer. It is loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next. Ms. Cash has provided us with a great character in Jemimah Hodge and I am going to correct my earlier mistake and go and get the first two books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.” Read more ….
—Vic’s Media Room
“A relaxed, interesting and light Summer read that any detective lover will enjoy.”
—Fenny, Hopscotching Blog
“The book brings the area of Taos and New Mexico to life! You will find yourself wanting to go back and read the previous two books, and looking forward to the next book in the series too. You’ll love the team of Jemimah and Rick.” Read more ….
—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog
4 Stars: “Jemimah is an interesting character with an unusual background, having run from a polygamous cult as a teenager. I assume her history is covered more fully in the first two books, so I will be looking for those next. The Southwest locale is as important to the story as the characters themselves. This series should be enjoyed by fans of Tony Hillerman.” Read more ….
—The Self-Taught Cook Blog
A woman is strangled and shot. She was last seen alive at a casino near Santa Fe. Forensic Psychologist Jemimah Hodge is on the case, as is her new boyfriend, Sheriff Rick Romero. The trail has already grown cold when another woman is murdered under similar circumstances. The first dead woman left behind a disgruntled ex-spouse but no other obvious suspects. Gilda Humphreys, the second victim, is another story. First there is her househusband, then there are all her co-workers … It seems no one is shedding a tear for Gilda.
While going through Gilda’s field notes, Jemimah discovers that the woman was experiencing a sexual renaissance. Could one of her lovers have killed her? Then there is Tim McCabe’s treasure hunt. A wealthy gallery owner and collector, McCabe has buried a chest filled with valuable coins and jewelry and challenged the public to find it. When Gilda wasn’t dressing down her co-workers or dallying with lovers, she was searching for McCabe’s treasure.
Was it greed that killed Gilda? A scorned lover or vengeful co-worker? With so many suspects and so few clues, Rick and Jemimah face one of the most challenging cases of their careers.
Says Cash, “I got the idea for this book after reading the fabulous memoir of a long-time Santa Fe collector and owner of private Indian ruins near Cerrillos on the ranch that has been the site for my other books. As if his adventures weren’t exciting enough, Forrest Fenn tossed in an honest to goodness treasure hunt. Besides a fictional treasure hunt, my book has a murder attached and a few bad guys thrown in for good measure.”
Marie Romero Cash was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has lived there most of her life. In her mid-thirties she discovered the traditional arts of northern New Mexico. After twenty years of creating award-winning art, she began to write about it. At fifty she enrolled in college and, five years later, graduated with a degree in Southwest Studies. In 1998, she received the prestigious Javits Fellowship to pursue her education. Since then Marie has written several books about the art and culture of the southwest, including a memoir about growing up in Santa Fe. Click here to find Marie on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The tangerine glow brushed the mountain tops in the final moments of the sunset. Gilda had been tapping markers into the trees for over an hour to document her progress in the canyon. She leaned over to pick up her backpack. The crackling of leaves startled her. She could make out the silhouette of a man moving toward her. A look of anguish spread over her face as he came within a foot of her. She frantically reached for her cellphone.
He pulled a guitar wire from his inside pocket.
She gasped. “What …”
Inches from her she stared into the blank look in the deep wells of darkness that were his eyes. His breath was rank and heavy.
Her voice trembled. “Please. Don’t hurt me.”
He pushed his face into hers. “Nobody’s going to hear you.”
Gilda lurched forward. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back, knocking her to her knees. He squeezed the cord around her neck as she struggled to get free. He reached under his coat. The bullet shattered her head. A cloud of smoke filled the air around her as her lifeless body dropped to the ground.
He dragged her to the edge of the river and rolled her over the embankment, waiting for the splash. Looking over the ledge, he discovered she had fallen into a boat tangled in the bushes and roared with laughter.
“Would you look at that? Perfect three point landing.”
The stranger retrieved his gear, clicked on his flashlight and made his way down the hill where his car was parked behind a clump of chamisa. He was in no hurry. The job was done.