Merry Christmas from Camel Press!

Looking for Christmas-themed stories? Here are two Regency romance story collections by award-winning author Carla Kelly and a mystery in Robert J. Ray‘s classic hard-boiled Matt Murdock series. If you love Carla’s Christmas stories, check out Camel Press’s reprints of her other Regencies as well as her historical romances set in the Santa Fe area. Guaranteed to warm your heart in any season.

Historical romances: Daughter of Fortune , The Spanish Brand series (The Double Cross /Marco and the Devil’s Bargain /Paloma and the Horse Traders and The Star in the Meadow (coming in February, 2017).
Regency romances: Miss Billings Treads the Boards, Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour, Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind, Miss Whittier Makes a List, With This Ring, and Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season

Regency-Christmas-GiftsRegency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories, by Carla Kelly

The Lasting Gift: Christmas approaches, and Mary Ann Poole has little to anticipate. Her daughter Beth was born just after the death in battle of her father seven years earlier, and never knew Lt. Poole. Mary Ann has just lost her job. As a future in the poorhouse looms, she receives a package that was misdirected from the post office. Unable to afford return postage, the Pooles pay a visit to the sender, Thomas Jenkins, a retired sailing master in nearby Plymouth who is bored by life ashore. Thomas takes an immediate interest in the pretty widow and her bright daughter. He decides Mrs. Poole’s welfare is just the right charitable Christmas project to banish boredom while he searches for a way to return to sea. Soon he has a new dilemma: now that he has met Mary Ann Poole, does he really want to go sailing again?

Faithfully Yours: John McPherson left Dumfries, Scotland, as an impoverished, neglected boy, determined to make his fortune in North America. Make it he did, thanks to his facility with languages and business savvy. Now he is home after ten years for a visit. He hopes to marry Margaret Patterson, the lovely correspondent he left behind, and who has exchanged letters with him ever since. But Margaret, daughter of a prosperous merchant, is engaged to another. His faithful correspondent has really been Sally Wilson, pretending to be Margaret, who is not quite the person John thought she was. Just the daughter of a minister, Sally never judged John for his poverty and even saw him off on his adventures. But how could he possibly know that?

Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas: Lucinda Danforth is downhearted this Christmas, her first since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Her sister is getting married on Christmas Eve, and Papa Danforth has been trying to keep events on an even keel ever since the death of his dear wife. Overwhelmed by wedding preparations, he tells Lucy to forget about Christmas traditions this year. But Lucy wants Christmas, too. Enter Lucy’s second cousin Miles Bledsoe, Oxford scholar, who wangles an invitation to the Danforth’s home. He’s happy to help out, and even happier to see Lucy Danforth. Thoughts of Lucy have been distracting him from his studies of late. He might be in love, and he wants to test his theory. Along the way, Lucy and Miles seek to honor the memory of Lucy’s departed mother by helping others, in this case, a war widow and her children.

seasons_greetingsSeason’s Regency Greetings: Two Christmas Novellas, by Carla Kelly

“Let Nothing You Dismay”: In 1810 England, Cecilia Ambrose is an oddity at the Bath academy for young ladies where she teaches. Although gently raised, she is half-Egyptian, and at age twenty-eight believes she will never marry. With Christmas only days away, Cecilia has agreed to escort twelve-year-old Lucinda back to Chase Hall in York. The girl’s parents have been delayed, and in their place is Lucinda’s uncle, Lord Trevor Chase, who has been charged to chaperone Lucinda and her siblings. The bachelor black sheep of the family, Trevor scandalized his own class by becoming a barrister in London and championing the poor. Cecilia’s plan to return to Bath is thwarted when fire breaks out in the mansion, and she reluctantly agrees to stay a while longer. Will her delay prove to be Trevor Chase’s salvation? First published in 2003.

“No Room at the Inn”: With Christmas, 1815, around the corner, Lady Mary is told that she is not the daughter of an earl, but simply Mary McIntyre, the base-born orphan Lord and Lady Davy reared as their own. After her true parentage is revealed, Mary must leave Coventry for Yorkshire and the farm of her new-found grandmother. Her travel companions are the snobbish son of Lord Davy’s estate steward, Thomas Shepard, and his family. Heavy snowfall soon blocks the roads, and there is no room at the inn, so the little group is forced to seek shelter in the home of Joseph Shepard, Thomas’ estranged brother, a handsome man Mary remembers fondly from childhood. In this “vulgar” mansion belonging to a common businessman, Mary will discover that happiness has little to do with titles or income, and that Christmas works its own magic. First published in 2002.

merry_xmas_murdockMerry Christmas, Murdock, by Robert J. Ray

Christmastime is here, and weary-but-wise private-eye Matt Murdock is short on funds and holiday spirit. There are no white Christmases in Newport Beach, California, but there are soggy ones. One rainy evening at the Xanadu Mall, a down-on-his-luck mystery writer named Marvin Holly meets a runaway teenager and autographs her book. As they exit the mall, they encounter the headlights of a speeding car. In the aftermath the author is missing and the girl is in a coma.

On an earlier case, Murdock befriended a precocious teenager named Cindy. Cindy is the product of a broken home, a very wealthy one, and her people would rather break Murdock’s face than accept his help finding out what happened to her biological father—the missing author from Xanadu mall. Meanwhile Murdock has been hired to find out why Heather, the daughter of a sexy but tightly wound senator named Jane Blasingame, was injured in a hit-and-run. Is she the teenager last seen with Cindy’s father? And was Heather really a member of the notorious San Diego gang, a group of wholesome looking youngsters who prey on unsuspecting salesmen?

Cindy’s mother and the fabulously wealthy Duke family—the clan of Cindy’s uncle—were not fans of Marvin Holly’s work … or the man himself. They certainly don’t want Murdock to locate him. How are Holly’s disappearance and the hit-and-run connected? Will the lovely senator fall for Murdock’s rugged charms? If the holidays don’t kill Murdock then this case will.

If you like this title, check out Ray’s other Murdock mysteries. Matt is a heck of a nice guy, except if you’re a rotten apple, and justice always prevails.

Bloody Murdock

Dial “M” for Murdock

Murdock Cracks Ice

Murdock for Hire

Murdock Rocks Sedona

Murdock Tackles Taos

Five Dog Voodoo, by Lia Farrell: A Murder Casts Suspicion on a Closed Community

5dogFive Dog Voodoo ($15.95, 266 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-248-1) is the fifth cozy mystery by Lia Farrell in a series featuring Mae December, the successful owner of a dog boarding business in Rosedale, Tennessee, her sheriff fiancé and his staff, and her friends and family. When a young woman is found murdered near her home in the Voodoo Village, the Rosedale Sheriff’s Office is called upon to investigate.

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“Fast-paced and entertaining, this is a story cozy mystery fans shouldn’t miss. I found the combination of dogs, Voodoo, and murder mystery hard to resist and jumped at the chance to get an early look at this book. I was not disappointed[….] Although this is book five in the Mae December Mystery series, it reads well as a standalone. I was able to dive right into the story.”  Read more….


“A delight to read…. The author really knows how to keep a story moving with very interesting characters.”  Read more….

—Texas Book-aholic

4 1/2 Stars: “The situations feel real, like something pulled out of today’s headlines, and happening to normal, everyday people. The Voodoo Village was a nice touch and ups the originality of the storyline. As indicated by the title, the story always seems to hover closely around the four-legged friends and their well being. [….] The story was clean, the dialogue nice and tight, with an ending that leaves one as satisfied and happy as a recently fed puppy!” Read more….

—Clarice Silvers for InD’Tale Magazine

4 Stars: “An entertaining murder mystery with an occult twist. The novel has hints of Voodoo set in a small Tennessee town. I was impressed with the descriptions of the rituals; they gave the story a sense of realism [….] Although this is book number five in the Mae December Series, it does well as a standalone. I enjoyed reading this book and was happy to learn a little more about the voodoo religion. I recommend this book to those who love a cozy mystery.” Read more….

—Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Five Dog Voodoo is an excellent story, one of my favorites in the cozy mystery genre. While the title initially gave me pause, the description caught my interest—and I’ve discovered what looks to be a great series. It’s extremely well written, with no unnecessary descriptions or repetition of thoughts as filler, and moves at a quick pace. Setting is atmospheric, plot is multilayered, and an appealing ensemble cast adds much depth. This book can stand alone, but I’m eager to read the four previous stories and hope for more to come.”  Read more….

—The Power of Words Blog

“I had all kinds of fun with this story…. It’s a lovely mess of reelection campaigns, murder, and voodoo in Tennessee…. I have several requirements I expect from a cozy mystery. It needs a small town setting. Check. A quirky title and fun cover art. Check. Unusual character names and a bit of romance. Check. A mystery not too easily solved. Check. And some kind of theme. Check. And it’s always a pleasant bonus to have some furry companions too. I had a really fun read and plan to go back and start at the beginning. I need to see what I’ve missed. But, if you start the series here, you’ll have no problem enjoying this all by itself.”  Read more….

—FU Only Knew Blog: Laura’s Ramblins and Reviews

“This book has a bit of everything. There is love, friendship, small town quaintness, politics, murder both past and present, and voodoo. I love small towns and I love reading about them[….] I really enjoyed this book[….] Will be on the lookout for more books by Lia Farrell.”  Read more….

—T’s Stuff

“This book had everything—small towns, adventure, mystery, and so much more. I haven’t read the previous books in this series but after this one I definitely will, as the writer did a fabulous job writing about voodoo which you don’t hear much about in such detail. Can’t wait to see what is next!”  Read more….

—Paula Mitchell for Community Bookstop

As Halloween approaches, engaged couple Mae December and Sheriff Ben Bradley have devoted all their energy to Ben’s campaign for reelection as sheriff of Rose County, Tennessee. The race is already too close to call when the sheriff’s office is hit with yet another maddeningly tricky murder case. In recent years the town of Rosedale has had more than its fair share of murders, a fact Ben’s smarmy opponent is all too eager to exploit.

Investigator Dory Clarkson and her friend, Counselor Evangeline Bon Temps, are visiting the mysterious Voodoo village when a resident tells them her granddaughter, Zoé Canja, is missing. Her dog, a Weimaraner nursing four pups, escapes the house and finds the young woman’s body in a shallow grave. Evangeline becomes Sheriff Ben Bradley’s unofficial consultant because her grandmother in Haiti and later her mother in New Orleans practiced Voodoo. A threatening symbol is left on the pavement by Dory’s front door, effectively banning her from the case.

Evangeline and the sheriff’s office ask too many questions, and Evangeline soon wears out her welcome. Voodoo curses aside, Ben’s job is at stake, and no one associated with the case is safe until the killer is found.

The first four books in the Mae December Mystery series, One Dog Too Many, Two Dogs Lie Sleeping, Three Dog Day, and Four Dog’s Sake have been enthusiastically received by readers and critics:

Four Dog’s Sake: “There is a lot of action in this book, and the author gives a wonderful view of the motivation of a real killer. This is one fast-paced cozy that keeps you on your toes.”
—Suspense Magazine

“This fourth book in the Mae December series is a delight to read. An eclectic cast of characters take a murder mystery on an interesting spin making for a humorous and adventurous mystery. The icing on the cake is the adorable dogs.” —Coffee Time Romance & More

Three Dog Day is a wonderful cozy mystery, and a great addition to a lovely series. It is sure to offer a lot of entertainment for mystery fans.” —Long and Short Reviews

Two Dogs Lie Sleeping: “This series is now one of my firm favorites and I’m really excited to see where she takes the series next.” —Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

One Dog Too Many: “A lively tale with plenty of twists, turns, and unexpected situations to satisfy the most ardent cozy mystery lover.” —Fresh Fiction

The series will continue in 2017.

Lia Farrell is the pen name of the mother and daughter writing team of Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons, who live in Michigan and Tennessee, respectively. Both are life-long readers who are also dog lovers. Lyn owns a Welsh corgi and Lisa has a Siberian husky. Lisa works as a Muralist and Interior Designer and Lyn is a Professor Emerita of Medical Education who has retired to write full-time. For more information, click here.

Says Lisa, “We wanted to write a book that took place at Halloween; a perfect time of year for a cozy mystery. We were also intrigued by the inherent challenges of solving a murder in a closed society such as a Voodoo village. Somewhere in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, there is an actual Voodoo village with a listed address that is almost impossible to find. Street signs have been removed, the road names have been changed, and the feeling of mystery in the area is heightened by overgrown trees. For the purposes of Five Dog Voodoo, we moved the Voodoo village to Rose County. Get ready to be spooked!”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Mira Canja inserted the key into the lock of the yellow house. It turned with a click and Evangeline heard loud barking and howling coming from inside.

“Wait here. I need to go in first,” Mira said. “The dog is jumpy, protective of her babies.”

In just a few minutes, she came back out and opened the door to let the threesome inside.

“What’s the dog’s name?” Evangeline asked.

“Erzulie,” Mira said.

“The Voodoo goddess of fertility … very appropriate.” Evangeline smiled at her.

The house lacked a proper entryway. The front door led directly into a kitchen open to the living room. The kitchen walls had been painted a gray blue that contrasted nicely with the sunflower-yellow cabinets. The upper cabinets had glass fronts and Evangeline could see dark-blue dishes inside. Although Evangeline lacked the detectives’ experience, she seriously doubted this was a crime scene. The house smelled clean.

Wayne and Rob walked through the kitchen and into the living room, skirting the mother dog in her bed. Erzulie rose up, growling, and Mira called her into the kitchen.

“She’s beautiful.” Evangeline admired the silvery fur and pale yellow eyes of the mother dog. The dog whined and pushed against Mira Canja’s hand. “I think she wants to go outside.”

“I know. I’ve been taking her out several times a day, but always on a leash. The way she pulls, I’m afraid if I let her off she will bolt. She knows where Zoé is—I’m sure of it. I had a dream the other night that Zoé was here in the village, held captive against her will.” The woman took a shaky breath.

Evangeline shivered. She could hear Wayne and Rob’s footsteps as they ascended the staircase to check the upstairs rooms. “Clear,” she heard Rob say. There was no one else in the house.

“I’ll take the dog outside if you like,” Evangeline offered.

“If she will go with you, that’s fine, but don’t let go of the leash. She’s stronger than she looks.”

“Come on, Miss Erzulie, let’s go out.” Mira handed her a red leather leash and Evangeline clipped it to the dog’s collar. They walked across the bare wood floors, through the sparsely furnished living room. Looking through the windows at the back of the house, Evangeline saw a screened-in porch, a wild backyard, and the shadowed woods. The sun was low, and even though it was only early afternoon, the shadows had turned the pine trees a deep forest green, nearly black.

She opened the door to the porch, which ran across the whole back of the house. The dog was pulling now, hard. “Erzulie, stop that,” she said just as she tripped over a flower pot and fell down on the floor. In that instant, the dog pushed through the door, tearing the corner of the screen. Like a ghost, she vanished.

“Are you all right?” Mira asked as she helped Evangeline to her feet.

“I am,” Evangeline said, brushing off her pants. “I’m sorry, the dog got away.” Wayne and Rob clattered down the stairs.

“What happened?” Rob asked.

“Nothing. I just tripped, but the dog got outside. Ms. Canja is afraid she’ll run away in search of Zoé.” They could hear the dog barking and then a long horrible howl, a wail of near human pain. Evangeline could hardly breathe.

“We’ll go after her,” Wayne said brusquely. The two men moved toward the sound of the crying dog.

“I’m coming with you,” Evangeline said. Following the men, she glanced back once at Mira Canja, who stood frozen in place. The wind rose and a sudden patter of rain hit the tin roof of the yellow house. The dog continued to moan and cry. They crossed the coarse grass and had reached the edge of the forest when Rob flicked on his flashlight. The beam hit Erzulie’s yellow eyes. The dog’s front legs were bent down in a crouching position but her head was held high as she gave vent to her anguish.

“Stay back,” Wayne said, holding out an arm to stop Evangeline. “You probably don’t want to see this.”

Evangeline came to a halt, staring at the grieving dog. Wayne pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket and knelt down. Unable to keep still another moment, Evangeline moved forward to grab for the red leather leash that was still attached to Erzulie’s collar.

“Erzulie, come away from there,” Evangeline said and tugged on the leash. She didn’t want the dog interfering with the work the detectives were doing. She was breathing raggedly, terribly afraid of what they would see. The men were both bending down now, moving dried leaves and some dirt aside.

“It’s the girl,” Wayne said. Rob walked unsteadily away toward the left side of the property. Evangeline could hear him retching into the weeds.

Beginner’s Luck, by Corinne Scott: Danger Prompts a Couple to Seek a Second Chance at Love

beginners_luckWhen you’re an O’Brien you never give up on your family, your pub, or your estranged wife.

Beginner’s Luck ($14.95, 232 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-381-5) is the first book in a new romantic suspense series by Corinne Scott featuring the irresistible siblings of the O’Brien family, whose parents own an Irish pub in the Bronx, New York City. When the manager of an art gallery finds her business ransacked, her estranged police detective husband comes to the rescue, forcing them to confront their unresolved issues.

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5 Motorcycles/Recommended Read: “I’m telling you, dear readers, this book has everything that you want. A hero and heroine to cheer for, siblings that you will come to love, in-laws that mean well and not to mention a suspense element that at one time was forgotten until it just to rears back up again and I never saw the twist coming nor the outcome. Oh and humor. Yes, there is lots of good Irish humor […] I will definitely be reading the rest of this series. I’ve GOT to know about Niall and Lola. Lord, every time they were together, you were laughing but also, felt the sexual tension ratcheted up 1000.”  Read more….

—Harlie’s Books

5star-shiny-web5 Stars: “Beginner’s Luck is a beautiful story for those who love romance and suspense…. I enjoyed the way Corinne Scott develops the romance in the story, the friction between two characters with very opposing natures. Eoin is impulsive and easily provoked to anger and Vivian is the kind of woman who loves to take the lead in her life. When the two lovers get back together, the reader becomes interested to find out what would happen between them.”  Read more….

—Arya Fomonyuy for Readers’ Favorite

“I am so glad that this is book one in the series because I can’t wait for the next installment. This was well-written, captivating, suspenseful, and poignant.”  Read more….

—Rainy Day Reviews

“The story had a lot of heart. I adored the O’Briens. This was a great romantic suspense story that pulled me in from the start.”  Read more….

—Brooke Blogs

“Romantic suspense at its finest [….] I always enjoy a strong family story and that’s what this is. The O’Briens are a big, loving family but they also get very emotional with each other. Vivian and Eoin’s love for each other is poignant and sweet, but also quite fiery. [….] This is a very well-written book with vibrant and lively characters. You just know they each have their own story to be told. I, for one, absolutely cannot wait to read them.”  Read more….

—Socrates Book Reviews

“The romantic tension between Vivian and Eoin was strong and a few scenes absolutely sizzled. Situations continued to test them and at some points their pain just oozed of the pages. I was impressed by the mystery. It was very balanced with the romance. Handled aptly by the police it was not easy for them to solve and had me perplexed several times. I thought I knew the ‘who’ but the ‘why’ was not adding up. It turned out I was only partly right when the entire story concluded. The ending had an suspenseful edge of your seat moment that I absolutely loved. I am excited that this is going to be a series. I love this family.” Read more….

—Escape with Dollycas

“This book was great, full of adventure and angst of all sorts. I loved the strongness of both Eoin and Vivian fighting for what they want without giving up themselves in the process and loved how the mystery to the crimes wasn’t cut and dried [….] I also loved meeting the family and seeing who their friends and co-workers were. Can’t wait to see what is next for the O’Brien clan!”  Read more….

—Paula Mitchell, Community Bookstop

“If you enjoy romantic suspense with a bit of heat and Irish brogue, you’ll enjoy BEGINNER’S LUCK and may just have found a new series.”  Read more….

—Christa Reads and Writes

“A fantastic book to read and I really am looking forward to the next ones in this series. Vivian is the kind of woman who does not take orders from anyone but herself. Her husband still loves her though and wants to help keep her safe. Will they be able to work together? Will his family mind their own business? I give this book a 5/5.”  Read more….

—Debra Gaudette, 3 Partners in Shopping Blog

As eldest son, Eoin O’Brien is expected to take over the management of his family pub, the Lion O’Brien in the Bronx. Despite his da’s disapproval, he has achieved his dream of becoming a police detective. He also longs to have a family, but his wife Vivian left him three years ago to pursue her own dreams of working in an art gallery.

Now Vivian is back from California. When the gallery where she works is robbed and vandalized, their paths cross again. It turns out the attack on the gallery was personal. After Vivian is almost run down by a car, it is clear that she herself is the target, though she can’t think of anyone who would wish her harm. Eoin and Vivian circle each other warily, each feeling the pull of the past and their still powerful attraction. But there will be no easy reconciliation. First she find a way back into the O’Brien family’s good graces. Eoin, in turn, sees that he is partly to blame for her flight. Like his father, he is too quick to anger, too domineering. He must learn to give the independent Vivian her space. But above all, he has sworn to protect her. And if he gives her too much space, she may end up dead.

Says Corinne, “My first time in a New York Irish pub, I was struck by the strong feeling of family and tradition. And so the idea of the O’Briens was born. I could picture this big Irish family pouring drinks and sharing stories, all with an adorable brogue. They seemed so real I had to make them come to life.”

Corinne Scott was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents were teachers, so of course she grew up to be a teacher as well, proving that the apple does not fall too far from the tree. Corinne has a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University and a master’s from the University of North Texas. She is passionate about books, which led her to her current occupation as a librarian and author. For more information and links to social media, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

He was a stupid man. What right did he have to tell someone not to touch Vivian? But when he’d walked in and seen her in another man’s arms, he’d gone completely Cro-Magnon. All he wanted to do was rip her from the man’s arms, haul her over his shoulder, drag her back to his cave, and have his way with her. He wasn’t like that. Eoin had never been jealous in his life.

Until Viv. Always Viv.

She pushed and pulled at him in every way imaginable without even trying. His reaction to her would always be the same; he knew that now. Viv was a part of his soul and he was fucking it up.

“Wife?” The man holding her repeated, looking at Viv.

The man still did not drop his arms from her waist, Eoin noted. “Yes, wife. Now get your damn hands off her.” Why couldn’t he keep his effing mouth shut?

“You married a Paddy, Vivian?”

“Limey bastard!” Eoin lurched forward, ready to brawl when Viv stepped between them.

“Really, Eoin? I haven’t seen you in three years and all of a sudden you’re barging in and laying claim?”

“Do I need to go, Vivi?” Avery asked.

Vivi? What the hell?” Eoin stepped forward again. He was really going to kill this gowl. Vivian put another hand to his chest, stopping him immediately.

“Avery, would you mind coming back later? I appreciate you stopping by, and I do need the help with the gallery, but I have to talk to Eoin first.”

“I’ll be back after lunch, yeah?” He bussed her on the cheek to piss him off, Eoin knew.

Eoin rounded on Viv as soon as the Englishman left. “Are you seeing that arsehole?”

“Nice to see you, too, Eoin.” She whirled away and headed for the back room. Eoin followed like a lap dog, needing answers.

“I’m serious, Viv.”

“Don’t call me Viv. No one calls me Viv anymore. And you don’t get an answer to that question. We’re not together anymore.”

She began going through boxes, looking for Lord knows what while he stood there looking mystified. When Eoin called her Viv, it took her back to a time when they were in love. Viv was a pet name for a wife. Vivian was … what? An ex-wife? An estranged one? She didn’t even know anymore. All she knew was that when he called her Viv in that Irish brogue, she just wanted to leap into his arms like she’d always done when he’d come home at the end of a shift. Viv was young and naïve. Viv didn’t have a place here anymore.

An Act of Murder, by Debut Author Mary Angela: A Small-Town Professor Turns Sleuth

act_murderBinders, books, backpacks … and murder.

An Act of Murder ($14.95, 236 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-375-4) is the first cozy mystery by debut author Mary Angela in a series featuring English professor Emmeline Prather. After one of her students is found dead in an apparent accident, Professor Prather is convinced he was murdered and seeks out his killer within the confines of their close-knit college community.

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“Debut author Angela introduces a charming amateur sleuth, fun and well read. She so lovingly describes the town of Copper Bluff that readers can feel the breeze and smell the autumn leaves. Cozy enthusiasts who like Joanne Dobson and Sarah R. Shaber will dive into this new series.”

—Viccy Kemp, Library Journal, Sept. 1, 2016

Four Stars: “The most unexpected solution proves to be the right one in this cozy debut by Angela. Set in Copper Bluff, S.D., this novel portrays small-town college life to a tee. Her suspects are varied, but apparent motives are slim as she teases the reader. Em is a force all her own and bodes well for this new series.”

—Donna M. Brown, RT Magazine

Voted BoM by LASR Readers4.5 Stars: “The plot is believable and the supporting characters are fun and have quirky traits all their own. The mystery itself, which provides the core of the plot, constantly keeps the reader guessing [….] A fantastic read and a lot of fun!”  Read more….

—Reviewed by Stargazer for Long and Short Reviews

“In this deftly executed, literate, and literary novel—the first in the Professor Prather mystery series—author Mary Angela introduces us to her delightfully quirky, fiercely intelligent, and immensely likable protagonist, English professor Emmeline Prather, along with an eclectic roster of colorful characters populating the small college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota. With the help of her charmingly laid-back colleague, Professor Lenny Jenkins, Emmeline applies her keen and rigorous eye for comma splices and split infinitives to a series of clues in the troubling death of her student, Austin Oliver—taking us on a madcap and rivetingly engaging series of plot twists as Emmeline discovers that not only does she have a knack for literature, she also has a knack for solving murders.”

—Lee Ann Roripaugh, South Dakota State Poet Laureate

“An Act of Murder offers a loving description of a quiet, rural campus set amidst natural beauty, gentle, satiric gibes at faculty members who richly deserve it, and the puzzling death of a student. Professor Emmeline Prather is an unlikely detective: young and attractive, a chocoholic and a bit of a klutz, she tries to maintain a relatively low profile. But when she suspects her student has been murdered, she becomes a veritable bulldog, fiercely determined to uncover the perpetrator. Mary Angela’s debut novel maintains the suspense until the last few pages and creates a delightful new character for a series that is certain to entertain. I look forward to accompanying Professor Prather on her next adventure.”

—Susan Wolfe, Professor Emerita of English

An Act of Murder is the first volume in a new mystery series that features amateur sleuth Professor Emmeline Prather. A deftly crafted novel of unexpected twists and surprising turns, An Act of Murder clearly establishes author Mary Angela as an impressively skilled and original storyteller. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, An Act of Murder will leave dedicated mystery buffs looking eagerly toward the next Professor Emmeline Prather adventure!”  Read more….

—Margaret Lane for The Midwest Book Review

“The idea that I would distinctly remember characters that make one brief appearance speaks to Angela’s ability to bring the people of An Act of Murder to life. Angela does a fabulous job of creating a college campus that feels so real. The descriptions of buildings, students, off-campus spots are just so perfect…they’ll take every college graduate back to their days on campus…. This is a fun book and ideal for autumn reading.”  Read more….

—Jodi Webb, Building Bookshelves Blog

5 Stars: “An Act of Murder is a well-written and imaginative tale of a teacher whose determination to get to the truth and see justice done for one of her students is right on the money. Mary Angela’s debut novel in this intriguing whodunit series had me glued to every single page, determined to spot any clues to try to solve the mystery of the killer’s identity before the end. With so many people to choose from, I was shocked when all of the evidence pointed to somebody I had not considered a real contender, and I applaud Mary Angela’s technique in presenting such a complex tale. Each of the characters was realistic and engaging, making An Act of Murder a real joy to read.”  Read more….

—Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews

“What a treat it was to read a cozy mystery with such vivid descriptions that place you in the center of the story. There were times I felt like I was sitting in the student hangout and listened in on their conversations. I loved everything about Emmeline, from her directness, attention to details and a never give up attitude[.…] The author really knows how to write with twists that shake up the story with surprise and excellent snippets of intrigue. […] The ending was explosive with secrets that will leave you hanging  on the edge of your seat .”  Read more….

—Texas Book-aholic

“In this first installment of the Professor Prather Mystery series, we are introduced to an enjoyable cast of cozy characters in a delightful setting. Emmeline (Em) Prather is an English professor in Copper Bluff, South Dakota. I absolutely adore Emmeline. She is a perfect cozy sleuth. The setting is just wonderful.”  Read more….

—Brooke Blogs

“There are numerous interesting angles and twists and turns in An Act of Murder that make it a most enjoyable read.”  Read more….

—Back Porchervations

“Prather is a sympathetic and entertaining protagonist, and the little college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota is beautifully drawn. Mary Angela does a wonderful job at portraying small-town academia, and I am looking forward to Emmeline Prather’s next adventure.”  Read more…

—Island Confidential

“Author Mary Angela paints beautiful word pictures of Copper Bluff—the town and the campus. I can clearly picture both of them in my mind…. [She] has created a cast of memorable characters, headed up by the quirky Emmeline Prather the Instigator, and her stalwart sidekick Lenny Jenkins. I love their witty repartee.”  Read more….

—Jane Reads

“Mary Angela has begun her new mystery series with a home run. An Act of Murder is a cozy tale with a fun and well-read heroine, English professor Emmeline Prather. Set in a college town, the swiftly paced plot takes readers through several twists and turns. Professor Prather collects a handful of clues as she pieces together the motive, means, and opportunity to solve a puzzling murder. Her colleague and sidekick Lenny Jenkins is a charming character who may become a love interest in future installments. I look forward to adding Angela’s future books to my list of must-read murder mysteries.”

—Colleen J. Shogan, author of the Washington Whodunit mysteries

“There were so many times I could almost feel the chill of the wind or picture the breeze in the trees against the brick of the old buildings and I love when authors can create that setting for their reader. Author Mary Angela does this beautifully and with the mystery element added to this quaint little town I found myself enjoying every part of this story. Quill says: A wonderful first mystery novel that has me wanting to read more.”

—Kristi Benedict for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This series is off to a great start. The mystery is complicated and believable.  The characters are real with plenty of room to evolve. The setting is intriguing with a huge pool of people to draw into future stories. Mary Angela is an author to watch. I am excited about upcoming installments to this story.”  Read more….

—Escape with Dollycas

“Emmeline is this character that you love because she just seems like a real person. I found her quirks and passions to be similar to mine (Hello, France anyone?) which made me feel a friendship with her. In fact, all the characters are this way. You just love many of the professors. The mystery was great, and set up nicely. I found that the book just flowed into the mystery. It held great clues, but twists that kept you guessing.”  Read more….

—Bree Herron, for Bibliophile Reviews

“The story is well written, full of twists and very addictive […]. This was a great read that left me turning the pages, eager to know what was going to happen next.”  Read more….


In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution—and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.

Says the author, “When I attended college, I was intrigued by the idea that a separate world, very different from my own, could exist within the borders of a small community. The campus was a gentle place, surrounded by blue sky and farmland, but a serious one, full of ambitious, intelligent people. The contrast was striking to me at the time, and years later, it would become the inspiration for the setting in An Act of Murder.”

Mary Angela teaches English for the University of South Dakota and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband and two young daughters. An avid mystery fan, Mary is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I tugged on the door, only to discover that it was locked, a rarity, and rummaged through my jacket pockets for the keys. My satchel came off my shoulder and the keys fell to the ground with a clang. I knelt down and was fumbling for them in the dark when I overheard voices. Abruptly, I froze. I was in an awkward position; it appeared that I had knelt down beside the car to eavesdrop. I couldn’t stand up now. Instead, I studied my shoe and pretended to tie it, despite the fact that it was a high heel with no laces.

I could not see the individuals—they were on the other side of the car—but the voices were male and female, and the two seemed to be quarrelling. Her voice was quiet but insistent. His was easier to hear only because it was deeper.

“I don’t want to wait. Why can’t you tell him now?” he asked.

They had to be students—impetuous souls. I felt somewhat relieved knowing that if I were detected, it would not be by seasoned faculty members. I had done enough tonight to create a burgeoning divide between my new colleague and me.

“I said I can’t,” she insisted. “He’s not ready.”

He was agitated; I could tell by the pacing of his footsteps. “You promised you’d tell him before classes start.”

Was I overhearing a lover’s spat? If so, it was a bit scant on the love. I detected nothing but bitterness between these two individuals.

“Look,” he said, “if you’re not going to tell him, I will.”

This declaration was met with absolute silence, and I didn’t dare take a breath.

“No, you won’t,” she finally said, growling out each word.

“Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me? You?” He laughed, but I could tell he was nervous.

“Yeah, me. I could make your life a living hell, and you know it.”

I was so shaken by the turn of the conversation, I fumbled my keys, and the pair became quiet. I debated whether or not to stand up and confront them. My teacherly instinct said something was amiss, but I worried my actions would be unwelcome—especially for the boy. I knew how sensitive male students at this age could be about their egos.

“Come on,” she said, her voice turning softer, “let’s go.”

“No,” he said. “Forget it.”

First I heard heavy footsteps leave the parking lot, growing softer, then silent as they reached the grass. Moments later, lighter footsteps started off in another direction.

A sick feeling settled in the bottom of my stomach as I quietly unlocked my car. I slid into the seat and shut the door. What had just happened? I replayed the brief conversation in my head several times, each version growing more sinister. I surveyed the parking lot, but there was no one in sight. I turned the key, and the engine rumbled to a start. I quickly drove the one block to my house, the sick feeling never leaving my stomach.

A Black Sail, by Rich Zahradnik: A Corpse Surfaces as Boats Fill the Harbor for NYC’s Bicentennial


WINNER in the Next Generation Awards for mystery. FINALIST in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

A Black Sail ($15.95, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-211-5), by Rich Zahradnik, is book three of a mystery/thriller series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor and set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s. While covering Operation Sail in 1976, Taylor witnesses a heroin-laden corpse being fished out of the New York Harbor and concludes the woman was a pawn in a drug war.

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Wholesale customers, contact or buy it from Ingram or Baker & Taylor.

Starred Review: “Taylor, while out to get the story and get back to the crime beat, is complex and has a good heart. Verdict: Fans of the late Barbara D’Amato and Bruce DeSilva will relish this gritty and powerful crime novel.”  Read more….

—Library Journal

“The pace is of necessity quick and varied, Rich Zahradnick’s characters are well established and interesting, and the plot is intense and convoluted. There is a wonderful retro dime novel flavor to the protagonist and the telling which really suits the New York City setting. And Zahradnick’s knowledge and use of the huge variety of watercraft is smoothly researched and presented. Gritty, tough, and well done—this one’s a treat.”  Read more….

Diana Borse for Reviewing the Evidence, September 2016

4 Stars: “Coleridge Taylor is a character fans can firmly stand behind. His dogged pursuit of the truth and commitment to helping others while exposing his foibles is what makes him so sympathetic and complex. Zahradnik ratchets up the action in this novel, which quickens the pace and keeps readers engaged…. a truly enjoyable read.”  Read more….

—Keitha Hart for RT Reviews

Book 1, Last Words, won Honorable Mention in the mystery category of ForeWord Reviews’ 2014 Book of the Year Contest, was a Bronze Medal Winner in the mystery/thriller eBook division of the 2015 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. RT Book Reviews gave it 4 stars: “Hours of engrossing entertainment…. A thoroughly satisfying read.”

Book 2, Drop Dead Punk, was a finalist in ForeWord Reviews’ 2015 Book of the Year Contest, a Gold Medal winner in the mystery/thriller Ebook division of the 2016 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. ForeWord Reviews called it “fast-paced, deeply entertaining and engrossing.”

“A terrific mystery with just the right amount of drama and intrigue to carry the reader along…. As a journalist, I could really relate to Taylor and his desire to write a really great story…. Samantha also helps Taylor in the investigation, and I liked her character very much. She is a good counter-point to Taylor’s idealism, as well as bringing her skills as a police officer to his efforts to find out who is bringing China White into the country.”  Read more….

—Maryann Writes Blog, It’s Not All Gravy

“Taylor is a very likeable protagonist, with all his faults and hang-ups, and I was happy to see that Samantha Callahan as well as Mason the dog, were back to soften up Taylor’s gruff exterior…. If you love a good murder mystery, check out this series—I promise you’ll be hooked in no time flat.”  Read more….

—Ellen Feld for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“A beautifully written crime story; absorbing, fast-paced, and laced with literary gems that will make the overall reading experience fun and enjoyable for fans of mystery and murder.”  Read more….

—Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“I like that Taylor is a reporter with a heart…He wants justice for a woman whose body he personally witnesses getting pulled out of the harbor, and he’s determined not to rest until he does. Even if it costs him his job, his sanity, even his life. Because that’s the kind of reporter he is, and it’s why you’ll enjoy reading about him.”  Read more….

—The Character Connection

“Rich Zahradnik weaves a tale that truly engrosses the reader. We get caught up in the mystery, diving further into the story to find out more about what’s happening. His easy and quite pleasing way of storytelling allows us to envision the environments he creates for his characters. We also feel their uncertainties, confusion, and the myriad of emotions they feel along the way.”  Read more….

—Lissette E. Manning, Simplistik Blog

“I liked the parallels that were drawn to the present day. In 1976, there are bombings in Boston. There’s discord with Russia. There’s a strong racist element among those in power. And there’s a presidential election, looming in the fall…. And that’s what great storytelling, like this book, gets us to do—think, look beyond the surface and question the status quo.”  Read more….

—The Plot Thickens

On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, newsman Coleridge Taylor is covering Operation Sail. New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs.

Convinced he’s stumbled upon a drug war between the Italian Mafia and a Chinese tong, Taylor is on fire once more. But as he blazes forward, flanked by his new girlfriend, ex-cop Samantha Callahan, his precious story grows ever more twisted and deadly. In his reckless search for the truth, he rattles New York’s major drug cartels. If he solves the mystery, he may end up like his victim—in a watery grave.

Says Zahradnik, “I love Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels about the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and have read all but one. When I looked ahead after Drop Dead Punk left off in November 1975, I realized I had the chance to put ships of sail in the next Taylor mystery. I lived near New York during the Bicentennial and remember the tall ship parade in New York Harbor—flickering images on TV up in Dutchess County. I needed to do a great deal of research on those craft, using newspaper coverage and books published at the time. Unlike Mr. O’Brian, I knew little or nothing about jibs, staysails, and ratlines. Lucky for me, there were only 16 ships—not an entire navy—and I’d be writing through the eyes of Taylor, who knows as much as I and cares a whole lot less. This was one of those times when I could bring in one of my oddball interests to dress the set, while still telling a story of heroin dealers and murder in the NYC of 1976. Taylor’s frustration at having to cover the Operation Sail events is typical of reporters who don’t think of features as serious journalism. His bad attitude helped propel the story.”

Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Almost out of gas, he huffed up the steps and walked through the big doorway. The cathedral was a long, soaring tunnel of rose light framed by two rows of identical pillars climbing to the ceiling—or maybe the sky. The light brightened to the white of daylight at the far end, where the high altar looked to be about a mile away. The sightlines were spectacular—which meant they were terrible for Taylor. He doubted heroin dealers respected the idea of sanctuary. Did anyone anymore? Inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth to make as little noise as possible, he walked along the left aisle and slid down behind a pillar near the altar. He grimaced. His whole right side ached.

Stone against his back, Taylor tried to get his bearings. He felt small. And alien. The cathedral was another world from the Greek Orthodox churches his mother had taken him and his brother to as kids. Even the large ones were dark, foreboding, their walls crowded with icons of flat-faced saints. Those churches always had the mystical wall separating the worshippers from the altar and the priest in his beard and long robes. Here there were no dividers. You could see everything. What would his mother have thought of this place? He couldn’t remember if she’d ever been. All these years and he still missed her, saddened by all she’d missed of his life.

He waited and listened.

St. John’s was the biggest cathedral in the world. Or so he’d been told. New York specialized in the biggest, and as with all its citizens, the memory of all those giant things might as well have been planted at birth. He wouldn’t change his mind about the cathedral until he got real proof. He was stubborn that way.

Was it stubbornness put him in this situation? Or plain stupidity? When the Chinese guys had showed up, it’d looked like confirmation of what he’d heard had appeared right in front of his nose. He couldn’t believe it. He’d needed to get close enough to make sure something big really was happening in the heroin trade—something no one was talking about. So what had he done? Stared like a tourist at the foot of the Empire State Building.

Amateur hour. The result: a colossal mess.

Had the driver of the garbage truck been shot? Why else would the truck have veered? Then there was Mary. She was in serious shit now. If only she’d left when he told her. Reggie knew she’d fingered him. The tong members knew. Junkies, the most disposable human beings in the city, disappeared when they snitched. No one went looking for them.

Feeling stupid was too much like feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t have time for that. Better to focus on his next move before some other bad thing happened. He had to find Mary before they did. As much as he hated the thought, he’d also have to go in to the local precinct and report what he’d seen. This added more urgency. He needed to get to Mary before he dealt with the local cops, who could tie him up for hours.

Mud Bog Murder, by Lesley A. Diehl: A Protest and a Murder Turn Eve into a Pariah

Mud_Bog_MurderWhen Eve intercepts an airborne, muddy, disembodied head, how can she help but get her hands dirty?

Mud Bog Murder ($15.95, 268 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-315-0) is the fourth cozy mystery by Lesley A. Diehl in a series set in rural Florida and featuring consignment shop owner and amateur sleuth Eve Appel. After a peaceful protest turns ugly and a friend is arrested for the murder of a customer, Eve Appel and her friends face the censure of their neighbors as they work to unmask the real killer.

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The series began with A Secondhand Murder and continued with Dead in the Water and A Sporting Murder. Three short stories, available as Kindle Singles only, also feature Eve Appel. They are The Little Redheaded Girl is my Friend, Thieves and Gators Run at the Mention of her Name, and Gator Aid. Lesley has five other published mysteries: A Deadly Draught, Poisoned Pairings, Dumpster Dying, Angel Sleuth, and Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.

“The new Eve Appel Mystery is here and it is absolutely terrific[….] A great mystery that is all about a fun cast combined with an excellent plot, readers will be thrilled with this one.”

—Mary Lignor for Suspense Magazine

“Cozy mysteries have established themselves as a thriving mystery subgenre. While there’s plenty of suspense and plenty of investigatory action, the cozies have a warm feeling. Often humorous and usually uplifting, they are on the other side of noir. While the queen of this category is Nancy J. Cohen (who even wrote a how-to book about this subgenre), Lesley A. Diehl is a contender…. These plot interests combine with other features to provide a multi-faceted reading experience. Richly drawn characters like Eve and her grandmother can be at once endearing and irritating. Darrel is a perfectly despicable bad boy. Grandfather Egret has wisdom, patience and courage. Ms. Diehl examines several relationships in rewarding depth. She also provides an entertaining overview of the cultural climate in rural Florida’s small, inland communities—this one within shopping distance of West Palm Beach, where Eve and Madeleine get those upper-class cast-offs to market back in Sable Bay. Read it and smile.”

—Phil Jason for the Florida Weekly, Week Of August 31-September 6, 2016

Read the full article here.

“The drama between Eve and her would-be boyfriends, her friends, and the mystery keep the reader guessing, the plot has plenty to recommend it. The conflict is tastefully well written and the characters all have enough depth to not only move the story but make the reader want to know what will happen next.” Read more….

—Sarah E. Bradley for InD’Tale Magazine

5 Stars: “Mud Bog Murder is rich with heart, strength of character, and independence. A must-read for any lover of mystery!”  Read more….

—Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“The charming, fun mystery kept me sifting through the clues and snorting at some outrageous scenes …. This is the fourth book in the series, but you can read this one without having read the other three. I did. The author drops in some tidbits about previous events and some character insight without barely a hiccup in the story’s flow. I hope you give this book a go. I pinkie swear you’ll have fun.”  Read more….

—FU Only Knew, Laura’s Ramblins and Reviews

“This is a great cozy mystery. There is lots of action and twists and turns. Eva does a great job fleshing out who the killer was and I admit that I didn’t guess who did it until the end. This is the first book of Lesley Diehl’s I have read. I had no problem figuring out what was happening and didn’t feel lost in the series. But I will be going back and reading the other books in the Eve Appel series.”  Read more….

—J. Bronder Reviews

When Jenny McCleary leases her property to be ravaged by the annual mud bog races, the small rural town of Sabal Bay, Florida, is divided into warring camps: environmental activists versus monster truck fans. Jenny, who frequents the consignment store owned by Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, doesn’t seem to mind when Eve and Madeleine join the protesters the day of the races.

During the race, Eve catches Jenny’s airborne head after it is tossed into the air by the wheels of a truck. Now every protester is a suspect in Jenny’s murder. What’s left of her alligator-gnawed body is found near the airboat business of Eve’s Miccosukee Indian friends, Sammy Egret and his grandfather. When more evidence turns up nearby, Grandfather is arrested.

Even without the disembodied head, Eve has her hands full. The town resents her role in the protests and is boycotting the consignment shop on wheels. She is torn between two men—GQ-handsome, devoted PI Alex and tall, dark, and exotic Sammy. Jenny’s sweet and needy teenage daughter is dating a petty criminal. Will Eve and Madeleine ever be able to move into their new digs? Not unless the town forgives them. And not if whoever decapitated Jenny gets to Eve before she and her sleuthing buddies solve the mystery.

Says Diehl, “Mud bog racing may seem be fun for participants and spectators alike, and it might seem that one event doesn’t matter, but it destroys wildlife habitat and alters the balance of the ecosystem beyond the fields and swamps of rural Florida: witness agricultural runoff into Lake Okeechobee and the resultant pollution of estuaries east of the lake. Humans think they are acting for the local good, but the results have widespread effects. Kudos to Eve for getting the community to come together to address the issue and think of it more broadly.”

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. Click here to find Lesley online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Chants of “Save the Bog,” “Leave our swamps alone,” and “There’s life in that mud” continued for an hour. The swampers driving the trucks countered with yells of “Back off bitches” and “There’s money in that mud.” The trucking folks did not have any signs to hold up, but their voices seemed louder and angrier. I waved my sign in the air. It read “Don’t harm Mother Earth.” One of the truck drivers stuck his head out the window and yelled at me, “Screw Mother Earth.”

“That’s exactly what you’re doing,” I screamed. He gave me the finger.

The verbal exchanges continued until the trucks began to line up for their runs. At that point the sound of revving engines drowned out our voices. Mud flew in every direction. Madeleine and I pushed forward toward the fence to get a better view. Several trucks roared into the water, moved aggressively across the bog, and then abruptly stopped, mired in the middle. Neither increasing the RPMs or uttering foul language could coax the trucks from their mucky location. The drivers gave up, their growling trucks finally silenced, machinery defeated by mere water and dirt. A chain was attached to the trucks and a vehicle on land hauled them out. The drivers seemed only momentarily saddened by their failure; then their friends tossed them each a can of beer, and the partying began.

“I think we should step back a bit or we’ll be covered in mud,” I said to Madeleine. She looked excited to be where she could see what was happening, and her color had improved.

“You feeling better, honey?” I asked just as another truck roared into the water and attempted to cross the bog. As with the other two, it slowed and finally began to spin its wheels midway through the swamp. The driver continued to rev the engine. Muddy water thrown from the wheels catapulted vegetation as well as mud in our direction. The vehicle churned and rocked and continued to throw globs of whatever was buried in the muddy water out of the bog. I dropped my sign and attempted to fend off the gunk by shielding my face with my hands, but to no avail. The mud coated my head, face, and upper torso. I dropped my hands to my sides in disgust and frustration until the truck tried one more time, its spinning wheels sending more mud and a large projectile my way. I had no choice. I caught it like a running back grabbing a football.

What the hell? It was no football, not even a chawed up turtle shell or mangled cattle egret. It was a head, and one I recognized. Two eyes glazed over by slime and death—one brown, one hazel—stared up at me. Madeleine looked over at what was in my hands and threw up all over my ostrich boots.

The Assassin’s Kiss, by J.A. Kazimer: Desire Rekindled in the Heat of Danger

assassins_kissJulia didn’t realize her husband was an assassin. No wonder she wanted a divorce.

The Assassin’s Kiss ($14.95, 250 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-325-9), by J.A. Kazimer, is the second romantic suspense novel in the Assassins series, which began with The Assassin’s Heart. An estranged couple, one of them a secret assassin for the government, must join forces as they flee from a group of hit men.

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5 Blue Ribbons: “Intense intrigue, rapid-fire suspense, cagey characters with a Pinocchio syndrome and a scorching romance combine in this dastardly delicious novel called The Assassin’s Kiss…. I rooted for their rocketing romance all the way. The Assassin’s Kiss is heady, passionate and riveting. A suspenseful gem!” Read more….

—Michele Rioli for Romance Junkies

(Crowned Heart Review: 4 1/2 stars): “This story has it all, intrigue, mystery, unexpected twists and turns, great side characters, and a villain that isn’t easily to determine until it smacks the reader in the face…. A page turner that isn’t easily set aside until the last word is devoured!” Read more….

—Lynne Bryant for InD’Tale Magazine

“This is a spy story with a romantic element. I enjoyed it. It is a good read for a Saturday afternoon…. The writer has an entertaining style and I look forward to her next work.”  Read more….

—Mary T. Kincaid for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

The Assassin’s Heart was awarded 4 1/2 Stars (Top Pick/Gold) by RT Magazine: “Kazimer’s debut romantic suspense deserves a spot at the top of the genre. Not only is this novel sassy and fun, but the author’s research into the CIA and the life of an assassin is reflected in her work, making it not just a fabulous romantic suspense tale, but a fantastic work of fiction, period. Hannah ‘Six’ Winslow stands strongly on her own and has none of the characteristics of a damsel in distress–which makes this novel that much hotter and sensual.”

The Assassins series includes a novella, The Assassins’ First Date, a prequel to both books in the series. The Assassins’ First Date introduces Hannah “Six” Winslow, Benjamin Miller, and the star of The Assassin’s Kiss, Nate Taylor.

Julia abandoned Nate Taylor on their wedding night after finding him in the arms of her stepsister, Sara. Now she is set to marry again, this time to a man who shares her upper-crust background. But Nate won’t sign the annulment papers.

Ready to resort to murder if necessary, Julia storms Nate’s houseboat in the Florida Everglades, just in time to survive an attack by a group of assassins Nate believes are targeting her. He should know; he’s an assassin himself—a little detail he never shared with his ex. Nate works for a secret government agency known as OPS. With the help of his fellow assassins, Nate tries to identify the attackers and the reason for their deadly quest.

Meanwhile, the reluctant travel companions flee north to Nate’s eccentric hometown of Gibsonton, and later to a comfy cabin in the woods. Julia becomes better acquainted with her mysterious ex, the true man behind the gun.

Seeing this new side of Nate, will Julia continue to resist the powerful chemistry between them? Will they solve the mystery before one of them is killed trying?

Says the author, “Oddly enough, I started writing Nate and Julia’s story long before Ben and Six’s from The Assassin’s Heart; I just didn’t know it at the time. Nate and Julia are such fun and lively characters. Not to mention Cousin Luke, who I am absolutely in love with. This is the book of my heart. I hope it is my readers’ too. I’ve been fascinated by carnival life for a long time. The setting of The Assassin’s Kiss is a real town in Florida, founded by carnival people. A carnival represents the freedom to be whoever you want to be—a bearded lady who shaves during the off-season or a fortune teller like Nate’s mother. The brightly colored background also makes an intense setting for a romance.”

J.A. Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. She has a master’s degree in forensic psychology and has been both a bartender and a private investigator. She is the author of several other novels and series, including The Deadly Ever After series, F***ed Up Fairytales, and the Wilde Crimes series. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Despite the warning ringing in her head, Julia followed Nate as he led her behind the carney trailers and staging area to a rusty trailer. Years of neglect had left the once bright yellow paint on the trailer barely distinguishable from the rust. It peeled and bubbled, nearly obscuring the sign that read THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF MIRRORS.

Julia raised an eyebrow. Nate gave her a half-smile as he grabbed her second half-eaten corn dog from her fingers and tossed it in the trash.

“Hey,” she complained, “I was eating that.”

“Yes, yes you were.” He grinned. “And later you will thank me for tossing it.” He motioned to the trailer. “Besides, I want to show you something.”

With an exaggerated eye roll, she said, “I’ve heard that before.”

“Trust me,” he said, waggling his eyebrows in a mock leer, “best time of your life. I promise.”

Why not, she thought with a shrug. Today she’d already eaten fried meat on a stick, rode a ride called the Cyclone, and watched as a man threw knives at a pretty young girl. What haunted horrors could the trailer offer, other than hepatitis?

Nate pulled open the rusty door. A rush of stale air greeted them. Julia stepped forward, but Nate held up a hand, stopping her. “Three tickets, lady,” he said in a gruff carney voice. “Nobody rides for free.”

Her lips formed a pout as she dug into her pocket for her tickets. “This better be worth it.”

He waggled his eyebrows again. “I’ve never had any complaints.”

She rolled her eyes again, shoved her tickets at him, and then pushed past him into the dark room. The door slammed closed, blocking the slim shaft of moonlight and leaving her in total darkness. Julia wrapped her arms over her chest, hating her irrational fear of the dark, a fear she’d had since childhood but had never told anyone about. Had Nate guessed it? Was he torturing her, looking for payback? “Nate?” she called into the blackness, her voice trembling.

A few seconds later a string of white lights sparkled to life, illuminating the shiny reflective mirrors lining the trailer. Nate stepped from the shadows, looking like the very best parts of sin.

Julia swallowed, forcing her attention to the reflective surfaces to keep from reflecting on how damn sexy her soon-to-be-former husband looked.

“I used to spend hours in here as a kid,” he whispered, tracing his fingers over the edge of a distorted mirror with a lover’s caress.

Julia fanned her face, unable to catch her breath enough to comment. Her body tingled with sexual awareness. Nate’s scent clouded her senses, sapping her willpower. Not that she had much where Nate Taylor was concerned. He was the only man who could turn her on with one look.

Nate either failed to notice her pitiful condition or he was toying with her, playing a game of cat and pathetic, sex-crazed mouse.

His body was now so close, its heat warmed her already hot flesh. “These mirrors are magical,” he said as if standing on stage in front of a crowd.

Julia snorted.

“They both reveal and hide everything.”

She raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.

“You don’t believe me?” he asked, his voice as reckless and dangerous as Julia’s sudden uncontrollable desire. She slowly shook her head. He smiled—a wicked, sexy grin of pure masculinity and arrogance—and lifted the thin straps of her tank dress, sliding them up and down against the sensitive flesh of her shoulders. “I guess I’ll have to prove it then,” he whispered, his lips centimeters from her own.

Good to his word, as if by magic, Julia found herself standing with her back against the cold surface of a distorted mirror, facing the one man who could make her lose all control. “Nate …” she moaned, half question, half plea.

Lifting the straps of her dress again, he stared into her violet eyes. “Stop me, Julia.” He paused, his face twisting with pleasure and pain. “Tell me no.”

Her heart pounded in her chest.

“Last chance,” he whispered, gritting his teeth.

Improbable Eden, by Bestselling Author Mary Daheim: A Reluctant Courtesan and an Impoverished Prince

Improbable_EdenOriginally published in 1991, Improbable Eden ($14.95, 220 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-369-3),  is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. In 1695, during the reign of William of Orange, the illegitimate daughter of an earl is groomed to be the king’s mistress in order to clear her father’s name.

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Camel Press has reprinted five of Mary Daheim’s seven historical romances so far: Reunion (original titled Pride’s Captive), The Royal Mile (originally Love’s Pirate), Gosford’s Daughter (originally Passion’s Triumph), Destiny’s Pawn, and King’s Ransom. Gypsy Baron will be released in February of 2017.

“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”

Romantic Times

The base-born daughter of an earl, nineteen-year-old Eden is torn from her foster family in Kent, whisked off to London, and groomed to follow in her courtesan mother’s footsteps. Her lessons in court etiquette, politics, and charm are overseen by Maximilian, a tall and striking Flemish prince fallen on hard times. Ever since the death of his wife, Max has grappled with his cousin, Count Rudolf—also his brother-in-law—who covets Max’s land. Rudolf is just one of the enemies seeking to brand Max and Eden’s father, the Earl of Marlborough, as Jacobites bent on killing William of Orange and restoring James to the throne. Eden is Max and the earl’s last hope. If she can convince King William to embrace her as his mistress, she can use her influence to clear Max’s name and free her father from the Tower of London.

Eden has inherited her mother’s beauty, but not her guile. Though she must not waver from her goal to seduce the king, she cannot deny her growing love for the Flemish prince. Max in turn is far from indifferent to the claret-curled, ebony-eyed siren who has pledged herself to him body and soul.

Says the author, “I’ve been intrigued by European history since I was in my early teens. When I began Improbable Eden, I gave her two real—and well-known—parents: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine. Churchill had done his share of philandering in his youth and Barbara had given birth to several of King Charles II’s illegitimate children. Who’d notice one more thrown into the mix? The result is the unfolding tale of a seemingly ill-matched “orphan” and an exiled prince. Eden Berenger and Maximilian of Nassau-Dillenburg have both been cheated by Fate. How they manage to regain their rightful places in a turbulent world of schemers and dreamers makes for what I hope is an exciting and sometimes touching adventure in late Seventeenth Century England.”

Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find Mary on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Why couldn’t Eden understand the awkward position he’d been put in by her father’s arrest? Some men would have forsaken her from the start. Others would have taken advantage of her helplessness. But he was doing his best not to, despite the temptation to do otherwise. “If you’re angry because I went abroad, that couldn’t be prevented. It wasn’t just because of Craswell, but on orders of the King. I was destroying a French arsenal at Givet.”

Eden brushed aside his military adventures with a careless hand. “I’m not talking about what you do when you’re not here,” she cried, “but what you do when you are! You worry so about Harriet’s precious feelings and give not a dandiprat for mine! Or do you think because I’m a country bumpkin that I don’t have any?”

Max was torn between exasperation and repentance. She was right, in her way. He had behaved rather highhandedly. Fearing that she might cry, Max put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a little hug. “I’ve had many distractions,” he admitted, and was surprised when Eden made no attempt to pull away. “The war on the Continent, searching for Craswell, the charges against your father, some plaguing family quarrels over property—” He was speaking much more rapidly, and freely, than usual. Suddenly he stopped, his chin resting on the top of Eden’s head.

“You serve too many masters,” Eden interjected, allowing herself the luxury of leaning against Max’s chest. “I’ truth, I’m sorry you had to inherit my poor suit, as well.”

“But I don’t mind,” he protested, his voice dropping a notch as his hand slid down the heavy green silk that covered her back. “This house is a happier place with you in it.”

“Oh!” Eden gasped with astonishment and stared at Max. She could hardly believe he’d uttered such gratifying words.

Judging from the embarrassed look on Max’s face, neither could he. “It’s more like … ah, family,” he explained a bit clumsily, his hand straying to the curve of her waist. “Not that my relatives were a kindly lot. But then you’ve met Rudolf.”

Eden gazed up at Max and blinked in confusion. What she beheld in those hazel eyes startled her. She could have sworn that she saw more than sadness or anxiety. A yearning, perhaps, or some other need that she couldn’t recognize? She was still trying to solve the riddle when Max claimed her mouth in a tentative, exploratory kiss. Taken by surprise, Eden’s mind registered a protest, but her body melted pliantly into Max’s embrace. The kiss deepened, driven by that unleashed hunger she had unwittingly glimpsed.

Snowdrops in Summer, by Helen Duggan: Three Friends, Through Thick and Thin

snowdropsLisa, Claire, and Toni don’t have much, but they do have each other.

In Snowdrops in Summer ($15.95, 330 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-272-6), a work of women’s fiction by Helen Duggan, three friends who start a detective agency soon find themselves out of their depth.

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** Or order it for your Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

4 Stars: “Snowdrops In Summer doesn’t seem to mean anything as far as the story goes, then the last few chapters bring the title into the foreground. The conclusion isn’t anything I imagined would happen. It brings a little sad along with a little joyful ending to a very entertaining story. I hope the author decides to write another women’s fiction book as I will be looking for one.”  Read more….

—Diana Smith for Romance Junkies

“What a great book. Helen Duggan shows what true friendship is all about. I know I have several very close friends that would do anything for me as I would for them. Helen Duggan combines friendship, family and humor into this story line. I have never read any of Helen Duggan’s books, but would not hesitate to read another one. I also loved how Helen Duggan shows how friends can call each other out, and still remain close friends. Another great read for the summer. Pick this book up, relax and enjoy.”  Read more….

—Sharon Salituro for Fresh Fiction

“In Snowdrops in Summer, Helen Duggan tells a beautiful story of the sustaining and essential nature of friendship between women. Three women face the challenges of single motherhood, romance, and financial woes with one another to count on for laughs, sympathy, and support. At turns funny, poignant, and tragic, this novel is a celebration of the enduring ties of friendship no matter what life may bring down the road.” —Maureen O’Leary, author of The Ghost Daughter

“Entertaining and written with heart, Snowdrops in Summer is about abiding friendship between three very different women struggling to make a go of their lives in a tiny Welsh village. This novel will remind you that in fiction, as in real life, it is love and loyalty that binds people together through thick and thin. After reading this, I’m planning to buy a plane ticket to Wales.” —Robin Strachan, author of Designing Hearts

“Whatever happens, we’ll always be heart friends.”

For “heart” friends Angelica, Lisa, and Claire, nothing has ever come easily. With little money and worse luck, they soldier on as best they can in the small village of Newton, edging the South Wales valleys.

Angelica has no trouble attracting men, but it’s a woman she wants, and she’s unlikely to meet her in her job as manager of a café. Lisa and Claire are single mothers. Lisa supports twin teenage daughters and cleans the local police station while carrying on with dishy policeman Niall, chained to a Catholic wife who won’t divorce him. Claire’s son Justin is a budding hoodlum, one false step away from prison. Sweet but ineffectual Claire is afraid to lay down the law for Justin and too cowed by life to believe any man will ever want her.

Then comes the chance they’ve been waiting for: their well-to-do friend Mags hires them to do a bit of detecting, which leads to more profitable ventures. At first it’s all a lark, as they stumble onto the truth, despite their lack of experience. But flying blind is no way to run a business. Be that as it may, in the face of the ultimate challenge, their friendship remains steadfast.

Says the author, “I believe friendship to be one of the strongest forces on the planet, invoking a selfless devotion and a love that transcends time. And so my three heroines were born. I wanted to show the strength these women have, how they support each other through good and bad times, no matter what sacrifice is required.”

Helen Duggan and her husband live on top of a mountain in Wales. Her body of work includes erotic romances published by Fanny Press under the pen name, Ellen March. Snowdrops in Summer is the first of her books to be published under her real name. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I’ll try and have a chat with your lad, maybe get him to see sense?”

Claire’s smile was brilliant in its intensity. “Oh, that would be great, Lisa! And maybe Angelica could talk to him as well, if you think she wouldn’t mind.” Her voice was husky with emotion.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t,” laughed Lisa, knowing how Angelica hated kids. “See you later.”

Lisa sighed and followed the tracks of her friend as she ambled down the road. She wished she could help her. But a gut instinct warned her it was too late.

Lisa arrived at the large desk where the duty sergeant slouched in his chair, his dark-trousered legs crossed, black boots gleaming, eyes closed.

“Hi, Pete,” shouted Lisa, thudding the desk with her hand.

The burly man almost fell off his chair. “Heck, you nearly gave me a flaming heart attack,” he moaned. His huge eyebrows bobbed up and down like caterpillars undulating across his pale forehead.

“Well, wake up then. You’re overpaid if that’s all you’ve got to do,” teased Lisa. She knew how it wound him up.

“Oi, less of your lip,” he growled, but his pale blue eyes twinkled mischievously. “I’d like to see you do my job.”

“Yeah, and I’d like to see you do mine,” countered Lisa, her eyes dropping to his large belly straining against the buttons of his top. “You might shift a bit of that.”

“There’s nothing wrong with something to grab hold of,” he laughed good-naturedly, enjoying the banter.

“Whatever,” said Lisa, already walking away towards the cleaner’s cupboard.

She stooped down to empty his bin, raising a brow at the amount of sweet wrappers. She held back a smile as he shuffled a pile of papers. Moving to the adjacent desk, Lisa rubbed in soft beeswax, crinkling her nose at the scent filling the room.

Moving on, she continued down the corridor, disappearing into various rooms. The chores were tedious, but the job was easy and paid the bills.

The sweat trickled down her chest in rivulets as Lisa leaned over the large desk in the empty room. Her hand swept in circular motions over the grained mahogany surface. She was so engrossed, she failed to hear the door open and close with a gentle click.

A pair of arms snaked round her waist, pulling her backwards.

“What on earth …!” she shouted before spinning round and finding herself staring into the depths of Niall’s fathomless eyes, smouldering in their intensity.

“I’ve missed you,” he whispered. His dark head dipped to nuzzle her neck, just the spot where it dipped to her shoulder.

The Assassins’ First Date, by J.A. Kazimer: A “Date” Lands Professional Killers in Hot Water with Lots of Steam

assassins_dateThe target was dead by dessert, but not in the way they’d planned. Someone had turned the tables on Ben and Six.

In The Assassins’ First Date ($11.95, 108 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-327-3), by J.A. Kazimer, killer-team Ben and “Six” go on an elegant working “date” where nothing proceeds as planned, forcing them to match wits with the clever killer of the vicious arms dealer they were assigned to assassinate.

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** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

The Assassins’ First Date is the prequel romantic suspense novella in the Assassins series, which began with The Assassin’s Heart. The Assassin’s Kiss will follow on August 15, 2016, featuring Six and Ben’s colleague Nate.

Six and Ben’s story is continued in The Assassin’s Heart, which was awarded 4 1/2 Stars (Top Pick/Gold) by RT Magazine: “Kazimer’s debut romantic suspense deserves a spot at the top of the genre. Not only is this novel sassy and fun, but the author’s research into the CIA and the life of an assassin is reflected in her work, making it not just a fabulous romantic suspense tale, but a fantastic work of fiction, period. Hannah ‘Six’ Winslow stands strongly on her own and has none of the characteristics of a damsel in distress–which makes this novel that much hotter and sensual.”

Benjamin Miller and Hannah “Six” Winslow have a date, but no one’s going to “get lucky,” at least not in the common sense of the phrase. The partners kill bad guys for a secret government organization known as OPS. And although they are dining at an elegant restaurant, their goal, and that of fellow assassin Nate Taylor, is to assassinate a dangerous arms dealer.

“The target” dies early in the evening, though not by the hand of any of the three assassins. His death by poison means yet another assassin got to him first, one who did not leave any obvious clues. In fact nothing is as it seems. Have they been betrayed by OPS? Is the mysterious assassin lingering in their midst, waiting to pick them off? Ben, Six, and Nate have just a few hours to solve the mystery, using only their wits and whatever evidence they can gather by cell from Nate’s analyst H. But Ben and Six are unusually distracted by each others’ sexy-date personas. With no one but Nate in top form, the slippery outside assassin may put them all on ice.

J.A. Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. She has a master’s degree in forensic psychology and has been both a bartender and a private investigator. She is the author of several other novels and series, including The Deadly Ever After series, F***ed Up Fairytales, and the Wilde Crimes series. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Ben paused before answering, “The target has two bodyguards. Mossad, by the look of them.”

Nate nodded again. Mossad agents were hardcore. Men and women willing to kill and die for the job—just like the two assassins plotting to kill their client. Nate had identified the Mossad agents right off by the way they held themselves—backs ramrod straight, eyes cold and watchful. Taking them out wouldn’t be easy.

He smiled in anticipation.

“I’ll draw them off,” Ben said. Nate’s smile broadened. That was so like his fellow assassin. The guy always tried to protect his team. He would always be the first in. It was what made him great, but one day it would be his downfall.

Or the downfall of his partner, Six.

The way Ben watched her when she wasn’t looking spoke volumes. He wondered if they were sleeping together. Probably not. Sleeping with his partner wasn’t Ben’s style. He focused too much on the job. A pity, in Nate’s opinion. If Hannah were his partner ….

“Once they’re clear, Six will take out the target,” Ben was saying. Nate nodded. He didn’t doubt Hannah’s skills, not in the least. Neither did Ben, but Nate could hear the underlying stress in his co-worker’s voice. This wasn’t an easy target. Mario LeCena was a hell of a dangerous man. A stone-cold killer.

“Oh, and Nate,” Ben said with a quick grin, “try not to get shot. Again,” he said, referring to when Nate took a bullet a few months ago. “I hate having to fill out all that paperwork.”

* * *

Ben took a deep breath as he slipped through the men’s room door and into the main restaurant. The rattling of plates and the clinking of glassware filled the air, as did the scent of fifty-dollar steaks and thousand-dollar Scotch. He maneuvered past waiters carrying trays laden with mouth-watering signature dishes.

A woman screamed, and a wine glass shattered on a nearby table. Ben froze, his eyes searching the restaurant. He shuddered. He couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Not just yet. Not until his gaze fell on his partner, straddling the target in a roomful of terrified witnesses.