13 May, 2024

Read an Excerpt from Hidden Rooms by Kate Michaelson

 

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Hidden Rooms

by Kate Michaelson

April 22 - May 17, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Hidden Rooms by Kate Michaelson

When murder hits home.

Long distance runner Riley has been fighting various bewildering symptoms for months, from vertigo to fainting spells. Worse, her doctors can’t tell her what’s wrong, leaving her to wonder if it’s stress or something more threatening. But when her brother’s fiancée is killed—and he becomes the prime suspect—Riley must prove his innocence, despite the toll on her health.

As she reacquaints herself with the familiar houses and wild woods of her childhood, the secrets she uncovers take her on a trail to the real killer that leads right back to the very people she knows best and loves most.

For readers who enjoy Deer Season by Erin Flanagan, All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers, and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham.

Praise for Hidden Rooms:

"With a fresh voice and gorgeous writing, Hidden Rooms by Kate Michaelson is a stunning debut mystery that sweeps the reader along until the surprising conclusion."
~ Connie Berry, USA Today bestselling author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries

"This remarkable debut novel expertly combines a compelling mystery with a richly drawn cast of characters and a strong, beautifully portrayed sense of place. An engaging, gripping read."
~ Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Shamus, Derringer, and International Thriller Writers award-nominated author

"Michaelson’s witty eye, sharp portrayal of illness, and twisty case make for a standout debut!"
~ Erin Flanagan, Edgar-Award winning author of Come with Me

"Hidden Rooms is a suspenseful tale full of interesting characters. This well-told story with its unexpected ending will leave the readers begging for more."
~ L. C. Hayden, award-winning author of the Bronson Thriller Series and the Aimee Brent Mystery Series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: April 30, 2024
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780744310153 (ISBN10: 0744310156)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

I grew up inside a lightning bolt, in a family of pure momentum. My siblings and I were young, stupid, and fearless in our white gingerbread house, surrounded by dark earth, green shoots, and wild woods—untamed beasts running loose from morning to night. We snarled and bucked, more a pack than a family.

Born less than a year apart, my brother Ethan and I spent most of our lives scrapping after the same few things, pinching each other where we knew it would hurt the most. But we also protected each other. When Trevor Paltree shoved Ethan off the tall metal slide the first day of preschool, I kicked Trevor’s little ass, and I’d do it again.

Only, now, I didn’t know what protecting my brother looked like, though I felt fairly certain that kicking his fiancée’s ass was not it. Besides, I couldn’t even say what exactly Beth was up to, which (admittedly) undermined my argument. Putting my head down and going along with the wedding might feel cowardly, but it also seemed like the least destructive path forward.

So, that’s how I found myself pulling up to Ethan and Beth’s house to pick up my puce monstrosity of a bridesmaid’s dress with Beth’s recent words still replaying in my mind: Riley, you know I’d never do anything to hurt Ethan. The problem was that she also once said with a wink and a smile that what Ethan didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. I parked in the shade of a lowlimbed oak and got out, lifting my hair off my neck to catch the breeze. The autumn sun had built throughout the afternoon into the kind of fleetingly gorgeous day that makes up for Ohio’s multitude of weather sins: one last warm postscript to summer. Rain loomed in the low shelf of clouds to the north. I crossed my fingers that it would hold off until I could get home to walk Bruno. Maybe I could even get a run in if my energy held out.

My phone buzzed, and I knew without looking it would be Audra. She called most days and knew that just the previous night, I’d finally worked up the nerve to have a conversation with Ethan about Beth. She would want the details. I was amazed she had waited this long.

“How’d it go with Ethan?” Her melodious voice skipped along briskly. People usually went with what she said simply because they were so swept up with how she said it. As her sister, I was an exception.

“Hello to you too.” I continued toward the house but slowed my pace. “I’ll give you one guess how it went.”

“Hello, dearest Riley. I guess he got mad.”

“Not just mad. He guilt-tripped me. I asked him if he’d noticed anything wrong with Beth, and he acted all injured about it. He told me, ‘She thinks you’re her friend.’” I mimicked Ethan’s self-righteous tone. The jab still stung. “I told him I think of her as a friend too, which is how I know she’s hiding something.” Granted, I couldn’t untangle what it was. It was something I sensed more than saw—a shift in posture or flicker behind an expression. The past few weeks she’d become more self-contained than ever, which was saying something for her.

“Yeah, but can you really be friends with someone who has no personality? It’s like being friends with a mannequin. I don’t know how you can tell if she’s hiding something when she never shares anything—”

“Look, I can’t talk about it now.” I lowered my voice as I neared the house. “I’m at their place getting my dress. I’ll call you later.”

I climbed the porch steps, the front of their house looking so Instagram-perfect that I wondered whether I’d been seeing problems that weren’t there. The afternoon light slanted across the pumpkins and yellow chrysanthemums that Beth had arranged just so. Dried bundles of corn rattled in the breeze. Beneath the pale-blue porch swing, Beth had set out a matching ceramic bowl full of kibble for Bibbs, the half-feral cat that had adopted her and Ethan.

The only thing amiss was the open door of the old-fashioned cast-iron mailbox nestled amid the pumpkins and flowers. Beth would kill the mail carrier for ruining the ambiance. I grabbed the few pieces of mail in the box and shut the little door obligingly, like a good future sister-in-law.

Careful not to disturb a precarious wreath of orange berries, I knocked on the screen door and tapped my foot, ready to grab my puffy dress and go. I had been a whirl of motion all day, zipping through work and crossing items off my to-do list. I worked for Wicks, an oversized candle company that sold overpriced candles. Today was my last day in the office before a trip to England to set up the IT network at our new British headquarters.

For months, I’d been fighting some kind of long-term bug my doctors couldn’t figure out, but today I felt a glimmer of my former self, twitchy with energy and moving at a clip to get everything done.

***

Excerpt from Hidden Rooms by Kate Michaelson. Copyright 2024 by Kate Michaelson. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kate Michaelson

Growing up in rural Ohio, Kate Michaelson simultaneously developed a love of nature and a strong desire to live closer to a mall. Pursuing the latter, she attended Ohio State, where she studied English and Psychology. After earning her MFA in Creative Writing, Kate worked as a technical writer and taught English at St. Petersburg College in Florida and, later, at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Over the years, she has published academic articles, creative nonfiction, poetry, and short stories. Her debut novel, Hidden Rooms, follows a distance runner who returns to her rural Ohio hometown and must clear her brother of murdering his fiancée while also seeking answers to her own medical mystery. As someone with Lyme disease and dysautonomia, Kate’s writing uses humor and suspense to explore the experience of coping with chronic illness. Ultimately, she wants to portray the reality of the challenges that invisible disabilities pose while also demonstrating that “ability” is not a binary concept—that illness does not equal a loss of self or agency.

Kate enjoys traveling, hiking, and trying (fruitlessly) to tire out her Labrador mix. She works in curriculum design and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. She lives with her husband and pets in Toledo, Ohio, only ten minutes from a mall she now avoids whenever possible.

Catch Up With Kate Michaelson:
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08 May, 2024

Fast Times, Big City by Shelly Frome

 

FAST TIMES, BIG CITY

by Shelly Frome

April 15 - May 10, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Fast Times, Big City by Shelly Frome

Like most people, Bud Palmer felt this was just another day.

Though the era was drawing to a close, he assumed his life as a sports columnist in the subtropics, in keeping with the benign fifties itself, would go on as predictable as ever.

But that particular autumn morning he was thrust into a caper that was totally beyond him, forced him to leave Miami and take the train to Manhattan, and suddenly found everything in this restless "Big Apple" was up for grabs at a dicey turning point.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: February 27, 2024
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 9798886330267
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Getting as overtired as can be, he opted for the radio once again and the show tunes station. Within minutes another song from West Side Story came filtering into his room. This time the star-crossed lovers put the images on the poster to words, yearning for “a special place,” claiming if they held on tight they could take each other there. Somehow, some day, somewhere.

Even after he switched the radio off, the sweet melody and yearning lyrics stayed with him. But soon faded and dovetailed into the dread of what might await him under these pressing circumstances. He finally let go of it all and sank into a fitful sleep.

***

Excerpt from Fast Times, Big City by Shelly Frome. Copyright 2024 by Shelly Frome. Reproduced with permission from Shelly Frome. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Shelly Frome

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games, The Secluded Village Murders, Miranda and the D-Day Caper and Shadow of the Gypsy. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History, a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting. Fast Times, Big City is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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06 May, 2024

Read an Excerpt from Blindspot by Maggie Smith

 

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Blindspot

by Maggie Smith

April 29 - May 24, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Blindspot by Maggie Smith

From the author of the award-winning Truth and Other Lies comes a gripping suspense novel about an ambitious prosecutor on the hunt for her sadistic stalker . . . only to be framed for murder when he turns up dead.

Rachel Matthews is used to stress—from the cutthroat world of the district attorney’s office to her escalating clashes with her teenage daughter. So when a stranger sends a lavish bouquet with a macabre message and leaves a disturbing video on her doorstep, she’s quick to act. Teaming up with an old classmate turned private investigator, she wades through old case files, searching for someone harboring a grudge. But before she has time to pinpoint a suspect, her stalker issues a demand—he wants money, lots of it, or he’ll hurt her daughter.

Desperate to protect her child, Rachel agrees but soon finds herself fleeing a bloody crime scene, fearful for her life. As evidence mounts against her, Rachel realizes it’s up to her to unmask the enemy behind this vendetta before it’s too late.

Fans of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, Julie Clark’s The Lies I Tell and Heather Chavez’ Before She Finds Me will embrace this taut tale of long-simmering revenge right up to its surprising and twisty climax.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Published by: Puzzle Box Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2024
Number of Pages: 318
ISBN: 9798989677917
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

April 24, 2023, County Courthouse

The killer is sitting in this courtroom and it’s up to me to prove it.

It isn’t every day a murder this sensational happens in Milwaukee. Sure, we’ve had our share of drive-by shootings, domestic arguments that escalated, home invasions that turned deadly. And yes, there was that lurid trial a while back where the deranged sicko drugged, then ate his victims. That one landed our city in the national spotlight. A once in a lifetime case.

But this one’s right up there. Everyone involved is high profile. Which means it warrants the top guns. Which means my boss of nine years, Marcus Huntley, Deputy DA, is sitting first chair. I catch his eye and his expression confirms what I already know. This is the most important case of my career, and if the verdict goes south, any hope for that promotion goes right along with it.

But this isn’t only about winning for me. There’s a lot more at stake. Consequences I don’t dare think about or I’ll lose my nerve. Because even though the police are convinced this is an open and shut case, I know better.

I know they’ve arrested the wrong person.

Because I witnessed the murder. But for reasons I can’t reveal, I have to keep quiet. Only two people know the whole story and I’ve sworn them to secrecy.

I watch the crowd. Examine every person in detail. Who’s talking to whom, who’s staring at their lap, who’s looking around the room. Who’s fidgeting, adjusting their tie, or rummaging through their purse. Who looks bored and who looks agitated? But even though I’m an expert in spotting a tell, I’m coming up empty.

The electricity in the air ratchets up as the judge enters and the bailiff calls the case. I’ve been up most of the night, pacing the floor, rehearsing my lines, imagining how today would go. What to say and what not to say. What needs to happen so I can walk out of here satisfied.

Part of me wants to scream. Part of me wants to whimper. Part of me wants to rush out the door and never look back.

But I don’t do any of those things. Instead I steel my nerves and set aside the theatrics. A bead of sweat slithers down my spine as I stand to address the judge.

In an orange jumpsuit. And handcuffs.

“Rachel Elizabeth Matthews. You stand accused of first-degree intentional homicide.

How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, Your Honor,” I reply.

***

Excerpt from Blindspot by Maggie Smith. Copyright 2024 by Maggie F Smith. Reproduced with permission from Maggie Smith. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Maggie Smith

In a career that’s included work as a journalist, a psychologist, and the founder of a national art consulting company, Maggie Smith added novelist to her resume with the publication of her debut, Truth and Other Lies, a women’s fiction novel set in Chicago and released in March 2022 by Ten16 Press. It won NIEA’s Juror Grand Prize, the Star Award for Debut Fiction from Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Foreword INDIES Gold Metal for General Fiction, and was selected for the Women’s Book Association Great Group Reads.

In addition to her writing, Maggie hosts the weekly podcast Hear Us Roar (215+ episodes), blogs monthly for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is Managing Editor for Chicago Writer’s Association Write City E-Zine. She resides in Milwaukee WI with her husband and her aging but still adorable sheltie. Her second novel, a psychological suspense called BLINDSPOT will be released in May 2024.

Catch Up With Maggie Smith:
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02 May, 2024

Read an Excerpt from Knife River by by Baron R Birtcher

 

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KNIFE RIVER

by Baron R Birtcher

April 15 - May 10, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

KNIFE RIVER by Baron R Birtcher

A sheriff fighting to keep the peace in 1970s Oregon faces a shocking secret from his town’s past, in this crime thriller from the author of Reckoning.

There are rules in the West no matter what era you were born in, and it’s up to lawman Ty Dawson to make sure they’re followed in the valley he calls home. The people living on this unforgiving land keep to themselves and are wary of the modern world’s encroachment into their quiet lives.

So it’s not without some suspicion that Dawson confronts a newcomer to the region: a record producer who has built a music studio in an isolated compound. His latest project is a collaboration with a famous young rock star named Ian Swann, recording and filming his sessions for a movie. An amphitheater for a live show is being built on the land, giving Dawson flashbacks to the violent Altamont concert. Not on his watch.

But even beefed up security can’t stop a disaster that’s been over a decade in the making. All it takes is one horrific case bleeding its way into the present to prove that the good ol’ days spawned a brand of evil no one wants to revisit . . .

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Open Road Media
Publication Date: April 23, 2024
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 9781504086523 (ISBN10: 150408652X)
Series: The Sheriff Ty Dawson Crime Thriller Series
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Open Road Media

Read an excerpt:

Prelude:

FACING WEST

SOME SAY THAT to be born into a thing is to be blind to half of it. Oftentimes, the things we seek and discover for ourselves are those we hold most dear.

Any cattleman will tell you that a ranch is a living thing. Not only the livestock that graze the meadowland, but the blood that nourishes the hungry soil, the trees that inhale the wind, and the rain that carves runnels into the hardpan that, in time, grow into rivers. The Diamond D is no different in that respect, some would even say it was the beating heart of Meriwether County, Oregon.

As both a stockman and the sheriff of this county, I believe this to be true.

But the events that unfolded in the autumn of 1964 cast a cloud across that land. Not just across my ranch, but the entire valley, though they didn’t bear their terrible fruit until nearly a dozen years later, in the spring of 1976. The incidents still haunt me, though others paid a steeper price than I; some with their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, while some forfeit their sanity, and still others with their souls.

That is where this story begins.

 

CHAPTER ONE

LAMBS AND LIONS hold no sway over the springtime here in Meriwether County. Some years it will snow through mid-May, other times the golden sun rides high and bright, and the river flows fast, clear and deep with high-country melt on the first day of March. Most years, it’s both, with Mother Nature keeping her whims to herself until she alone decides to turn them loose upon us.

But this particular Saturday morning was unusually quiet, not even a breath of breeze stirring the leaves of the cottonwoods that grew thick and untamed along the creekbank. I was standing outside on the gallery, sipping my coffee as I leaned on the porch rail, watching my wife, Jesse, hammer the last nail into a birdbox she had made. She must have felt my eyes on her, as she looked up from her work and smiled. A few moments later, she stepped up the stairs to where I stood and kissed me on the cheek, smelling of sawdust and lemongrass tea.

“The bluebirds are back,” she said. “I just saw them.”

“You haven’t lost your knack for building those things.”

“Plenty of practice. You got home late last night.”

I had spent the previous day transporting a man all the way from Lewiston up to the Portland lockup to await his trial. He stood accused of murdering his own wife and young child. It had been a long, depressing day, and by the time I completed the intake paperwork, locked up the substation in Meridian, and finally drove home to the ranch, Jesse was already asleep.

But this morning, everything in her expression seemed overflowing with hope and expectation. Springtime was her season and always had been.

“Want a hand putting that thing up?” I asked.

She replied by handing it to me, together with the hammer.

She watched me hang the birdbox on a post beside the vegetable garden, outside the kitchen window where I knew she’d spend her quiet mornings secretly observing the bluebirds as they built their nest and reared their brood.

“You plan on helping Caleb pick the new cowboys today?” She asked me when I came back inside.

It was the time of year when we hired a few temporary hands for Spring Works, when we’d round-up the cattle and calves from every corner of the ranch; we’d vet, brand and sort the livestock, and mend a perpetual string of breaks in the wire along miles of fenceline before we turned the herd out to the pastures for summer grazing. The Diamond D employed three permanent cowboys in addition to me and old Caleb Wheeler—our foreman for more than three decades—but with 63,000 deeded acres and another 14,000 under a Land Management lease, Spring Works was more work than the five of us could handle in the short span of time required to get it done. Every year a couple dozen hopeful itinerant riders, ropers, rodeo bums and saddle-tramps would answer the call for a temporary employment opportunity, and every year Caleb Wheeler got more riled up about what he viewed as the eroding quality of the contemporary American cowboy. He’d cuss and grump and holler about it, but he’d end up settling on three or four hands he reckoned could help us get the job done with a minimum of aggravation.

“I’m staying out of it this year,” I said, and Jesse grinned. “Figured I’d lay in a cord or two for the woodshed instead, before the weather gets too hot.”

“I saw some deadfall down by Corcoran’s,” she said.

“That’s where I was headed.”

“Make you some lunch to take with you?”

“I don’t intend to be out that long.”

“Good to hear,” she said, and winked at me before she turned, and stepped inside the house.

 

* * *

 

HALF AN HOUR later I was straddling a fallen spruce, angling the chainsaw to buck the trunk into three-foot rounds that I’d later split into quarters with the long-handled axe. The solitary labor, the sweat staining my shirt, and the burn down deep inside my muscles were a welcome balm after the week I’d had, and the air was rife with the smell of pine tar, sap and chain oil. I looked up and caught some movement in the distance, where the BLM forest gave onto an open range already knee deep with wildflowers and whipgrass. I recognized Tom Jenkins’ roping horse moving hellbent-for-leather across the flats, with young Tom leaning across her withers, one hand on the reins and the other holding his hat in place on top of his head. His mount was an admirable animal, a grullo Quarter Horse that stood nearly seventeen hands, fast and thick through the chest. Tom Jenkins handled her well, and he was beelining in my direction like he had something on his mind.

I killed the power on the chainsaw and set it in the bed of the military surplus jeep I use when I do ranch work, stepped over to the fence and took a splash of water from the canteen I’d hung in the shade of a young cedar. I didn’t have to wait long before Tom pulled up in a skidding stop inside a cloud of dust, throwing a cascade of torn earth and pebbles through the barbed strands of the wire.

“Mr. Dawson,” he said and touched a finger to his hat brim, sounding nearly as breathless as his horse. “I was hoping that was you.”

“What are you doing out here all by yourself?” I asked, but suspected I already knew the answer.

When I’d first met Tom Jenkins, he was nothing but a kid with a limp handshake, no eye-contact, and the familiar slope-shouldered gait and posture of the typical aimless teenaged slacker. At that time, he’d been well on his way to serious trouble, the variety and scope of which would have landed him in a six-by-eight jail cell where the other inmates would have eaten him alive.

He is the nephew of my neighbor to the south of me, Snoose Corcoran, whose sister had sent the kid up here from California’s central valley to his uncle’s ranch in southeastern Oregon in hopes of putting some distance between young Tom and his unquestionably poor choices of acquaintances. Ill-equipped to deal with the boy himself, Snoose begged me to take the kid on as a maverick, and I’d reluctantly agreed. After six months working side by side with trail hardened cowboys on the Diamond D young Tom Jenkins’ attitude had been readjusted, straightening both his spine and fortitude. Now, at barely 18 years of age, Tom had assumed the reins of the floundering Corcoran cattle operation from his uncle Snoose, who had been gradually disappearing into a bottle.

“Cow and a calf went missing from my place,” Tom answered. “Fence busted by the westward line, and I figured them two mighta headed for the water.”

My ranch hands ended up nicknaming the kid “Silver,” after he’d astonished us all by stepping up and winning a silver buckle for the Diamond D in the team roping event at the annual rodeo. I knew Tom secretly treasured the handle they’d bestowed, wore it like a medal, but I never spoke it; that was between my men and him.

“Where’s your uncle?” I asked.

His shrug spoke sorrowful volumes.

“So, what set you hightailing over here to see me, son?” I asked. “What’s the trouble? Besides the missing beeves.”

“I was up there on the other side of the tree line,” he said. He twisted sideways in his saddle, took off his hat and gestured with it toward a distant stretch of blue sky. “There was an eagle making low passes over the meadow, so I stopped to watch it for a minute. It was so still and quiet out there, I could hear the eagle calling out while it was gliding on the thermals.”

“You don’t see something like that every day,” I said. “Not even out here in the boondocks.”

“No sir, that’s a fact,” Tom said. “But, while I sat there watching that creature flying, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, a helicopter come buzzing across the ridge, you know the one…”

“Big stone bluff, looks like somebody cut it down the middle with a KA-BAR knife.”

“That’s the one,” he said. “Well, that chopper came in fast, and went straight toward that bird…” The young man’s voice trailed off, his face contorted like he’d encountered a foul odor. “They circled it as it flew, like they were teasing it. Two men inside the—whattaya call it?”

“Cockpit.”

“Yeah, the cockpit. Then they started closing in on him, chasing it. The guy in the passenger seat had a rifle in his hands. I could see the barrel sticking out.”

What Tom was describing to me was not only a despicable and loathsome act, it was a serious crime. The mere harassment of a protected species is a federal offense; hunting and killing one merely for the sick thrill of it was another matter entirely.

“What happened, Tom?”

He swallowed drily, shook his head and looked down at the ground between us.

“He shot that bird right out of the sky, sir,” he said. “That eagle wasn’t even doing nothing, just gliding circles on the wind, and those assholes—sorry, sir—they shot him cold dead.”

I could imagine the creature’s confused and lonely cry as it spiraled down, bleeding, terrified and helpless, to the earth.

“You pretty sure about the location, Tom?”

“About four, five miles thataway, near the bluff, where the river makes that sharp bend to the south.”

“Did you get a look at either of the men?”

“Naw, they were too far away and moving pretty fast. But I got a good look at the whirlybird.”

I asked him for a description of the helicopter, and I knew right away he was referring to a Bell H-13, known to soldiers as a “Sioux.” They’d been in common use as scouting and medical evacuation aircraft by the military. I’d seen them every day when I was stationed in Korea.

“Like the choppers on that TV show?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. Exactly like on M*A*S*H.”

“Big glass bubble on the front? No doors? Looks kinda like a dragonfly?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you see any numbers written on it? On the tail? Or maybe on the underside?”

Tom Jenkins pressed his hat back on his head and gazed up at the empty sky beyond the forest, like he could return that beautiful animal to where it rightfully belonged through sheer force of his will. The high peaks beyond the meadow were streaked with deep blue shadows in the sunlight, their cloughs and gorges washed in purple and topped with snow so white it hurt your eyes.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “I don’t remember seeing numbers or anything like that.”

His face took on the aspect of defeat, as though some personal failure had cost the animal its life.

“You did good, Tom. You did the right thing coming to me straight away. There was nothing else you could have done.”

He nodded once, his lips pressed tight, and he leaned down to adjust a stirrup that needed no adjustment.

“You want some help finding your cows?” I asked, thinking he might appreciate the company.

“I can do it, sir, but thank you. I can haze ’em back home on my own.”

“You gotta get eyeballs on the critters first. I can help you, son.”

“Thank you just the same, Mr. Dawson… Sheriff… Hell, I don’t even know what to call you.”

His expression softened for the first time since he’d showed up, a brief and fleeting smile, then his focus drifted far away again.

“Something else, Tom?”

“Just wondering.”

“Wondering what?”

“Do you think you can catch those guys who shot that bird?”

“I’m going to try my damndest.”

His eyes remained fixed on the horizon.

“What’ll happen to ’em if you do?”

I drew a bandana from the back pocket of my jeans, removed my hat, and dried the sweat that had been leaking from beneath the band.

“It’s been against the law to kill an eagle since the 1940s. If you’re not an Indian, you can’t even possess a single feather. If you get caught, you pay a steep fine and then they send you off to jail. If you’re a rancher, you could lose the leases on your land.”

Tom turned his gaze back on me, and I noted for the hundredth time that this young man no longer bore any resemblance to the person he had been on the day he first arrived here from California.

“That punishment don’t seem tough enough,” Tom said. “Not for what I seen ’em do.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

He clucked softly to his horse, and reined her back in the direction from which they’d come.

“I’d better get a move on,” he said.

“Be careful out there, son,” I said to his retreating back, but my words were lost in the distance.

***

Excerpt from KNIFE RIVER by Baron R Birtcher. Copyright 2024 by Baron R Birtcher. Reproduced with permission from Baron R Birtcher. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Baron R Birtcher

Baron Birtcher is the LA TIMES and IMBA BESTSELLING author of the hardboiled Mike Travis series (Roadhouse Blues, Ruby Tuesday, Angels Fall, and Hard Latitudes), the award-winning Ty Dawson series (South California Purples, Fistful Of Rain, Reckoning, and Knife River), as well as the critically-lauded stand-alone, RAIN DOGS.

Baron is a winner of the SILVER FALCHION AWARD, and the WINNER of 2018's Killer Nashville READERS CHOICE AWARD, as well as 2019's BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR for Fistful Of Rain.

He has also had the honor of having been named a finalist for the NERO AWARD, the LEFTY AWARD, the FOREWORD INDIE AWARD, the 2016 BEST BOOK AWARD, the Pacific Northwest's regional SPOTTED OWL AWARD, and the CLAYMORE AWARD.

Baron's writing has been hailed as "The real deal" by Publishers Weekly; "Fast Paced and Engaging" by Booklist; and "Solid, Fluent and Thrilling" by Kirkus.

"YOU WANT TO READ BIRTCHER'S BOOKS, THEN YOU WANT TO LIVE IN THEM"
~ Don Winslow, NYT Bestselling author

"BIRTCHER IS PART POET, PART PHILOSOPHER, AND A CONSUMMATE WRITER"
~ Reed Farrel Coleman, NYT Bestselling author

"REMINISCENT OF THE LATE, GREAT ELMORE LEONARD"
~ Shots Magazine (UK)

Catch Up With Baron R Birtcher:
Facebook - @BaronRBirtcher
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram - @baronbirtcher_author
Twitter/X - @BaronBirtcher22

 

 

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29 April, 2024

The Nowhere Girls by Dana Perry

 

BTHE NOWHERE GIRLS by Dana Perry Banner

THE NOWHERE GIRLS

by Dana Perry

April 1 - May 10, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

THE NOWHERE GIRLS

Book 1 in the Detective Nikki Cassidy series

My kid sister was murdered fifteen years ago. Now the killer has struck again. And this time, I’m going to take my revenge…

On the anniversary of her sister’s death, FBI agent Nikki Cassidy takes a call that has her heart pounding in her chest, the image of her beautiful sister Caitlin etched in her mind.

Another girl has been taken.

Days later, the lifeless body of twelve-year-old Natalie Jarvis is found in a remote patch of woodland, a crown of roses delicately placed on her head. Just like Caitlin.

The killer is back.

Nikki rushes to her small hometown of Groveton, Ohio. She will do anything to stop another young girl dying, but she soon realises that nothing is what it seems—everyone in her hometown is keeping a secret. And when a note is discovered near Natalie’s body addressed to Nikki, it’s clear what the murderer really wants: her…

She’s caught killers before, but this time it’s personal. And Nikki will risk everything—even her own life—to get justice for every victim. It’s time to stop this twisted killer, once and for all…

If you love reading Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Kendra Elliot, you won’t be able to put down this gripping new series. Full of heart-racing twists and turns, you’ll be hooked!

LAST ONE TO DIE

Book 2 in the Detective Nikki Cassidy series

Ten days ago, straight-A student Jessica Staley ran away from home. Now her lifeless body lies pale and still in an empty parking lot, her unblinking brown eyes staring up to the night sky…

FBI agent Nikki Cassidy’s heart pounds as she takes in the short, dark hair and delicate features of fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Jessica Stanley. It’s another unsolved murder in Groveton, Ohio, just like her sister, Caitlin, fifteen years before. Her family beg her to keep her distance, but Nikki knows she can’t walk away.

What if her sister’s killer is back?

Talking to Jessica’s heartbroken family, Nikki learns that she wasn’t happy at home. Just days ago, she packed a few belongings into her school backpack and left, never to be seen alive again.

Determined to give Jessica’s family the answers she never found for herself, Nikki works around the clock, trawling hours of CCTV footage from the scene. And just when she thinks she’s close to uncovering the truth, a chilling email arrives that confirms her deepest fear. There are more victims, Nikki. Can you ever stop me?

This killer is playing a dangerous game, and he has Nikki in his sights now—one wrong move and she could be his next victim. She’s determined to unmask the monster who has tortured her hometown for decades. But what if the killer is someone close to her? What if it’s someone she loves?

Fans of Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Kendra Elliot will absolutely love this gripping new series from Dana Perry. Prepare to stay up all night!

 

THE LOST ONES

Book 3 in the Detective Nikki Cassidy series

As dawn breaks over a small gas station on the outskirts of Groveton, Ohio, the body of a teenage girl lies totally still. Long blonde hair covers her face, and a length of frayed rope hangs loosely around her neck. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds her, just like her killer intended…

When FBI agent Nikki Cassidy receives a call from Groveton’s Chief of Police, her heart pounds. A young girl just knocked on the door of Nikki’s old family home, claiming to be Nikki’s kid sister, Caitlin. But Caitlin was murdered fifteen years ago. Who is the girl and what does she want?

Nikki thinks the impersonator could finally lead her to her sister’s twisted killer. But her hope is shattered when the girl’s lifeless body is found strangled at a local service stop. If the girl knew about Caitlin, could she have known the identity of the killer? Was she murdered before she could unmask them?

Going against her boss’s orders to stay away, Nikki traces the girl’s last known steps to her best friend, Shirley. Nikki learns that the girl was last seen meeting with a stranger at the mall. Could it have been her killer?

Closer than ever to uncovering the truth, Nikki can’t give up now. But when Shirley’s body is found at another service station, a length of rope wound around her neck, her heart shatters. Another young life has been lost. Nikki vows that this will be the last.

When an intruder breaks into her old home, Nikki knows it’s the killer sending her a sign. As she walks into the familiar old house in the dead of night, will she finally get justice and catch her sister’s killer, or did she just walk into a deadly trap?

   

Praise for Dana Perry:

THE NOWHERE GIRLS: "A twisty-breath-taking page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat until it’s stunning conclusion. Fast-paced and riveting, it keeps you guessing till the very end."
Lisa Regan, author

"A thrilling new series."
Killer Nashville

"A fantastic book… Dana Perry has created one heck of female lead!"
NetGalley reviewer

"Wow!!!!! What did I just read!!! Mind blown!!!! Absolutely shattered after being up all night reading but boy was it worth it! Absolutely unputdownable!!"
Bookworm86

"This was an edge-of-your-seat page-turner!"
@annette_reads_daily

 

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Bookouture
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 341
ISBN: 9781803147932 (ISBN10: 1803147938)
Series: Detective Nikki Cassidy

 

Read an excerpt:

 

 

Author Bio:

Dana Perry

I am a New York City author who writes mystery thrillers under the pen name of Dana Perry - and also as R.G. Belsky.

Catch Up With Dana Perry:
www.RGBelsky.com/dana-perry-books
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter/X - @DanaPerryAuthor
Facebook - @DanaPerryAuthor
Instagram - @dickbelsky

 

 

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28 April, 2024

Read an Excerpt from The Underhanded by Adam Sikes

 

THE UNDERHANDED by Adam Sikes Banner

THE UNDERHANDED

by Adam Sikes

April 8 - May 3, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

THE UNDERHANDED by Adam Sikes

Europe’s last line of defense against neofascism—a history professor?

Professor William Dresden has found solitude in the south of France to grapple with his troubled past—a neglected upbringing, failed romances, the recent demolition of his life’s work in academia, and even witnessing genocide, among other secrets. But he soon learns that he has much larger problems when an adrift MI6 officer, Adeline Parker, calls and insists on a meeting, revealing shocking information about his family. Then a bomb explodes.

William and Adeline narrowly escape the attempt on their lives and find themselves battling a group of neofascists and extreme nationalists who are inciting violent divisions across Europe. They are pulled into a shadowy war against a cabal called the Strasbourg Executive and pushed to the brink by family betrayals, corrupt institutions, and the Executive’s subversive plots against the fabric of Western society.

To survive, William must make tough decisions and act in ways he could’ve never previously imagined—but even that might not be enough.

Perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Jack Carr

Praise for THE UNDERHANDED:

"The latest by Adam Sikes, The Underhanded, is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that left me awed and at the edge of my seat. It’s a suspenseful mix of historical intrigue and present-day repercussions. It reminded me of the spy craft and nerve-rattling storytelling of Ken Follett and John le Carré. A must-read for all thriller fans . . . don’t miss it!"
~ James Rollins, New York Times best-selling author

"I couldn't put down this ripped-from-the-headlines novel from a writer who gets all the details right--in The Underhanded, Adam Sikes joins the ranks of the best names in espionage and political thrillers. As his intelligent and complex hero grapples with his past and a threat posed by a secret neo-fascist cabal, you will be rooting for him all the way to the last page."
~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times best-selling author

"Fast-paced and engaging, The Underhanded grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go! Great storytelling that weaves together rogue spies, ancient secrets, and clever tradecraft—Adam Sikes is destined for great things!"
~ Ward Larsen, USA Today best-selling author

Book Details:

Genre: International Thriller, International Spy Thriller, Conspiracy Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781608096008 (ISBN10: 1608096009)
Series:A William Dresden Novel, 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Provence, France

The unexpected vibration of my phone startled me, and I immediately regretted bringing it out here. I should have left it tucked in my jacket draped over the chair or dropped it carelessly on the kitchen counter. As it was, only a few people had this particular number, and I wasn’t expecting a call from any of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear from Phil or Gwen or Elliot or Alison—all good people whom I would call friends—but not at this moment.

I’d been enjoying my evening of quiet reflection, lost in my thoughts, mulling over what had happened and pondering what I was going to do next. I needed to do something; I couldn’t hide away forever, even if the idea was mildly appealing. I needed to get on with my life and my work, and just a few moments ago before this distraction, some acceptable ideas had started to percolate.

The phone vibrated again, rattling on the table next to me. And the caller ID showed Restricted, which made it even more bothersome, particularly now and especially here.

The south of France—with its beautiful beaches, superb wine, decadent women, and unbridled past—was where I went to escape or relax. It was a little of both this go around. Amidst the centuries-old villages, I could read, eat, flirt with socializing, and recharge. I was content here, and after a few days or weeks, I would be fortified to thrust myself into the breach and face the big bad world.

I watched the phone vibrate once more—three times now—and debated whether to let it go to voicemail. I preferred that option. It was the better option. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Although I had my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and could attempt a front of affable charm now and again, in my truest form I was quiet, preferring the conversations in my head to those with actual human beings.

I was a historian and I preferred books to . . . well . . . just about everything. Books didn’t need anything, just to be read and understood. They embodied a conversation with the author that was codified with ink on paper, there to be surveyed and contemplated and always available. People, on the other hand, tended to be complicated and unpredictable, some exhaustingly so.

But there it went again. My phone. Four rings now.

Voicemail, I thought. If the call was important, the person would leave a message or ring back, right?

But . . .

The phone vibrated once more, the noise jarring as it clattered on the patio table, demanding attention like the obnoxious party guest who spoke too loudly for the room and who no one could avoid. I think everyone has encountered those individuals at one moment or another.

And again—it vibrated.

Dammit.

I threw back the last of my wine and snatched up the phone. “Hello?”

“Hello. Am I speaking with Professor William Dresden of Princeton University?” asked a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize. She had a British accent and a confident tone, like one accustomed to chucking authority around.

“May I ask who’s calling?” I replied.

“My name is Adeline, and I have something urgent to chat with the professor about.”

“Okay,” I replied, remaining polite but noting that she hadn’t offered a last name.

“Are you Professor Dresden?” she asked again.

“I am.”

“Good. Glad I reached you.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I’ll get right to the point. Neither of us like having our time wasted,” the woman began. “My organization needs your assistance. We’re aware that for the past few years you’ve been researching the lives of some lesser-known men from the nineteenth century. You’ve argued that they were driving forces during Europe’s imperial era, and you recently gave a talk in Washington, D.C., about them. You caused quite a bit of controversy.”

I didn’t respond but she was right. My latest research had indeed caused a pompous cabal to descend from the Ivory Tower who were intent on ripping up my life’s work. By focusing on the people that surrounded the famous personalities of the past—rather than the statesmen and generals themselves—I’d shown that the aides and deputies of history were often as influential as the principals. They worked behind the scenes, pushing here and whispering there, orchestrating events according to their own designs and those of their masters. Their obscurity was their power, and these lesser-known individuals had intrigued me for the past twenty years or so.

Sadly, in recent months, more than a few scholars—people I would call my peers—had attacked my conclusions, picking apart my research methods and analysis and even my misplaced commas. Some went so far as to call me second-rate, which I will admit hurt.

It wasn’t all that surprising, I suppose. For those who’d devoted themselves to being the renowned authority on the likes of Napoleon or Roosevelt, my analysis had called into question their life’s work. One historian from George Washington University even accused me of fabricating my research, although nothing could be further from the truth. That comment truly shocked me, something I’d not encountered before and never in all my years of academia heard leveled in front of an audience.

To say it had been an uncomfortable time would have put it too gently.

Thus, I wondered what side of the argument this woman was on and what she wanted. The prospect of thrashing out some minor point of no real consequence didn’t entice me. And in my current state, if provoked, I’d likely pop off and say something I’d regret. Being kind was one of life’s most important qualities, my dear mother had always said, and I agreed with her. But after a drink or two I could become a little edgy, which might be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

“From my own work,” the woman continued, “and in light of what you claim to have uncovered about these men, I have some documents I think you should see.”

“Is that so? May I ask what they’re about?”

“They pertain to a small group of men of the same era and caliber that you lectured on. Their actions connected.”

“Could you be more specific, please?” I asked, now thinking the woman may not have called to put me on the rack. She had another angle, though it was still unclear. Maybe she was nuts. “You said your name was Adeline, and you represent who?”

“I’d rather not say anything more on the phone. All I can tell you is that the papers have been secreted away for a long time. The information they contain, coupled with events in recent years, suggests we’re facing a revived threat to both Europe and America.”

I sat up. “What? What are you talking about?”

“This may sound bizarre, but you must believe me. What I’m referring to is highly sensitive.”

“I don’t understand. What information?”

“I shouldn’t say any more right now. I need you to trust me.”

“Trust you?”

“We shouldn’t discuss anything else. It’s too dangerous. We must meet in person.”

“Too dangerous? Who are you and how did you get this number?”

I raised out of my chair and scanned the backyard of the villa. It was sunset and the shadows were dancing underneath the Aleppo Pines that dotted the hills. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up and, for a reason I could not explain, I wondered if I was being watched.

“Professor Dresden, I’ve no doubt you’re aware that Europe is facing numerous concerning challenges. An immigration crisis, climate impact, a resurgence of ethno-nationalists movements, Russia hammering on the eastern door . . . We need to meet tomorrow morning. Everything will become clear once we speak.”

I didn’t know how to respond. The woman wasn’t making sense. It was as if she’d drenched me with a mass of my own personal strife threaded with societal chaos and nonsense, intending to frighten or motivate me, I couldn’t tell. All I could muster was, “Thank you for the call, Miss . . . Adeline. But I’m going to hang up now. Have a good—”

“Professor, wait. There’s more. I wanted to tell you this in person, but,” she paused. “I have information about the death of your father. It was no accident.”

I slowly sat back down, her words reverberating in my ears, my chest suddenly going hollow. My father had died over twenty years ago in a car crash outside Paris. Images of a crumpled car and emergency workers scrambling about flashed through my mind. “What are you talking about? What do you know about my father?”

“Meet me tomorrow morning at eight at Le Trastevere in Villefranche-sur Mer. It’s on the water. Do you know it?”

“Yes,” I said without thinking. It was a restaurant in a small coastal town east of Nice.

“Good. See you then.”

The line went dead, but I kept the phone to my ear and stared across the countryside at the setting sun. I lost track of time, unable to form a coherent thought. The woman—Adeline—everything she’d said was at once a blur but jostled with vivid points of intense clarity . . . painful memories.

I interlaced my fingers on top of my head and pressed my palms against my temples, trying to stop the whirls of my thoughts.

Then, like one emerging from a storm, I grasped what just happened—what she’d done.

Son of a bitch.

I’d just been cold-pitched—approached without circumstance or context, and done in a manner so as to demand subsequent contact. It was how professionals orchestrated meetings when there was no logical reason for an introduction. Except this woman had done it using fear and pain, knowing enough about me to zero in on issues no normal person would have any idea about unless I’d shared it with them.

As everything began to crystallize, I then realized it was the combination of what the woman had said that was most unsettling.

I was a European historian and, by definition, my work—my life—focused on the past, not the present. Yet she’d brought up my lecture and said something about how it was connected to Europe’s current struggles . . . good Lord.

What could she possibly have to show me? What connected my work with the problems of today?

I had no idea.

As for my father—what did she mean his death was no accident? What else could it have been?

It had been nearly two decades since I’d put the man in the ground, and it had taken another year to close the man’s affairs and move on. My father—Ambassador Karl Dresden—had been an asshole, and I had no desire to reminisce.

A clap of thunder off in the distance brought me back. I glanced at my watch and saw it was getting late.

Leaning forward, I looked at the half-empty bottle of wine on the table that I’d been working on since dinner. It was a good vintage from a local winemaker, a Rhone blend, full-bodied and earthy, but I debated switching to scotch. I needed something stronger and no longer cared if someone was lurking about. If they were going to do something, they would have already done it.

Taking one last look at the call log on my phone, I snatched up the wine bottle and my empty glass and walked back into the villa. The stone walls were cracked and weathered, and the neglected hedges had overgrown what little there was of a patio.

The place hadn’t always been like this—dilapidated and forgotten. I’d spent several summers here as a child doing what young boys do, and I and my dear Olivia had come twice a year ever since we first met. She possessed a heart-stopping smile when she gazed through the backdoor across the fields. But that was a long time ago.

I made my way across the terracotta floor of the sitting room to the sideboard and opened the bottle of Balvenie. I filled a tumbler with a treble, downed half of it, swirled my glass, and finished the rest.

Shouldn’t discuss anything else over the phone. What the hell does that mean?

I poured myself a second glass—just a double this time—ran my fingers through my hair, and dropped down on the leather sofa. I leaned back, sinking into the cushion, and squeezed the bridge of my nose. When I opened my eyes, I beheld the painting above the stone fireplace. It was a landscape by Albert Bierstadt, an original, and one of the artist’s lesser-known pieces depicting the Swiss Alps, painted in 1856. It had been in my family for years.

The interplay between light and darkness was masterful. The snowcapped mountains were brilliantly lit, and the gentle slope of a hill was lush with grass and evergreens. But there were crevices and depths that were nearly black. I had always considered those places the unknown, hiding something sinister, like a troll or an evil wizard. A child’s imagination.

I took another drink of my scotch and tossed my phone on the coffee table. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the memories that Adeline had resurrected.

***

Excerpt from THE UNDERHANDED by Adam Sikes. Copyright 2024 by Adam Sikes. Reproduced with permission from Adam Sikes. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Author Bio:

Adam Sikes

Adam Sikes is a novelist, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Silver Star recipient, and former CIA paramilitary officer who has lived and served around the world, with combat tours in the Balkans, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. He has also operated in Central Asia, East Africa, and Europe. He is the author of Landslide, and in addition to writing fiction, Adam co-authored Open Skies: My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot. The Underhanded is his latest novel. Adam holds an M.A. in Global, International, and Comparative History from Georgetown University and resides in Southern California.

Catch Up With Adam Sikes:
www.AdamSikes.com
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BookBub - @sikesar
Instagram - @Adam_R_Sikes
Threads - @Adam_R_Sikes
Twitter/X - @Adam_R_Sikes
Facebook

 

 

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26 April, 2024

Read an Excerpt from Darkness Falls (Nature’s Fury #1) by A.E. Faulkner

 

Darkness Falls
A.E. Faulkner
(Nature’s Fury, #1)
Publication date: March 31st 2019
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

Our family trip to the beach ended before it even began. Mother Nature made sure of that.

Our parents…gone in an instant. It’s just me and my sister. 100 miles from home. No car. No phones. No money. Down to our last crumbs of food.

But just when we figure out what to do, she vanishes.

Mother Nature reached her breaking point and everyone’s paying the price. I have a feeling she isn’t done just yet.

But guess what? Neither am I.

Can Quinn survive the dark side of humanity and outrun nature’s fury? Click Buy Now to find out.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

“Aidan, man, we should probably get going soon,” Jeff says, pulling me away from the threatening spiral of memories. His interruption is a welcome distraction.

“You’re right,” Aidan says, his eyes locked with mine. “But before we go, Quinn, you need to know, you’re not safe here. Do you have somewhere else to go?”

“What are you talking about?” My head volleys back and forth between the guys. Jeff runs a hand through his short brown hair and exhales a sigh. He leans in conspiratorially and says in a hushed voice, “Look, we’ve been checking out the unoccupied homes around here. You know, just borrowing things to help us get by. But one of the trailers we went to, we thought it was empty…”

Aidan finishes for him. “Quinn, one of your neighbors is dead. We thought the trailer was vacant, so we went inside. We grabbed some canned food and other stuff from the kitchen and then we went to the bedroom to see if there were any blankets and pillows.”

Tag-teaming again, Jeff continues. “We thought the smell was some food rotting. But… we found her just lying there on the bed, lifeless. Looked like she was stabbed. There was blood on the sheets and blanket.” He pauses momentarily before breaking the silence. “We would have helped her if we could, but she was gone.”

I raise a hand to cover my gaping mouth. The scream I heard the other night. That must have been it. Why didn’t I think to go see what was happening? Maybe I could have helped her. Maybe I could have stopped it.

“Guys, which trailer? Where did you see this?” I don’t know many of the permanent residents, and if it was someone who is only here for vacations, there’s no chance I know her.

Aidan steps to the edge of the porch and points, “Two homes down in that direction. The one with the wishing well in the front yard.” I wrap my arms around myself to contain the shiver running through me. The guys exchange a look and I know what’s coming next.

“Look, we gotta go,” Aidan says. “How about we check on you tomorrow? Would that be okay? Just make sure you’re alright.” Before I can filter my thoughts, they escape my lips. “That would be really nice. Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Okay,” Jeff says, nodding. The guys eye each other, silently communicating. They hesitate for just a moment and then Aidan speaks again. “Quinn, just keep a low profile, okay? Try to keep yourself hidden. We’ll come back tomorrow night after it gets dark and we can talk more then.”

“Okay,” I say. “Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow. Or, today I guess.” The guys watch me head inside the trailer. I lock the door and peer out the window, watching them leave. I barely know them, but I sense they’re like me and Riley—good people trying to navigate their way through a bad situation.

As I tiptoe back to the bedroom and settle under the covers, I vow to tell Riley everything. She deserves to know we could be in danger here and she needs to meet Aidan and Jeff. Maybe they are our ticket out of here.

Author Bio:

A. E. Faulkner was born and raised in Pennsylvania. When she’s not lost in a book, she loves spending time with her husband and two sons, especially while hiking, biking, or exploring nature. She loves almost everything about nature—ticks excluded, and one of her biggest fears is the repercussions we will face when nature can no longer tolerate human destruction. As such, she never tires of reading dystopian-themed tales. Stories about the end of the world absolutely fascinate her.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok


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24 April, 2024

Read an Excerpt from Sweetheart by Cookie O’Gorman

 

Sweetheart
Cookie O’Gorman
Publication date: April 25th 2024
Genres: Romance, Young Adult

Sweetheart (suh-weet-hart): Someone who is kind, friendly, and/or lovable. For reference, see Scarlett Kent.

Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Kent likes the idea of love—in theory. She’s just never had time for romance. Voted Most Likely to Succeed, founder of a youth mentoring program, and an aspiring professional violinist, Scarlett has goals—and a list of “firsts” she’d like to complete before graduation.

One thing that’s not on her list: Falling for Sam Bishop.

Flirtatious jocks who sleep through class aren’t her type—no matter how good Sam looks in his jersey. But when her car breaks down, Sam stops to help…which leads to an unexpected offer.

Sam volunteers to help Scarlett complete her list. In return, she’ll help him win back his ex.

It’s a sweetheart deal that should benefit everyone.

But between kissing lessons and pretend dates, Scarlett realizes Sam is the perfect fake boyfriend. And if she’s not careful, he could be her first real heartbreak.

This book features two souls who’re meant to be, one fake arrangement, so many heart-melting kisses and answers the question:

What happens when a perfectionist falls for a player?

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

“Can I ask you something?” he said.

“Okay…”

“Why are you dressed like that?”

I lifted a brow.  “Like a blueberry?”

Sam gave a shrug.  “I was going to say a cross between Elsa and Cinderella.”

“Well, well,” I said, “the Sam Bishop knows his princesses.  Who would’ve guessed?”

“Thanks to my sister,” he said.  “And I still don’t get why you keep saying the before my name.  Makes no sense.”

It made sense to me.

He’d always been the Sam Bishop in my head.  As in the one and only, the original, the Sam Bishop who stole my heart at age ten and refused to give it back.  I couldn’t say any of that to him, though, so I just shrugged.

“I was hired to play a wedding,” I said.

“And they asked you to dress like a princess?”

I shook my head.  “The bride wanted a very specific shade of blue.  Not baby blue, aqua or cornflower.  Royal blue is what they asked for.  This is what I had, so…”

Sam nodded.  “Looks good on you.”

“Yeah, right,” I said with a scoff.

“I’m serious.”

Feeling my cheeks heat, I crossed my arms.

“Gotta be honest, though, I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to fit all that in the car.  That’s a lot of material.”

His words startled a laugh out of me, and I gave a mental curse.  I would not be charmed by him.  The guy couldn’t even remember my name for goodness sakes.

“Is part of it still hanging out the door or…?” he said innocently.

“Ha ha,” I said, “very funny, Bishop.”

“Got a laugh out of you, Kent.”

Well.

At least he remembered my last name, I thought.

“And I’m assuming if I hadn’t been able to fit inside your inadequately-sized sports car”—he scoffed—”you would’ve just left me on the side the road?”

Sam shook his head.  “Nah, I would’ve just had you take the dress off.”

Author Bio:

Cookie O'Gorman Bio: Cookie O'Gorman writes YA & NA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE, NINJA GIRL, The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder, The Good Girl's Guide to Being Bad, The Kissing Challenge (YA novella), WALLFLOWER, CUPCAKE, FAUXMANCE, and BOOKWORM are out now! She is also the author of NA sports romances The Best Mistake, The Perfect Play, The Sweetest Game, and The Total Knockout. Her newest release SWEETHEART came out on April 25, 2024!

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22 April, 2024

Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates

 

Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates Banner

Rise to Rebellion

by Julie Bates

April 8 - May 3, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates

Summer 1776. Different missions call Faith Clarke and Jeremy Butler to Philadelphia, where delegates meet to determine the path of the rebellious American Colonies. Faith has been called back to her childhood home to make peace with her terminally ill mother, while Jeremy has been summoned by General Washington to report to Philadelphia to deal with a crisis impacting the Continental Crisis. Yet nothing is as it seems.

Her mother’s wandering mind reveals a secret that no one wants to discuss, but Faith realizes must come to light. A child, born out of wedlock, haunts her mother’s memories and destroys her peace. No matter to cost, Faith knows this child must be found for her mother to pass in peace, even as her own family tries to stop her. Only her older sister, Hannah is willing to help her find the truth that will allow her mother to die in peace.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Butler hunts for an assassin determined to kill a member of the Congress meeting to draft a proclamation from the American Colonies. All attempts lead back to Benjamin Franklin, who is at the heart of the negotiations to send a united message to the King of England. But who would want to kill Franklin, a man respected by all? Alone in a strange town, Jeremy enlists the help of Faith’s sister Hannah, a formidable widow with a mind of her own. Together, they work to keep Franklin safe while hunting a ruthless killer wandering the streets of Philadelphia.

While Jeremy seeks answers from Franklin’s estranged son, William. Faith and Hannah hunt for their long-lost sister, who they believe may still be living in Philadelphia. Neither of them realizes that in a city rife with rebellion, anyone could be tempted to rise up and revolt against those held responsible for the deepest of betrayals.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 26, 2023
Number of Pages: 318
ISBN: 9781685124670 (ISBN10: 1685124674)
Series: Faith Clarke, #3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Level Best Books

Read an excerpt:

Butler circled the room. Franklin found a comfortable seat where he was soon encircled by a mixed crowd as he exerted his charm. Surrounded by paramount families of Philadelphia, Butler felt certain the old man was safe. A light touch on his arm caught him by surprise.

Lizette Fournier smiled up at him with a guileless expression. “Forgive me, Master Butler, but I appear to be without a partner for this dance. Would you do me the honor?”

He allowed her to take his arm. Butler hoped he didn’t forget the steps. When he had served with Washington as a youth in the French and Indian War, the colonel had seen fit to teach him dancing. The colonel, now general, was both an excellent dancer and teacher. Butler felt a debt of gratitude to him as he led Mistress Fournier into a well-known country dance.

Lizette Fournier was light on her feet. Her delicate blue gown, with its frothy lace, reminded him of seafoam as it moved back and forth. Her eyes watched him as he turned and swayed along with her.

“You are a fine dancer, Master Butler,” she called as they drew closer. “I wonder that I have not seen you at some of our other gatherings.”

Butler waited until they were close again. “Regrettably, I have had little time for entertainment since I entered this fair city.”

“Really, I wonder what sort of business would keep an attractive man away from the very gatherings that allow men to make connections valuable in conducting a successful business.”

Butler nodded as they turned. “I have seen many of Philadelphia’s finest families represented here tonight, but not all business is conducted at a ball. The ladies expect better of us than to take time away from the festivities.”

“It would be a shame,” she agreed. “That’s why so many of our fine men slip away to the card tables so that they can drink and gossip with impunity.”

Butler laughed. “Is that how it is done? I will keep that in mind.” He bowed before her as the dance ended. “Perhaps I had best excuse myself and move to that room.” He moved swiftly before she could compel him to another dance. Fortunately, he had spotted the adjacent room set up for cards as they had moved across the dance floor.

Candelabras surrounded the group of square tables set up in an elegant room papered in blue and white toile print. Dark blue draperies partially drawn across the windows gave the room an intimate look. The windows were open to allow breezes inside and allow smoke from cigars and pipes to drift out into the night.

As he passed by the settee where Franklin was ensconced, he heard a giggle. He had been joined by a pretty young girl in a pale pink dress covered in bows. Butler watched as Franklin leaned over to kiss her cheek and chuckle heartily. Butler briefly wondered if he had been entrusted with the defense of an old lecher, but he saw nothing of concern from either Franklin or the girl as they sat talking. He moved to stand behind a chair close by.

Franklin basked in the attention of the young lady, her mama, and a few others as he shared a story about one of his experiments regarding electricity. “We soon discovered that lightning would strike the highest point in the vicinity in order to reach the ground, and,” he leaned over to whisper conspiratorially, “whatever it struck would explode as if shot from a cannon.” He leaned back and saw Butler. “Master Butler, could you find me some refreshment? Regrettably, my throat has gotten quite dry with the sharing of my scientific work.”

Butler shot Franklin a look. “It would be my pleasure.”

“Thank you, my good man.” He turned to the girl. “Now, my sweet Felicity, where were we?”

“You were about to tell us about attaching a key to your kite,” she replied. Chestnut brown curls were piled artfully on top her head while two or three large sausage-shaped ones drifted over her bare shoulder.

They had moved on to another of Franklin’s experiments by the time he returned. Butler handed him a frothy goblet and passed the other to the girl. Franklin drank deeply, draining the glass before setting it on a nearby table.

Butler smiled over at Franklin. “I believe I read that your son assisted you in many of your experiments.”

“William helped a great deal. He served as my assistant and recorder. He could be very useful when he chose.”

Felicity asked. “Where is your son now, Dr. Franklin?”

Franklin remained silent for several moments, his expression unreadable. “William is far away from me now.”

Butler left to get a drink for himself, pondering how two men once so close could grow so far apart. Avoiding the syllabub, which he found disgusting, Butler acquired a glass of wine and settled along a wall. Before long, he was joined by Frances Fournier, also with a glass of wine.

“It is a fine party, is it not mon ami?” Fournier’s glass was almost buried by the enormous cascade of ruffles flowing out from the cuffs of his jacket. The pale ivory of his waistcoat stood out in contrast to the blue of his suit. All were covered with embroidered roses that must have taken hours to produce. Fournier gazed with pride at the crowd filling his home. “My wife does an excellent job with these things.”

Butler nodded. “She seems very talented. You must be pleased to have such a beautiful and skilled lady at your side.”

Fournier nodded sagely. “She is a remarkable woman, my Lisette, and tolerant of my eccentricities.” He smiled expansively. “She will not notice if I slip away for a few hours with a like-minded friend.”

Butler wondered what Fournier was alluding to. There was very little a wealthy man could not discreetly do. “It is good she is an understanding woman,” he said at last.

“I have not seen you with the ladies, with the exception of my charming wife; perhaps you too prefer the company of men?”

The question was posed delicately.

Butler smiled to show he meant no judgment against his host. “I’m flattered you would ask, but that is not my interest. I lost my wife years ago and have no interest in forming an attachment with anyone.” He stepped back from the wall. “I think it best if I check on my companions before they take in too much of your well-stocked cellars. I wish you a pleasant evening.” He walked slowly into the crush, aware of the older man’s eyes on his back. Butler had no intention of commenting on his interests, although he suspected it was known in society. His mission was to protect Franklin, not judge other men’s choices.

Butler walked outside to clear his head. Strains of music drifted out into the shadowed garden, lit by a few scattered torches. A tall tree’s canopy provided a large dark space where one could shelter and not be disturbed. Butler stood beneath it, taking in the night air.

In the garden, whispers drifted across the ground. Young swains sputtered their affections to young ladies. A few men discussed an upcoming horse race on the edges of town the next day. One apparently was short of funds. Butler paid attention to that. A man desperate for money might be willing to share information for some coins.

A pair of women walked past. Their furtive glances caught his interest. Butler decided to follow. Gravel crunched under their feet as they walked swiftly away from the revealing light of torches that had been placed just outside the house. Butler kept to the shadows surrounding the fruit trees on the edge of the formal beds.

Within the raised beds, pale blossoms of flowers glowed in the shadowed garden. The waxing moon provided ample light to see the path. Butler listened to the hoot of an owl in the distance, warning smaller creatures that it was on the hunt. He watched as the women made for the pergola at the end of the main path. Painted white, it stood out in the darkness.

One of the women stopped as her skirt became caught in the boxwood edging one of the flower beds. As she bent to free it, Lisette Fournier whispered. “Hurry, it won’t be long before we are missed.”

Mistress Cranford rose. “I’m not tearing my skirt. The dressmaker delivered this yesterday.”

Butler lingered outside, concealed by trees and shrubs.

Fournier spoke first. “Has your husband revealed anything about where he stands in this conflict?”

Cranford’s voice sounded exasperated. “We are Quaker. He says we are neutral, but he meets with men like Franklin and George Clymer. He is angry at the threats the British have made. They imply that if he doesn’t support the King, he is a patriot even if he does nothing.”

Fournier nodded. “The British are of like mind. They have no use for pacifists.” She raised her head, looking at the sky. Her face was a pale oval, unreadable in the shadowed structure. “The British will come,” She said. “We need to prepare. Our husbands may choose to blindly ignore the danger, but we cannot. Our children depend on us to provide a future for them.”

“Elizabeth,” Lisette grasped her hand. “I realize this is difficult, but you can do this. Listen when he brings his associates home to dinner. Let me know what you hear; that is all you need to do.”

The other woman shook her head. “James won’t like it if I pry in his business. His family was disappointed he did not marry into a more affluent family. It has been better since Simeon was born. His father dotes on him and his sisters.”

“It is for your children you should do this. When the British come, they will take this town and punish anyone they believe sympathetic to the revolution.” Her voice deepened. “Men pay no attention to us, but we are necessary to their comfort and wellbeing. Therein lays your power. Be the perfect hostess and entertain your husband’s associates with loving kindness. They will speak and never realize you are present.”

Elizabeth Cranford drew in a breath. “This is a patriot stronghold. Do you really believe the British will come?”

“British Troops are gathering in New York, waiting for the right moment. It’s a matter of time before they march south.”

“But Washington,” Elizabeth began.

Lisette shook her head. “He works with militias: men of very little training and short commitment. My friends tell me they are not prepared to meet a professional army.”

Butler wondered who the lovely Lisette shared her information with.

“It’s time for us to return to the ball.” Lisette murmured. “I will call on you tomorrow, and you can let me know if James has expressed any opinions to his clients. I have heard that Master Hancock has met with him.”

Elizabeth nodded. “They have discussed business contracts. Master Hancock wants to expand where his ships go and find a way to avoid the British navy.”

Lisette snorted. “We’re all trying to avoid them, as well as the privateers that seek fat ships to loot.” She looked about before stepping out onto the pearly pale gravel that lined the garden’s walkways. Both women walked swiftly back toward the house, where the strains of a minuet drifted from the open windows. Butler watched them go, pondering what he had heard. Lisette Fournier was far more than a pretty woman. In the right hands, she could influence the course of the conflict here in Philadelphia. The question was, whose side was she really on? It might be possible to sway her to share intelligence in order to garner favor with the prevailing side. Butler recognized she could be a source of tremendous intelligence, but if he wasn’t careful, she could also be his doom.

***

Excerpt from Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates. Copyright 2024 by Julie Bates. Reproduced with permission from Julie Bates. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Julie Bates

Julie Bates enjoys reading and writing in a variety of genres. After spending a few years writing freelance articles, her first novel Cry of the Innocent, premiered in June 2021, followed by A Seed of Betrayal in 2022. The Eight book series follows the timeline of the American Revolutionary War. In addition, she has blogged for Killer Nashville and the educational website Read.Learn.Write. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Triangle Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and The Historical Novel Society. When not busy plotting her next story, she enjoys working in her garden, doing crafts and spending time with her husband and son, as well as a number of dogs and cats who have shown up on her doorstep and never left...

Catch Up With Julie Bates:
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