17 June, 2021

Read an #Excerpt from The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond - @partnersincr1me @jeffABond #Mystery

 

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond Banner

The Begonia Killer

by Jeff Bond

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond

You know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery -- Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 195
ISBN: 1734622520 (ISBN-13 : 978-1734622522)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

THE BEGONIA KILLER

By Jeff Bond

Chapter One

After twenty minutes on Martha Dodson’s couch, listening to her suspicions about the neighbor, I respected the woman. She was no idle snoop. She’d noticed his compulsive begonia care out the window while making lavender sachets from burlap scraps. She hadn’t even been aware of the papered-over bedroom above his garage until her postal carrier had commented.

I asked, “And the day he removed the begonias, how did you happen to see that?”

Martha set tea before me on a coaster, twisting the cup so its handle faced me. “Ziggy and I were out for a walk—he’d just done his business. I stood up to knot the bag…”

Her kindly face curdled, and I thought she might be remembering the product of Ziggy’s “business” until she finished, “Then we saw him start hacking, and scowling, and thrusting those clippers at his flowers.”

Her eyes, a pleasing hazel shade, darkened at the memory.

She added, “At his own flowers.”

I shifted my skirt, giving her a moment. “The begonias were in a mailbox planter?”

“Right by the street, yes. The whole incident happened just a few feet from passing cars, from the sidewalk where parents push babies in strollers.”

“Did he dispose of the mess afterward?”

“Immediately,” Martha said. “He looked at his clippers for a second—the blades were streaked with green from all those leaves and stems he’d destroyed—then he sort of recovered. He picked everything up and placed it in the yard-waste bin. Every last petal.”

“He sounds meticulous.”

“Extremely.”

I jotted Cleaned up begonia mess in my notebook.

Maybe because of my psychology background—I’m twelve credit-hours shy of a PhD—I like to start these introductory interviews by allowing clients time to just talk, open-ended. I want to know what they feel is important. Often this tells as much about them as it does about whatever they’re asking me to/ investigate.

Martha Dodson had talked about children first. Hers were in college. Did I have little ones? I’d waived my usual practice of withholding personal information and said yes, six and fourteen. She’d clapped and rubbed her hands. Wonderful! Where did they go to school?

Next we’d talked crafting. Martha liked to knit and make felt flowers for centerpieces, for vase arrangements, even to decorate shoes—that type of crafter whose creativity spills beyond the available mediums and fills a house, infusing every shelf and surface.

Only with this groundwork lain had she told me about the case itself, describing the various oddities of her neighbor three doors down, Kent Kirkland.

I was still waiting to hear the crux of her problem, the reason she wanted to hire McGill Investigators. (Full disclosure—although the name is plural, there’s only one investigator: Molly McGill. Me.)

“That sounds like an intense, visceral moment,” I said, squaring myself to Martha on the couch. “So has he done something to your flowers? Are you engaged in a dispute with him?”

Martha shook her head. Then, with perfect composure, she said, “I think he’s keeping a boy in the bedroom over his garage.”

I felt like somebody had blasted jets of freezing air into both my ears. The pen I’d been taking notes with tumbled from my hand to the carpet.

“Wait, keeping a boy?” I said.

“Yes.”

“Against his will? As in, kidnapping?”

Martha nodded.

I was having trouble reconciling this woman in front of me—cardigan sweater, hair in a layered crop—with the accusation she’d just uttered. We were sitting in a nice New Jersey neighborhood. Nicer than mine. We were drinking tea.

She said, “There might be two.”

Now my notebook dropped to the carpet.

“Two?” I said. “You think this man is holding two boys hostage?”

“I don’t know for sure,” she said. “If I knew for sure, I’d be over there breaking down the door myself. But I suspect it.”

She explained that a ten-year-old boy from the next town over had gone missing six months ago. The parents had been quoted as saying they “lost track of” their son. They hadn’t reported his disappearance until the evening after they’d last seen him.

“The mother told reporters he wanted a scooter for Christmas, one of those cute kick scooters.” Martha sniffled at the memory. “Guess what I saw the UPS driver drop off on Kent Kirkland’s porch two weeks ago?”

“A scooter,” I said.

Her eyes flashed. “A very large box from a company that makes scooters.”

Having retrieved my notebook, I jotted, box delivery (scooter?) . We talked a bit about this scooter company—which also made bikes, dehumidifiers, and air fryers.

Scooter or not, there remained about a million dots to be connected from this boy’s case, which I vaguely remembered from news reports, to Kent Kirkland.

I left the dots aside for now. “How do you get to two boys?”

“There was another missing boy, about the same age. During the summer.” Martha’s mouth moved in place like she was counting up how many jars of tomatoes she’d canned yesterday. “He lived close, too. That case was complicated because the parents had just divorced, and the dad—who was a native Venezuelan—had just moved back. People suspected him of taking the boy with him.”

“To Venezuela?”

“Yes. Apparently the State Department couldn’t get any answers.”

I nodded, not because I accepted all that she was telling me, but because there was no other polite response available.

Neither of us spoke. Our eyes drifted together down the street to Kent Kirkland’s two-story saltbox home. Pale yellow vinyl siding. Tall privacy fence. Three separate posted notices to “Please pick up after your pet.” Neighborhood Watch sign at the corner.

Finally, I said, “Look, Mrs. Dodson. Martha. Most of the cases we handle at McGill Investigators are domestic in nature. Straying husbands. Teenagers mixed up with the wrong crowd. I’m a mother myself, and I’ve been a wife. Twice.” I softened this disclosure with a smirk. “I generally take cases where my own life experiences can be brought to bear.”

“But that’s why I chose you.” Martha worried her hands in her lap. “Your website says, ‘Every case will be treated with dignity and discretion.’ That’s all I ask.”

I looked into her eyes and said, “Okay.”

She seemed to sense my reluctance and started, rushing, “Those bedroom windows are papered-over twenty-four hours a day! And the begonias, you didn’t see him destroy those begonias! I saw how he severed their stalks and shredded their root systems. You don’t do that to flowers you’ve tended for an entire season. Not if you’re a person of sound mind.”

“Gardening is more challenging for some than others. I love rhododendrons, but I can’t keep them alive. I over-water, I under-water. I plant them in the wrong spot.”

“Have you ever massacred them in a fit of rage?”

“No.” I smiled. “But I’ve wanted to.”

Martha couldn’t help returning the smile. But her eyes stayed on Kent Kirkland’s house.

I said, “Some men aren’t blessed with impulse control. Maybe he was a lousy gardener, he’d tried fertilizing and everything else, and the plants just refused to—”

“But he wasn’t a lousy gardener. He was excellent. I think he grew those begonias from seed. He wanted them to be perennials, is my theory, but we’re in zone seven—they’re annuals here. He couldn’t accept them dying off.”

Again, I was at a loss. I liked Martha Dodson. She had seemed like a reasonable person, right up until she’d started talking about kidnappings and Venezuela.

She scooted closer on the couch. “You didn’t see the rage, Miss McGill. I saw it. I saw him that day. He walked out of the garage with hand pruners, but he took one look at those begonias—leaves browning at the edges, stems tangled like green worms—and flipped out. He turned right around, put away the hand pruners and came back with clippers.”

She mimed viciously snapping a pair of clippers closed.

“Rage is one thing,” I said. “Kidnapping is another.”

“Of course,” Martha said. “That’s why I’d like to hire you: to figure out what he might be capable of.”

Her pupils seemed to pulse in place.

“I want to help you out, honestly.” I took her hand. “I do.”

“Is it money? I—I could pay you more. A little.”

Saying this, she seemed to linger on my jacket. I’d recently swapped out my boiled wool standby for this slightly flashier one, red leather with zippers. I had no great ambitions about an image upgrade; it’d just felt like time for a change.

“The fee we discussed will be sufficient,” I said. Martha had mentioned she was paying out of her own pocket, not from her and her husband’s joint account. “My concern is more about the substance of the case. It feels a bit outside my expertise.”

She clasped her hands at her waist. “Is it a question of danger? Do you not handle dangerous jobs?”

I balked. In fact, I’d done extremely dangerous jobs before, but only as part of Third Chance Enterprises, the freelance small-force, private arms team led by Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones. We’d stopped an art heist in Italy. We’d saved the world from anarchist-hackers. Sometimes I can hardly believe our missions happened. They feel like half dream, half blockbuster movies starring me. Every couple years, just about the time I start thinking they really might be dreams, Quaid shows up again on my front porch.

“I don’t mind facing danger on a client’s behalf,” I said. “But McGill Investigators isn’t meant to replace the proper authorities. If you believe Mr. Kirkland is involved in these disappearances, your first stop should be the police.”

“Mm.” Martha’s face wilted, reminding me of those unlucky begonias. “Actually, it was.”

“You spoke with the police?”

She nodded. “Yes. Well, more of a front desk person. I told him exactly what I’ve been telling you today.”

“How did he respond?”

There was a floor loom beside the couch. Martha threaded her fingers through its empty spindles, seeming to need its feel.

“He said the department would ‘give the tip its due attention.’ Then on my way out, he asked if I’d ever read anything by J.D. Robb.”

“The mystery writer?” I asked.

“Right. He told me J.D. Robb was really Nora Roberts, the romance novelist. He said I should try them. He had a hunch I’d like them.”

My teeth were grinding.

I said, “Some men are idiots.”

Martha’s face eased gratefully. “Oh, my husband thinks the same. I’m a Yancy Park housewife with too much time on her hands. He says Kirkland’s just an odd duck. When I told him about the begonias, he got this confused expression and said, ‘What’s a perennial?’”

I could relate. My first husband had once handed me baking soda when I asked for cornstarch to thicken up an Italian beef sauce. The dish came out tasting like soap. After I traced back the mistake, he grumbled, “Ah, relax. They’re both white powders.”

As much as I probably should have, I couldn’t refuse Martha. Not after this conversation.

“I suppose I can do some poking around,” I said. “See if he, I don’t know, buys suspicious items at the grocery store. Or puts something in his garbage that might have come from a child.”

Martha lurched forward and clutched my hands like I’d just solved the case of Jack the Ripper.

“That would be amazing!” she cried. “Thank you so much! I know this seems far-fetched, but my instincts tell me something’s wrong at that house. If I didn’t follow through, if it turned out I was right and those little boys…”

She didn’t finish. I was glad.

CHAPTER TWO

The state of New Jersey offers private investigator licenses, but I’ve never gotten one. It doesn’t entitle you to much, and you have to put up two hundred and fifty dollars, plus a three-thousand-dollar “surety bond.” Besides the money, you’re supposed to have served five years as an investigator or police officer. Which I haven’t.

For all these reasons, my first stop after taking any case involving possible crimes is the local police station. Sometimes the police are impressed enough by what I tell them to assign their own personnel, usually some rookie detective or beat cop.

Other times, not.

“Begonias, huh?” said Detective Art Judd, lacing his fingers behind a head of bushy brown hair. “The ones with the thick, fluffy flower heads?”

“You’re thinking of chrysanthemums,” I said.

“Nnnno, I feel like it was begonias.”

“Not begonias. Maybe peonies?”

“Don’t think so,” he said. “I’m pretty sure the gal in the garden center said begonias.”

I was annoyed—one, at his stubborn ignorance of flowers, and two, that he’d segued so breezily off the subject of Kent Kirkland.

“The only other possibility with a thick, fluffy flower-head would be roses,” I said. “But if you don’t know what a rose looks like, you’re in trouble.”

Art Judd’s lips curled up below a mustache. “You could be right.”

I waited for him to return to Kirkland, to stand and pace about his sparsely decorated office, to offer some comment on the bizarre behavior I’d been describing for the last twenty minutes.

But he just looked at me.

Oh, I didn’t mind terribly being looked at. He was handsome enough in a best-bowler-on-his-Tuesday-night-league-team way. Broad sloping shoulders, large hand gestures that made the physical distance between our chairs feel shorter than it was.

I’d come for Martha Dodson, though.

“Leaving aside what is or isn’t a begonia,” I said, “how would you feel about checking into Kent Kirkland? Maybe sending an officer over to his house.”

He finally gave up his stare, kicking back from his metal desk with a sigh. “The department barely has enough black-and-whites to service the parking meters downtown.”

“I’m talking about missing boys. Not parking meters.”

“Point taken,” he said. “Why didn’t Mrs. Dodson come herself with this information?”

“She did. Your front desk person brushed her off.”

The detective looked past me into the precinct lobby. “They see a lot of nut jobs. You can’t go calling in the calvary every time someone comes in saying their neighbor hung the wrong curtains.”

“They aren’t curtains,” I said. “The windows are papered-over. Completely opaque.”

He rubbed his jaw. I thought he might be struggling to keep a straight face.

I continued with conviction I wasn’t sure I actually felt, “I saw it. It isn’t normal how he obscures that window. Martha thinks it’s weird, and it is weird.”

“Weird,” he said flatly. “Two votes for weird.”

“You put those Neighborhood Watch signs up, right?” In response to his slouch, I stood. “You encourage citizens to report anything out of the ordinary. When a citizen does so, the proper response would seem to be gratitude—or, at the very least, respect.”

This, either the words or my standing up, finally pierced the detective’s blithe manner.

“Okay, I give. You win.” His barrel chest rose and fell in a concessionary breath. “It’s true, with police work you never know which detail matters until it matters. Please apologize to Mrs. Dodson on behalf of the department. And I’ll be sure to have a word with Jimmie.”

He gestured to the lobby. “Kid’s been getting too big for his britches for a while now.”

I thanked him, and he ducked his head in return.

Then he said, “I suppose she thinks one of those boys being held is Calvin Witt.”

The boy whose parents had lost track of him.

“Yes,” I said. “The timing does fit.”

I considered mentioning the scooter, Calvin’s Christmas wish, but decided not to. We didn’t need to go down the rabbit hole of box shapes and labeling, and whether grown men rode scooters.

Detective Judd looked ponderously at the ceiling. I didn’t expect him to divulge information about a live case, but I thought if he knew something exculpatory—that Calvin Witt had been spotted in Florida, say—he might pass it along and save me some trouble.

“I hate to say this, but I honestly doubt young Calvin is among the living.” Art Judd smeared a hand through his mustache. “The father gambled online. Mom wanted out of the marriage, bad. She told anybody in her old sorority who’d pick up her call. Both of them methheads.”

“That’s disheartening,” I said. “So you think the parents…”

He nodded, reluctance heavy on his brow. “It’ll be a park, under some tree. Downstream on the banks of the Millstone. Pray to God I’m wrong.”

I matched his glum expression, both a genuine reaction and a professional tactic to encourage more disclosure. “Does the department have staff psychologists, people who study these dysfunctional family dynamics? Who’re qualified to unpack the facts?”

“Eh.” Art Judd flung out his arm. “You do this job long enough, you start recognizing patterns.”

This was a common reaction to the field of psychology: that it was just everyday observation masquerading as science, than anyone with a little horse sense could practice it.

I said, “Antipathy between spouses doesn’t predict antipathy toward the offspring, generally.”

The detective’s face glazed over like I’d just recited Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

“Perhaps I could conduct an interview,” I said. “As a private citizen, just to hear more background on Calvin?”

He chuckled out of his stupor. “Good try. You’re free to call as you like, but I don’t think the Witts are real receptive to interview requests now—with the exception of the paying sort.”

I crossed my legs, causing my skirt to shift higher up my knee. “Is there any further background you’d be able to share? You personally?”

His gaze did tick down, and he seemed to lose his first word under his tongue.

“Urb, I—I guess it’s all more or less leaked in the press anyway,” he said, and proceeded to give me the story—as the police understood it—of Calvin Witt.

Calvin had a lot to overcome. His parents, besides their drug and money problems, were morbidly obese, and had passed this along to Calvin. A social worker’s report found inadequate supplies of fresh fruit and lean proteins at the home. They’d basically raised him on McDonald’s and ice cream sandwiches. Calvin had learning and attention disorders. He started fights in school. His parents couldn’t account for huge swaths of his day, of his week even.

“They let him run like the junkyard dog,” Detective Judd said. “All we know about the night he disappeared, we got off the kid’s bus pass. Thankfully it’d been registered. We know he boarded a bus downtown, late.”

I opened my mouth to ask a follow-up.

“Before you get ideas,” he said, “no, the route didn’t pass anywhere near Martha Dodson’s neighborhood. We always crosscheck Yancy Park in these cases. That’s where the Ferguson place is.”

“Ferguson?”

“Yeah. Big rickety house, half falling over? Looks like the city dump. You shoulda passed it on the way.”

I shook my head.

“Well,” he continued, “that’s where the Fergusons live, crusty old married couple. Them and whatever riffraff needs a room. Plenty of crime there. Squalor. The neighbors keep trying to get it condemned.”

I definitely didn’t remember driving past a place like that. “Were there any witnesses who saw Calvin on the bus? Saw who he was with?”

“Nobody who’d talk.”

“Camera footage?”

The detective palmed his meaty elbow. “Have you seen the city’s transportation budget?”

I incorporated the new information, thinking about Kent Kirkland. He was single according to Martha. Mid-thirties. He worked from home—something to do with programming or web design, she thought.

Did he have a car? I’d noticed a two-car garage, but I hadn’t seen inside.

Did he go out socially? To bars? Or trivia nights?

Could he have ridden the bus downtown?

“Martha mentioned another case,” I said. “Last summer, I think it was. Another boy in the same vicinity?”

At first, Detective Judd only squinted.

I prompted, “There was some connection to Venezuela. The father was born there, maybe he—”

“Right, that Ramos kid!” Judd smacked his forehead. “How could I forget? Talk about red tape, my gosh. So he’s boy number two, is that it?”

I couldn’t very well answer “yes” to a question posed like that.

I simply repeated, “Martha mentioned the case.”

“Yep. That was a doozy.” As he remembered, he walked to a file cabinet and pulled open a drawer. “Real exercise in frustration.”

“There was trouble with the Venezuelan government?”

“And how.” He swelled his eyes, thumbing through manila folders, finally lifting out an overstuffed one. “I must’ve filled out fifty forms myself, no joke.”

He tossed the file on his desk. Documents slumped from the folder out across his computer keyboard.

I asked, “You never located the boy?”

“Not definitively. We had a witness put him with the paternal grandparents, the day before Dad put the whole crew on a plane.”

“Did you interview him?”

“Who?”

“The father.”

Detective Judd burbled his lips. “Nope. The Venezuelans stonewalled us—never could get him, not even on the horn. He told some website he had no clue where the kid was, but come on. They took him.”

I’d been following along with his account, understanding the logic and sequence—until this. I thought about Zach, my fourteen-year-old, and what lengths I would’ve gone to if he’d disappeared with his father.

“So you…stopped?” I said.

He stiffened. “We hit a brick wall, like I said.”

“Yes, but a boy had been taken from his mother. What did she say? Was she satisfied with the investigation?”

“No.” Judd’s mouth tightened under his mustache. His tone turned challenging. “Nobody’s satisfied when they don’t like the outcome.”

I tugged my skirt lower, covering my knee.

He continued, “I get fifty-some cases across my desk every week, Miss McGill. I don’t have the luxury of devoting my whole day to chasing crackpot theories just because somebody looks angry snipping their flowers.”

“Of course,” I said. “Which makes me the crackpot.”

He closed his eyes, as though summoning patience. “You seem like a nice lady. And look, I admit I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to matters—”

“‘Nice lady’ puts you dangerously close to pre-Neanderthal territory.”

He smiled. In the pause, two buttons began blinking on his phone.

“Pleasant as it’s been getting acquainted with you,” he said, “I can’t commit resources to this begonia guy. Just can’t. If you can pursue it without stepping over any legal boundaries, more power to you.”

I felt heat rising up my neck. I gathered my purse.

“I will pursue it. Two little boys’ welfare is on the line. Somebody needs to.”

He spread his arms wide, good-naturedly, stretching the collar of his shirt. “Hey, who better than you?”

The contents of the folder labeled Ramos were still strewn over his keyboard. “I don’t suppose I could borrow this file…”

“Official police documents?”

“Just for twenty minutes. Ten—I could flip through in the lobby, jot a few notes.”

He’d walked around his desk to show me out, and now he stopped, hands on hips, peering down at the file. The top paper had letterhead from the Venezuelan consulate.

I stepped closer to look with him, shoulder-to-shoulder. Our shoes bumped.

“Or even just this letter,” I said. “So I have the case number and contact information for the consulate. Surely there’s no harm in that?”

Detective Judd didn’t move his shoe. He smelled like bagels and coffee.

He placed his fingertip on the letter and pushed it my way.

“I can live with that.”

“Thanks,” I said, grinning, snatching the paper before he could reconsider.

CHAPTER THREE

I drove home through Yancy Park, thinking to get a second look at Kent Kirkland’s property. As I pulled into the subdivision, I noticed a dilapidated house up the hill, off to the west. It rose three stories and had bare-wood sides. Ragged blankets flapped over its attic windows.

The Ferguson place.

Somehow I’d missed it driving in from the other direction. Art Judd had been right: the place was an eyesore. Gutters dangled off the roof like spaghetti off a toddler’s abandoned plate. A refrigerator and TV were strewn about the dirt yard, both spilling their electronic guts.

I made a mental note to ask Martha Dodson about the property. I found it curious she suspected Kirkland instead of whoever lived in this rats’ den. Art Judd had mentioned crosschecking Yancy Park. Maybe the police had already been out and investigated to Martha’s satisfaction.

I kept driving to Martha and Kent Kirkland’s street. I slowed at the latter’s yard, peering over a rectangular yew hedge to a house that was the polar opposite of the Ferguson place. The paint job was immaculate. Gutters were not only fully affixed, but contained not a single leaf or twig. Trash bins were pulled around the side into a nook, out of sight.

***

Excerpt from The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2021 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice, Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews' Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
ThirdChanceStories.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @jeff_bond
Instagram - @jeffabond
Twitter - @jeffABond
Facebook - @jeffabondbooks

 

 

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15 June, 2021

#CharacterInterview :: Meet Charles & Matilda from Melting Matilda - @JudeKnightBooks #RegencyRomance #Romance

 


Fire smolders under the frost between them.
Can the Ice Maiden Soften the Granite Earl?


Her scandalous birth prevents Matilda Grenford from being fully acceptable to Society, even though she has been a ward of the Duchess of Haverford since she was a few weeks old. Matilda does not expect to be wooed by a worthy gentleman. The only man who has ever interested her gave her an outrageous kiss a year ago and has avoided her ever since.

Can the Granite Earl Melt the Ice Maiden?

Charles, the Earl of Hamner is honour bound to ignore his attraction to Matilda Grenford. She is an innocent and a lady, and in every way worthy of his respect—but she is base-born. His ancestors would rise screaming from their graves if he made her his countess. But he cannot forget the kiss they once shared.


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com


Meet Matilda Grenford from Melting Matilda

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I would spend the day with dear friends who like me for myself, and who do not judge me worthless because my mother was an Irish actress and the mistress of a duke. Perhaps we would take a picnic into the country somewhere, away from the smoke, odour, and noise of London. It would be summer, of course, on my free day, and sunny. We would walk and talk, laugh together, perhaps sit in the shade and read books. Perhaps cut some flowers or even plant a few seeds. That would be a perfect day.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?

How odd. The first person I thought of was the Earl of Hamner. I suppose I do think well of his devotion to his duty and to his mother, and I have nothing to say against his appearance. But admire him? He is pompous and deceitful. He made me think he liked me, and then he proposed to my friend Lady Felicity. I would pick Aunt Eleanor, the Duchess of Haverford, perhaps, who gave me a home as a baby, even though her husband was my father. Or my half-brother, the Marquis of Aldridge, who is a true gentleman, though people do call him a rake.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? And, what is your current state of mind?

True happiness would be a home and family of my own, with a husband who respected and loved me, and the work to do that I am trained for—running a large household, caring for servants and tenants, raising children who will be respected in their turn, giving a helping hand to the poor and unfortunate. Perhaps, after all, I would have been better raised in a working class home, where my birth would not be a constant barrier to the life I was taught to desire. My brother promises that I will always be welcome in his home, but it makes me sad that I am likely to never have a home of my own.

What do you consider to be the most overrated virtue and why?

Surely any virtue can become a vice if pushed too far. Courage, for example, can become rashness. Ambition can turn into greed and pride. Our society values detachment and self-discipline, and these are good things in moderation, but taken to excess, as they easily are, they foster hypocrisy. People show you a mask behind which they hide their emotions so that you never know the truth about them.

Tell us 3 things about yourself that the readers do not know about.

I like to garden. At most of my family’s country estates, I have my own area of ground that I have planned, and in which I can potter. Since we seldom stay in one location for longer than a few weeks, I must leave others to care for my gardens in my absence.
When I was little, I used to be afraid of the dark. My nurse must have mentioned it to Aldridge, for Aldridge had a dragon made for me out of fur and cloth, and gave it to me, telling me that it would protect me in the night, and that I could always count on him if I was in danger.
I have always wanted to meet my mother. I feel disloyal to Aunt Eleanor even thinking it, so I have never mentioned it aloud. She went back to Ireland to marry. I wonder if she has had more children? I wonder if she ever thinks about me?


Meet Charles, Earl of Hamner from Melting Matilda

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

My idea day would be spent in the country, at my estate in Gloustershire. If I did not have an obligation to serve my king in the House of Lords, I would never come to London, and I do not much like other big towns and cities, either. Perhaps, if I had a day off with no responsibilities to the tenants or my estates or Parliament, I might take a fishing rod and a picnic down to the river, and spend the day there, especially if I had a compatible friend along.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?

Not Matilda Grenford. I admire her, I enjoy her company—she is a lady, through and through, despite her antecedents. Intelligent and charming, too. But nothing can come of it. I must marry someone of the proper lineage to be my countess, and I won’t raise expectations I cannot fulfill. Not again. I suppose one of the great political figures of yesteryear. Robert Walpole, perhaps, or Lord Chatham, or even his son, Pitt the Younger, who was the youngest Prime Minister ever. I met him, once, when I first came up to London. I think he would be interesting to talk with.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? And, what is your current state of mind?

True happiness would be a family of my own. At least one son to carry on the family name. A wife who is a true helpmate, looking after my household and the community for which we are responsible, and perhaps hosting the dinners and other entertainments—in the country and in Town—at which so many of the alliances are made on which government depends. I have been actively looking for such a wife, but the only woman I have proposed to me said no, and the woman I dream of is not suitable.

What do you consider to be the most overrated virtue and why?

Overrated? How can a virtue be overrated? The virtues are the underpinnings of our society, and it is the lack of them that causes problems.

Tell us 3 things about yourself that the readers do not know about.

When I was young, before I knew what it meant to be an earl, I dreamt of being a poet. I don’t have time for the nonsense now, of course.
A stable hand taught me to whittle when I was boy, and I still like to do so. I find it easy to think when my hands are busy carving little objects.
Sometimes, I think about doing something reckless and outrageous, like driving my curricle too fast, or giving some of the powerful but nasty gossips in Society the cut direct, or kissing Miss Grenford again. But doing so is not consistent with the dignity of the Earl of Hamner.



Meet Jude Knight



Jude always wanted to be a novelist. She started in her teens, but life kept getting in the way. Years passed, and with them dozens of unfinished manuscripts. The fear grew. What if she tried, failed, and lost the dream forever? The years since 2014 have brought 10 novels, 13 novella, 4 volumes of short stories, 3 awards, and hundreds of positive reviews. The dream is alive.




Jude on the Web:
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14 June, 2021

#BookReview :: Behind the Wall (Shades of Secrets #1) by Harris Kloe - #ShortStory #Suspense

 


After traveling quite a way, all Henry Brown wants is to check-into a hotel and take a nap to shake off his travel exhaustion. As he asks for the penthouse, he noticed the clerk hesitate but shrugged it off at the time as all he wanted was to be able to rest after a long day. The suite is beautiful and everything one could ask for - except for maybe an oddly placed wall. Was it the artist in him that didn't quite agree with its placement or was it something more? And as certain odd things happen during his stay, and Henry keeps getting drawn to the wall, there may be something to it after all.

I enjoyed the premise of the story quite a bit. The protagonist being a painter, has an observant nature for art and symmetry. Henry notices the art hanging around in the hotel even though he is tired indicating his observant nature. But he is also quick to notice people and their reactions. So, when Henry feels that there must be more to the wall in the penthouse suite, readers begin to wonder too. The dramatic reveal at the end ties in the story well. However, I felt that the author told the readers rather than showing them. From the very beginning, the author kind of finger points towards the important aspects of the story rather than letting the readers take in everything and follow along the protagonist. There was hardly any opportunity to build up the thrilling atmosphere that the plot could make space for because of all the telling and the lack of showing. As such, it didn't leave much to the imagination. The language used is also very simple, almost dull, and combined with the narrative style, the whole reading experience was quite irksome.

This is a short story that took me about ten minutes to read. So, I went back to re-read it 2 days after I read it for the first time, just to make sure that I hadn't been caught up in the moment the first time I read it for a fair rating for the book. The language and narrative style do need some improvement as it completely overshadowed the interesting aspects of the story.




Review Copy received from the Author


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10 June, 2021

Read an #Excerpt from Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt - @partnersincr1me @schmittmystery #CozyMystery

 

Something Fishy

by Lois Schmitt

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing. wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff--secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam's disappearance aren't Kristy's only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom's soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: July 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 1948338793 (ISBN13: 9781948338790)
Series: A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Encircle Publications | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“Something bad happened to Sam. I know it.”

Katie Chandler’s sea green eyes filled with tears. A sea lion trainer at the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium, Katie had been my daughter’s college roommate.

“Maybe Sam worked late and forgot to call,” I said.

Katie shook her head, her chestnut hair flying in the bay breeze. “No. He hasn’t answered my texts or phone calls. I stopped by his house twice too. No one’s home.”

Silence. I tried thinking of something helpful, or at least hopeful, to say.

“I called the police, Mrs. Farrell. The officer said being stood up for a dinner date isn’t enough for a missing persons case—that maybe it was Sam’s way of breaking up.”

I shifted my gaze to the whitecaps on the bay while Katie’s statement sank into my brain. Perhaps the officer was right. I knew from my daughter Abby that the relationship between Katie Chandler and Samuel Wong had hit a rough patch.

The conflict: Katie, who served as executor of her late grandmother’s charitable trust, was donating six million dollars of this money to the aquarium’s expansion project, which included the acquisition of twenty acres of adjacent land. Sam worked as executive assistant to multi-millionaire developer Lucien Moray who wanted to buy the bay front property for luxury condominiums. What started off as friendly bantering between Katie and Sam had escalated into explosive arguments that had become increasingly personal.

But Katie and Sam weren’t the only ones embroiled in this controversy. The community at large had become like the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists wanted the property to go to the aquarium where it would be used for breeding grounds for endangered species, an aquatic animal rehabilitation center, and a research camp for marine scientists. Local business owners sided with Moray, hoping high end condo owners would bolster the area’s economy. I was writing an article on this for Animal Advocate Magazine. That’s why I was at the aquarium today.

Katie continued, “No matter what happened between us, Sam would never stand me up. He’s my fiancé not someone I picked up a few hours ago at a bar. Besides, Sam came around to my point of view. He had it with Lucien Moray. He hadn’t told anyone but me yet, but he was quitting his job at the end of the year.”

“I’ve an interview later this morning with Moray,” I said. “I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Someone in Moray’s office may know Sam’s whereabouts.”

“What if no one does?”

“Let’s take it one step at a time.” I glanced at my watch, then pushed myself off the rock where I’d been sitting, a task that would have been easier if I were ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter. “Speaking of interviews, my appointment with your aquarium director is in five minutes, so I better head inside. I’ll call you tonight.”

Katie sighed. “Thanks. I should get back to my sea lions too. We’ve a show at eleven.” She rose and stretched her small wiry body. “After the show, I’ll stop at Sam’s house again.”

Katie, shoulders slumped, wandered off in the direction of the outdoor sea lion amphitheater. I stood for a moment, inhaling the salt air while watching a seagull dive into the bay and zoom back to the sky with a fish in its mouth. As the autumn wind sent a sudden chill down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body, thinking back to when Katie and my Abby attended college. Abby often acted impulsively, out of emotion, but Katie had always been levelheaded, never someone to jump to conclusions. What if Sam is really in trouble? The thought nagged at me as I trekked up the sandy beach and stepped into the building that housed the indoor exhibits.

I made my way down a long corridor, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass tanks housing ocean life from around the world. I paused at the shark tank and marveled at the grace and beauty of these fearsome predators gliding silently through the water, causing hardly a ripple. I would be back here soon. In addition to my article on the land expansion, I was writing a story on ocean predators.

I veered down the administration wing. When I came to a door marked DIRECTOR, I glanced again at my watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. I knocked.

“Enter,” a booming voice responded. I pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Standing in front of me was a man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Noting his polished wingtips, sharply creased trousers, navy blazer, crisp white shirt, and perfectly knotted tie, I wished I’d dusted the sand off my shoes.

We stood face to face. Actually, it was more like face to chest. I was only five feet tall and this man towered over me by at least a foot and a half.

“Commander Conrad West,” he said, extending his arm. His handshake was firm and strong. “You must be Kristy Farrell, the reporter from Animal Advocate Magazine.”

Conrad West stood ramrod straight, probably a throw-back from his military training. A former naval commander—the youngest African American to be appointed a commander in the navy’s history—he had started his career as a medical corpsman. He had been director of the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium since his retirement from the navy last year.

He walked behind his desk and positioned himself in a large swivel chair.

“You may sit,” he said, pointing to a straight back chair facing him.

I slid into the chair, suppressing the urge to playfully salute.

He went straight to the point. “I understand you’re writing about the land acquisition. Have you seen our expansion plans?”

“Yes, and they are impressive. But how will the aquarium come up with the money to buy this land?” I asked, fumbling through my bag for my pad and pen. “You’re competing with the bottomless pockets of Lucien Moray.”

Commander West leaned forward, his hands clasped in front, as if praying that what he was about to say would come true. “The current property owner, Stuart Holland, is a business man who’s not about to forgo a profit. But he’s also an active conservationist and a lifelong resident of this area who would like to see the land used in an environmentally friendly manner. He’s kept it vacant until recent financial loses forced him to put it up for sale.”

The Commander leaned back. “There’ll be no bidding war. He set a price—ten million dollars. The land is worth more, but Stuart wants it to go to us, so he set a price he feels we can reach. If we can raise the money by next summer, the land is ours.”

“Ten million is a high goal.”

He nodded. “More than half of the funding will come from a trust set up by Alicia Wilcox Chandler. We also have one million in reserve that we accumulated during the past few years. Of course, we’re still three million short, but our new development officer is planning an aggressive fundraising campaign with—”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

Commander West scowled. “Enter.”

A plump woman with a bad case of acne barged into the room. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt with an aquarium patch on the upper left pocket identifying her as Madge.

“Commander,” she said, slightly out of breath. “We have a problem. The sea lion show is in ten minutes, and Katie just ran out.”

“What do you mean she ran out?”

The woman shrugged. “She took a call on her cell phone, then flew out of the amphitheater.

“Didn’t she say anything?” The scowl hadn’t left his face.

The woman paused, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. But I don’t know if it had to do with why she left.”

“What did she say?” He appeared to be talking through gritted teeth.

“She said two fishermen found a body floating in the inlet.”

***

Excerpt from Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt. Copyright 2021 by Lois Schmitt. Reproduced with permission from Lois Schmitt. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Lois Schmitt

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

Catch Up With Our Author:
LoisSchmitt.com
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Twitter: @schmittmystery
Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Lois Schmitt. There will be TWO winners. TWO (2) winners will each receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card of varying amounts. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and ends on July 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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07 June, 2021

#BookReview :: The Therapist by B.A. Paris - @HarperCollinsIN #DomesticThriller #PsychologicalThriller

 


When Alice moves into a beautiful house in an exclusive gated community with her boyfriend Leo, she ignores the uncomfortable feeling she gets about the house itself. Once settled in the house, throwing a house warming party to get to know her neighbours seem the right thing to do to Alice and goes ahead with her plan despite Leo's misgivings about it. Then she discovers that a stranger had gate crashed her party and no one else seems to have seen him. It bothers Alice that a stranger could get into her house uninvited when security was one of the to features of the society. But slowly she unearths secrets about the previous owner of the house, her partner and her neighbours. It seems like any one among the numerous people in the neighbourhood could be a murderer. Only no one has any answers for her and everyone seems to have a secret of their own.

In some ways, The Therapist can almost be considered a locked room mystery. Almost. The gated housing society that Alice and Leo move into is pretty exclusive with a handful of houses positioned in a circle. And the major cast and characters involve a 'stranger' and Alice's neighbours.

The setting, the variety of characters and the protagonist herself all play an important role in shaping up the plot. The author has done an admirable job of introducing the characters to the readers in a way that each character is distinctive. That added with ample description of the gated housing society that the story is set in, this book is a treat for readers who like to visualise the story in their mind as they read. It was really easy to get into the book and stay hooked right up to the end. Alice, the protagonist is overall quite likeable and the reason behind her obsession with the history of the house and the murder victim actually humanises her quite a bit. She is a normal girl who is relatable for most parts. The author unfolds the mystery layer by layer, revealing information that looked incrementing for most of the characters. As the suspicion falls on each character by turn, the reader gets the opportunity to not only try and figure out the 'whodunnit' aspect of the plot but also the 'how'. And add on the suspicious thing happening in the house itself that lends an air of supernatural to the plot.

This book is a nice addition to the psychological thriller genre. I kept playing the guessing game right till the end and was taken by surprise. Once I finished the book, I realised that the author had given us breadcrumbs to follow, but there were a couple that I missed sorely and the climax was a bit over the top. This was the second B.A.Paris book I have read in two months and while I find the narrative style a bit slow - it is that very style that adds to the plot making it stick it to the readers.



Review copy received from Harper Collins India


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06 June, 2021

#BookReview :: You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty - #WomenWriters #PsychologicalThriller @PenguinUKBooks

 

Family! You can't live with them and you can't live without them… And it is especially complicated when secrets are involved.

In 'You Need to Know', author Nicola Moriarty introduces us to Jill and her family consisting of three sons, two daughters-in-law and her four grandchildren. Coincidentally Jill's sons, all three of them are writers. As Christmas approaches, the family packs their bags and heads towards their holiday cottage which is a tradition of sorts in the family. As the story opens, we realise that this year there is a heaviness in the air with the death anniversary of Frank, Jill's husband, looming on them. And then the family is involved in a road accident on the way to the cottage and secrets that they keep start spilling out.

I absolutely loved the book for its plot and the way the story unfolds through multiple POVs of the cast and characters in the story. The plot is unfurls slowly as the secrets are slowly revealed. The slow burn of the plot and the way twists are revealed slowly throughout the plot with a surprising climax - the book was a page turner. Each character is well developed thanks to the multiple POV narrative we get closer look at all of them. I cannot name one particular character that stands out, but in a good way because they each have a role to play in the story and contributes equally to the plot. I loved all the drama and the air of suspense throughout.

There are two things that is stopping me from rating this book a 5 star and both are very personal reasons. One is that I am not completely sure if I like the 'resolution' that the plot provides. The other is that I had a difficult time getting into the books for about the first 20% of the book. I cannot pinpoint what it was about the narration style that made it difficult for me. I do love multiple POV and the individual voices and perspectives of characters always makes things more interesting to me.

Both the reasons for not rating this book a 5star are very personal and as such I wouldn't want to discourage the readers from picking this book up based solely on them. In fact, I'd like to recommend this book to those who enjoy drama and psychological thriller.



Review copy received from Penguin Random House UK 


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04 June, 2021

Read an #Excerpt from Gulf of Deception Kelly Ann Hopkins - @XpressoTours @khopkinswrites #Mystery #YoungAdult

 

Gulf of Deception
Kelly Ann Hopkins
(Gulf Shores Mysteries, #1)
Publication date: May 17th 2021
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

Beach life is killer, literally.

On the cusp of her high school graduation, Lily Harmony needs to figure out how to break it to her lawyer parents that she doesn’t want to follow in the family footsteps–especially with her band in high demand on the Fort Myers beach scene.

But when her father is killed inside his office and their mother accused of his murder, Lily and her estranged sister Annabelle are convinced the police have the wrong person. Clues are hard to come by until a mysterious man hands Lily a flash drive and warns her the information contained on it might get her killed. As Lily works to unravel what the files and pictures mean, a stunning discovery reveals the murderer might be closer than she thought.

With the help of her gamer BFF and maybe something more, Lily and her sister scour the Everglades for connections to her father’s killer. But what they find hidden in the canopy of cypress tress is more dangerous than they ever imagined—a long-lost secret worth millions—and worth killing for.

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EXCERPT:

Sunlight streamed through the windows, and pang thudded deep in my chest. Hard to believe I was leaving this stunning scene in a few short months for college. A thousand miles north in Boston, away from the sun, the sand, and the balmy breeze. At least the ocean was nearby—except it would be the lumbering, lead-colored, frigid Atlantic, and I’d be wearing an unflattering parka with boots up to my knees. Maybe when the snow melted in June, I could trick myself into believing I was standing on the Gulf.

All so I could one day add my name to the Harmony Law letterhead. Except that was the last thing I wanted.

My feet stopped short as a shock reverberated through the walls, like something heavy crashed down in another part of the building. But there were no other offices on the top floor. I pulled my headphones from my ears and turned off the music.

At the office door, I peered into the hall. A gust of humid air rushed down the narrow passage and ruffled my hair. Now where had the breeze come from?

Delicate music came from the speaker system—some unnamed melody that sounded familiar and should have vocals. Another blast of breeze hit me as if someone had forgotten to shut a window.

“Mom?” I called. The law office answered me with soft strains of piano wafting down the hall.

“Dad?” My father’s door stood ajar at the far end of the building. Next to it, my mother’s office door was shut. Maybe they were both in Dad’s office. His was the only one with a balcony. They could have gone outside and left the door open.

Another violent crash came from the direction of his office. A gunshot rang out. Then another. Followed by a blood-curdling scream.

Mom!

Dad!

Terrified, I crept down the hallway, my back pressed against the wall, my cellphone pulled from my pocket and clutched in my shaking hand. My heart pounded, making me faint. I blinked away the sensation. Sharp blasts of unintelligible conversation drew me toward the office as wind whipped down the corridor.

I hesitated at the door and gasped.

Mom knelt beside Dad, a gun in her hand. Blood colored the front of his polo shirt—a crimson stain spreading from his chest and down his left side on a backdrop of stormy blue fabric. Strangled sobs ripped from my lips. I rushed in, dropped to the floor beside my father, and took his limp hand.

Glass shards bit into my knees as a terrible gurgle erupted from his throat. Bloody froth colored his chin and lips. The room spun around me.

“Dad? Please, Dad. Can you hear me?” Spots popped in my brain, and another wave of vertigo hit as my abdomen heaved. I forgot how to inhale.

His bewildered eyes were wide, his mouth moving soundlessly, his fingers splayed against the floor. I couldn’t tear my gaze from his face as I laced his fingers in mine and squeezed. “Dad! What should I do?”

“William?” Mom whispered. She pressed a wad of orange fabric—the scarf she’d worn this morning—over the wound on his chest. Fresh terror gripped me as blood dripped down her cheek, and I couldn’t tell if it belonged to him or her.

Dad struggled to lift his other arm, but it fell back to the floor.

“He’s gone, William,” she said. “You’re going to be fine.”

Somehow, I unlocked my words. “Who’s gone?”

She ignored my question, or maybe she didn’t hear me. Tears and blood trickled off her chin, making pink spots on her white shirt. “Call for an ambulance. Oh God.” The gun slipped from her hand and landed on the carpet with a thud. “William.” Her voice broke on his name.

My heart tore from its moorings on a crash of agony. “Dad? Dad.” For a split second, his gaze fixed on mine, then he was gone as if a candle extinguished in a sudden, sharp wind.

Author Bio:

Kelly Ann Hopkins is the author of Misled (coming 2021) and Buried Beneath (coming 2022). She spends her days as a high school librarian and creative writing teacher, where she challenges her students to read with abandon. When she’s not creating perilous adventures for her characters, she is dreaming of her next trip to the Florida Gulf Coast. Kelly lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, and too many books.

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31 May, 2021

#BookSpotlight :: In A Mirror (In It Together #1) by Emily Bourne - @XpressoTours @iemilybourne #ContemporaryRomance #YoungAdult

 

In A Mirror
Emily Bourne
(In It Together, #1)
Publication date: November 12th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Can a social outcast prove to her cheerleader sister she’s not the enemy and save her family?

Anxiety riddled Brittany is setting her sights on popularity. She doesn’t give a crap about her sister’s desire to bond, because landing a boyfriend will fill the void in her heart. When a chance encounter with her gorgeous crush sends her sweating, the jittery voice inside her head threatens to derail whatever he found attractive about her. When soaring up the social ladder, insecurities force her blabbermouth into action. Will Brittany reveal her greatest fear to the people she needs to impress the most? That she is a total freakin loser!

Emotional mess Charli can’t deal with her parents’ divorce. If it wasn’t for the support of her loving boyfriend, she would drown in loneliness. When a party launches her sister into popularity, Charli is desperate to pull her down to earth. But her sister still deems the past pain she caused as unforgivable and shoves her away. With the return of their wayward father, Charli is hell-bent on saving her family, starting with reuniting her parents. Can she mend her tortured relationship with her sister and regain her trust before the emotional damage is irreversible?

If you love heartwarming and emotionally gripping books, you’ll love this coming of age, contemporary teen drama and ultimate beach read that is IN A MIRROR by Emily Bourne.

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Other books in the series:


Author Bio:

Emily Bourne is an author from central west NSW, meaning she's an Aussie Country girl at heart. Emily writes books about self-discovery and finding love. Believing, you can't have a romantic relationship that works until you truly love yourself. She specialises in teen and young adult novels about social issues, layered with romantic suspense. Emily's books can have you laughing-out-loud, reaching for the tissues, cramping with anxiety, and your heart swelling double-size. She spends her days diligently writing, procrastinating on Instagram (@iemilybourne), and distractedly playing with her cat Norman.

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30 May, 2021

Read an #Excerpt from Aftermath by Terri Blackstock - #Suspense #TerriBlackstock @Partnersincr1me

 

Aftermath

May 10 - June 4, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock

This gripping new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock will leave you on the edge of your seat.

A devastating explosion.

Three best friends are at the venue just to hear their favorite band . . . but only one of them makes it out alive.

A trunk full of planted evidence.

When police stop Dustin with a warrant to search his trunk, he knows it’s just a mistake. He’s former military and owns a security firm. But he’s horrified when they find explosives, and he can’t fathom how they got there.

An attorney who will risk it all for a friend.

Criminal attorney Jamie Powell was Dustin’s best friend growing up. They haven’t spoken since he left for basic training, but she’s the first one he thinks of when he’s arrested. Jamie knows she’s putting her career on the line by defending an accused terrorist, but she’d never abandon him. Someone is framing Dustin to take the fall for shocking acts of violence . . . but why?

Praise for Aftermath:

“In Aftermath, Terri Blackstock plumbs the depth of human emotion in the face of devastating tragedy, grief, and loss. Yet, she still manages to give readers her trademark suspenseful story, sweet romance, and hope for the future. From gut wrenching scenes in a cancer patient’s hospital room to seeing the world through the eyes of a young woman with a debilitating mental health disorder, Blackstock pulls no punches about human frailties. Does the end justify the means? Romantic suspense lovers won’t want to miss Aftermath.”
—Kelly Irvin, bestselling author

“Justice may be blind but that doesn’t keep it from facing mortal danger. In Aftermath, expert storyteller Terri Blackstock ratchets up the suspense in a novel that delivers on every level. Conflicts rage and loyalties are tested to the ultimate limit. Set aside plenty of time when you pick up this book—you’ll not to want to take a break.”
—Robert Whitlow, bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: May 11th 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0310348587 (ISBN13: 9780310348580)
Series: Aftermath is a stand-alone novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Aftermath

Chapter One

Taylor Reid’s phone flashed as she snapped the selfie with her two friends, their heads touching and their backs to the stage. The shot from the third row, with the lead singer in the background and the three of them in the foreground, was perfect. No one would believe their seats were so close.

They turned around to face the band, dancing to the beat of the song they’d been listening to in the car on the way to Trudeau Hall.

Taylor quickly posted the pic, typing, “Ed Loran targets nonpoliticals for his rally with band Blue Fire. Worked on us!”

She put her phone on videotape and zoomed onto the stage.

“I don’t want it to end!” Desiree said in her ear.

“Me either!” Taylor yelled over the music.

“Maybe they’ll play again after his speech,” Mara shouted.

The song came to an end, and the crowd went crazy, begging for one more song before the band left the stage.

But an amplified voice filled the auditorium, cutting off the adulation. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next president of the United States, Ed Loran!”

The crowd sounded less enthusiastic as the band left the stage and Ed Loran, the Libertarian celebrity magnet, made his entrance. Taylor kept cheering and clapping, letting her enthusiasm for the band segue to him.

It happened just as the candidate took the stage. The deafening sound, like some confusing combination of gunshot and lightning bolt, a blast that blacked out the lights and knocked her to the ground. Smoke mushroomed. Screams crescendoed—shrieks of terror, wailing pain, shocking anguish . . . then sudden, gentle silence, as if she were underwater. A loud ringing in her ears filled the void.

She peered under the seats, choking for breath as dimmer lights flickered through the smoke. Even from here, she could see the fallout of whatever had happened. Blood pooling on the ground, people hunkering down as she was, feet running . . . What was happening? An explosion? A crash? She looked around and couldn’t see her friends.

She clawed her way up and looked over the seat. Smoke and fire billowed from the stage into the crowd, and heat wafted over her like some living force invading the room. Muffled, muted sounds competed with the ringing.

Get out! Now! She dropped back down and crawled under two rows of seats until she came to someone limp on the floor. She felt herself scream but couldn’t hear her own voice. Scrambling to her feet, she went to her left to get to the aisle, but her foot slipped on something wet. She grabbed the seat next to her to steady herself, then launched into the frantic crowd in the aisle. The room seemed to spin, people whizzing by, people under her, people above her, people broken and ripped and still . . . She stepped and fell, crawled and ran, tripped and kicked her way to the bottlenecked doorway, then fought her way through it.

The ringing in her ears faded as she tumbled downstairs, almost falling into the lobby below. The sound of crying, coughing, wretching, and the roaring sound of pounding feet turned up as if some divine finger had fiddled with the volume.

She set her sights on the glass doors to the outside and pushed forward, moving through people and past the security stations they’d stopped at on the way in. She made it to the door and burst out into the sunlight.

Fresh, cool air hit her like freedom, but at first her lungs rejected it like some poison meant to stop her. At the bottom of the steps, on the sidewalk, she bent over and coughed until she could breathe.

After a moment, the crowd pushed her along toward the parking garage until she remembered that her car wasn’t there. She had parked on the street, blocks away. She forced her way out of the flow of people and ran a block south. Where was it?

She turned the corner. Her car was here, on this block. Near the Atlanta Trust Bank. Wasn’t it? Or was it the next block?

Sweat slicked her skin until she found her silver Accord. There!

She ran to it and pulled her keys out of her pocket, wishing she hadn’t lost the key fob. Her hands trembled as she stuck the key into the passenger side lock and got the door open. She slipped inside on the driver’s side, locked it behind her. Instinctively, she slid down, her head hidden as if someone were coming after her.

What just happened?

One minute they’d been taking selfies and videotaping the band, and the next they were on the floor . . .

Where were Mara and Desiree? She hadn’t even looked for them! Should she go back for them?

No, that would be insane. She could smell the smoke and fire from here. They would know to come to the car when they got out.

Call the police!

She tried to steady her hands as she swiped her phone on.

“911, what is your—”

“An explosion!” she cut in, her voice hoarse. “At the Ed Loran rally at Trudeau Hall!”

“Where are you now?” the woman asked in a voice that was robotically calm.

“I got out. There’s fire . . . People are still in there. Please send ambulances!”

“Ma’am, did you see what exploded?”

“No . . . the stage area, I think. I don’t know where my friends are. Please . . . hurry!”

“We’ve already dispatched the fire department and police, ma’am.”

She heard sirens from a few blocks away and cut off the call. She raised up, looking over the dashboard for the flashing lights. She couldn’t see any, but the sirens grew louder.

She knelt on the floorboard, her knees on her floormat and her elbows on her seat, and texted Desiree.

I’m at the car. Where are you?

No answer. She switched to a recent thread with Mara and texted again.

Got out. At car waiting. Where are you?

Nothing.

She dictated a group text to both of them.

Are you all right?

They were probably running or deaf, fighting their way out like she had. She tried calling them, but Mara’s phone rang to voicemail. When Desiree’s phone did the same, she yelled, “Call me! I’m waiting at the car and I’m scared. Where are you?” She was sobbing when she ended the call.

***

Excerpt from Aftermath by Terri Blackstock. Copyright 2021 by Terri Blackstock. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. She’s the author of If I Run, If I’m Found, and If I Live, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, Moonlighters, and the Restoration series.

Visit her at:
www.TerriBlackstock.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram - #terriblackstock
Twitter - #terriblackstock
Facebook - @tblackstock

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Terri Blackstock & Thomas Nelson. There will be ONE (1) winner of one (1) physical copy of Aftermath (US Addresses only). The giveaway begins on May 10, 2021 and ends on June 5, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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by Terri Blackstock

28 May, 2021

Read an #Excerpt from Crystal’s House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone - @XpressoTours #ComingOfAge #Contemporary #LGBTQ+

 

Crystal’s House of Queers
Brooke Skipstone
Publication date: May 24th 2021
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Three senior girls in rural Alaska escape their abusive pasts by raising their dyke flag for themselves and their community.

Crystal Rose woke up at three in the morning today, drenched in sweat and breathless after another sex dream with Haley Carson. Later at school in the tiny town of Clear, Alaska, Crystal saves Haley from an assault by her abusive boyfriend.

The two girls renew a love started years ago that had to stay hidden until now. But with Crystal’s grandparents in the hospital with Covid and the possibility of her drug addict parents returning from a 14-year absence, Crystal needs Haley as much as she needs Crystal.

They connect with Payton Reed, a gun-toting artist who helps them feel proud to be gay and willing to stand up to anyone. Together they struggle to make Crystal’s house safe for those who are hated for their love.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Crystal and JD are very happy to be back in school. They’d been online from mid-March through May and then from late August until Monday, two days ago. During that time, Crystal had seen virtually none of her classmates. She’d never been very social, but she had missed seeing her art teacher and especially Haley. They’d been close friends in the elementary grades but had drifted apart in high school.

Crystal unties her hair and shakes her head. “One reason we went back this week is that special needs students don’t learn as much in remote learning.”

“Who said that?” asks Summer.

“SPED teacher.” Crystal bends over the table to grab her computer and feels her grandmother’s eyes searching her, just like she felt the moose eyes earlier.

“Crystal, why aren’t you wearing a bra?”

She lifts her eyes to Summer, who signals to hold her shirt against her chest. “Why are you looking?” She stays bent as she shoves books and her computer into her bag. “No one cared about me wearing a bra before. What difference does it make now?”

“Crystal, we’ve talked about this. You developed over the summer. You can’t be flashing everyone.”

“Am I flashing, or are you making a special effort to look down my shirt?” She feels blood rushing to her face. Her eyes throb.

“Please stand up straight.”

Crystal finishes stuffing her pack without hurrying, drags the zipper closed then swings her pack onto her shoulder as she stands. “Better?”

“Please put on your bra.”

Mac coughs. “Just don’t bend over in front of the boys, Crystal, and keep your jacket zipped.”

Crystal cocks a brow. “Because it’d be my fault if they stared at my boobs?”

JD laughs. “Gena calls them boobs too. A lot of my friends call them tits.”

“JD!” Everyone flinches when Summer slaps the table. Crystal can remember only one or two other times when she screamed at JD. He now stands with his mouth open, breathing noisily. His eyes bulge. “There’s no need to be crude. Why are you and Gena talking about her . . . breasts?”

Because they’ve been having sex for the past six months, thinks Crystal so loud she wonders whether anyone hears her. “C’mon, JD. We need to go.” Crystal pushes a chair farther under the table and heads for the door.

Summer grabs her arm. “Why are you being so defiant about this?”

“I’ve gone my whole life without my chest being strangled and bound. No one cared. Now if I don’t crush my boobs all day and much of the night, there’s something wrong with me. Guys go shirtless at PE all the time. Why can’t the girls?”

“That’d be embarrassing,” laughs JD as he moves through the door. “Hope you feel better, Mac.”

Summer releases Crystal’s arm and wrings her hands. “Now you want to go topless? Where are you getting these ideas?”

“Why do I have to get them from somewhere besides my own head? Cause I’m too dumb?” Her heart pounds in her chest and lips tighten against her teeth. She wants to say much more but is afraid to start another argument. She tries to slow her breathing. “Hope you feel better, Mac.” She exits the house and heads toward her Honda 4-wheeler where JD sits sideways behind the seat.

“I think it’s my turn to drive,” he says, just like every morning.

Crystal straddles the seat and starts the motor. “It’s not your turn until you’re older than me.”

“And what day will that happen?”

“Exactly.” She zips up her jacket, shifts gears, and races away from the house down her long driveway, bordered by spruce and aspen.

Last weekend, Kato told her she needed to wear a bra when she returned to school. He said he didn’t want guys staring at her all day. They’d been best friends their whole lives and had never even kissed. Then her boobs grew over the summer, and he couldn’t keep his hands off her. He complained she was teasing him, being coy, making him think dirty thoughts. All during July and August, she’d felt excited and confused, sometimes angry. Before this past weekend, they’d only kissed, and honestly, she’d never wanted to do anything more.

But she finally relented. The experience wasn’t very exciting, certainly nothing like her dreams of girls. Or kissing Haley in fifth grade.

At first, the dreams bothered her. Could something more be wrong with her brain beyond what school told her? She’s never fantasized about a boy. After Saturday’s session with Kato, she believes she understands why, but doesn’t know what to do or who to tell.

Maybe Haley?

What’s the worst that could happen?

She could laugh. Walk away. Tell others.

What’s the best she could say?

Me too.

How amazing would that be?

When the best option offers so great a reward, Crystal always ignores the danger. Witness—her encounter with the moose this morning.

Maybe she’ll talk to Haley today.

Author Bio:

Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.

Some Laneys Died is her second novel. Her first was Someone To Kiss My Scars, also available in French (Embrasser Mes Blessures) and Spanish (Alguien Que Bese Mis Heridas).

Website / Goodreads / Instagram


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