Guest Blog Post – Peg Might Not Have A Green Thumb But She Learned About Farming In Michigan Writing The Series

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There is a certain irony in the fact that I am writing the Farmer’s Daughter series which takes place on Love Blossom Farm in the fictional Michigan town of Lovett.  I didn’t grow up on a farm and my gardening skills can best be described as “limited.”

The suburb where I grew up is much more built up now but back then there was actually a very small farm about two miles away where they grew corn and sold it at a roadside stand. The highlight of the summer was those first ears of fresh Jersey corn.

My grandparents had a fair amount of property behind their house and grew lots of vegetables (tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!), fruits and herbs.  The air around their house always smelled of basil and now when I smell the herb I’m immediately transported back to their home.  My grandfather even grew grapes for the wine he made himself.

Sadly the green thumb wasn’t passed to me.  I had good luck with tomatoes one year and the next year…not so much.  I think I harvested three tomatoes from two plants. I did manage some herbs and my small lavender “starter” plant actually grew into a bush.

And mint!  Note to self: next time plant mint in a container not in the ground!  I had enough mint to make mint juleps for the entire county! And lemon balm, too.  But I must say our yard smelled heavenly when the breeze blew over my herb garden!

So a lot of research went into this series—I spent a fair amount of time looking up growing seasons and what might be planted/growing/reaped in which month in the Mitten State.  I learned about canning, storing root vegetables for the winter and even cheese making.

It was tons of fun, and I hope you’ll have as much fun reading “Bought the Farm!”

ABOUT PEG COCHRAN

Peg Cochran is the national bestselling author of No Farm, No Foul; the Cranberry Cove Mysteries; and the Gourmet De-Lite Mysteries.

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Blog Tour – Little Big Love by Katy Regan

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LITTLE BIG LOVE COVER

Little

Big

Love

Katy Regan

 

BERKLEY

New York

An imprint of Penguin Random House

LLC 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2018 by Katy Regan
Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY is a registered trademark and the B colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Regan, Katy, author.
Title: Little big love / Katy Regan.
Other titles: Little big man
Description: First edition. | New York : Berkley, 2018.
Identifers: LCCN 2017040884 (print) | LCCN 2017034468 (ebook) |
ISBN 9780451490346 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780451490360 (Ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Mothers and sons—Fiction. | Family secrets—Fiction. | Fathers—Fiction. | Domestic fiction. | GSAFD: Love stories.
Classi cation: LCC PR6118.E583 L58 2018 (ebook) | LCC PR6118.E583 (print) | DDC 823/.92—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017034468

First Edition: June 2018

Printed in the United States of America

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Jacket design and illustration by Allison Colpoys

Title page art: watercolor waves © Shizayats/Shutterstock

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

For Yoshi Sato,
who will always be in my thoughts

New Year’s Eve 2015

Dear Liam
(maybe one day I will call you Dad but not yet),

This is your son, Zac. I am writing this letter to give you an opportunity. I know you did a runner just before I was born and weren’t interested in being my dad, but how could you decide if we’d never met? I didn’t know I wanted to be Teagan’s friend until she moved onto the same estate as me. Luckily she was nice, but she could have been really annoying.

I don’t want to be offensive  but I have been really angry with you since the day my mum and me went on the promenade train in Cleethorpes when I was three and my mum told me you existed. I don’t know why you didn’t want to see me or even phone me if I was your child. You have never even sent me a birthday card. (In case you don’t know, my birthday is May 25th.) What kind of dad doesn’t send their kid a birthday card?

So I am giving you the opportunity to come to my party when I’m eleven. It’s five months away so lots of time to organize it. If you have any more children, you could bring them, as long as they like Toby Carvery because that’s where I’m going.

BE WARNED: my mum is really mad with you and my nan says you make her sick, but I am willing to give you a chance.

My grandad says, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” and I agree. For example, I never used to like mushrooms, but now I would have them on my death row dinner. I think if you met me you’d change your mind too.

 

Please write back.

From Zac

 

P.S. Just so you know, you can only get two slices of meat at Toby Carvery, but you can have as many vegetables and Yorkshire puddings as you want.

 

1

Zac

Fact: there are only three animals in the

world that have a blue tongue: a chow chow dog,

a blue-tongued lizard, and a black bear.

So I’d already written to my dad on New Year’s Eve, but deciding to look for him only started, really, the night of my mum’s Date from Hell. She kicked everything off that spring; she made everything start happening that would change our lives for the better and make them brilliant. She says it was me that did it, but it wasn’t, it was her. (Even though she was drunk, it was still her.) That’s the only good thing about wine, I suppose. It can sometimes help you to tell the truth.

Grimsby, early February 2016

Sam Bale’s dad was walking across our estate in the snow. It was just him with his big furry hood up. He could have been trekking across the North Pole.

“How many points would you give him, then?” I said.

“What, Sam’s dad?” said Teagan. “None. No way. He’s been in prison for fighting people, he has.”

“He’s rich, though,” I said.

“How do you know?”
“He’s got a bath that’s a Jacuzzi—and he’s got a gold car. Imagine how much that would cost. A gold car!”
Me and Teagan were high up, leaning out of her bedroom window playing the dad game. Teagan’s my best friend. She lives on our estate but in one of the high blocks on the seventh floor, where you can see the whole of Grimsby, even to the sea. We live in a boring old maisonette with only two floors, but it’s nicer than Teagan’s inside because my mum can work, whereas Teagan’s mum’s got this disease where she’s tired all the time, so if you weigh everything up, it comes out equal.
I was round at hers for a sleepover because my mum was on a date. I don’t usually go round to people’s houses for sleepovers on a school night, but then, my mum doesn’t usually go on dates. This was her first in a year and a half. Before that, she was going out with Jason, but they split up because there was no chemistry.
The dad game is something me and Teagan made up after Teagan’s dad left her mum—and Teagan, and her sister, Tia—for Gayle from Ladbrokes. Since then, she hasn’t seen her dad much. Teagan’s dead angry with her dad and thinks she’ll have to get a new one eventually. My dad did a runner just before I was born, but Mum’s always said we had a lucky escape because he was a waste of space. So I’d like to get a proper dad too someday, and me and Teagan thought it would be good to work out what sort of dad would be best.

Our game’s called Top Trumps for Dads. It’s just like normal Top Trumps, except we give scores based on how good a dad we think someone would be: how kind, strict, or funny they are; if they’re rich and could take us on adventures; if they’d be able to stick up for us in a fight—and not a fight like Sam Bale’s dad’s been in, but a proper one, where you’re fighting for something worth it, not just for the sake of it.

Teagan writes down scores for the dads in our special file. So far, Jacob Wilmore’s dad scores the highest. He’s got a six-pack and a Porsche and he’s just a really nice man. He used to play football professionally and now he sometimes coaches the under-elevens. I wish I was good at football, just so I could see him more. We’ve finished doing all the dads at school now, though, so we’re scoring others we know, like Sam Bale’s.

“He might be rich, Zac, but he’s still been in prison,” said Teagan. “ There’s no point having a dad in prison all the time; you’d never get to see him.”

“Yeah, and when you went to visit him, you wouldn’t be able to touch him and you’d have to be careful because he might be in with all the murderers.”

“And he’d have to wear an orange suit,” said Teagan. “I’ve seen it on Coronation Street.”

As well as living on the Harlequin Estate with me, Teagan’s at the same school as me but in a different class, so on Mondays and Thursdays, when I’m not at Nan and Grandad’s, we sometimes play together after tea. We like playing “the Olympics,” where Teagan does her gymnastics on the bars (three metal bars, basically, all of different heights, in the middle of our estate) and I do the commentary like on the Olympics. This is Teagan O’Brien on the bars, for the United Kingdom! When it’s cold or rainy, though, we like stopping in and leaning out of Teagan’s bedroom window and looking at all of Grimsby like we own it. Our estate is at the edge of the town near the sea (it’s not actually the sea, it’s the Humber estuary, but it goes into the North Sea). But don’t go thinking there’s a beach like there is at Cleethorpes—it’s not like that. If you look at where the sea meets the town in Grimsby, from high up here in Teagan’s flat, you can just see loads of cranes and boat masts, with the Dock Tower in the middle, poking out like a red rocket. The line where the water meets the town goes in and out where all the different trawlers have their parking spots. Our town is a shing port. It used to be the greatest fishing port in the world back when my great-grandad was a fisherman, in the glory days. But then there were the Cod Wars, where Iceland and our country rowed about who was allowed to fish where, and that ruined everything basically.

“Hey, if you squint your eyes and look at all the snow,” I said, closing one eye, the way Mr. Singh from Costcutter does when you go in there and he pretends to be asleep, “you could be in Canada.”

“Jacob Wilmore’s been to Canada. He told me it was boring,” said Teagan.

“I bet it’s not. I bet it’s amazing.” The snow was amazing here too, if you looked closely. It wasn’t white; it was loads of different colors. That’s because it’s actually frozen droplets of water reflecting the light. I told Teagan this. “It’s the same for polar bears,” I said. “Their fur’s not white either, it’s transparent; it just reflects the light so it looks all dazzling. Underneath, their skin is black and under that are eleven centimeters of fat.”

“No way. Eleven centimeters?”

“Well, you’d need eleven centimeters of fat if you lived in the Arctic.”

“It’s like living in the Arctic in this house,” said Teagan. “And where’s my eleven centimeters?”

She leaned farther out of the window. She makes me nervous when she does that, because she’s so light, she could flutter away like a crisp packet. Teagan might be the smallest in our year but she’s not scared of anything, ever. I’m scared most of the time. Sometimes it feels like our bodies have been swapped around.

I leaned a little bit farther out too. The cold was lovely, it crept right through your clothes, and the moon was orange, with this sad, kind face.

“I wonder what my mum’s doing now,” I said.

“Why, where is she?” asked Teagan, flicking her hair round. Teagan’s hair is her best feature, like mine is my eyes. It’s chocolate colored and wavy.

“On a date,” I said.

“What, with a man?”

“No, a chimpanzee,” I said and Teagan laughed. She’s got this mad, crazy laugh; you can’t help joining in. I hadn’t said anything to Teagan because I didn’t want to jinx it, but I was really worried about my mum’s date. I wanted it to go well so badly that I’d prayed on Factblaster before I came out. Grandad always gets me a present just from him at Christmas, and last Christmas it was Factblaster. Every fact you’ve ever wanted to know, answered!, it says on the front. It’s totally awesome. I think it’s got lucky powers. I love my facts like I love my cooking. Out of my class, I’m probably second best at facts after Jacob, who knows literally everything, but that’s because his dad works on the rigs so can afford to take him all over.

My mum’s date was with a man called Dom. He knows my aunty Laura (she’s not my real aunty; she’s my mum’s best friend— I just call her aunty) and he’s got a sports car. My mum really needs a boyfriend. She loves me to bits, but we need a man in the house and, also, I liked it better when she was going out with Jason. I kind of miss him. Maybe I even loved him.

Teagan sighed. “Rather her than me,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, rather your mum than me going on a date. I’m not going on any dates when I’m older. I’m not going to have a husband or even a boyfriend.”

“Why not?” I said.

“’Cause men are stupid idiots, that’s why. You won’t be, obviously. But that’s because you’re different.”

I wondered what she meant by different. People don’t like different, in my experience. They don’t like fat, or really thin; they don’t like people who are poor. But then, they don’t like too rich either, or big noses, ADHD, smelliness, sticky-out ears, funny teeth, glasses, people with one arm, weird names, or weird parents. They don’t like anyone who stands out, basically. I don’t think any of these things matter—it’s the person inside that counts. But not everyone thinks like that, do they? That’s just not real life.

The windows in the flats across the way were glowing orange. The way they were lit up, it made the flats look so cozy and I thought, that’s how Teagan’s flat must look from there too, but also how it was a trick, because you couldn’t see how scruffy her bedroom was on the inside, you couldn’t see the black damp in the corners, like you can’t see the black skin underneath a polar bear’s fur. You couldn’t see there was no dad there or that her mum was in bed because she’d got the tired disease. You can’t see the truth just by looking on the surface. That’s something else I’d worked out.

I was thinking about all this when, all of a sudden, Teagan took a huge lungful of air. “Bogeys!” she shouted, so loud I bet it hurt her throat. I just saw Sam Bale’s dad look up before she tugged at my arm and yanked me down and then we were sitting with our backs against the wall, cracking up for ages. I laugh loads when I’m with Teagan; it makes me forget the bad stuff.

“Do you want some sweets?” she said, suddenly sliding onto her belly and under her bed. Teagan’s so little you could slide her anywhere. You could hide her like Anne Frank if you had to. She wriggled under her bed and brought out a plastic orange bucket. It was full of sweets from Halloween. “Have what you want.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, ’course.”

I couldn’t believe she’d saved them. Halloween had been four months ago!

I chose a mini Mars Bar, a Drumstick lolly, and a Maoam.

“Is that all?” she said. She couldn’t talk properly due to the humongous gobstopper in her mouth. “You can have more. Go on, take more.”

Teagan’s the only person my age in the world I can eat in front of without going red. She’s the only person my age I can talk to about food too—about what I baked with my nan or what recipe I made up. She’s the only person my age who knows I want to be a chef like my uncle Jamie too. She never looks at me funny. Not like that. Not like most people look at me. When she talks to me, she just looks in my eyes. Sometimes I wonder if she’s even noticed.

We sat on the bed. It was quiet except for the rustling of our sweet wrappers and the room was full of the moon, making Teagan’s tongue look blue from the gobstopper. Then suddenly, there was shouting.

“Why?” a lady was going. “Why? Why? Why?” Teagan looked at me and we burst out laughing. “Wanker!” the woman shouted and we cracked up even more. We couldn’t get to the window fast enough to see what was going on, which was that there were two people, a man and a woman, having an actual scrap in the snow! The man was skidding around trying to duck from the lady, who was hitting him over the head with her handbag. She was shouting but crying at the same time. She had blondish/brownish hair the same style as my mum’s and she was wearing a turquoise coat.

I recognized that coat.

“Oh. My. God,” Teagan said slowly. She wasn’t laughing anymore and neither was I. “Isn’t that your . . . ?”

I can tell you now, no ten-year-old kid wants to see their mum having a scrap in the snow, whacking someone over the head with her handbag. It makes the mum look mental and it’s not very lady- like. But that was exactly what was happening. I watched as my mum stomped off back home in the snow, and then I sat on Teagan’s bed for a bit, deciding what to do. I went home in the end. Teagan understood because she knows what it’s like to be worried about your mum.

The back door was open when I got there, so I just walked in. Mum was frying sausages in the kitchen. She’d got changed into her PJs, but she still had her makeup on, plus the dangly earrings she’d bought from Matalan especially for the date. I wished she hadn’t bothered.

“Zac! Jesus . . . Bloody hell . . .” She jumped out of her skin when she saw me. It might have been funny, but it wasn’t, if you know what I mean. “Why aren’t you at Teagan’s?” she said, wiping under her eyes with her fingers. Her eyes weren’t looking at me straight and she had black tears down her cheeks.

“She felt sick,” I said. Lying makes me nervous, but I didn’t have a choice. She asked me for a cuddle and I gave her one. She smelled really strong of the pub.

“What’s wrong?” I asked as she hugged me, really tight. It hurt a bit, but I didn’t want to say. “What happened on the date—it went wrong, didn’t it?”

But she ignored me. She just started putting the sausages on the slices of bread she had on the side. They had big clumps of butter on and even bigger holes. “Do you want one of these, darlin’? Mummy’s special sausage sandwich?”

Her voice was funny—I didn’t like it—and she wasn’t cutting the sandwich all neat like she normally does; she was making a mess.

“Why’re you acting strange?”

“Strange? I’m not acting strange,” she said, but she was walking toward the cupboard to get some plates out and even her walk was weird. The way she was talking. I hated it. All of it.

“Are you drunk?” I said. “Because I don’t like it. Just act normal, Mum. You’re freaking me out.”

She reached up to get the plates, but when she turned around and looked at me, I saw that she was crying again, horrible crying with all her face crumpled up. “How can I be normal, Zac, when I’m not?” she said, doing this horrible sob, so big that a little snot bubble came out of her nose. “When I’m this disgusting fat pig? This big fat mess of a person? I’m not surprised Dom didn’t want to kiss me or that your dad never—” That was when a plate slid out of the cupboard and smashed first on her head, then all over the floor, and then Mum was shouting and crying and I was too, and I was trying to pick up the pieces of the plate as well as hugging her at the same time and I just wanted this whole stupid date, this whole night, never to have happened.

I DIDN’T WANT Mum to be on her own, so I got into her bed and we ate our sausage sandwiches—Mum was dropping ketchup everywhere because she was still drunk, you could tell.

Afterward, I lay on her boobs. I love doing that ’cause they’re so soft, like pillows. I even have names for them. One’s Larry (he’s a bit bigger) and one’s Gary. Nobody but my mum and me know.

“What am I going to do, Zac?” Mum said suddenly. Her voice was all funny like she had a bad cold, because she’d been crying so much. “I’m never going to get myself a man like this, am I? Never going to get you a dad. And then you’ll leave me and marry a gorgeous girl, because you deserve a gorgeous girl, and I’ll just be a lonely old woman with cats.”

“But you wouldn’t be lonely if you had cats, would you?” I said. “Plus, you can get really friendly cats. And anyway, I’m not moving out—ever. Even if I do get married, I always want to live with you.”

Mum laughed. “You won’t always feel like that,” she said, kissing my head. “I promise you.”

“Anyway, you will meet someone. Nan says Liam ruined all your confidence but you’ll get it back when you get a new boyfriend. You’re dead pretty. I think you are.”

That was when Mum said the thing that made me glad this night had happened after all. “But that’s the problem, Zac.” She was stroking my hair; it felt dead relaxing. “I only ever loved Liam. I don’t think I even want a boyfriend if it’s not him.”

My heart was going boom. I didn’t dare speak in case she stopped talking.

“I loved him and he loved me—so much. He did, I know he did. And I just can’t imagine finding that again.”

She was quiet for a bit then, and I thought she’d fallen asleep. Then she did a big sigh.

“Bastard,” she said.

 

 

 

Now in paperback: A Just Clause By Lorna Barrett, A Booktown Mystery

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A Just Clause

 

A Just Clause 

By Lorna Barrett

A Booktown Mystery

Berkley

paperback

June 5, 2018

292 pages

ABOUT A JUST CLAUSE

Just when things are getting back to normal in Booktown, Tricia and Angelica have their lives turned upside down by a shocking visitor from their past in this latest entry in Lorna Barrett’s New York Times bestselling series. 

Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, is in for a surprise when her ne’er-do-well father, John, comes to town—and promptly becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a woman with her own scandalous past. Even Tricia’s faith in the old man is shaken when the Stoneham police break the news that her father is a known con man who has done jail time.

But what about bestselling thriller author Steven Richardson? Is it a coincidence that he arrived for a book signing just before the crime or that the victim was found with a signed copy of his latest bestseller?

From merlot to murder, Tricia is determined to clear the family name before another body shows up and ruins Stoneham’s first—and highly anticipated—wine and jazz festival.

ABOUT LORNA BARRETT

Lorna Barrett is the New York Times bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries, including Poisoned Pages, A Just Clause, Title Wave, A Fatal Chapter, and Book Clubbed. She lives in Rochester, New York.

Just finished reading the following books. Reviews to follow:

225x225bb LITTLE BIG LOVE COVER

 

 

Blog Tour – Excerpt from Kat Martin’s New Suspense Novel “Beyond Control”

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Beyond Control 300x500

 

Iron River Ranch

Iron Springs, Texas

Victoria Bradford drove the old blue Chevy Malibu along the two lane road.  Up ahead, a sign hung above a narrow dirt track running off to the west, IRON RIVER RANCH.

“Are we there yet, Mama?” Ivy, her four year old daughter, had asked at a dozen times since they’d left the Walmart parking lot in Iron Springs. The ten mile drive didn’t take long, but to a four year old who’d been in the car for days, they couldn’t reach their destination soon enough.

“We’re very close, sweetheart.  This is the turn, right here.”  Tory checked the gas gauge as the wheels left the pavement and started rumbling over the bumpy dirt road.  Less than an eighth of a tank.  She hoped the ranch wasn’t much farther.

More than that, she prayed the job hadn’t already been filled.

She sighed as the aging Malibu rolled along.  She was basically in bumfrick Egypt, ten miles north of Nowhere Springs, almost out of gas, with twenty three dollars and thirty three cents in her wallet.

Last night, without enough money for a motel room and afraid to use her credit cards for fear Damon would somehow track her, they’d slept in the car in the Walmart parking lot.  As soon as the McDonald’s opened, she had pulled into the drive-thru and bought Sausage McMuffins, then driven out to the ranch to somehow convince the owner to hire a woman with a daughter and no actual ranching experience.

She thought of the ad in the paper she had spotted last night on the counter in the Iron Springs Café. If she somehow managed to get the job, it would be perfect.  Besides a steady paycheck and the ranch being way off the grid, the position included the use of a double-wide trailer.

After being on the road for the past three weeks, living out of motel rooms and suitcases, the trailer sounded like a palace.

“Look, Mama, there it is!” Ivy pointed toward the cluster of buildings up ahead, a couple of barns, several fenced training arenas, and a two-story home with dormer windows and a covered porch running the length out in front. A double-wide sat fifty yards away.

Vast stretches of open green pastureland surrounded the complex where horses and cattle grazed, and there were ponds and woodlands in the distance, and dense copses of trees.

The Chevy bumped over the last patch of road, pulled up in front of the house, and Tory quickly turned off the engine.  No use wasting what little gas she had left.

“Mama, there’s a man over there by the barn.”

Her gaze swung in that direction.  There was, indeed, a man.  The noisy buzz of a saw covered the sound of their arrival, giving her time to assess him.

Shirtless, he was working with his back to them, broad, tanned, and muscled above a narrow waist that disappeared into a pair of faded jeans.  The jeans hugged a round behind and long, powerful legs.

He was tall, she saw when he straightened away from his work and walked into the barn, with medium brown hair cut short.  She got her first look at his face when he walked back out, handsome, with a solid jaw and masculine features, at least three days’ growth of whiskers.

The front of him was just as impressive as the back, a broad chest with solid pecs, muscular biceps, and six pack abs.

Unease filtered through her. This was a strong, powerful male. She knew first hand what a man like that could do to a woman.

Tory forced down the notion. Not all men were like Damon. Before she’d met him, she had been married to a good and decent man, the father of her child.  Jamie Bradford, her high school sweetheart, was one of the gentlest people she’d ever known.  Her father was a good man, before he’d fallen in love with his secretary and divorced her mother, leaving the two of them alone.

Tory took a courage-building breath.  “Stay here, sweetheart.”  Cracking open the car door, she slid out from behind the wheel.  “Don’t worry, sweetie.  Everything’s going to be okay.”

She hoped.

Ivy sank down in her booster seat, trying to make herself invisible.  Tory had survived the fights, arguments, and finally the brutal beating Damon had given her that had put her in the hospital.  Though he had never hurt Ivy, the little girl had seen the results of his mistreatment, leaving her with an unnatural fear of men.

Tory glanced at the big, thick-chested male striding toward her, shrugging into a blue denim shirt. Ivy would be terrified of him.  If there was any other way, she would climb back in the car and just drive away.

There wasn’t.  Tory started walking, meeting the man half way. She glanced around but didn’t see a soul besides the big man in front of her.  Her uneasiness returned but she forced it away.

“May I help you?” he asked, and she thought that at least he was polite.

“My name is Tory Ford. I’m looking for Joshua Cain.  Is that you?”  He had blue eyes and a cleft in his chin.  From a purely physical standpoint, the man was flat out hot.

“I’m Josh Cain.  What can I do for you?”

“I saw your ad in the Iron Springs Gazette.  You’re looking for a stable hand.  I’m here to apply for the job.”

He just shook his head. “I’m afraid it’s a man’s job, Ms. Ford. Mucking out stalls and cleaning tack, feeding the livestock.  It isn’t something you’d want to do.”

“Work isn’t supposed to be fun, Mr. Cain.  That’s why they call it work.  I can muck out stalls, clean tack, and feed stock as well as anyone else.”

“Sorry.  I’m looking for a man.  I appreciate you’re coming out, but–“

“There are laws, Mr. Cain. Equal rights for women.  Have you never heard of that?  Lawsuits against discrimination?”

His jaw hardened.  His eyebrows came down in a frown.  “Are you kidding me?  You’re going to sue me because I won’t hire you to shovel horseshit out of the barn?”

She could feel the heat creeping into her cheeks.  With her fair skin, and fiery red hair, there was no way to hide her embarrassment.

She looked him straight in the face.  “I need this job, Mr. Cain.  I need the house that comes with it.”  She forced herself to smile.  “Why don’t we compromise?  You give me three days to prove I’m up to the job.  If I’m not, I won’t give you anymore trouble.  Three days.  If you don’t think I can handle the work, I’ll leave.  I won’t argue, I’ll just go.”

A muscle jerked in his cheek.  He didn’t like being pressured.  He looked at her hard, then those condemning blue eyes traveled over her shoulder to something behind her.

“Who is that?”

She didn’t have to turn to know Ivy had climbed out of the car.  Like Tory, she was small for her age, but her hair was blond instead of red, and her eyes were blue instead of green.

“That’s my daughter. She’s only four.”  Desperate now, she could feel her heart throbbing softly inside her ribs.  “We need a place, Mr. Cain.  I’ll work hard.  I’ll do whatever you need done.  Just give me a chance.”

He swore the f-word under his breath, not loud enough for Ivy to hear.  Damon wouldn’t have cared.  She clung to the hope that represented.

“What do you plan to do with your daughter while you’re working?  You can’t leave her in the house alone.”

Tory glanced wildly around. She had known this would be a problem. Before, she’d had money enough to hire a sitter or there was day care for employees’ kids.

She looked at the fenced yard off to the side in front of the trailer.  The grass was sparse and in need of a trim.  Maybe he’d had a dog or something, but it was clean and empty now.  The weather was still good and there was a little gazebo with a table and benches in the middle.  She’d be able to keep an eye on Ivy while she was working.

“She could play in the yard. She likes to color and she already reads kids’ books.  She wouldn’t be any trouble.  If this works out, I’ll have money to pay for a sitter.”

Cain looked at Ivy, paced away then back.  “Dammit.”

“It’s just three days. If I do a good job, you won’t have to search for someone else.”

He ran a hand over his short brown hair, paced away, then walked back.  “Did you sleep in your car last night?”

She refused to answer. She didn’t want charity from Cain for anyone else.

“Fine,” he said. “You’ve got three days.  But I’m not cutting you any slack.  You do a man’s job for a man’s pay.  If you can’t hack it, you’re out of here.”

And from the look on his face, he was clearly hoping she would fail.  Hell, maybe she would.

She managed to fake a smile. “Okay, it’s a deal.”  She stuck out her hand to seal the bargain, for a moment didn’t think he was going to shake.  Then he sighed and took hold of her hand, not too hard, just firm enough to let her know he was in charge.

“You start tomorrow morning. Six A.M. sharp.  There’s enough food in the trailer to last a few days. I’ll bring you a quart of milk. After that, board’s on you.  If you’re still here, you’ll need to make a trip into town for groceries.”

Relief filtered through her, so strong it made her head swim.  She had a place to stay where no one would look for her.  She had a job, which meant food and whatever necessities they needed. If he kept her on, she’d find a sitter to watch Ivy.  She’d have time to figure things out, make a new plan.

She took a step back, set an arm around her little girl’s shoulders and drew her forward.  “This is my daughter, Ivy.  Ivy, this is Mr. Cain.”

“Hello, Ivy,” he said. He had an unusual voice, deep and resonate, but at the same time soft and oddly compelling.

Ivy shrunk back.

“Say hello, honey,” Tory said.

“I don’t want to stay. I want to go.”  Clinging to Tory’s waist, she burrowed into her.

“She’s shy,” Tory said.

“The trailer’s unlocked,” Cain said.  “It’s clean and ready to go.”

“Thank you.”

He turned and started striding back to the barn.  She probably should be at least a little afraid of him.  Oddly, she wasn’t.

Then again, she hadn’t been afraid of Damon, either.

About the author

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Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L.J. Martin, Kat has written 65 historical and contemporary romantic suspense novels. More than 16 million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in 20 foreign countries. Kat is currently working on her next romantic suspense.

Book Review: A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond And Summary of Once Upon A Spine by Kate Carlisle

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Title: A Tale of Two Murders

Author: Heather Redmond

Series: A Dickens Of A Crime Mystery

Publisher: Kensington

Format: Hardcover (reviewed ARC)

Date on the Shelves: Aug 2018

Novel Setting: 1835 Victorian London

333 pages

Price: $26.00 US

Author’s website: HeatherRedmond.com

Heather Redmond introduces us to the young Charles Dickens in 1835 Victorian London. This fictional account creates a perspective we’ve seldom been allowed to follow.

The first in a new series, “A Tale of Two Murders” drops us into a death scene from the very beginning. A special invitation to dinner at the home of the newspaper’s co-editor, Mr. Hogarth, during Epiphany, is seen as an honor for Dickens. To be among a loving family who isn’t worrying about where their next meal is coming from is a journey into unknown territory.

When screams are heard, Dickens and the Hogarth family realize its coming from a neighbor’s home. Dickens, Mr. Hogarth and the eldest daughter, Kate, rush over to investigate what is causing their neighbor’s distress. They soon learn that Lady Lugoson’s daughter, Miss Christina, has taken ill during dinner. None of the other guests appear to be affected. Shortly after, the stricken young woman dies.

None of the guests have a clue to what happened. Not the Carleys (Mr. Carley is a member of Parliament) or Mrs. Decker (a neighbor).

What began as Charles’ concern for Miss Hogarth’s well-being evolves into a cooperative understanding between Charles and Mr. and Miss Hogarth to learn the truth of this sad occurrence. One clue at a time, they and Charles’ co-worker, William Aga, begin learning what actually happened. This isn’t a mystery you’re going to solve until the very end.

I’ve read historical novels for years, but I was not familiar with Dicken’s time period so it was a bit of a time-traveling adventure for me at first. Working for a newspaper, I was very curious to what reporting was like during that era so it was interesting following Dickens around. All I can say is this book is very involved. Involved in inheritance, politics, jealousy, anguish, justification, poverty, love, hunger. Enjoyed reading it and learning about the time period.

Four and a half newspapers out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

June 3, 2018

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Title: Once Upon A Spine

Author: By Kate Carlisle

Series: Bibliophile Mystery

Publisher: Berkley

Format: Mass Paperback

Date on the Shelves: June 5, 2018

304 pages

 

ABOUT ONCE UPON A SPINE

In the latest paperback in the New York Times bestselling series, murder sends San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright down the rabbit hole…

Brooklyn’s future in-laws are traveling from England to meet her, and if that’s not enough to set her on edge, rumors abound that the charming Courtyard Shops across the street may be replaced by high-rise apartments. Their trendy neighborhood will be ruined unless Brooklyn and her fiancé, Derek Stone, can persuade the shopkeepers not to sell.

But with a rare edition of Alice in Wonderland causing bad blood at the Brothers Bookshop and a string of petty vandalism making everyone nervous, Brooklyn and Derek feel overwhelmed. Then the owner of the Rabbit Hole juice bar is felled by his own heavy shelves, and the local cobbler lies dead beside him. Things get curiouser and curiouser when a second priceless copy of Alice is discovered.

 

Blog Tour – An Interview with Bestselling Author Kat Martin

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Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

 

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L.J. Martin, Kat has written 65 historical and contemporary romantic suspense novels. More than 16 million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in 20 foreign countries. Kat is currently working on her next romantic suspense.

Here’s a blurb for Kat’s new book “Beyond Control.” 

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Victoria Bradford and her four-year old daughter are on the run from Tory’s abusive ex-fiancé.  Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere, exactly what Josh Cain wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.

When Tory shows up with her adorable little girl, Josh realizes he is in for trouble of the most personal kind. But Josh has seen trouble before, and he doesn’t scare easy. Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory’s best friend is abducted.  Not even when he realizes their troubles are only the tip of the iceberg.

An Interview with Kat Martin

In your last book of the Texas Trilogy series, tell us what life has been like for Victoria Bradford and her four-year-old daughter, Ivy.

Tory and Ivy have been running for their lives for the last six months.  Every time they feel safe, Damon catches up with them and they are forced to flee again.  Their last hope is a place on the Iron Springs Ranch.  Maybe the handsome owner, Joshua Cain, will help.  Tory can only hope and pray that he will.

How did she meet Damon Bridger and what warns her to stay the hell away from him?

She and her best friend, Lisa Shane, were out at an upscale nightclub celebrating Lisa’s birthday.  Damon seemed so wonderful.  But as soon as she accepted his marriage proposal, everything changed. He began to drink and grew violent. Tory knew it was time to leave.

Why is Bridger obsessed with Victoria?

Damon has been driven by his own personal demons all his spoiled life.  Once Tory agrees to marry him, he believes he owns her.  She must do as he says.  When she is bold enough to try to leave him, he goes a little crazy.

What has life been like trying to stay a safe distance away from him?

Tory has had to give up any sort of normal life.  She has changed her name, left her friends behind, and still he manages to find her.  She is out of money and out of ideas.  She desperately needs someone to help her.

How does she turn up at Iron River Ranch in Iron Springs, TX? What led her there? Is she there for a job? Or feels there’s no way Damon can find her at this location?

The Iron River Ranch his Tory’s last hope.  She spotted an ad for a stable hand on the bulletin board in the grocery store.  The ranch offers a job and a place to stay.  It’s way off the grid.  Tory is determined to get the job.

Joshua thinks he’s coming home to peace and quiet. What does the retired sniper return to instead?

Josh loves the peace and quiet of the ranch.  It’s a place he has come to heal after the war. The last thing he wants it to take on the responsibility of a young woman and her daughter on the run from a stalker.

Is there a chance for Victoria and her daughter to be safe and happy? 

Tory’s an optimist.  She believes if she can just escape Damon, she can start a new life. She’s determined to make that happen, to make a home somewhere for herself and her little girl.

What’s next, now that you’ve finished the series? What did you love about writing it?

The Texas trilogy turned out to be one of my all-time favorite series.  I love Texas as a backdrop and I always love writing stories about family.  Linc and Josh were both incredible heroes.  Beau Reese is part of the brothers’ extended family and he wound up being a great hero to write.

Fortunately for me, I get to write four more books set in Texas.  The first book in my Maximum Security series, Until Midnight, is out in January of next year.   It’s set around a detective agency in Dallas.  You met Chase Garrett in Beyond Danger.  Chase is the owner and the hero of the first book.

Book Review – Just in Time By Marie Bostwick

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Title: Just In Time

Author: Marie Bostwick

Publisher: Kensington Fiction

Format: Trade paperback

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Date On the Shelves: March 27, 2018

Novel setting: Portland, Oregon

Grace Saunders, Nan Wilja and Monica Romano learn that a grief support group isn’t going to help them at this stage of their lives. They didn’t fit in with the older women participating in the group and they weren’t interested recalling memories of the past. They have a lot of living to do, decisions to make, and a need for friendships to help ease the loneliness.

The three women are all dealing with difficult situations.

Nan’s husband died in a plane crash. She’s an empty nester but has an addicted daughter that when she hits bottom calls home for help. Nan is also a devoted pet rescue volunteer who will foster dogs before she even cares for herself.

Monica’s cheating husband died in a boating accident with his girlfriend. She’s caring for her step-children and running a very demanding restaurant. She’s confident, smart and hard- working and often exhausted.

Grace is dealing with a demanding boss, no make that two, and a marriage in limbo. Her husband fell during a hike and now needs 24/7 medical care. She has remained faithful to him, but it becomes difficult when she begins to care for another man. The one thing that eases her mind and soul is her love of sewing. The one thing she doesn’t expect or need is Monica trying to set her up with Luke, who is single, talented and adorable.

What did this book teach me? That’s it never too late to be in love. That there are honest people seeking real relationships. That sisterhood doesn’t have to be connected by a family tree. That sometimes, life works out the twisted roads and obstacles on the path.

I can’t imagine this book being written any other way. All three women’s perspectives were needed. That, alone, had to be a challenge for the author. Job well done.

Four and a half vintage dresses out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

May 26, 2018

 

 

 

Beyond Control Blog Tour – The Texas Mystique by Bestselling Author Kat Martin

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Since my new book, BEYOND CONTROL–Josh Cain and Victoria Bradford’s story–is set in Texas, I thought it might be fun to talk about one of my favorite places.

There is something special about Texas.  My husband and I lived in Houston for a couple of months one summer and it was a wonderful experience, though at times it was sort of good news and bad.  The people in Texas are extremely friendly, and they always seem to be in a good mood.

 

We gorged ourselves on gourmet meals in some of the country’s finest restaurants, but also ate a ton of delicious Tex Mex, Asian, Indian flatbread, and just about everything else.  We visited art galleries, the beach, and some of the beautiful ranches in the area.

That was the good news. The bad news was Houston in August is HOT.  It’s also muggy and sticky and you just can’t wait for October to arrive.

Two years ago, we traveled to Lubbock for a Western Writers of America conference.  I was reluctant to go in the summer, but it turned out to be a really great trip–hot but dry.  We visited some great museums and met some fun people, including old-time movie star, Barry Corbin, who’s been in everything from Urban Cowboy to The Best Little Whore House in Texas–along with forty-three other movies.

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Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

For the past few years, I’ve been setting my stories in and around Dallas, one of my favorite U.S. cities. In BEYOND CONTROL, Victoria Bradford and her four-year old daughter are on the run from Tory’s abusive ex-fiancé.  Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere, exactly what Josh Cain wanted when he came back from Afghanistan.  Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.

When Tory shows up with her adorable little girl, Josh realizes he is in for trouble of the most personal kind.  But Josh has seen trouble before, and he doesn’t scare easy.  Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch.  Not when Tory’s best friend is abducted–not when it looks like things are going to get worse.

I’ve had great fun writing books set in Texas, including BEYOND REASON and BEYOND DANGER, the first in my Texas Trilogy.  Fortunately, I get to write four more novels set in Dallas around the Maximum Security Agency.  Chase Garrett (You meet him in BEYOND DANGER) runs the company and is the hero of my first book.  It’s out in January of next year.

Texas is a magical place that captured a piece of my soul long ago.  I hope some day you get to visit.  If not, perhaps you might enjoy Josh and Tory in BEYOND CONTROL.  Till next time, all best and happy reading, Kat

WEBSITE

http://www.katmartin.com/

VIDEO LINK

https://youtu.be/I9vEWYddAug

CONTEST LINKS

SPECIAL CONTEST: https://www.katmartin.com/beyond-control-giveaway/

To CELEBRATE the release of BEYOND CONTROL, enter my new contest for a chance to win a KINDLE FIRE 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB and a Kindle copy of AGAINST THE WINDAGAINST THE FIRE and AGAINST THE LAWContest runs from May 1, 2018 through June 30, 2018.

May Contest: https://www.katmartin.com/monthly-contest/

For MAY, Kat Martin is giving away to THREE winners a copy of both INTO THE FURY and MIDNIGHT SUN.

For JUNE, Kat Martin is giving away to THREE winners a copy of both INTO THE FIRESTORM and SEASON OF STRANGERS.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Control-Texas-Trilogy-Martin-ebook/dp/B075CBDPZ7

b&n:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beyond-control-kat-martin/1127062567?ean=9781420143195#/

indiebound:

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781420143195

kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/beyond-control-9

google play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kat_Martin_Beyond_Control?id=GskzDwAAQBAJ

itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/beyond-control/id1278683477?mt=11

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/katmartinauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatMartinAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36190397-beyond-control

 

 

 

Book Review: Talk to the Paw by Melinda Metz

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Title: Talk to the Paw

Author: By Melinda Metz

Publisher: Kensington

Genre: Fiction

Date on the Shelves: Jan. 30, 2018

Format: Trade paperback

Pages: 281

Cost: $9.95 US/$10.95 CAN

Received this book for an honest review.

Jamie Snyder is at a crossroads in her life. All her relationships with men turned out to be short term. One didn’t want to propose. One thought he needed to take care of himself first. Another didn’t think it necessary to mention he was married. Then her mother became ill and passed away.

It’s time for a new beginning and that meant following her own dreams and changing her life to what “she” wanted. Jamie leaves Avella, PA and heads out to LA with her tabby, Mac Gyver and her inheritance. She finds a vacant bungalow on Storybook Court in old Hollywood and looked forward to designing her future. Her neighbors, Al and Marie add her to their adopted extended family, whether she’s interested or not.  Marie and their neighbor Helen immediately take on the responsibility of being her matchmaker and if that wasn’t bad enough, her tabby has the same plan. Not only does he want to partner his lonely human with another lonely human, he is determined to sneak out of the house and match up other people, as well. He does this by taking one of their possessions and dropping it off on a neighbor’s door mat during the night. He becomes a cat thief and matchmaker, but a former TV detective really thinks its Jamie. So begins an adorable, realistic story of a cat who really cares if his neighbors are happy.

Talk to the Paw is a great animal lover book. Mac Gyver is a clever cat on a mission, but he has a difficult time. David, the man he chose for Jamie, can’t seem to let go of the connection he had with his late wife. He is a devoted husband and she was a big part of his life. Jamie also has a difficult time committing because she needs to learn who she is. So, there was this tension between the two of them and sooner or later they had to realize they were more than friends. Loved the interaction with David’s dog and Mac Gyver, as well.

I see the neighbors as part of a community quilt. Though most would consider Marie and Helen as nosy meddling women, I just think they wanted people to be couples so no one would be alone. That’s how it was for generations. Ruby has a lot to offer, too. The people that naturally involve themselves are unique individuals. The majority of the people in this world follow the rule of “personal space” and that’s how we remain strangers and uncaring. More power to these people.

Four out of five well-meaning cats

Denise Fleischer

Gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

May 13, 2018

A little Squawking and a Lot of Love

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Two yellow-sided turquoise conures contently perched and watching the crowd during Rolling Meadows Bird Fair & Show on Saturday, April 14. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

The following article was published in the Journal & Topics Newspapers, (in Illinois) where I work as the Lifestyle Editor. Though there’s constant deadlines, there’s a nearly daily opportunity to learn about people’s lives and contributions to society. There’s never a boring day.  I hope to share a number of articles that I’ve written and my thoughts on writing. It all depends on free time.

By DENISE FLEISCHER

GWN Blogger & Author of Deadly Reservations      

A well-attended bird fair hosted by Midwest Shows takes flight every month at the Rolling Meadows Community Center. If you love birds, this is the place to be.

In the center’s gym, experienced breeders, vendors and artists greeted fair goers Saturday, April 14. Row upon row of bird-specific seeds and mixes, appropriate toys, cages, bedding, perches, food cups and bird-related jewelry were sold.

The fair provides the perfect opportunity to learn about birds’ needs and how to provide the best environment for each breed. Here you will find in traveling cages a variety of finches, parakeets, conures, love birds, cockatiels, bourkes, parrolets, doves, macaws, eclectus, English budgies and a toucan. A word to the wise: Respect the birds and don’t try to pet them. They might not show it but the crowd can be overwhelming. They could bite or fly away.

Fair-goers learned that birds are not simply pretty pets that you feed and change their gravel paper. Many bond with one person and require as much interaction as a young child. Some never wish to be held while others are highly social. Some have a shrilling squawk while others peep. Lifespans vary with each species as well as the care needed.
The Rolling Meadows Community Center is located at 3705 Pheasant Drive. There is a nominal admission fee for the monthly bird fair. The next one will be held Saturday, May 12.

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A cage filled with young parakeets awaiting their new families. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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Walter from Alsip talks to bird fair shoppers and bird lovers about his cockatoo, Clancy. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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An Indian Ringneck loves being cuddled. Gwen, Nicole and Scarlet Nelson of WI learn from the breeder about the bird’s behavior. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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Ten-year old Umbrella Cockatoo, Tolek, shows off his white crest with a little coaxing from his family, John and Kasia. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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Two yellow-headed Amazon’s grooming on large perches not minding fair goers. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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Eighteen-year-old Princess is a Moluccan Cockatoo, a rescue from Michigan.

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A baby cockatiel rests on Ahtziri Santiago of Glendale Heights.

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Aketo and Ishtar are Eclectus parrots.

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Row upon row of bird-specific seeds and mixes, appropriate toys, cages, bedding, perches, food cups and bird-related jewelry were sold. (Denise Fleischer/The Journal)

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I adopted this beautiful green cheek conure and named him/her Cody. My 15-year-old sun conure, passed away a month ago. Marley was the sweetest bird I ever had. I couldn’t be without another conure.

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My article as it appeared in the Journal.