Guest Blog Post – A Forgotten Holiday by Anna Lee Huber


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Today, in the 21stcentury US, the holiday of Twelfth Night has largely been forgotten, but one hundred and fifty years ago, we all would have had a rollicking good time.

Twelfth Night refers to the evening of the twelfth day of Christmas, and is observed as the holy day of Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. It occurs on either January 5thor 6th, depending on your region and religious denomination, and marks the end of the holiday season. Various traditions sprang up around this feast day, and it saw a surge in popularity in medieval and Tudor England. Customs then died out for a time before seeing a resurgence in the Late Regency and early Victorian period.

The center piece of any Twelfth Night celebration is the Twelfth Night cake. These were usually a rich fruit cake made from eggs, butter, fruit, nuts, and spices—a bit like Italian panettone. The king cake now made for Mardi Gras/Carnival in parts of the world is one variation. These cakes were often large and elaborately decorated with sugar frosting and delicate figures made of plaster of Paris or almond paste. Within each cake was baked a dried bean and a dried pea. The man who received the slice of cake with the dried bean became the Lord of Misrule for the evening, and the woman who found the dried pea was his Lady or Queen. In later years, gold tokens were used in place of the bean and pea because they were thought to be more gentile, as well as easier to locate within the baked confection.

The Lord of Misrule—who alternatively might be called the King of the Bean or the Abbot of Unreason—became lord of the evening. His job was to foster fun and mischief, and order his subjects to do all sorts of merry and ridiculous things. No matter how ludicrous the lord’s commands, they had be to be obeyed. He was often outfitted with a paper crown, a scepter, and even a mock throne.

The rest of the party guests formed his mock court, taking on various roles in masquerade. Sometimes these roles were assigned by other items being baked into the cake—a twig for the fool, a rag for the tarty girl, or a clove for the villain. More often they were chosen from slips of paper drawn from a dish. During the late 1820s and onward it become increasingly popular to procure Twelfth Night character cards from stationers who made up large paper sheets that hosts could cut up into individual cards. These could then be sent to guests ahead of time, or drawn from a bowl as the slips of paper. Many of these caricatures were highly irreverent, and some were quite offensive and prejudiced to our more enlightened 21stcentury eyes. The goal of this mock court was to turn society on its head, making the fool the king and the servant the lord, and vice versa.

These parties were characterized by great feasting, drinking, dancing, and singing, as well as parlor games. Decorations were bright and colorful, and no party was complete without a few tricks. The song “Sing a Song of Sixpence” is supposedly inspired by one such notorious Twelfth Night prank. Amateur theatrics were also often staged. These parties were visited by wassailers moving from house to house as they sang and wished their neighbors good health. In exchange, they were given wassail, and a penny for each person along with a cup of cider and a piece of cake.

Holiday decorations were also traditionally removed on Twelfth Night, for it was thought to be bad luck to leave them up after. The Christmas greens were burned and the charred remains of the Yule log—which would have remained burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas to bring the house good fortune for the coming year—were gathered up after the party and kept in a safe place as protection, and so that they could kindle the next year’s Yule log with them.

I had great fun writing about a fictional Twelfth Night party for the opening scenes of A Stroke of Malice, Lady Darby and Gage’s latest adventure, and I hope readers get more than a few laughs from their revelry. It’s inspired me to want to revive this fun holiday tradition, and perhaps it might inspire you, too.


A Stroke of Malice

by Anna Lee Huber,

Berkley Prime Crime Trade Paperback,

April 7, 2020,



Book Review – Grown-Up Pose by Sonya Lalli


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Grown-Up Pose 

By Sonya Lalli

Berkley Trade Paperback

March 24, 2020

Multi-cultural Women’s Fiction

Set In: Vancouver

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this multi-cultural novel. I knew it would be the perfect way to learn about Indian culture: food, language, traditions to beliefs.

“Grown-Up Pose” by Sonya Lalli focuses on Anu Desai, a young nurse who begins to wonder if there’s more to life than being a wife to Neil and mother to Kanika. She loves her young daughter, but feels as if something is missing in her life. Having married when she was very young, she wanted to be a good daughter and do what was expected of her. She has a wonderful home, was nurtured by a caring Indian family, but a part of her still felt unfulfilled. Then there’s her husband’s inability to pick up after himself and to rekindle their romance. All there is left is constant arguments.

When she informed her parents that her husband was moving out, they were in denial. The dismantling of their lovely family seemed unacceptable. Finding happiness and contentment was unknown territory. Anu didn’t know where to start her exploration. By chance, she meets Ryan which has her friends Monica and Jenny worried that she’ll start another serious relationship and miss out yet again in the learning phase of life. She still didn’t know who she was as an individual. She was financially responsible, living within her means and she was a good role model for her daughter. She was grateful for everything in her life and yet she felt as if she was missing out on something. Opportunity doesn’t strike until she steps foot into a nearly empty yoga studio. Until she meets Mags, the owner, and Imogen the yoga trainer. From there, her life takes on a new direction. Her relationship with Ryan becomes a well-learned lesson. Her need to explore what it is to be young and free eventually brings her full circle. She realizes what’s really important in life and how precious it is.

The title says it all. This book is about growing up and realizing what’s truly important. I was interested in following Anu on her journey and in the wings was yelling for her to “not” do certain things. The mom in me, I guess. I was equally interested in her parents’ relationship, their work and goals, and how they supported her. That tension was there when Anu really didn’t want to listen to her parents. Then there was her long-term friendship with Jenny and Monica and a new friendship with Imogen. All in all, Anu learned what it means to truly be involved in a loved one or friend’s life. Sometimes, you don’t have to go too far to find out what’s really important.

Four and a half yoga poses out of five

Denise Fleischer

April 1, 2020

Guest Blog Post – Just How Fictional Are Fictional Characters? By Laurie Cass


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Gone with the Whisker

A Bookmobile Cat Mystery

Mass Market Paperback

Published by Berkley

March 31, 2020

340 pages



One of the questions writers often get from readers is “Are your characters real people?” This is typically followed by “Is your main character yourself?” which comes right before “Do you fictionally kill off real people?” and “Where do you come up with the names for your characters?”

That last question is both the easiest and hardest question to answer. This is because I get names from everywhere, but I almost never remember where any particular name came from. How does that work? Well, I’m a spreadsheet geek, and one of my spreadsheets is cleverly titled “Character List.” This contains the first and last name of every character in the bookmobile cat mysteries (up to 294 names, if you were wondering), a short description, and their age in each of the books.

However, if I scroll down past the 294th name, I have a long-ish list of first and last names that haven’t been used. These names come from the memo pad I carry with me at virtually all times. When I come across a name, I write it down, and then eventually type it into the spreadsheet. I collect names from overheard conversations, from movie credits, from football games, from the newspaper, from the phone book, and (yes, I know this one is a little strange) from cemeteries. What I don’t add to the spreadsheet is where I found the names in the first place, which might have been interesting to know, but 294 names in, it’s way too late.

So. Back to the other questions, which center around using real people as fictional characters. I don’t know what other authors do, but personally, I absolutely do not insert real people into my books (with one exception noted below). I don’t do this for two reasons. One, it would be just weird. Two, my plots would undoubtedly take unplanned and unfortunate twists, because the Real Person character would start doing things the Real Person would do and not what the plot needs the character to do.

And to answer the protagonist-as-myself question, Minnie, heroine of the bookmobile cat mysteries, is very clearly not me. She’s far braver than I am, for one thing, and she has curly hair to my straight. Also, she doesn’t like to cook, something I enjoy, and she has this odd tendency to get involved in murder investigations, something that, if she asked me, I would advise strongly against.

So how do I dream up my characters? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. They just show up, and I’m glad they do!

(The single exception to my No Real People rule is Eddie. Okay, he was a cat, not a person, but for his 17 years he was a beloved part of our family. Thanks to the magic of books, he lives on, and can be a part of your family, too!)

Guest Blog Post – PIVOT, An interesting Concept


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 By Kat Martin

My upcoming release, PIVOT, began as a novella that I wrote to sometime back to introduce my BOSS Inc. series. Ian Brodie was the owner of the security firm, a tall, good-looking blond man, one of the Brodie cousins. The novella was AGAINST THE HEART, a Romantic Suspense set in a rural area of Spokane, Washington.

A year ago, Alicia Condon, my editor at Kensington, came to me with an idea for a collaborative novel that would include novellas by two other authors.  Their stories would revolve around Ian Brodie and Meriwether Jones, the hero and heroine of AGAINST the HEART.  The idea intrigued me and we decided to go forward.

Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti, both bestselling authors of Romantic Suspense, came on board and started writing, taking sub characters from Ian and Meri’s story, telling their own stories, and giving us a glimpse of Ian and Meri’s life going forward.

In PIVOT, Alexandra and Rebecca started with the premise that the three girls involved in the stories shared brutal childhoods and grew up together in foster care.

Now as women, they’re fighting for their lives again.

When Meriwether Jones and her young daughter run from trouble in L.A., that trouble follows. By the time Meri reaches Spokane, she’s out of gas, money, and ideas.  Then her prayers are answered when ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help his aging father. But Meri is keeping a dangerous secret—-and Ian is in danger of losing his heart.

Melanie Cassidy finds trouble when she tries to save a young boy from being kidnapped. The last thing she expects is former love-of-her-life, Detective Gray Hawkins, to appear and rescue them both.  But her good-Samaritan efforts pull her and Gray into a conspiracy of drug dealers and dirty cops—-and forces them to examine the relationship they’d once abandoned.

Michelle Peach is one of Meri’s closet friends. She is finally content in Portland—-until two rough men break into her home and threaten her life.  The last person Michelle wants to see is Evan Boldon, a former Marine turned sheriff. But this time Evan is going to stop the trouble stalking Michelle-—and win her heart for good.

I hope you’ll give this fun read a try. And if you haven’t read the BOSS Inc. series, INTO THE FURY, INTO THE WHIRLWIND, and INTO THE FIRESTORM, I hope you will.

Till next time, happy reading and all best,





She took a calming breath. “Okay, I’ll get you the money.  But the bank is closed on Sunday.  I won’t be able to get the money until tomorrow.”  It didn’t matter what she told Joey.  She wasn’t going to be there when he came back to collect.  “Meet me here at noon.  I’ll have the money for you then.”

“I’ll be here at eleven and you better have at least a couple of thousand. You don’t, Lily comes with me.”

Meri suppressed a shudder.  It was hard to imagine that the man standing in front of her was Lily’s father.  Amazing how just one night–one stupid night–could change your life forever.

“I said I’d get you the money.  Now get out of here and leave me alone.”

Joey tucked the roll of twenties into the pocket of his black leather jacket.  “Tell Lily her daddy sends his love.”

Kat Martin Bio

Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s next hardcover, THE ULTIMATE  BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released on July 28th.





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Paranormal Mystery Author Holly Bell Talks About Writing Paranormal Mysteries


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British author Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not creating novels. She had long-term experience with non-fiction writing before being told she could write cozy mysteries.

Holly devoured all of the Agatha Christie books long before she knew that Miss Marple was the godmother of the Cozy Mystery. Her devotion to JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings meant that her first literary creation in this area would have to be a cozy paranormal.

Having derived immense delight from the adventure of writing Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole and its sequels, Holly has more in the pipeline.

Let’s learn more about Holly Bell and her passion for writing. 

How did you get from writing non-fiction to fiction? That’s quite a leap.

I’ve written a lot of reviews of films and songs, each of those is basically a story. My degree is in history, which is again, a lot of stories both fact and fiction, if you include literature. I have also been a photographer and videographer for many years and if a picture paints a thousand words then a video has an even broader canvas, but again each tells a tale. In hindsight, it was only a matter of time before my first loves, all works of fiction would find a literary outlet.

Your books are quintessentially English and yet your stories are full of characters from diverse cultural backgrounds. How do those two things go together?

I knew from the start that my stories would be set in a village, and as a city girl it would have to be one on the edge of a metropolis so that I could understand it. As a Brit, it would be an English village and one on the edge of London would inevitably reflect the diversity of that capital.

A feature of villages can be a tendency to exclusivity and Sunken Madley has that in that it distinguishes, in a humorous fashion, between those who are long-standing residents, regardless of their cultural heritage, and those who have just moved in or only visiting. Hence we have the best of both worlds, and English, or rather a British, village with essentially the characteristics of those in PG Wodehouse books or Cold Comfort Farm or the Ealing Comedies.

Cozy paranormal mysteries have a certain formula. How is the Amanda Cadabra series distinctive?

Amanda is a different sort of witch. She’s a craftsperson like some other cozy heroines, a furniture restorer but she’s asthmatic. She is, in fact, disabled. She can’t run, jump, chase villains or survive for long in dusty attics and cellars. On the other hand she has a magical familiar who is in a sense a service cat.

Sleuths are normally super-observant. However Amanda is also on the spectrum and that gives her both intellectual advantages and blind spots. Unlike Miss Marple there are a lot of things, especially about people that she just doesn’t see, and anyone of the autistim/Aspergers spectrum will l recognize and relate to that.

Her life depends on her secrecy regarding her magical powers, so she has to be unobtrusive. She can’t afford to be out there, to be sexy, sassy or snarky. Although actually it’s in her nature to be retiring and circumspect.

The genre you write within is light entertainment. Is that all that you are trying to provide or are there any deeper messages in your books?

The diverse community in which people are accepting of one another is something that I hope will inspire acceptance. Lessons I’ve learned in life I do pass on through the voice of Granny and Grandpa and Chief Inspector Hogarth. Also, the books carry a message of respect for the use of power and that responsibilities come with extraordinary abilities.

Above all though, I want to show the best of people, of the world, to encourage optimism and the belief that good will triumph. I want people to put down the book at the end and feel happier, lighter, more hopeful, empowered and complete than they did before. If they do, then my work is done … until the next book!

Cozy witches are usually at the heart of a family or community. Why have you chosen not to follow that trend?

It’s true, she’s not at the hub of the community but she’s loved. She has a very small family, just her grandparents, and her surrogate aunt. In the UK and the US a growing number of people live solo and a lot them like it. Amanda represents those. She is content and at the same time has the desire to share her life with the right person at the right time. I think that’s a healthy example, and one that may comfort and encourage readers who are by themselves in one way or another.

Also, although the villagers sometimes irritate her she’s unfailingly kind and thoughtful towards them. I hope that shows that you don’t have to be sociable to be a good person.

Are your books chick lit?

The main character is female but I think she’d be in the same boat if she were male. Romance has a back seat in the books. Amanda does meet men who are attractive or find her attractive in some way but it’s expressed in communication or her thoughts about them. There is a growing connection with another character but their professional relationship keeps them in a formal holding pattern.

So yes, there’s a romantic thread but it’s subtle and a sub-plot. If chick lit is aimed at young single women I’d say most of my readers are not in that demographic and for that reason alone the series wouldn’t fit into the chick lit category.

I see the attraction of story writing but why cozy paranormal mystery? Why is it important to you personally?

I’m a great believer in feel-better entertainment whether it’s a book, film, performance or visual art. Cozy paranormal mystery is escapist in a positive way, it combines magic, humour and a puzzle. The authors that have journeyed with me through life and give me those things are in particular CS Lewis, Tolkein, Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. I’ve come back to them again and again. They have been the supporting trees in me that have bourne fruit and that fruit is, naturally, cozy paranormal mysteries. In this way, I can give my readers what those authors have given me.

Are there any universal themes in your books?

The triumph of good over evil, is the most obvious.

But I think many people do live covert lives of one kind or another because of being or feeling different and that those differences will be unacceptable to those around them. Even some jobs require great discretion. The main character’s need to keep her witchcraft secret is something that many readers will relate to either for themselves or someone they know.

What are the challenges of touching on serious themes in writing cozy mysteries?

It’s important to keep things light. This is entertainment after all. Even moments of tension need to be quickly followed with relief or humour. The signposts to deeper levels need to be apparent for those looking for them and easily ignored by readers who just want to enjoy the plot.

Above all, if you had to some up in one word what you want your books to inspire, what would it be?



Guest Post by Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of Lavender Blue Murder


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Lavender Blue Murder

By Laura Childs

Part of A Tea Shop Mystery

Published by Berkley

Hardcover $26.00

March 3, 2020

322 pages

Writing Mysteries with the Shiver Factor

Every mystery writer worth his or her salt is constantly striving to deliver that all-important shiver factor. You desperately want your reader to picture your novel’s creepy setting, you want every word to be so filled with imagery that they drink in every scene – tasting the salty breeze, smelling perfumed magnolias in the early evening dusk, and detecting an ominous crunch of footsteps on gravel behind them. You want your reader’s heart to bump a little faster and think, “Who’s that following me? What’s happening here?”

When I set my Tea Shop Mysteries in Charleston, SC, I hit the jackpot. Charleston happens to be one of America’s most haunted cities. It has haunted mansions, headless Civil War ghosts, narrow cobblestone lanes with flickering gaslights, and dark, low-country bayous that stretch for miles. A Charleston cemetery always makes the perfect setting for a somber funeral, dangerous tiptoe-through-the-tombstones chase, or even a nighttime ghost sighting.

Edgar Allan Poe made his home here for a while. In fact, his famous poem, Annabel Lee, references Charleston as the “kingdom by the sea.” There are also haunted beaches where countless pirates were hanged to death. And Charleston’s eccentricity offers grand architecture and fine old families with disreputable skeletons in the closet.

As a counterpoint to the spooky aura I create, my main character, Theodosia Browning, is an optimistic, strong woman – a savvy entrepreneur who left a nerve-jangling marketing job to follow her dream and open a tea shop on Charleston’s famed Church Street. When encountering mysterious circumstances, Theodosia proves to be an intelligent, focused, amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on “coincidences” or inept police work to solve crimes. She jumps right into Charleston society, rubs elbows with the right (and wrong) people, and digs for information.

In Lavender Blue Murder, Theodosia and her tea sommelier Drayton are enjoying a British-style day of shooting at Creekmore Plantation where gunshots explode like Black Cat firecrackers. But when the distinctive pop of a handgun sounds too close for comfort, Theodosia wanders into a neighboring lavender field and discovers their host Reginald Doyle bleeding to death. Hours later, a fire rips through the Doyle’s plantation house. A shooting and a fire feel way too coincidental, so Theodosia launches an investigation. Fingers are pointed, suspects abound, and old secrets are revealed even as Reginald’s daughter-in law is missing and presumed drowned. A wild, cross-country chase with more shots fired reveals the killer.

There’s honest-to-goodness history here in Charleston and it’s all there for the taking. And here’s something that always makes me smile: many of the grand Historic District homes feature backyards that are utterly breathtaking with pattering fountains, pools, marble statues, and riots of flowers. But they’re never seen by anyone except a small handful of privacy-minded residents.

There is, however, a way you can partake of these magical, hushed settings. An author who’s been there can put down the words, take your hand, and gently pull you in for a good long peek. Are you interested? Then come along with me to Charleston and let’s both enjoy hallowed Southern traditions, dine on she-crab soup and spicy shrimp with tasso gravy, step inside the drop-dead gorgeous mansions and drink thirty-year-old Bourbon in Baccarat crystal. Let’s crash this fine eccentric city known as Charleston!


Laura Childs

Find me at or on Facebook at Laura Childs Author

Laura Childs Bio

Laura Childs is the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All have been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, and has a new Chinese Shar-Pei puppy named Lotus.



Guest Blog Post – Living in La La Land By Jennifer J. Chow


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MIMI LEE GETS A CLUE: A Sassy Cat Mystery

By Jennifer J. Chow

Berkley Prime Crime Trade paperback

March 10, 2020


I’d never planned on living in Los Angeles. However, I ended up moving here in order to get my master’s degree at UCLA. At the time, I figured I’d flee the traffic-heavy, smog-infested area right after completing my required two years of study. Well, fast forward a few years, and I’d stayed put.

I ended up working in the area and had gotten married by then, so I chose to settle down. I started re-evaluating my initial (and sometimes faulty) impressions of Los Angeles and found many silver linings to staying.

Here are my top five fact vs. fiction insights:

  1. Lotsa traffic. Okay, this perception is true. I personally experienced the slow crawl of cars leaving downtown Los Angeles and trailing behind others’ taillights on the congested freeway. However, as a local, I’ve now discovered sneaky ways to bypass the traffic. I often switch to local roads to speed up my traveling. Also, by knowing the traffic patterns, I pick more optimal times for driving to avoid getting stuck.
  2. Smog city. Los Angeles is known for its air pollution. We do have unclean air, but at least on the American Lung Association’s website, we’re not number one for particle pollution—that distinction goes to the Central Valley. We are, though, tops for having high ozone levels. However, we’re aware of the problem, and officials are trying to brainstorm innovative solutions to improve the air quality here. As an aside, I actually appreciate how the smog creates prettier sunsets—those gorgeous reds and oranges are amazing to behold.
  3. Baywatch bodies. When I first got to L.A., I remember seeing (and hearing) advertisements about how I could create a more improved version of myself, whether by eating vitamins, exercising, or undergoing surgery. This fixation on appearance confounded me, but I thought, “Maybe it’s because we’re so close to Hollywood.” While I have seen some knockouts in L.A., what I’ve noticed more is the diversity of the people who live here. There are different ages, ethnicities, and body types, and I love this variety. Bonus: There’s a huge array of delicious cuisines to choose from because of the vast number of cultures represented in the area.
  4. Natural disasters. Yes, we’re prone to earthquakes (and it is common that people sometimes barely blink at a tremor, as depicted in A. Story—a movie others made me watch when I first arrived in Los Angeles). Beyond the disasters, though, we also have access to natural marvels. There are rugged mountains and verdant forests to the north, plus golden sand and glistening waves to the west. Even the stark beauty of the desert is nearby, like at Joshua Tree National Park.
  5. Hollywood glitz. In grad school, my roommate oohed over how she’d seen the ponytail of a celebrity. I’ve also known coworkers who would haunt Pink’s Hot Dogs just to get a glimpse of somebody famous. And out-of-town friends do enjoy purchasing a Star Map and spying on celebrity homes. I myself enjoyed the excitement of a red carpet event one time—okay, so I was only within goggling distance. However, I have rubbed shoulders with a few better-known figures and up-and-coming creative individuals. What I appreciate about meeting them isn’t their glamour but their artistry and perseverance. I connect with them since I’m also pursuing my own passion of writing.

I hope both the fabulous and quirky atmosphere of Los Angeles comes through in my newest novel, Mimi Lee Gets a Clue. The first in the new Sassy Cat mystery series, it features a L.A. pet groomer whose dream career gets disrupted when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a dog breeder. But with the help of her snarky cat and a dreamy lawyer neighbor, maybe she can get back to living the LA dream and running her store, Hollywoof.

So, even if you can’t come and visit L.A., perhaps you can do some virtual traveling through my book. Wishing you lots of happy reading!


Book Review – The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel

By Simone St. James

Berkley Hardcover

Suspense, Mystery Fiction

Feb. 18, 2020

326 pages, $26.00

On Nov. 29, 1982 at 11:24 p.m. Viv Delaney, the night shift clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fells, New York went missing. We learn that shortly before her disappearance, Tracey Waters was found in a ditch off Melborn Road, ten miles away from the motel.

Thirty-five years later, Vivian’s niece, Carly, finds a clipping of her aunt’s disappearance and points it out to her mother. Carly wasn’t aware of it. Her mother simply states, “Vivian is dead.” She offers no explanation as to why there was no statewide missing person’s search, no national media. So Carly decides to go to Fells, New York to find out what she can about her aunt.

Both Viv and Carly’s experiences are presented to allow the reader to follow their observations and actions. Viv was on her way to New York with the goal of becoming an actress. She gets as far as Fells, New York and one hell of a creepy motel where people check in and don’t check out. That’s where she gets a night shift job because she’s low on cash and there just happens to be a job opening. It isn’t long before paranormal events start occurring. Meaning the spirits that reside there are restless and anxious and partly because of another presence.

The living guests are up to no good sneaking around quite frequently. When Viv calls in a fight in the parking lot she meets Alma, a policewoman and that’s when she learns about the death of a guest and an employee. A third she sees walking around and hears her banging doors.

Carly not only takes Viv’s old job but by chance stays in her old apartment. Her temporary roommate lends a hand and a few opinions in helping her trace the events leading up to her missing aunt’s final recorded days.

I don’t love too many books, but I loved this one. Part of the reason is the author captured the setting perfectly. I actually felt what it was like sitting in the motel’s office while all the night-time events were unfolding: doors slamming out of frustration, anger, acknowledgment. The smell of cigarette smoke announcing a man’s presence. A child crying out for help. The book was descriptive and unsettling. It triggered your inner intuition. It made you ask questions and yell out to the characters to get the hell out of there. One thing, I’ve read from other reviews, that some people weren’t happy with the ending. I just think that the one who resolved it figured that it was time to tell the truth. I wonder why the detectives didn’t figure it out and investigate it more. Did they just want to sweep it under the rug? Let this community, and the motel, live with the dark facts and reputation? The problem is not all the dead are silenced.

five motel guest books out of five

Denise Fleischer

March 11 2020

Guest Blog Post – The Delicious Food of Blue Lake By Julia Buckley


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Like most people, I love food, especially the food I eat on vacation in wonderful cafes, diners and restaurants tucked into scenic locations. These leisurely meals often become the most memorable moments of a trip.

Blue Lake is sort of a hidden tourist destination: it doesn’t do much to advertise itself, but visitors still find it. And when they’re strolling down its picturesque streets, they encounter some wonderful restaurants, like Willoughby’s Diner (where Lena has her first real meeting with Sam), Wheat Grass (an elegant eatery owned by Adam Rayburn), Coffee Dreams (which Lena enjoys in the current Blue Lake novel), and a variety of other wonderful places described in all of the books.

In the current novel, DEATH WITH A DARK RED ROSE, Lena meets a true culinary genius—someone who can make just about anything with an innate sense for how to put it together. Her first taste of his food is a caramel apple that he has transformed into something she’s never tasted before. Later, he makes parmesan chicken sandwiches, and then quiche.

Why so much food? Well, we all have something I would call food memory. That is, we feel nostalgic for good meals we’ve eaten—probably not just for the food itself, but for the circumstances in which we ate it. For example, Lena will always remember the breakfast she shared with Sam, and in her memory, no waffles will taste as delicious as the one she shared with him.

This notion of food memory can work well in a piece of fiction; it can make the setting feel authentic because we enjoy going into these fun eateries with our characters, and watching what they order. We can live vicariously through them, consuming everything from omelets to slices of birthday cake. Lena just so happens to be planning a birthday party for her employer and friend, Camilla Graham, and the culinary details of this party are also something the reader might find interesting.

Food becomes an important detail in any story because food is a reality that brings people together. In DEATH WITH A DARK RED ROSE, Lena will bond with people over food, and it will lead her into a dark and mysterious story.

Death With A Dark Red Rose

By Julia Buckley

A Writer’s Apprentice Mystery

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99

Published by Berkley

Feb 25, 2020 | 304 Pages

ISBN 9780451491930


New Title: And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton


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By Stephanie Marie Thornton



March 10, 2020

Purchase on Amazon

Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.

But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.

About the author

Stephanie Marie Thornton is a USA Today bestselling author and a high school history teacher. She lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter.


“And They Called It Camelot is the book club pick of the year. Stephanie Marie Thornton brings an American icon to life: Jackie the debutante, the First Lady, the survivor who at last becomes the heroine of her own story.Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress

“An extraordinary profile of the courage and grace of the indomitable Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, And They Called it Camelot is impeccably researched and richly drawn. Thornton celebrates the former First Lady’s life in a sweeping account filled with poignant intimacy. Readers are instantly transported to Jackie’s version of Camelot as they immerse themselves in the fascinating and tumultuous history of the times. An unputdownable, unforgettable read.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Next Year in Havana

“Addictive, dishy, and emotionally haunting, this novel paints an intimate portrait of a tumultuous marriage that played out on the world’s stage and ended in national tragedy.  Loving and losing one of history’s most charismatic American presidents marks Jaqueline Kennedy’s life ever after, but oh, how she rises up from the ashes. Vivid, engrossing, and utterly unforgettable, And They Called It Camelot is Thornton’s best work yet.” Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling coauthor of America’s First Daughter