Book Review – Broken Bone China by Laura Childs

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Broken Bone China

A Tea Shop Mystery

By Laura Childs

Berkley Prime Crime Hardcover

March 5, 2019

$26.00

Living dangerously is a natural part of Theodosia Browning’s life. As owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, it’s not uncommon for her to schedule a themed tea party, but the majority of the time, instead of serving her customers, a special blend of tea, she’s trying to solve a murder.

In the latest Tea Shop Mystery, Theo and her resident sommelier, Drayton, are enjoying a hot air balloon ride with the Top Flight Balloon club after hosting an afternoon tea in Hampton Park. When the skies turn dark, the peaceful scene of balloons gliding turns into a front row seat to a deadly attack when one of the balloons is struck by a drone. The deadly device claims the life of three businessmen right before their eyes.

Theo’s friend’s fiance is immediately caught in Detective Tidwell’s suspect radar. Why is simple: he owns a drone and was fired from SyncSoft. One of the men killed in the hot air balloon was Don Kingsley, the software company’s CEO. Harold doesn’t seem to be a murderer. He was fired from his job because he said they were doing something wrong that would affect a lot of people and he didn’t want to be silent about it. But, interesting enough, there’s another investigative angle. Let’s talk about the valuable Revolutionary War British flag that a number of collectors know about and would like to get their greedy little hands on. One seems to really care about preserving the past and she has the degree to prove it. Or, so she says. Then there are a number of others trying to figure out where the now-missing flag is so they can grab it and sell it for a considerable profit.

As always, Laura’s novels are a welcoming retreat from a busy real life. Though you were told what the weapon was from the beginning, figuring out who the operator was created a challenge. Let’s hope that such a device is never used this way. I liked the historical angle. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to find a military flag from that era. It reminds you how easily historical artifacts can get in the wrong hands. Also, I would like to see the “truth” not revealed so quickly. More suspense is needed. Maybe that’s just the editing process to keep the books a certain length.

What I’d like to see in future books in the series, Theo getting to spend more time with the man she’s crazy about. Maybe learn more about Theo’s family or meet a family member. Drayton doing something out of character for once. The man needs to loosen up and have at least one night of fun. Don’t remember if it was mentioned before, but I’d love for Haley to create a cookbook.

four and three-quarter drones out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

April 18, 2019

Next review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

 

NOTE TO PR REPS, AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS. Have you ever thought of promoting a book through a virtual chat? If you download the firestorm viewer for Mac or PC, then create an avatar on https://web.ourgrid.life, you can then visit Inspiration Island and Landar Studio to be a chat guest or for a book reading. IM Netera Landar in-world for more information or Netera@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

Ten facts about 1831 London and AN ARTLESS DEMISE by Anna Lee Huber

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  1. While writing the first novel in the Lady Darby series, The Anatomist’s Wife, I already had the story arc in mind that would take Kiera and Gage through to the plot of An Artless Demise (Book 7). Given Kiera’s macabre backstory, and the connection with Burke and Hare—the infamous pair of murderers in Edinburgh who sold their victims to the anatomists for dissection—I knew that she had to be present in London in November 1831 when the so-called London Burkers were discovered. And I knew with the public’s panic and outcry, and the gruesome discoveries that were brought to life, she could not pass through it all unscathed.

 

  1. The London Burkers were arrested on November 5, 1831 on suspicion of murder and then attempting to sell the body of a boy to the anatomists at King’s College in London. They were called “burkers” after William Burke, who had been executed in Edinburgh almost three-years prior for murdering at least fifteen people and selling their bodies to the anatomists along with his partner Hare, who escaped the noose when he turned king’s evidence against Burke. The term “burking” referred to the method they’d used to kill their victims. The same method that the London Burkers were suspected of utilizing. The London Burkers were known resurrectionists, and when the news of their arrest on suspicion of murder got out, panic swept through the city. The populace was terrified that this victim—the Italian Boy, as he came to be called—was not the first prey of these murderous body snatchers and their associates, and would not be the last.

 

  1. While I wanted to utilize the tale of the London Burkers in An Artless Demise, I knew I could only insert Kiera and Gage into the real inquiry on the periphery. So I decided to have them investigate a crime that could run parallel to the historical record of that famous inquest and trial. And what better way to do so then have the fictional murder be suspected of being another burking.

 

  1. Britain in the late 1820s and early 1830s was in great danger of collapsing in on itself, and fear of revolution was rampant. After all, the horrors of the Reign of Terror in France were only forty years in the past. The world was changing at a record pace. The Industrial Revolution steamed forward. There was an urgent need for fundamental changes in almost all aspects of society, and yet the government was slow to implement new laws. Eventually, a number of ground-breaking new legislation would finally be adopted by Parliament, but the road to their passage was not an easy one. Kiera and Gage, and their families and friends, are very much caught up in the tumult of their time.

 

  1. The teeth and hair were often removed from corpses by the resurrectionists before the bodies were sold to an anatomist or medical school. They would then sell these “off-cuts” separately to dentists and wigmakers in order to turn a greater profit.

 

  1. In the heyday of the resurrection trade, there were certain pubs and inns which acted as unofficial guild halls for the body snatchers. Not only could the body snatchers drink in these establishments without being regarded with disgust by the other patrons, but they could also make contact with those individuals who performed services indirectly for the trade—porters and such—and they could provide each other with tips and warnings. In the most brazen of these pubs they would even store bodies under the benches while they went out to make a bargain with one of the medical schools.

 

  1. Before the Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829 London did not possess a unified police force. It was monitored by a hodgepodge of various parish constables, patrols, and the Bow Street Runners. The New Police were a step in the right direction, though the manner in which they operated was a far cry from the police forces we know today. However, when the act was first implemented, it was highly controversial, and faced great hostility from the public. Adding to their difficulty, the New Police were not an investigative force. Their job was to prevent crime, not to investigate it after it occurred. That job was still left to the infamous Bow Street Runners.

 

  1. Because the economies of many of the Italian states had been devastated in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, large numbers of Italians immigrated to Great Britain in the early 19th. Many welcomed them, particularly if they possessed one of their home country’s renowned skills in crafting optical devices, musical instruments, puppets, or waxworks. However, there was a dark side to this mass migration. Men called padroni would pay impoverished Italian peasants for the services of their sons, claiming they would teach them a useful skill. But more often than not they were treated as little better than slaves and sent out into the streets to exhibit small animals or sell wax and plaster figures for their masters. They would have been particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous men like the London Burkers.

 

  1. The meat that came from the slaughtered animals driven in to Smithfield at the heart of The City several times a week was divided into three categories: Prime, Seconds, and Cag-mag. Cag-mag was the poorest quality, and sold to the unfortunate to supplement their diets. The etymology of the term is macabrely humorous. “Cag” or “cack” means “excrement,” while “mag” is slang for a farthing (a low denomination of coinage). So cag-mag literally means “cheap crap.”

 

  1. Such was the seriousness of the discovery that a Burke and Hare-style gang of resurrectionist murderers might be at work in London, that the Home Secretary Viscount Melbourne took a direct interest in the case. Though generally considered somewhat apathetic and dithering when it came to matters of urban society, particularly when compared to his predecessor Robert Peel, Melbourne asked the vestry clerk, James Corder, to keep him abreast of any developments in the inquest, no matter the hour. The growing number of parents, guardians, and concerned citizens who stepped forward to report missing children horrified him as much as it did many.

Book Review – The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams, Notes From Denise

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The Whispered Word

By Ellery Adams

Kensington

Dec. 2018

Mystery Series, book 2

$26.00

Author’s website: ElleryAdamsMysteries.com

Setting: Miracle Springs, North Carolina

Read an ARC the publisher provided

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n Ellery Adam’s “The Whispered Word” a mysterious and extremely thin young woman has found shelter in Nora Pennington’s bookshop. The members of the “Secret, Book and Scone Society” have no idea where she’s from or why she’s on the run. There’s no reason to believe the young woman will trust them enough to share her story. The only thing they know is that she has a unique ability to make something magical with only a few materials.

Nora’s nurturing manner guides her to open her home to the young woman known as Abilene. With patience and empathy, the girl will eventually reveal the nature of her difficult circumstances. In the meantime, they needed to deliver their kindness bags to local residents having financial issues. During one of their deliveries they discover the unthinkable. The body in the pond just happens to be someone they know. No sooner do the authorities pull Amanda out of the disgusting water, does her son immediately appear to be interested in selling her rare book collection. Nora and her friends quickly learn that Amanda and her son didn’t have a close relationship. Clearly, he’s after whatever funds he can dig up. But the plot gets more complicated with a second alleged murder.

The mystery points to several possibilities: Amanda’s son, a local appraiser, and the person Abilene is running from. This time I didn’t figure out who the killer was. Way to go Ellery.

This is the second book in A Secret, Book, and Scone Society series. I continued to relate and care for Nora and her friends. These women have lived difficult lives and somehow survived them. They have earned their wisdom. I looked forward to the challenges and their special bond. I was drawn to the heartache and fear of Abilene and wondered why Nora couldn’t trust her. Why she always feels more comfortable being alone. I think Nora has to break out of  her little protected world and live again. If the guilt that’s crept into her soul continues to grow, she has to find a healing way out.

Money and deception are at the heart of this book. Looking forward to the next in the series.

four and a half rare books out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

April 6, 2019

 


 

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–Notes from Denise

Author of Deadly Reservations and GWN blogger

I read The Woman in Cabin 10which wasn’t on my TBR review list, and loved it. My daughter, Lauren, bought me another one of Ruth’s books. It’s in one of my bookcases and I have to dig it out. I think you should read it. It’s pretty darn good.
After having breakfast at Walker Brothers, my 819C5-ySiOLpartner drove me to Barnes and Noble and I just happened to find the 9781496718990_p0_v2_s550x406next “Mac” book by Melinda Metz. If you’re a cat lover you have to read Talk to the Paw, that’s the first book. I bought The Secret Life of Mac  this time around. Think furry matchmaker and that’s who this lovable tabby is. I think Mac can give some lessons to human beings. Most of the time we don’t have a clue how to bring happiness to others.

9780451490711_p0_v3_s550x406I’m currently reading A Dangerous Collaboration (Berkley Hardcover; March 12, 2019). From page one, I’ve love Deanna Raybourn’s style of writing. I love Veronica Speedwell’s liberated attitude and actions as a Victorian-era sleuth. She’s a lepidopterist by trade. That means, she travels around the world collecting rare specimens of butterflies. As for secondary characters, brothers Tiberius and Stoker have that lost era personality and culture. You’ll want to meet them. I’ll have a review as soon as I finish. Kind of wish I had the other books in the series, as well.

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I bought an adorable Lang blank journal so I can start writing poetry 
image001-3again. You’ve got to love the ability to share your thoughts with the rest of the world.

After I finish reading, A Dangerous Collaboration, I’ll be reading Winter Sisters (Penguin, fiction) by Robin Oliveira next. It’s a “gripping thriller, part family saga and ultimately a story of trauma and resilience that explores the tremendous good and unspeakable evil of which humans are capable.” The novel is set in New York, 1879. I haven’t read many historicals from this time period so I’m interested in learning about society then.

For guest blog post requests, book reviews, and blog tours either write Netera@aol.com or paranormal77@icloud.com.

 

GWN 3 day blog tour spot screen save

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post – The Story of Wally by mystery author Julia Buckley

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We’ve all visited those lovely little resort towns that sit on lakes or rivers and make wonderful escapes when we’ve had too much of urban life. In my Writer’s Apprentice novels, Blue Lake is just such a town, and like any real vacation escape, its streets are lined with storefronts. Every one of these doors leads to new stories, fascinating lore, interesting people.

death-waits-in-the-darkOne of the first places Lena London discovered when she came to town in Book One (A Dark and Stormy Murder) was a hardware store called Bick’s. In the slightly musty lobby of this eccentric and whimsical place stands a giant Grizzly bear who holds a sign that says “Bick’s is Best.” For a year, Lena walks in and out of Bick’s to pursue various purchases or to mail letters in the ancient post office at the back of the store, but only in Book Four (Death Waits in the Dark), does Lena learn the story of the Grizzly. His name was Wally.

Wally, in life, had been a fixture at the Riverton Zoo, a couple hours from Blue Lake. Beloved by all of Riverton and by zoo visitors from far and wide, Wally enjoyed a long life and formed a loving bond with his caretaker. When the bear died of old age, his keeper asked to have Wally preserved in the hopes of keeping some part of his majestic bear alive for posterity. The man received permission and Wally became a work of taxidermy, similar to the fellow pictured here (from Wikimedia Commons). Through a series of events that are made clear in the book, Wally makes his way to Mr. Bick, and for years he has stood guard in the lobby of Bick’s Hardware. Lena learns this information and feels neglectful—she has passed Wally so many times, but she had never learned his story.

With each door she enters in Blue Lake, Lena learns more about the people—and the animals—who populate her town.

In the latest installment, she also learns a great deal about the past. Her employer, the suspense novelist Camilla Graham, is confronted by a woman who threatens to reveal “Graham family secrets” if Camilla does not come clean. Unfortunately, Camilla has no idea what the woman means, and everyone in the Graham family is dead. She and Lena must come together to find out secrets from the past before someone sullies the family name of Camilla’s dear deceased husband, James.

As they search, they find dark secrets—and death.

Death Waits in the Dark can be pre-ordered now!

Thriller Alert – The Girlfriend

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A mother. A son. His girlfriend. And the lie they’ll wish had never been told.

Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three-year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but hasn’t led Laura’s golden life. And she wants it.

When tragedy strikes, a decision is made and a lie is told. A lie so terrible it changes their lives forever…

The Girlfriend is a taut and wickedly twisted debut psychological thriller—a novel of subtle sabotage, retaliation, jealousy and fear, which pivots on an unforgivable lie, and examines the mother–son–daughter-in-law relationship in a chilling new light.

“One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I loved The Girlfriend!” –Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

The Girlfriend is a taut psychological thriller, the evil chillingly drawn. Every character is layered and beautifully twisted. Makes me consider running background checks on any potential spouses my children bring home!” –Karen Rose, New York Times bestselling author

“A juicy thriller and utterly compulsive reading.” –Jenny Blackhurst, author of How I Lost You

“An original and chilling portrayal of twisted relationships.” –Debbie Howells, author of The Bones of You

Blog Tour: SALVATORE by Cecy Robson

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SALVATORE by Cecy Robson Publication Date: March 13, 2019 Genres: Adult, Gritty, Contemporary, Romance, Standalone

Salvatore

By Cecy Robson

Chapter One

“What do you think, Salvatore?”

Donnie taps her iPad with her long red nails when she finds yet another pair of shoes she wants. Like I actually give a shit what she’s buying with Vincent’s money.

“Sure. Get them,” I answer, not bothering to really look and fixing my gaze back on the door.

She pouts in that way that annoys me, but probably gets Vin hard. “That’s what you said about the other six. I’m serious. Which ones should I get?”

I don’t have to tell her that Vincent will buy her whatever she wants so long as she keeps blowing him, but I come close. The muscles along my back are ready to tear away from the bone. Every nerve along my spine fires a warning that shit’s about to go down. But I don’t show it, my face giving nothing away. “Donnie, I’m paid to watch your back. Not help you pick out shoes,” I mutter.

She starts to argue, but a knock to the door shuts her up, so does me motioning her to the corner. She may spend her days worrying about what she looks like and what she’ll wear, but she’s not stupid enough to ignore me.

I lean against the wall, opposite the door. Donnie might have shrugged off Vin yelling down the hall, but I didn’t. He isn’t happy. Neither are the other mob bosses in Jersey. It won’t be long before hell itself rains down on us. “Yeah?” I ask, keeping my deep voice casual, like my piece isn’t already clutched in my hands.

“Vincent wants you in on the meeting,” Lucca says.

Lucca’s smart. And for someone who hasn’t been in the family long, he’s tough and good on his feet. But I pick up enough in his voice to know this meeting’s not going as planned. So maybe Vin didn’t send for me. Maybe Lucca thinks I’m needed. If so, things are a lot worse than I thought.

Donnie looks at me, her preoccupation with shoes nothing more than a memory. “Lock the door behind me,” I tell her.

She rushes forward. I snag her elbow and pull her in tight to whisper in her ear. “You hear shots, you leave out the back, through the alley and down the street. Find a diner, a store, any place with lots of people. Got me?”

She nods, but she’s trembling already. Shots fired means there are plenty more to come. The other family knows who Donnie is to Vin. But if they don’t know she’s here or if they find her with too many witnesses, she’ll be okay.

She clutches my arm when I start to leave. “Sal . . .” she says.

Donatella and me are from the old neighborhood. We’ve known each other since back when we were kids and we were too stupid to know shit about organized crime. Now, we’re more stupid, because we’re willingly a part of it. She wants to say something like “be careful” or “keep him safe” or something else I don’t need to hear. So, I don’t.

I crack open the door, making sure Lucca’s standing there alone, and step out.

His eyes cut toward the hall leading to Vincent’s office, where he’s meeting with Arturo, the boss in charge of most of South Jersey, including Atlantic City. Yeah. Shit’s going down. But I don’t move until Donnie clicks the door lock behind me.

Lucca starts forward, moving fast. I haul him back. “Easy,” I mutter.

That’s all he needs to hear. He slows, mimicking my pace and stance, chest out, hand curled near the piece at his waist, face hard and unreadable.

Arturo’s men stand in unison when we round the corner. At the sight of me, Vin’s men rise, too. They see what I want them to see in me and Lucca and me. A united front. It solidifies our crew and tenses Arturo’s. As Vin’s crew fixes their hard stares on the other family, I know they’re ready for what the next few minutes will bring.

I reach Vin’s office door. It’s open, wide open, and it pisses me off. An open door shows weakness and it demonstrates how scared Vin is about being alone with the other boss.

I march in and take point to Vin’s right. Lucca starts to head to his opposite side, but he catches the subtle motion of my left hand that tells him to stay by the door. I want to tell him to shut the door and lock it, but I can’t without raising the paranoia already thickening the air. Like I said, Lucca’s smart. He shuts the door and flicks the deadbolt.

Arturo huffs when he realizes he’s closed in. “What the fuck’s this?” He doesn’t turn around from where he’s seated directly in front of Vin, but his second sitting beside him and his enforcer straighten at my presence. I expected them to react upon seeing me, but I don’t expect the same response from Vin’s third, Angelo. Their reaction is so subtle that everyone gathered seems to miss it. But me, I don’t miss a thing, ever. The one time I did, it cost me the only woman I’ve ever loved.

“Just a little privacy, Mr. Sorenzo,” I answer, because Vin waited too long to respond and he’s already lost enough face.

Vin eases back in his chair. He knows I’m there and that I have his back, but his fingers digging into the armrest give away he’s scared shitless. Christ. How many times have I told him to keep his hands relaxed and his expression like stone? His ailing father has been grooming him to take over his empire for six fucking years and Vin’s still not ready. The other bosses are honing in on his incompetence. Which is why I’m not sure how much longer I can help keep Vin alive.

“Let’s get back to business,” Vin says, trying to sound harder than he is.

Arturo smiles in that sleazy way of his and tosses a hand out. “I believe we’ve reached a standstill,” he says.

“You’re right, we have,” Vin fires back, getting pissed. Good, anger is better than fear and, right now, it’s exactly what he needs. He leans forward. “You’re not getting the rest of A.C. And you’re not getting an eighty percent―”

My 380 auto is out and pointed at Arturo’s enforcer before his fingers reach the hilt. “Move and I’ll blow your fucking head off.” Without me telling him, Lucca rams his guns in the back of Arturo’s and his second’s skulls. Smart guy. I reach for my 9 mil tucked in my leather jacket, not even blinking when I shoot Vin’s third in the leg, blowing out his knee cap.

With a scream, Angelo falls to the floor howling. “What the fuck?” Vin growls, leaping to his feet.

I don’t explain why I shot one of his made men, someone he trusted. My next bullet goes into the enforcer, the impact and his pain enough to send him flying off his chair. He went for his Sig. I wasn’t waiting for him to pull the trigger. Outside, all hell’s breaking loose, my heartbeat pounding fast in my chest until I hear the voices of Vin’s family taking control.

Less than a minute later, a sharp rap to the door is followed by Benny’s deep voice. “Sal?”

“All clear,” I tell him, my tone steady. “You?”

It’s not my words that he believes, it’s the confidence behind them. “All clear,” he responds in the same tone, letting me know they have Arturo’s men on the ground.

Vin’s reaching into the drawer, pulling out his Glock. To his credit, he’s not questioning anything anymore, not after Arturo’s enforcer went for his piece. He’s reining in his shit like he needs to.

Lucca covers me as I strip everyone of their weapons. Angelo is wailing like the little bitch he is. The enforcer is swearing, pressing the wound to his shoulder as blood seeps through his fingers. I intentionally missed his heart. But no one needs to know that.

I drop the weapons beside Vin and far out of everyone’s reach. Arturo and his second haven’t said a damn thing. They weren’t scared of Vin before. But they are now.

I’m not sure what Vin’s going to say. My fear is, he may say the wrong thing in front of Lucca that makes him look pathetic. Lucca is loyal, so are a few others, but if they keep seeing Vin acting like he’s acting, they’ll lose whatever respect he’s managed outside his title of boss.

“Vin knew you were playing him, you pussy,” I tell Angelo, lying through my teeth. “Were you going to kill him in front of Arturo? Was that your way into the family, you lying piece of shit?”

In not answering, he answers enough. At Vin’s nod, Lucca puts a bullet in Arturo’s second, and finishes off the enforcer.

Vin motions to the door. “Call in a few of my men,” he tells me.

I unlock the door and do as he asks, after I make sure everything is still under control. Vin’s not ready to be boss, but he isn’t stupid, at least not completely. He knows Arturo needs to die by his hands and that he needs witnesses to see as much. I pick three who have started to question Vin’s strength, knowing they’ll tell the rest of the family what’s about to go down, and to show them what happens to those who don’t stay loyal.

The men pile in, but Vin doesn’t let them get too comfortable. He shoots Arturo in the face with his Glock while the last two who enter are still busy taking in Angelo writhing on the floor. Vin keeps his face neutral, his confidence returning now that he knows his life isn’t immediately on the line.

I take a step back when he prowls toward Angelo. Angelo was Vin’s trusted third. To be who Vin wants to be, he has to send a message. But I don’t tell him that. It’s something he needs to realize on his own. “What did he promise you after you killed me, pussy?” he asks Angelo.

Angelo doesn’t deny his intention. Doesn’t beg for his life. He knows it’s over. So, he hits Vin the only way he can. “Your father’s the pussy for letting a chicken shit like you take over.”

Vin’s heel comes down hard on Angelo’s face, smashing his nose in. But he doesn’t stop there. He snatches the paperweight on his desk and flings himself to the floor, bashing Angelo’s face in, not stopping until the side of his temple caves inward.

To anyone eyeing me, it looks like I’m watching everything and immune to it all. Yeah. My face never gives anything away. That doesn’t mean my body’s not punishing me on the inside. I fight back the nausea working its way through my gut and how hard my heartbeat thunders out of control. Weakness in the mob and in life gets you killed. I need to live, despite how my sins have all but sliced my throat.

“Fuck,” one of the boys says, looking away. He’s new and probably has killed with his gun. But shooting someone is easy. Too easy. It’s not intimate. Not like killing someone with your bare hands like Vin just did.

Vin stumbles to his feet, out of breath and covered with plenty of Angelo’s DNA. His face twists as if angry, which makes him look good, but I know better. “Get rid of them,” he says, spitting out blood that hit his mouth.

“What about his men?” someone else asks.

“All of them need to go,” Vin says, falling back into the leather seat behind his chair.

“All right, boss,” another says.

Vin’s focus darts my way. He expects an approving nod from me. But he isn’t going to get it. As much as I’m a part of this shit, it doesn’t mean I like it.

Or that I don’t want out.

* * *

I climb into my Range Rover and shut the door tight. Vin’s hand is shaking as he takes a drag of his cigarette. I knew he wasn’t going to keep it together long, so I made it like he needed to be away from the cleanup in case someone heard the shots and called it in.

“Is Donnie coming?” he asks, sprawling across the back seat.

“Yeah. She’s picking out girls she thinks you might like. Says she’ll be right out.”

I snagged Donnie at a street festival a few blocks away after I secured Vin in my ride. She flung her arms around me and started crying when she saw me. I quickly pulled her off me and led her to Vin. Donnie cares as much as someone like her can, and mostly for all the wrong reasons. I know this and, maybe, she does, too, which is why we’re outside a strip club Vin owns waiting on her and whoever she’s recruiting to lift Vin’s spirits.

“How many girls is she bringing?”

“Two, maybe more,” I answer, not because she told me, more because this has become the norm.

“Yeah, she knows how to take care of me,” he says with a laugh, despite how his hand continues to tremble.

This isn’t the first time Vin’s killed with his hands or the first time I’ve watched him do it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t fucked with my mind or given me more nightmares to stash in my memories. Christ, it took all I had not to puke, seeing all those bodies lying in a mound and the mess Vin made of Angelo’s head. But I still have a conscience. Real mob bosses surrender their’s to get what they need. If he’s going to be one, he needs to lose what’s left of his fast.

He takes another drag, his forced humor fading. “How long has Angelo been playing two sides?”

“No idea,” I mumble.

He straightens. “Then how did you know Angelo was in on it?”

I rub my eyes. I’m only twenty-seven and I already feel too old for this shit. “He tensed at the same time and in the same way Arturo and his second did.”

Vin curses under his breath and reaches for another cigarette. “I didn’t see shit and I was looking at them the whole time. How the hell do you pick up on these things?”

“It comes from the years I spent fighting,” I answer, looking out through my tinted windows and wondering what the hell is keeping Donnie.

“In the octagon?” Vin asks.

Vin knows I fought in the mixed martial arts circuit for a few years, just like he knows I fought anyone who messed with me on the street. We’ve known each other since we were kids and long before his father became the most feared man in Jersey. I’m not sure why he’s asking, but don’t bother to question it. Vin isn’t the same guy I once called a friend.

“Yeah,” I mumble. “It helped me anticipate my opponent’s next move.”

“You miss that shit?” he asks.

Considering I was on my way to becoming the next light heavy weight champion? Hell, yeah. Fighting in the MMA put money in my pocket and gave me a way to unleash my rage. But neither were enough when push came to shove. “It was all right,” I tell him.

Vin takes a few more drags before he says, “I want you to think about watching my back full-time. I’ll pay you a hell of a lot more if you do.”

Any other boss would just tell me this is what I’m doing and not give me a choice. But for all Vin’s not the same guy I once knew, he was there when my world imploded around me. And in hiring me to watch his mistress, he’s able to keep me on the mob payroll without staining my hands with their blood. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made a lot of people bleed. It only means I haven’t killed anyone. Yet.

“I make enough watching your gumad,” I respond.

Vin doesn’t like my answer, but he doesn’t push it. After what went down with Angelo and with his second serving time, I’m the only person he completely trusts. But, despite our friendship, the time’s coming when I’ll no longer have a choice but to do what he wants.

In killing Arturo, Vin will either gain respect from the other bosses or turn them against him and the family. I don’t think any of the higher-ups want war, but they’re greedy and looking to expand their domains. My gut tells me that when Vin’s father Carmine dies, the cards unfold. But they won’t be in Vin’s favor, and if he doesn’t wise up fast, none of us will make it out alive.

The back door to the strip club opens and Donnie steps out, leading three laughing and almost naked women in clear heels forward.

“I won’t forget what you did for me today, Sal,” Vin says, right before the women pile in.

He won’t. I know that. Just like I know I added a nail to my own damn casket the day I went to him for help.

I’m supposed to take Vin and his dates back to Donnie’s. But Vin’s not waiting to get there. I crank the engine when I hear his zipper yanked down and the first sound of smacking lips. He groans, likely relieved the day is finally going in the direction he wants.

You, go take care of my buddy, Sal,” he says between sharp intakes of breath.

I stiffen and not in a good way when a blonde with more hairspray than brains falls laughing into the front seat. With a hard stomp, I step on the brake and set my SUV in park. She’s already naked by the time I reach into the center console and shove a condom in her hand.

She huffs. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No. I’m not.”

She looks insulted, but I don’t care. She’s going to do what Vin’s paying her to do, whether I want her to or not. It takes a while for me to get hard enough for her to roll the condom in place. Once she does, she immediately buries her face in my lap.

I lean my head back against the headrest. I should enjoy what’s happening. And at one point I did, seeing it as the perks of the job.

Now, all I wonder about is how my life became what it is, and how I’ll ever survive it.

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Blog Tour – Excerpt from Kat Martin’s new novel “The Conspiracy”

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The Conspiracy, by Kat Martin

EXCERPT 

In the throes of wild monkey sex with Harper Winston, Chase awoke covered in a film of perspiration, an unwelcome throbbing beneath the sheet.  Cursing, he sat up in bed and ran a hand over his face.  Only a dream.  Or in this case, a nightmare.

He shoved his fingers through his sweat-damp hair. Jesus God, he couldn’t remember a dream that had felt more real.  Or ever being more aroused.

Swearing foully, he rolled out of bed.  His brother Bran would get an I-told-you-so laugh out of his misery, but Chase didn’t find his unwanted attraction to a Winston the least bit funny.

Not when Harper’s father ran his world much like a Mafia don, a highly successful criminal enterprise that allowed him to get away with murder–literally.  Everyone in the Dallas underworld knew that to cross Knox Winston might get you dead. The DA’s office turned a blind eye, along with the dirty cops on Knox’s payroll.

Aside from the legitimate businesses Knox now ran–from motels, restaurants, and laundries, to larger enterprises like hotel chains, no one really seemed to know how Knox had actually amassed his fortune. Since his son had once been Chase’s best friend, Chase didn’t want to know, either.

He wondered how much Harper knew about her father’s activities.  Not much, he would guess, since Knox had gone to great lengths to keep his children under the illusion he was just a mega-successful businessman.  And Harper had been gone from Dallas for years.

Chase had a hunch Michael had suspected, that it was part of the reason he had turned to alcohol and drugs, but they had never talked about it.

Padding naked into the bathroom, he reached into the shower and turned on the water, setting the temperature a little colder than he liked.  He wanted to wash Harper’s beautiful face out of his head, the memory of her small, perfect breasts that–thank God–he had never actually seen.

Pulling on his jeans and a short-sleeved yellow Oxford shirt, he was ready to meet with Dutch, who had arranged a boat to Curacao. They could have gone by plane, but he wanted the flexibility to check, if necessary, other spots around the island once they got there.

He wished he was going by himself instead of dragging a woman into what might turn out to be a bad situation.  But as he walked into the living room, Harper came out of the other bedroom, straw hat in hand, dressed and ready to go.  His mind flashed back to the hot, erotic dream, and a shot of lust hit him like a fist.

Chase dragged in a lungful of air and forced himself to think of something else.  Palm trees might have worked if she hadn’t walked close enough for him to catch a whiff of her soft perfume.

“Good morning,” she said.  “Sleep okay?”

Jesus God, help him.  He didn’t want to think of the dream, refused to allow his mind to slide back into the gutter.  Chase had never been more grateful to hear his iPhone ring.

Pulling his cell out of his pocket, he recognized Tabby’s number and pressed the phone against his ear.  “What have you got for me, Tab?”

“Pia’s phone pinged at the Zee Winden Marina in Curacao, same as Michael’s.  Both phones are now inactive.”

Not good.  He could contact the authorities in Curacao, but he could probably be there before the investigation–such as it would likely be–actually got underway. And once he got the police involved it would limit what he would be able to do.

“Anything else?”

“Not at the moment.  If I get something I’ll call.”

“Thanks, Tab.  You’re the best.”  Chase hung up the phone, his mind back on the case.  In his business, the job had to come first.  People’s lives depended on it.

“What did she say?” Harper asked.

“Zee Winden Marina in Curacao, same as your brother. Call Christy and tell her, then pack an overnight bag.  We might not get back tonight.”

So saying, he grabbed the duffle, now packed, he had brought empty in his carryon, something smaller, a little easier to manage. Just a dupe kit, clean underwear, a dress shirt and slacks, high-topped boots and cargo pants, things that might be useful as they moved into uncharted territory, where his search for Michael might lead.

A few minutes later, Harper walked back into the living room carrying the colorful oversized canvas bag she had carried onto the plane.  It was stuffed full and zipped shut ready to go.  She had pulled her hair into a pony tail, but flyaway pale blond strands floated around her face, gleaming like pale spun gold.

The heat returned to his groin.  Dammit, what was there about her?

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 sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Her last novel, BEYOND CONTROL, hit both big lists … NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST as well as the USA TODAY BEST-SELLING BOOKS LIST. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods: Coincidences and Mysteries

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By Emily Brightwell

Writers long to write about what captivates them, and I’m no exception. When I was working on Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods, I explored an idea that has always intrigued me: coincidence. In my opinion, coincidence is a great, unknowable, and exciting mystery. Skeptical people believe that coincidence is merely two random and logically unrelated events happening simultaneously, but I want it to be more than that. I see coincidences nudging us towards a different way of looking at the universe; to questioning the great unknowns of existence. Do we get any answers? I’m not sure, but when it happens to me, the coincidence makes me stop and then think about the world from a different point of view. One of my main characters in the novel, Mrs. Goodge, feels the same way.

You see coincidences all the time in daily life. You are about to call someone you haven’t contacted in months; the phone rings, and it’s that very person. When you’re on vacation in Hawaii, you run into someone from your church, or you get on a plane and find out that two people you used to work with are on the same flight (yes, that really happened to me.) Something like that has happened to all of us, but usually we can brush it off without too much thought. Not if you are a mystery author.

Since the beginning of time, storytellers have used coincidence, random chance, fate, and destiny to make philosophical points, or simply to move their plot lines along. All of those ideas can and have been at the heart of some wonderful tales….but is it okay to use “coincidences” in a murder mystery? Of course it is, as far as I’m concerned. Anything that happens in real life can and should be used in fiction. You just have to play fair with your readers.

In Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods, the idea of playing and having a bit of fun with my love of coincidence was too hard to resist.  Oh, don’t panic now. I didn’t cheat and solve the murder by using any “coincidence” trick to catch the killer. I’d never do that. But I did use the device to illustrate something I genuinely believe: sometimes the universe uses coincidence to tell us that no matter how smart or clever we might think we are, there could well be forces impacting our lives that we don’t acknowledge or understand. Just ask Mrs. Goodge. She’s a strong, no-nonsense character who has lived a long time and isn’t easily fooled.  Yet she sees the coincidences in “Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods” as a mysterious force giving our intrepid band of sleuths a helping hand. The others in the household aren’t so sure. There’s only one-way to resolve this conflict – you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself.

 

 

Guest Blog Post – On Finding Your Own Voice by Emmanuella Hristova

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Emmanuella Hristova

 

upon inspiration

You came, conquered,

stole my heart and

left me with a Moleskin full of

pensive poems documenting unrequited love

exposed on cream, lined pages.

 

By Emmanuella Hristova

I never intended to be a poet. And I never set out to write a poetry book either. What happened instead, was a series of tragic events that forced me to turn inward—into a diary. What began as feminist musings into a green Moleskin notebook after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, turned into page after page about an unfolding romance. For, I was falling in love for the first time.

kissescover4However, in the turbulent and unsettling times of our twenties and fresh out of college, this love didn’t last, when he dumped me on the prospect of taking a job in another state. Two weeks later, I found out my sister was dying. Her cancer had progressed to stage four, which had metastasized to her liver and the rest of her body. I was crushed; utterly devasted at this relationship that had slipped out of my fingers and that I would lose my sister.

So in between day-to-day activities when I felt like life was suffocating me, I wrote in my notebook, and when the emotions felt like they would overtake me, I wrote some more. When she passed away less than three months later, I wrote even more. And nine months later, I had a whole notebook chalk-full of poems documenting the darkest, most painful experiences of my life. But, because these emotions were so raw and painful for me at the time, I tucked the notebook away and didn’t look at it for two years. But when I finally did, I realized I had written a book. I shared some poems with a best friend—and she told me to publish. I collaborated with my dear coworker and editor, Maria Ciccone, who helped me curate the order of the chapters and the poems and who really helped me define my voice.

The final chapter called The Aftermath is about dealing with sexism and misogyny, but it also thanks women for all of their unappreciated accomplishments. “The final chapter looks toward your future, your current voice—which is bold, courageous, and empowering women,” Maria reminded me. I wanted to share my work with other women, so they too could heal through poetry the way I did. But ultimately it was through these tragedies that my creativity flowed out, that I dealt with my pain, and through which I became a poet.

You can pick up The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder via eBook for $3.99 here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CP43MLJ

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder/id1373349304?mt=11

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder-emmanuella-hristova/1128549978?ean=9780578203942

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder

Bookshout: https://bookshout.com/ebooks/the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder

Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/emmanuella-hristova/the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder/ebook/product-23763003.html

Check out the ratings on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40772784-the-day-my-kisses-tasted-like-disorder

Emmanuella Hristova was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the Bay Area. She is the third daughter to Bulgarian parents who immigrated to California shortly before she was born. In 2015, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. She began writing poetry at age twenty-four when she was in graduate school. She earned her Master’s in Education from the same alma mater in 2017. Emmanuella spent two years as an English teacher in Richmond, California. During that time, she self-published her first poetry collection: The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder. Currently, she is writing her first novel. You can find her on Instagram: @emmy_speaks and her website www.ehristova.com

Michelle Frances’ new novel will have you thinking twice about temporary staff

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