Guest Blog Post: Grand, But on a Smaller Scale…The Making of a Library Mystery By Dorothy St. James

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I’ve always been drawn to the Grand Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. Its lofty goal to collect every book ever written tickled my imagination. What books had they collected? And then after thriving for 300 years its subsequent destruction is such a tragic tale. As a teen, I would weep whenever I’d read about it. Big, ugly sobs. It wasn’t a pretty sight. But I’m sure you agree with me that it is horrible to think about. All those books lost. All that knowledge lost. What could be worse than that?

I’ve always wanted to write about it. But if I did write about it, I’d want to change history. My writer mind would desperately try to save all those books. Plus, I’m not a historian. It would take years of research to get even the most basic details right.

Still, I love the story idea. It nagged at me. And nagged at me. And NAGGED at me. All right already! I’ll do something. Just not in ancient times. And I WILL change history, thank you very much.

While trying to figure out how to manage this history-changing task I’d set out for myself, I stumbled upon an article about how some libraries were being converted into bookless technological centers. Ebooks, computers, maker spaces, and online resources would replace the slightly musty, leathery-scented stacks. This article got me to thinking about the tug of war between the digital and analog world.

When I researched the burning of the Grand Library of Alexandria, I learned that historians couldn’t identify one main fire that caused the destruction of the scrolls. Many agree that the library suffered loses over time from various sources. Invading forces swept through the city. Various religions moved in and out of the city, which kept values shifting. Some scrolls were burned when Julius Caesar laid siege. Some scrolls were used to fuel the Roman baths. And some scrolls may have been removed and taken to other places. Like the changes that happen in any society, over time the importance of the Grand Library of Alexandria (sadly) faded away.

And that, dear reader, is how the idea for my Beloved Bookroom Mystery series was born. I decided to blend what I knew about the ancient past with what is happening in our world today. With the restrictions of sticking to writing a historical mystery saga lifted, I decided to set my books in a small South Carolina town because I live in South Carolina and small towns are my passion. Next, I created a heroine (Trudell Becket) who is an unassuming assistant librarian. She has never traveled outside the southeast. After all, the unsung heroes—the quiet ones who work diligently without the fanfare—are the heroes who keep the world going. I wanted to explore and celebrate the life of someone like that, someone who might have worked at the Library of Alexandria but whose name never made it into any history book.

Before getting too far into the writing process, I visited a librarian who works for the library in the Southern town where I grew up. She walked me through the process of how libraries periodically purge books from their collections. This is necessary to make room for new books that are fresh from the printers. If the older books being removed still have some value, the library will sell them. Otherwise, these old, time-worn books will find themselves shipped off to the landfill.

This librarian, who was so generous with her time, also told me about her personal passion, a passion I didn’t know about when I asked to talk with her. She collected and sold rare and antique books. Some books, you see, can be worth quite a bit of money. Hearing about her experiences in the antiquity book market played into the idea for the book I wanted to write quite nicely.

Oh, and what is her role at the library? She is the Emerging Technologies Librarian. When working at the library, she has her feet firmly placed in the digital world while her personal passion is antique books. If you can’t tell, I loved that about her. She was the living embodiment of the book series I had tasked myself into creating. How lucky can an author get?

And that’s how my mystery about the burning of the Grand Library in Alexandria with a small town twist sprang to life. I hope you take a moment to check out, The Broken Spine and its delightful cast of characters as my spunky assistant librarian scrambles to save the books in her library.

The Broken Spine, which has been called a mystery that “is destined to become a favorite of all book lovers” by Miranda James, New York Times bestselling author of Cat Me if You Can, is the first book in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. It arrived in bookstores everywhere January 19, 2021.

When a small-town librarian sets up a secret bookroom in her newly modernized library, she discovers that protecting the printed word harder than she’d ever imagined.

 In fact, it’s murder.

Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mysteries and the Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries. She lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her sculptor husband. Dorothy is a member of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sister’s in Crime (SInC). This is her first Beloved Bookroom Mystery.

Follow Dorothy Online:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothy.stjames

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothywrites

Instagram: www.instagram.com/dorothymcfalls

Website: www.dorothystjames.com

The Broken Spine Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086SCQ639

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-broken-spine-dorothy-st-james/1136806393?ean=9780593098578

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-broken-spine/9780593098578

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781087855806

Guest Blog Post – The Beauty of Standalones by Jeff Markowitz

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I have tremendous respect for writers who can pen a series and keep the characters and the storylines fresh, but I prefer writing and reading standalones. I like the freedom that a standalone offers. I like the risk. So, after writing three books in the Cassie O’Malley Mystery series, I turned my attention to standalones.

Hit or Miss is my second standalone. It’s part detective story, part historical fiction, part coming of age story, and, as I write this, it’s an Amazon Hot New Release in political fiction.

I have always been fascinated by the blending of anti-war politics, eastern spirituality, sex, drugs and rock and roll that came to be known as the counterculture, and by the underlying innocence of those turbulent years.

About Hit or Miss

When you’re twenty-one years old, it can be hard, under the best of circumstances, to balance the demands of your father and the desires of your girlfriend. For Ben Miller and his girlfriend Emily Bayard, circumstances are far from perfect. Emily’s mother has been murdered. Ben’s father, a detective in Dutch Neck catches the case.

Set against the backdrop of the cultural and political unrest associated with the war in Viet Nam, Emily and Ben find themselves attracted by the politics and lifestyle of the counterculture. As Detective Miller conducts the homicide investigation and Dr. Bayard attempts to keep an affair with his secretary secret, everyone else in the town of Dutch Neck that summer of 1970 has the same question.

Who is responsible for the death of Rosalie Bayard?

Brief Excerpt

Thousands of young people were on the mall, and more were streaming in by the minute. Willow, and her hippie friends staked out a spot near the Lincoln Memorial. Emily wandered the length of the National Mall, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capital Building and back again, determined to take it all in. There was a buzz in the morning air. The President appeared unannounced on the Ellipse at dawn and chatted with a small group of demonstrators. He wished them an enjoyable stay in the nation’s capital. Everyone Emily met on the Mall claimed to have seen him. The day was hot; the Mall was dry and dusty. There were crowds of people everywhere, an uneasy mixture of antiwar protestors, soldiers and police units, newsmen and onlookers. Protestors flashed peace signs and sang the fish cheer. Young Republicans responded with middle-finger salutes.

Emily didn’t know most of the speakers at the demonstration, but she like the message. End the Cambodian incursion. End the war in Vietnam. She located a pay phone and used her spare change to call Ben.

“It’s amazing. You should be here.” She had to yell to be heard. Demonstrators continued to pour into the Mall. “Is anything happening in Dutch Neck?”

“You need to come home.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“That’s not what I mean. It’s your mother.”

“What about my mother?”

Ben didn’t answer right away. The phone line crackled with static.

A scuffle broke out on the Mall. Police moved in quickly, weapons at the ready, cutting the small group of protestors off from the larger crowd. The confrontation pulled Emily’s attention away from the phone call.

“Your mother is dead.”

Later, the news would report that there were more than one hundred thousand demonstrators on the national mall, but at that moment, amidst the pushing and shoving, Emily felt like she was alone in the world. Without more change to feed the phone, the line went dead. She dropped the pay phone and turned, nearly bumping into a cop.

“Stay back,” he ordered, his hand on his weapon.

“She’s dead,” she replied and kept walking.

He pointed the gun at Emily’s head. “Who’s dead?”

She could feel anger in the policeman, but also restraint. Days removed from Kent State, it was as if no one wanted to provoke the next shooting. The policeman holstered his weapon. Shouts of “pig” were replaced by prayers for peace. Emily breathed a sigh of relief and answered the officer’s question.

“My mother.”

“Do you have a way to get home?”

Emily told the officer about Miss Cooper and the apartment on C Street. He offered to give her a ride. If anyone saw her in the patrol car, she would tell them that she had been arrested.

About the Author

Jeff Markowitz (www.jeffmarkowitz.com) is the author of 5 mysteries, including the award-winning dark comedy, Death and White Diamonds. His new book, Hit or Miss, was released in December. Part detective story, part historical fiction, part coming of age story, Hit or Miss is an Amazon Hot New Release in political fiction. Jeff spent more than 40 years creating community-based programs and services for children and adults with autism, before retiring in 2018 to devote more time to writing. Jeff is Past President of the NY chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Monmouth Junction, NJ with his wife Carol and two cats, Virgil and Aeneas.

 

Guest Blog Post – What is a Spanish Prisoner? By Victoria Thompson

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As you may already know, my Counterfeit Lady Series features the adventures of reformed con artist Elizabeth Miles. Elizabeth now uses her skills to help people with problems for which the law cannot get them justice. Each book features an elaborate con that may or may not go as planned but always ends the right way. The Spanish Prisoner is one of the oldest cons, dating back to the early 1800s, and I’ve been wanting to use it for a long time now. It involves a person being trapped in a foreign country and needing a large amount of money to escape.  Luckily, this con works beautifully in my new book, CITY OF SCHEMES.

Since CITY OF SCHEMES is set in early 1919, just after WWI ended, my original idea was that someone tries to con a returning U.S. soldier by telling him a girl he knew in France needs to be rescued and brought to America. It turns out that many American Dough Boys married British and French women they met during the war and brought them to the U.S. as War Brides when the war was over. This soldier was not free to marry, however, so he had to leave his lover behind.

When the soldier asks Elizabeth’s fiancé, Gideon Bates, for help, Elizabeth easily recognizes the con as the Spanish Prisoner, and she arranges another con to counter the original one. Then she discovers that her old nemesis, Oscar Thornton has discovered Elizabeth didn’t die as he had believed, and he demands she return the money he was conned out of a year earlier or else he will ruin her. Elizabeth arranges another con in order to protect herself and Gideon from Thornton. Before you know it, three cons are operating simultaneously, and they all come together in the end for one spectacular conclusion, just in time for Elizabeth and Gideon’s wedding to come off without a scandal.

Fortunately, most of us have no personal experience with con artists, but the internet has opened many new opportunities for people to be cheated. What warnings have you found most helpful in avoiding online scams?

About Victoria Thompson

 

Victoria Thompson is the USA Today bestselling author of the Edgar® and Agatha Award nominated Gaslight Mystery Series and the Sue Grafton Memorial Award finalist Counterfeit Lady Series. She has published 26 mysteries. She currently teaches in the Master’s program for writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.

 

 

Guest Blog Post – Beginnings by Emmie Caldwell

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As an author, I’m often asked how I come up with my ideas, and I admit I don’t always know. They pretty much just come. But thinking about my new Craft Corner Knitters Mystery Series, I realized some of the inspiration for it came from an earlier series of mine: the Craft Corner Mysteries.

In that series, which I loved writing, my main character, Jo, owned a craft shop. It carried supplies for DIY craft projects like wreath-making and scrapbooking. My secondary character in that series, Carrie, was a knitter who taught knitting classes at the shop.

I wrote two cozy mystery series after that – The Pickled and Preserved Mysteries and The Keepsake Cove Mysteries, writing both as Mary Ellen Hughes. But crafts and knitting apparently stuck in my brain, though when they started shouting for attention, knitting let me know it wanted center stage this time, and crafts, while happy to take a small step back, wanted a much broader venue.

I was more than happy to comply and made my main character in A Wicked Yarn an excellent knitter. The broader stage that crafts demanded became a craft fair filled with professional craftspeople, vendors who filled booths with everything from ornamental metalwork to baskets, pottery, and more. My knitter, Lia, of course, ran a booth for her own knits and those of her knitting group, who dubbed themselves The Ninth Street Knitters.

From there, the rest of the story elements just galloped into place. My craft fair was set in Crandalsburg, a small town in Pennsylvania with Civil War-related roots. The craft fair manager was Lia’s good friend Belinda, and it was she who encouraged Lia to become a vendor. I gave Lia a daughter, who visited often from Philadelphia but who eventually became a source of some worry.

Of course, being a mystery, the book needed to have a murder, but that was easy and, actually the fun part (Sorry, but I’m a mystery author, and I love writing about murders!). Once I had my victim, the suspects just lined up, begging to be chosen, because that’s how things tend to go. After those basic decisions, all that remained was getting it down on paper.

Although the original inspiration for A Wicked Yarn sprouted from my Craft Corner series, the book itself eventually became something very different as it grew and developed. I could describe the process as a little like being inspired by a pullover ski sweater but ending up somehow with an Aran cardigan. Both, of course, perfectly nice, warm and cozy.

Until, of course, the murder occurs.

About the Author

Emmie Caldwell is the national bestselling author of the Keepsake Cove Mysteries, the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries, the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, written under the name Mary Ellen Hughes. A native of Wisconsin, she’s lived most of her adult life in Maryland, which has inspired many of her stories.

 

Guest Blog Post – “Would You Let Hawkeye Operate on You?” By E.J. Copperman

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In 1979, Alan Alda, then playing Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on the TV series M*A*S*H, gave a commencement address to the graduating class at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. This brought new depth to the long-ago advertising catchphrase, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”

The line between reality and popular culture was severely blurred that day, as Alda himself noted in his speech:

It’s certainly true that I’m not a doctor. I have a long list of non-qualifications. In the first place I’m not a great fan of blood. I don’t mind people’s having it, I just don’t enjoy seeing them wear it. I have yet to see a real operation because the mere smell of a hospital reminds me of a previous appointment. And my knowledge of anatomy resides in the clear understanding that the hip bone is connected to the leg bone. I am not a doctor. But you have asked me, and all in all, I think you made a wonderful choice.”

Perhaps so. But there is a percentage of the American public who probably thought that Mr. Alda was a doctor because the illusion was so deftly presented. It was one step removed from Harvard Law School inviting Judge Reinhold to deliver their commencement speech, which they never did.

But it did strike a chord with me, largely because my graduation speaker was John Kenneth Galbraith, and despite having introduced him to the crowd of 10,000 or so, I managed to fall asleep during his speech as well. The man was no Alan Alda.

What did leave an impression though, was the fact that a respected institution of learning would invite a person who pretended to be a doctor to address its medical school. It would be like having me address a worldwide meeting of Mensa.

That stayed with me (the Alda thing, not Mensa) until I wrote Inherit the Shoes, the first book in the new Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series. In this novel, New Jersey prosecutor Sandy Moss moves to Los Angeles to give up putting people in jail and deal with family law. But her first divorce case turns into a murder trial – and Sandy is on the unfamiliar side of criminal defense – when her client, a TV actor who plays a lawyer (you can see where this is going) is accused of murdering his estranged wife… with a bow and arrow from a John Wayne movie.

Yes, there is a scene where the actor, Patrick McNabb, addresses the graduating class of an L.A. law firm. And stuff happens there. And if you think I’m going to tell you what, you are clearly naïve.

The line between entertainment and fact becomes increasingly blurry. Actors and comedians and TV hosts are thrust into political and activist roles, sometimes to a great effect and other times… not. You choose which ones you think fall on either side of the line.

In Inherit the Shoes it’s clear enough: Patrick McNabb should not be giving future attorneys advice because he can convincingly portray one on a television show. But he does, and people like it (except for the ones who don’t) and that’s all you’re hearing from me about that.

If you want to know more, well, you know which book to buy.

E.J. Copperman is a figment of someone’s imagination. Yet E.J. never just pretends to be an author, as can be evidenced by the Haunted Guesthouse, Asperger’s, Mysterious Detective and Agent to the Paws mystery series, now being joined by the Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series. Inherit the Shoes is available now, and E.J. would love to know what you think of it.

 

Blog Tour Spotlight – The Ultimate Betrayal by Kat Martin

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Excerpt for:

The Ultimate Betrayal By Kat Martin

Published: Dec. 29, 2020

They ordered-in Chinese and Bran turned the TV on in the living room, but neither of them were in the mood to watch.  Jessie knew exactly what she was in the mood for. She hadn’t thought about sex this much in the last three years. Now, every time she looked at Bran, having sex with him was all she could think of.

Everything about him turned her on. The cadence of his voice, the way he laughed, the way he moved. Just watching him amble across the living room sent a curl of heat into the pit of her stomach.

What would it be like to kiss him?  Run her hands over all the lean, hard muscles she had seen and couldn’t get out of her head?  What would it be like if he made love to her?

Would she ruin it the way she had when she had tried before?  Start thinking about Ray Cummings and the intimate way he had touched her? Conjure images of the rape he had planned to carry out the third night if she hadn’t managed to escape?

Fidgety and unable to relax, she headed for the pool, Bran reluctantly accompanying her.  Exercising in the warm water was the perfect stress reliever. She glanced over to where he paced the deck at the opposite end of the pool, tall and lean-muscled, blue-eyed, and built. Nothing better than swimming–except for hours of erotic sex with the man of her fantasies.

It seemed so outrageous she found herself grinning as she stroked to the far end of the pool. She was still smiling when she came up out of the water, dripping and adjusting her swimsuit, just a few feet away from him.

“What’s so funny?” Bran asked, as grumpy tonight as he had been the night before.

She looked into his hard, handsome face and some little devil made her say it.  “If you really want to know, I was thinking what it might be like to have wild, uninhibited sex with you.”

Hunger flashed in his eyes so quickly she took a step back. “Is that so,” he drawled, his gaze running over her, assessing every curve her orange-striped bikini displayed.

Her whole body flushed with heat as she realized she wasn’t the only one who’d been thinking about sex.

She swallowed. “I was imagining what it might be like, but I…  I know if we tried, I’d screw it up. After Ray, I’ve got, you know, hang-ups.”

His gaze grew more intense. “What kind of hang-ups?”

She picked her towel up off the mesh table next to a lounge chair and quickly dried off, then slipped on her white terrycloth robe. Fortunately, the overhead lights began to flash, signaling it was time for the pool to close.

“Time to leave.”  She started walking back to the room, wishing she’d kept her mouth shut. By the time Bran opened the door and checked inside to be sure it was safe, she was starting to relax.

“What hang-ups?” Bran said as he closed the door behind them.

Jessie’s stomach instantly knotted.  What had possessed her to mention it?  But Bran had opened up to her yesterday, which meant she owed him the same courtesy today.

Trying to appear nonchalant, she shrugged.  “You know, kissing’s okay, but if a guy starts touching me, my mind flashes back to Ray Cummings and I-I start thinking about the way he touched me, where he touched me, and pretty soon sex is the last thing I want to happen.”

Bran’s jaw looked iron hard. “He rape you?”

She swallowed and shook her head.  “On the third day, just before he got home, I managed to get loose. I couldn’t get out of the basement, so I searched for a weapon.”  Her lips trembled as the memory became all too clear. “I found a wooden box and pried a board loose. The board had a nail in the end so I held it like a bat, and I-I waited till he came down the stairs.”

“Go on,” Bran said so softly she felt a chill.

“He always wore this black knit ski mask with a red ring around the mouth, which made him look even more terrifying. Knowing what he planned to do gave me courage. The minute he stepped off the bottom step, I swung the board as hard as I could and smashed him in the side of the head.  As soon as he hit the floor, I starting whacking him over and over with the nail in the end of the board.  He was unconscious and bleeding when I took off running.”

“Finish it,” Bran said when she paused, more a demand than a request.

Her voice trembled. “The woman in the house next door let me in and called the police. Ray was still unconscious when they got there. Turned out he was a serial rapist. He had abducted four other women and locked them up just like me.  Eventually, he released them somewhere, but they couldn’t identify him or the place he had taken them. I was the only one who escaped.”

She was shaking. She didn’t realize she had tears in her eyes till Bran pulled her into his arms.

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 latest novel, THE ULTIMATE  BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, was released in paperback December 29th.

 

THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL – PAPERBACK

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Guest Blog Post – COMMUNITY AND COZIES by Jennifer Hawkins

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There are a lot of joys in writing a cozy mystery.  I love creating the puzzle and laying out the clues.  I get a thrill of evil delight when I can come up with a particularly tricky red herring. Plus, I am a nerd of the old school, so I get excited about any project that lets me do research. In the case of To Fetch a Felon, I got to dive into the world of dogs, and how they move through their lives and bond with their owners and experience the world through their senses.

But I was writing To Fetch a Felon in 2020, our mutual pandemic year. I really appreciated the chance to escape to the village of Trevena, to think about tea and sweets. While I leaned into “pandemic baking” in real life (I’m very proud of the sourdough starter I’ve kept going for the whole year), I leaned into recipes and possibilities for Emma’s new tea shop in my mind. The Great British Baking Show was a lifeline for both of us.

Trevena is based on a village called Tintagel in Cornwall where I had visited back in the nineties while researching another set of books, so it provided me a way to travel in my mind even while my body was stuck in the house.

But what the process of writing the first Chatty Corgi really reminded me of was the importance of community.  One of the foundations of cozy mystery is the community the sleuth finds for themselves — English village, American small town, city block, the location matters less than the camaraderie among the people.  They can be friends, or blood relations, old friends or new, a book club, a coven, a set of shop owners. Cozies are about people coming together to help each other. It is one of the reasons I have always loved the genre. This year, though, isolating at home, I came to realize how important that aspect was.  As I wrote, and as I read, I could bring my people together, and be reminded that in real life, me and my people will be together again. With tea. And cake. And good books for us all.

The Facts:

Title: To Fetch a Felon

Series: A Chatty Gorgi Mystery

Author: Jennifer Hawkins

Publisher: Berkley

Format: paperback, $7.99, 336 pages

Published on: Dec. 29, 2020

Read an excerpt: here

Buy It: On Amazon, or Barnes & Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Hawkins is a Michigan-based author of cozy mysteries. She’s also a mom, binge reader, corgi enthusiast, and a lover of All Things British. For tea, she prefers a second flush Darjeeling with milk. She also makes a killer (so to speak) lemon curd.

 

New Title – A Wicked Yarn by Emma Caldwell

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A Wicked Yarn

By Emmie Caldwell

Part of A Craft Fair Knitters Mystery

Published by Berkley Dec. 29, 2020

Mass Market Paperback, $7.99 304 pages

ABOUT A WICKED YARN

A killer may craft the perfect crime, but as every knitter worth her yarn knows–murder wool out.

Mother’s Day should be a cinch for the good folks of the Crandalsburg Craft Fair, and knitting enthusiast Lia Geiger has a good feeling about this year’s yield. But things quickly get knotty when Lia’s daughter announces she’s quit her job and Lia finds herself tangled up in the murder of her best friend’s ex-husband. While Belinda’s alibi quickly gets her off the hook, nasty rumors spread throughout Crandalsburg that shroud the entire fair in suspicion.

Could the vendors be responsible for the murder of a man hell-bent on unraveling the fair just days before his death? Lia and her crafty group of Ninth Street Knitters must put down their needles to gather clues and save the crafting community they’ve grown to love.

About the Author

Emmie Caldwell is the national bestselling author of the Keepsake Cove Mysteries, the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries, the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, written under the name Mary Ellen Hughes. A native of Wisconsin, she’s lived most of her adult life in Maryland, which has inspired many of her stories.

Book Review – The Restoration of Celia Fairchild by Marie Bostwick

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Title: The Restoration of Celia Fairchild

Author: Marie Bostwick

Publisher: William Morrow

Format: trade paperback, 389 pages, $16.99 U.S./$21.00 Canada

Will be published: March 2021

Set in: Manhattan, New York and  Charleston, South Carolina

Pre-order: Amazon    Barnes

Author’s Website: this way to learn more about Marie

Celia Fairchild, a 30-something E list celeb from New York, has been writing a “Dear Calpurnia” column for years. Her fans are many. On the downside, she’s recently divorced and longs to have a child.

After a fundraising appearance, Celia receives a phone call from an adoption lawyer and learns that she and her husband are one of three couples chosen by a birth mother. Now comes the challenge of trying to get the birth mother to select her. That would mean a bigger apartment and a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, Celia’s boss has other plans which jeopardizes hers. He saw his retirement within reach and thought very little about what it would mean to his employees, especially her. Not only does she lose her job, but the column as well. The column is her professional identity.

But fate has a way of guiding us on other paths. So when Celia’s aunt, Calpurnia dies, the only one in her family to show her compassion, she learns she inherited her home. She inherits it not because of the will, but she’s believed to be the only surviving relative. The house and all of its contents now belong to her. The main problem is that the once-stately house has been terribly neglected and her aunt was a hoarder.

With the support of her best friend, Calvin, her new neighbors and lawyer, Trey Holcomb, she might be able to restore the old family home. She would then have two options: sell it and move back to New York or turn it into a home for herself and a baby.

What can I say about this book? Well, that I loved it because the characters seemed alive to me. It wasn’t just getting from here to there with conflict thrown in and what they were wearing. Their lives were changed in a heartbeat and rather than grab a bottle of liquor and cry their hearts out and just end their goals right there, they pushed on to achieve them. Celia might have felt that she was alone but Calvin was assisting her as much as possible. Her aunt’s neighbors lifted, tossed and swept right along with her. Trey, who had his job and family to deal with, did everything possible to help her reach her goals. She also learns that the decisions she makes, in terms of a certain proposal, can and would seriously affect the lives of her neighbors. Celia had to do the right thing for them and in time things would naturally fall in place.

Five newspaper columns out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

January 3, 2021

Grapevine: Melissa Bourbon, Victoria Gilbert

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GWN searches for author news and kindle sales so you have more time to read. Publishers, authors, PR reps, send your news to Netera@aol.com.

Melissa Bourbon & Winnie Archer Books Facebook page mentions that Amazon chose “Murder in Devil’s Cove to be a Monthly Deal for $2.49 in January. Check out the deal and leave a comment on her FB page. She’ll choose a winner from the posts to receive a copy of “The Secret on Rum Runner’s Lane, which is a prequel to the first Book Magic mystery.

While you’re on Amazon.com check out two books by Victoria Gilbert that are Monthly Deals in January: “Bound for Murder” (Book 4 in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series) for $2.99 and “Booked for Death” (Book 1 in the Booklover’s B&B series) $1.99.