Researching a Paranormal Cozy by Bailey Cates

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Do you believe in ghosts? Plenty of people do, even visiting psychics to help them communicate with the spirit world. In Spirits and Sourdough, the 10th installment of the Magical Bakery Mysteries, baker and hereditary hedgewitch Katie Lightfoot already knows spirits exist because her deceased grandmother has visited her on occasion. Still, she goes on a ghost tour in Savannah, Georgia with other members of her informal coven, the spellbook club. Savannah is only the most haunted city in the United States. What could go wrong?

Naturally, something does. The young woman who is the tour guide can actually communicate with the dead. On the tour, the spirit of a recently murdered woman contacts the guide because she wants Katie to find her killer. Katie knew the victim and understands she must bring the killer to justice.

Fiction writers work hard to make sure the information in their stories is accurate, even though the story is made up. I mine the varied richness of actual paranormal communities. There are plenty of practicing kitchen witches. The spellbook club members each have their own specialties, and each of them is a real belief system – Wicca, moon magic, tarot magic, voodoo, candle magic, flower magic, color magic, and, of course, herbal magic. The spells in the books are original, based on how Wiccan spells are crafted. I carefully research the benefits of the herbs and spices Katie and Lucy add to their yummy baked goods at the Honeybee Bakery. My go-to reference is A Compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl, from whom I took classes to be a master herbalist and only later discovered he’s a well-known druid.

Katie does have a few more abilities than your witch down the street. The idea of a catalyst is fictional, but I’ll bet you know someone who things just seem to happen around. As for her being a lightwitch, aka someone called to right magical wrongs, well, there had to be a reason for her to get involved in all those Savannah homicides, right?

For Spirits and Sourdough, several books helped with the ghostly research. The Marshall House, where the spirit of the murder victim contacts the tour guide, has several stories, some of which I left out because they aren’t exactly cozy fare. I also took virtual ghost tours of Savannah and watched ghost hunting videos.

Finally, I spent time on Google Earth, walking the streets of Savannah to get details about what Katie might be seeing. I looked up architectural styles and interior designs for the places Katie goes and noted specific map directions for getting from place to place in Savannah. And I sought out lots of baking ideas and experimented in the kitchen. I’m rather proud of the blood orange thyme cake recipe!

If you want more recipes, or more information about me and my books, check out www.baileycates.com . There you’ll find a downloadable .pdf with recipes from the back of the Magical Bakery Mysteries as well as the Enchanted Garden Mysteries that I write as Bailey Cattrell.

About the Author:

Bailey Cates believes magic is all around us if we only look for it. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries. Writing as Bailey Cattrell, she is also the author of the Enchanted Garden Mysteries.

About the Book:

Mass Market Paperback | $8.99
Published by Berkley
Jan 04, 2022 | 288 Pages | 4-3/16 x 6-3/4| ISBN 9780593099247

Interested in writing a guest blog post? Writing an article on the theme of writing? E-mail Netera@aol.com

Guest Blog Post – Shall I Be Mother? By Marty Wingate

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“Shall I be mother?” is a question of courtesy—who will pour the tea? Anyone can make the offer and it’s usually graciously accepted, but when the question is asked by Charles Henry Dill, Hayley’s hackles rise.

This is on opening page of The Librarian Always Rings Twice (book three in the First Edition library mysteries) during a board meeting of the Society. Hayley Burke, curator of the library—books from the Golden Age of Mystery at Middlebank House in Bath, England—has had just about enough of Charles Henry. He is the loutish nephew of the late Lady Georgiana Fowling. Middlebank was her home, the library hers, and the First Edition Society her creation. Charles Henry carries a heavy grudge believing that his aunt, who died three years before the start of book one (The Bodies in the Library), left him nothing of her vast wealth. The truth is that she left him a sizable inheritance and, as far as Hayley is concerned, he has nothing to complain about—not that that stops him.

Back to tea. What sort of tea does Hayley serve at the board meeting for the First Edition Society? It’s a good quality black tea blend. Most likely, it’s Yorkshire Gold, because that’s my favorite, although I’d happily drink the regular Yorkshire (red label). This is, by the way, a favorite of Yorkshireman Sean Bean.

 

I’m also happy to drink PG Tips, Typhoo or whatever is on offer as long as it’s a proper brew.

Milk? Of course. That’s milk, not cream. The “cream” in a cream tea refers to the clotted cream spread onto your split scone. Do you put on cream first or jam first? That’s a topic for another blog post!

Tea is ubiquitous in my books, because it’s ubiquitous in life in Britain. If you’ve read any of my books, other books set in Britain, or watched any British television shows, you’ve probably noticed how many times someone says “I’ll put the kettle on.” If it’s an electric kettle, this will change to “I’ll switch the kettle on.” Tea is all things—a pick-me-up, a comfort, a conduit to revealing a secret, an aid when delivering bad news.

In a tea poll published in the Daily Mail, only 3% of respondents preferred cup #1 (weak and milky) and 9% preferred cup #6 (very strong). My preference (Hayley’s preference—isn’t that handy?), cup #4, which is on the strong side, came at 35%. How do you like your tea?

Mrs. Woolgar, secretary in perpetuum for the First Edition Society—she was a friend and personal assistant to Lady Fowling—prefers a single variety to a tea blend: Fortnum & Mason’s Assam Superb is her choice. Hayley learned this early on in their working relationship and treads carefully around the subject of tea as she does with many other topics. This is because Mrs. Woolgar believes that she knows best what Lady Fowling would want when it comes to decisions about the Society, the library, Middlebank, and probably Bunter the cat, too. If it didn’t happen in Lady Fowling’s time, it shouldn’t happen now. Fortunately, Hayley has an ally or two on the Society’s board, and has been able to slip in a few new ideas to keep the Society alive and well. From all she has learned about Lady Fowling so far, Hayley suspects the Society founder would be open to almost any idea—even if she had preferred Earl Grey, her ladyship probably wouldn’t have said no to a cup of builder’s tea. However, Hayley is not about to bring up this subject with Mrs. Woolgar.

Have you heard of builder’s tea? It’s a generic term for a strong tea blend—no particular brand—said to carry those who work hard for a living through their day. I wouldn’t mind a cup right now. I’ll put the kettle on—in the meantime, enjoy this song about the importance of tea.

USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes The First Edition Library series (Berkley) set in Bath, England, about the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. Book one, The Bodies in the Library, concerns murder among an Agatha Christie fan-fiction writing group, and in book two, Murder Is a Must (October 2020), an exhibition manager is found dead at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Marty also writes historical fiction: Glamour Girls (Alcove Press, January 2021) follows Spitfire pilot Rosalie Wright through both the physical and emotional dangers of the Second World War. Marty writes two further mystery series: the Potting Shed books (Alibi) feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and the Birds of a Feather series (Alibi) follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village.

Marty prefers on-the-ground research whenever possible, and so she and her husband regularly travel to England and Scotland, where she can be found tracing the steps of her characters, stopping for tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in a café, or enjoying a swift half in a pub.

Book Review – Santa Cruise By Fern Michaels

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Title: Santa Cruise

Author: Fern Michaels

Publisher: Kensington

Genre: Romance

Format: Hardcover, $26.00, 294 pages

Published on: October, 2021

At the Ridgewood High School Reunion, four friends reunite after being apart for 15 years. Frankie is a Vice President of a successful publishing house. Rachael is divorced and finally realizing her dream of buying and running a dance studio. Nina is a popular actress on a TV sitcom and Amy is the intelligent one of the group working in biotechnology.

They achieved their goals, but didn’t have someone to love (or who they could even trust) in their lives. So when Frankie suggests that if they didn’t have a date for New Year’s Eve by Thanksgiving that they go on a single’s cruise for Christmas, they were all for it.

Months leading up to the cruise, they frequently meet up online to discuss their itinerary. They are all excited about the trip and really look forward to it. But first they have to deal with their real life issues. That would be Nina’s career, Amy’s mother’s future, Frankie’s possible man crush and living in such a small and dark apartment. Then there’s Rachael’s concern about how well her ex and his new wife are caring for their son.

Cruise day comes and the woman are packed, ready down to the last detail, and looking forward to both having a memorable adventure and meeting someone. If anything, they attract others as they are fun loving, hysterical, and easily welcome others to their group. They are totally excited to set sail and meet new people. In fact, they meet Peter on the way to their staterooms. Next thing they know, Peter starts hanging out with them and they meet Marilyn. Frankie immediately wants to protect Marilyn from men who take advantage of divorced women and Nina can’t stop thinking that her father is aboard the ship.

Day trips are planned alone or with the group and everyone has the best adventures and food. The trip is more than a tight group of friends enjoying a memorable getaway. It’s a chance for each of them to rethink their lives, relax from a hectic schedule, and possibly do more than daydream about romance.

I bought Santa Cruise before the holidays as one of my Christmas books. You know that time of the year when you want to wrap yourself in a throw blanket in a comfy recliner and enjoy a good book. But, I couldn’t wait to read it and started it on Halloween instead. It did not disappoint. It introduced me to friends at a crossroads in their lives. The multiple points of view allowed me to understand their lives. I laughed with them. I experienced their loneliness. Their hope for better lives. Frustration with an ex-husband. Their curiosity when Marilyn has a mystery man in her life. All in all, I loved the book and look forward to other novels by Fern Michaels.

four out of five bunches of mistletoe

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

Jan. 11, 2022

 

Guest Blog Post – Summer Carnivals and Killer Sundaes by Abby Collette

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Small town festivals and carnivals are big celebrations. Mixing culture, community and the warmth and sunshine of summer.  No less fun, but so much more charming and relaxing than massive urban block parties, small town festivals are a fun destination that’s usually just right around the corner. And the best part of fairs, for me, is the food. Ooey, gooey, sweet concoctions. Over-sized, batter-dipped and deep-fried. Corn dogs, lemonade, funnel cakes and elephant ears. Everyone has their favorite and most fair-goers leave tired, stuffed with sore feet and bellies full. What’s your favorite summer carnival memory? Mine always brings a huge smile to my face.

That was exactly what I was thinking about when I was writing A Killer Sundae, the third book in my An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series—how much fun good weather and good food can bring. Having the Harvest Time Festival as the backdrop for my story, I wanted to transport readers to their best memories of summer festival fun. The setting for this book was patterned after the real, Blossom Time Festival that takes place each Memorial Day Weekend in Village of Chagrin Falls where the characters for my story live (yes, Chagrin Falls is a real place). And that summer fair is a lot like I described. Colorful hot-air balloons, a night glow extravaganza, and of course there are carnival rides and delicious, artery clogging food.

And one of the reasons I picked having my story at a fair, is because Win, the main character is taking her brand, spanking new food truck on its maiden run. It’s exciting times and she just wanted to show it off. And who doesn’t love a food truck. This one sells ice cream (nope, sorry, there’s nothing fried here) which pairs perfectly with the long, hot carnival days of summer.

So during this stretch of cold weather and gray skies, pick up a copy of A Killer Sundae, a bowl of ice cream and enjoy your memories of summer fairs and good food. And oh yeah, I’ve sprinkled in a little murder to keep you amused.

About the Author:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Abby Collette loves a good mystery. She was born and raised in Cleveland, and it’s a mystery even to her why she hasn’t yet moved to a warmer place. As Abby Collette, she is the author of the Ice Cream Parlor mystery series, about a millennial MBA-holding granddaughter running a family-owned ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and the upcoming Books & Biscuits mystery series, starring a set of fraternal twins who reunite and open a bookstore and soul food café. Writing as Abby L. Vandiver, she is the author of the Logan Dickerson Mysteries, featuring a second-generation archaeologist and a nonagenarian, as well as the Romaine Wilder Mysteries, pairing an East Texas medical examiner and her feisty, funeral-home-owning auntie as sleuths. Abby spends her time writing, facilitating writing workshops at local libraries and hanging out with her grandchildren, each of whom are her favorite.

Book Review – Contempt by Michael Cordell

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Title: Contempt

Author: Michael Cordell

Publisher: TCK Publishing

Format: trade paperback, 202 pages

Published on: July 27, 2020

Set In: LA

Genre: Legal Thriller 

Real estate lawyer Thane Banning had been on the right side of the law until he was charged with the murder of a 33-year-old member of the District Attorney’s office. Basically because he was meeting with her, found the body, and held the weapon. But he didn’t kill her. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Five years later, Banning is no longer locked away in Forsman Penitentiary. With the key witness dead, the verdict was overturned and Banning was freed on a technicality. Being freed for a crime he didn’t commit was first overwhelming. Having made friends in prison, he was able to adapt. But his emotions seemed to have died and left him with only contempt. He wasn’t even sure he had a wife anymore or that he could go back to his old life.

District Attorney Bradford Stone knew he couldn’t retry the case and he didn’t want to go through the drama with the media. The downside was what did the public think about Banning being a free man and what did that mean to Stone’s future?

Thane quickly learns that society isn’t that accepting. There are confrontations, whispers and pointed fingers everywhere he goes. His former boss seems to be supportive.

Just when Thane thought life was difficult enough, there’s another murder. The police arrest a burglar that Thane and his friend Gideon know and he asks Thane to represent him. He trusts him even though he’s not a criminal lawyer.

For the most part, I found CONTEMPT’s character descriptions and back story realistic, except for the scene responsible for putting him behind bars. If you find a body you call the police you don’t go near it, pick up the weapon, and get blood all over you. But sometimes you act without thinking and innocent people pay the price and not the guilty party.  Also, could a real estate lawyer act as a criminal lawyer?

Several characters’ attitudes and actions showed how they were changed by prison. Two things struck me: one was Thane’s anger, he couldn’t seem to control it at times and how many people that were actually responsible for the big lie. The book kept me interested to the end. There were some big twists and no way would I have guessed the killer.

three and a half lawyers out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

Jan. 6, 2022

Book Review – Twisted Tea Christmas by Laura Childs

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Title: Twisted Tea Christmas

Author: Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley

Format: Hardcover, but I read the e-book which I received from NetGalley for an honest review

Series: A Tea Shop Mystery (#23)

Published On: Oct. 5, 2021

Set In: Charleston, South Carolina

Miss Drucilla Hayward’s Victorian Christmas party was not only a high society gathering, it was a formal way of her donating to her favorite charities. The event, of course, was catered by the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia, the owner, and Drayton, her tea sommelier, are serving Haley’s famous menu buffet style. Miss Drucilla, 83, was proud showing off her favorite Tiffany Victorian earrings, her cuff and five diamond rings.

While the string quartet begins playing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and Theo and Drayton began popping a few champagne corks, the security alarm starts blasting. Miss Drucilla leaves the room to check it out. Unfortunately, she never rejoins her guests. When Detective Tidwell arrives, it’s not difficult to figure out  what the weapon was. But who killed her and ran off with her Renoir is the real mystery.

Shortly after, Miss Drucilla’s personal assistant, Pauline, approaches Theo in her tea shop. She asks for her help in finding out who killed Miss Drucilla. She worked closely with her and feels horrible about the whole situation. She’ll be busy gathering information for the rude detective and helping with the estate. She tells her that Miss Drucilla has a nephew, but Pauline never met him.

The journey for the truth begins and it is more difficult than previous mysteries. For the most part, the usual suspects aren’t that far from where Miss Drucilla lived. There’s the little-too-slick Donny Bragg, a lawyer and art collector who is also on the Board of Directors for a museum. His carriage house guest, Smokey, who does odd jobs around the neighborhood. Sawyer Daniels, who reviews charities for investors. Evelyn Fruth, the housekeeper that is hardly ever around. Julian Wolf-Knapp who is an art consultant. Even Pauline, who loves Miss Drucilla’s home a little too much.

I have to say that I didn’t guess who the guilty party was in this one. As with all her books in the series, I love the characters and their personalities, the fast pace of the story, the possibilities and clues and Haley’s delicious tea party menus. I think Tidwell could learn a thing or two from clever Theo. Would love to see this series on the Hallmark mystery channel.

three and half cups of Christmas tea

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

Dec. 31, 2021

Interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of ‘Her Perfect Life’

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Interview conducted by Denise Fleischer, GWN blogger/@dazzlemewithbooks (on Instagram)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 13 thrillers, winning five Agathas, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and 37 EMMYs for investigative reporting. THE FIRST TO LIE (2020) garnered a Publishers Weekly starred review and is an Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. Her newest is HER PERFECT LIFE, a chilling psychological standalone about fame, family, and revenge with starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, which called it “A superlative thriller.”

DENISE: Thank you so much for the interview, Hank. I know how busy you are. First of all, I’d like to say how beautiful the cover to “Her Perfect Life” Is. Second, there’s a similarity here. You’re an on-air investigative reporter and your protagonist, Lily Atwood, is a television reporter. Having experienced the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to bring the news to your viewers, it probably came naturally for you to write this book. There is one difference, isn’t there? Lily has a secret. Could this secret threaten her reputation and endanger her and her daughter’s lives?

HANK: Oh my goodness, my pleasure! I am almost finished with my new book, in fact, I may finish today! So it’s a joy to talk to you. And yes, I so agree, the cover of HER PERFECT LIFE is gorgeous. I asked for “sophisticated enigmatic mysterious – – like a jewel.” And the brilliant artist Katie Klimowicz at Forge created it perfectly, don’t you think? Even the actual cover paper is luscious.

And I am laughing now, because I am not sure anything about writing a book comes naturally! But you are so right, I have been a television reporter for more than 40 years, so behind the scenes is something I know full well. And I do think it’s interesting, that everyone has a secret, don’t we? But when you are in the spotlight, as Lily Atwood is, she understands that if her dark secret gets out, it could not only endanger her life but her daughters. (And her career, and everything she has always wanted.)  The key is: Lily has chosen the spotlight, you know? But her little daughter has not. And what happens as a result?

DENISE: How does she learn that a dangerous situation has come into play?

HANK:  The dangerous situation is bubbling under the surface from the moment the book begins, right? But when Lily comes to work one day and her producer is not there –she is baffed and worried. The reader knows something is going on, and knows something Lily doesn’t – – and then a stranger comes to Lily’s office. And that’s when the story takes off in a very surprising direction!

DENISE: Does she think it will run its course and it’s best not to inform the police?

HANK:  She takes a big risk, doesn’t she? After all, she thinks the man who has come to see her is law enforcement, and so she trusts him. Plus, he has told her he has the answer to the question she wanted answered for her entire life. So she would do anything to get that answer.

DENISE: Does she have a support system?

HANK:. That is such a brilliant question! I think the fact that Lily does not have a real support system is part of her way of life. Her family situation is complicated—more we cannot say in this interview!–and she has learned to be on her own. That makes her self-sufficient and confident – – but also may be a little bit vulnerable.

DENISE: Did the storyline turn out the way you planned it?

HANK: ! I did not plan the story at all – – I don’t know what happens until I write the next word and the next sentence in the next paragraph. So it surprises me, it surprised me every day! And that is part of the magic. I had no idea what would happen in the end until it happened.

DENISE: When did it hit the press? Was there a delay because of COVID?

HANK:  I am very lucky in this – – it was published exactly on time. And, of course, we are juggling all of my many “personal “appearances via the Internet. But that’s fine, I am incredibly grateful that it’s possible

DENISE: Do you have a publicist through the publishing house or you selected someone? How are you promoting the book?

HANK:  I have a wonderful New York publicist through the publishing house, and I also have a personal publicist here in Boston and one in Canada, and we all work together.   Oh gosh, we promote everywhere – – I love Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, and the amazing BookBub, and newsletters and personal appearances.

DENISE: Do you do both virtual and in-person tours?

HANK: Yes!  And book clubs, too, are a big part of my life. (Invite me, readers!)  I must say have not been in person for two years now — except for being the guest of honor at CrimeBake, during one of those times when it seemed like Covid was dying out. Everyone was masked and vaccinated, and it was quite the adventure, and quite the incredible once-in-a-lifetime honor!

DENISE: Are you working on your next psychological thriller?

HANK:  Yes, and crossing fingers, I will turn in the almost-final version next week. Right now, I am taking another look at the very last chapter. Who knows what might happen!

DENISE: You’re also involved in a successful FB group. Can you tell us about it?

HANK:  This incredibly bizarre and terrifying time has made me all the more grateful for people like you, Denise, and all of us here in the Book community. I hope people will follow me on BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/hank-phillippi-ryan  and Instagram  @HankPRyan and Facebook at  @HankPhillippiRyanAuthor , and sign up for my newsletter at www.HankPhillippiRyan.com

And so exciting–I’m now the host of the weekly Mighty Mystery Show on A Mighty Blaze on Facebook–every Tuesday at 4 ET, I interview an amazing author: from Lisa Jewell to Lisa Unger to Anthony Horowitz and Wanda Morris and Tamron Hall. Join us! But there’s more: internationally bestselling author Karen Dione and I co-founded The Back Room, where twice a month you can chat up close and zoom personal with incredible authors. Check it out here: www.The-Back-Room.org.

And! Bestselling author Hannah Mary McKinnon and I are now up to 224 episodes of First Chapter Fun! Where every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 PM ET, we read the first chapter of a brand new book out loud! It’s LIVE on Facebook and Instagram @FirstChapterFun–and it’s hilarious and wonderful. I do hope you’ll join us there, too! It is quite the community.

There are so many ways for us to stay connected, and I think it is incredibly important that we do that!

Guest Blog Post – Contacting the Dead: City of Shadows by Victoria Thompson

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Have you ever wanted to have one last conversation with a loved one who has passed away? I know I often think of things I wish I had asked my parents, questions no one else could answer. Now I’ll never know.

But what if we could contact our loved ones after they are gone?  In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, when life was far more uncertain and families were as likely to lose a child as a grandparent, Spiritualism enjoyed periods of immense popularity.  Spiritualism is the belief that the spirits of the dead can communicate with the living, and holding a séance with a medium to facilitate the process became all the rage.  This became the premise for my new Counterfeit Lady book, City of Shadows.

I learned that creative mediums jazzed up their performance with tricks like table tipping, spirit rapping, backwards writing, and the appearance of “ectoplasm.” Even though these tricks were exposed and debunked time and time again (spirit rapping, for instance, was just toe knuckles tapping the table leg), true believers remained unmoved. One of the Fox Sisters, the most famous mediums of the 19th Century, even wrote a tell-all book, revealing all the secrets, but so few people believed her that she was able to recant and start holding seances again!

When World War I and the 1918 Influenza epidemic caused the deaths of thousands of young adults, Spiritualism enjoyed a resurgence worldwide, as grieving family members sought to make contact with their lost loved ones.  Since the newest book in the Counterfeit Lady Series, City of Shadows, takes place just after WWI ends, I wanted to explore the shadowy word of spiritualism and explore the ways unscrupulous mediums take advantage of those left behind. You may have guessed that I am not a believer in Spiritualism. I’ve read too much about the tricks they use and how they take advantage of their “clients” even in modern times.

Would you like to communicate with a lost loved one?  Have you ever attended a séance or tried to contact the spirits in another way?  Do you think it’s even possible to contact the dead? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences. Maybe you can change my mind about Spiritualism.

About the Author:

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 29 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.

About the Book:

Elizabeth Miles is back in this all-new Counterfeit Lady Novel from USA Today bestselling author Victoria Thompson.

Elizabeth Miles Bates has returned from her honeymoon cruise and is taking great pride in having completely forsaken her past life as a con artist. Then her friend, Anna Vanderslice, begs her to use her talents to help save her widowed mother from a disreputable medium. Since the war and the flu epidemic left so many families bereaved, interest in contacting the dead has experienced a revival. Once quite popular, séances have come back into vogue as desperate families mourn their loved ones and long to communicate with them.

Anna’s mother has been attending séances in an attempt to contact her son, David, who died of influenza. Anna had thought it a harmless activity, though a heartbreaking one, but she has just learned that Mrs. Vanderslice is paying the medium ever-increasing sums of money in her eagerness to make contact with her deceased son. Since David’s death has caused Anna and her mother financial hardship already, Mrs. Vanderslice’s obsession is in danger of ruining them.

Madame Ophelia is part of a group of con artists working together to fleece as many New Yorkers as possible before moving onto another city. Several of Mrs. Vanderslice’s friends as well as some of Gideon’s clients have already been victimized. Elizabeth knows that simply exposing the medium as a fraud will not be enough, and the only way to get at least some of the stolen money back is to con the medium and her cohorts. But will Elizabeth’s family help her when it means betraying other con artists? And who can they trust? No one, as it happens, so Elizabeth turns to her aunt, Cybil, and Cybil’s partner, Zelda, for help. Although Cybil disapproves of her family’s shady profession, she is more than happy to lend a hand. Can Elizabeth and her gang of amateurs fool the professionals?

Book Review – The Way We Weren’t by Phoebe Fox

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Title: The Way We Weren’t

Author: Phoebe Fox

Publisher: Berkley

Format: Trade paperback

Published on: Nov. 19, 2021, $17.00/US

Set In: the Southwestern shore of Florida

Marcie’s unplanned pregnancy at 18 put an end to studying abroad at the Prado Museum and a future career as a curator or buyer for a gallery or museum. Fate, which can be cruel, leads to the early loss of the baby after she married her high school sweetheart. Will and Marcie struggle to earn a living and keep a roof over their heads.

Now 43 year’s old, Marcie’s second unplanned pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. Her husband continues to be loving and supportive, but she finds herself desperately needing space. The stress of her job has reached such a high level that when she returns to work she misses her exit. She drives away from the pressure building in her mind and heart. She does this without making plans for where she’ll stay.

At first, Flint thought there was a drunk, unconscious woman on the beach. He believes she’s either sleeping after a crazy night or she’s been drugged and just left there. He really didn’t want to get involved, but he couldn’t just leave her there. She was vulnerable to whatever lurked in the darkness of  night.

Shortly after, Marcie wakes disoriented and with a terrible headache. She has no idea where she is and how she wound up on a sofa in a stranger’s home. All she knows is that he’s sitting in an armchair across from her. He’s far from friendly and wants to know what she took the night before to have put her in such a state. How could she explain that she skipped work and all its mind-numbing challenges to focus on the next stage of her life?

THE WAY WE WEREN’T is about relationships that only happened out of desperation. Flint normally is a loner and prefers to keep it that way. But he knew he had to do the right thing and that meant protecting the young woman he found. Little by little, Marcie chips away his bitterness holding him prisoner so they he can be part of society again. There’s also a neighbor, who was a part of Flint’s life in the past, that he refuses to speak with. That’s a shame, as they experienced the same loss and could have supported each other for years. It’s also about acceptance. A business woman took her under her wing, so to speak, and gave her a job. An artist welcomed her into his inner circle of friends and gave her a taste of their lifestyle. It’s also coming to terms and making difficult decisions.

A few things that slowed me down when reading was when past memories roll in beside the present without a transition. I didn’t see how she could just leave her husband without talking about how she felt. Yes, he did think that at this time in their lives it was better not to have children. They were living comfortably and could do as they pleased. And, yes, he should have considered her feelings. Also, I would have thought Flint would have notified the police instead of taking her home. She could have been a missing person, attacked, or physically injured.

What I found touching is how they tried to save the baby turtles on the beach near Flint’s home and how he risked his life to protect Marcie when nature decides to batter and destroy. That showed Flint was responsible and there was a light of hope underneath a barrier of bitterness.

four baby turtles out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

Dec. 25, 2021

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Aside

Guest Blog Post – Adding Something A Bit Different For Interest And Challenge

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By Kay Hooper

One of the things I’ve tried to do throughout the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series is to vary the format from time to time.  Given the basic format – there’s virtually always a vicious murder or more than one, local cops need help to investigate something far outside the usual for them so they turn to the FBI and, specifically, the SCU – I felt that for myself as well as for readers I needed to do something a bit different now and then, for interest and challenge.

Some variations are natural within a series with continuing as well as new characters.  For instance, I’ve had a single plotline arc throughout more than one book, I’ve had the story of at least one villain who was particularly hard to stop for good spin out over several books, and I’ve had characters as well as relationships between partners and/or lovers develop over several books as different cases are investigated.  SCU agents are sent in openly or undercover, with and without partners, and sometimes when a serial killer is only suspected.  Some are on scene for weeks or even months prior to the beginning of the story.

More than once, a character is returning to his or her hometown, to face a troubled past as well as a dangerous investigation in the present.  A leading protagonist might be a local law enforcement officer, a sheriff or chief of police, who may view the psychic “tools” of SCU agents with anything from wary interest to outright doubt and suspicion.

And there are other variations.  A member of Haven, the civilian “sister” organization for the SCU, is sent in because for whatever reason the FBI cannot or will not be invited/asked to investigate.  Generally that investigator has a manufactured background and is sent in undercover, which can be fun – and potentially deadly.  Sometimes an independent investigator is working on a case, either ignorant of the presence of the SCU or else aware but hired to investigate separately for someone with a very specific agenda.

Infinite possibilities, really.

In the Salem trilogy, I decided to set all three books in the same small mountain town.  I knew that decision would present challenges if not outright problems – which was exactly what I wanted.  One villain or three?  How many non-SCU characters would be based in the small town and how involved would they be in investigating evil?  What, about this one small town, was unusual enough to support the different stories, the different evils?

Well, it is a series about the paranormal as well as evil monsters.

So … once upon a time a few hundred years ago, there were five families, settlers in a new world who chose to make their home in a small, southern mountain valley. With them they brought the independence and strength and will to carve a new home from a wilderness, as well as extra abilities and skills handed down for generations.  Telepathy.  Empathy.  Clairvoyance.  Precognition.  And one family has the ability to command the crows.  To summon storms.

And none of those abilities make life easier.

Or Salem a safer place to live.

Especially when monsters walk.

 

Also in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit

About the Author:

Kay Hooper, who has more than thirteen million copies of her books in print worldwide, has won numerous awards and high praise for her novels. She lives in North Carolina.