Summer is getting hotter in Juniper Junction, Colorado.
There’s a firebug on the loose, the townspeople are nervous, and Lilly Carlsen, single mom to two teenagers, has even more to worry about. She’s in charge of the Independence Day celebration, her mother’s mental health is declining, and her son is getting ready to leave for college.
But things are about to get even hotter: when a bistro owner dies at the celebration and Lilly’s best friend is charged with murder, events start hitting close to home. It’s up to Lilly to help clear her friend’s name while at the same time dealing her mom’s worsening forgetfulness as well as a coming-of-age issue under her own roof.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Dead, White, and Blue was jam-packed with relatable scenarios and characters. I’ve touched on a few of them below.
1.) Secretive children: The older your children become the less you are aware of what they are doing. They say they are going one place but actually end up in another. And underage drinking….. it happens everyday and children should be punished for it. I respect how Lilly handled the situation. You just can’t let things like that slide.
2.) Dementia:According to alz.org, it affects your memory, communication and language, ability to pay attention and focus, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception. Amy addressed all the symptoms. Plus, she gave realistic reactions and thoughts regarding Dementia. In fact, Tighe delivered the most powerful response when him and his mom, Lilly, were discussing Bev (Dementia sufferer). Below is a condensed version of that conversation.
Lilly regarding Bev, her mother: “She’s strong and healthy, with the exception of her mind.”
Tighe: “That’s the worst part, don’t you think? Her body will keep living while her mind dies.”
I can’t fathom anyone not be affected by his words…….
3.) Wrongfully accused of a crime: The news is littered with cases of people arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. The accused swears they are innocent. Friends and family stand firm the accused couldn’t have done it. But, the police arrest them anyways. Sometimes the accused is guilty BUT everyday we discover innocent people are behind bars and guilty of nothing. In Dead, White, and Blue, Noley is accused of using cyanide to murder Cerise and Lilly vows to clear Noley’s name. Again, I can’t personally relate to this predicament but I know others can. Cases like these are always in the news, and most times the innocent don’t walk away free.
Now onto my thoughts regarding the two investigations: the arsonist and the real murderer.
Murder mystery: I figured out who the murderer was but I was only partly right on the why.
Firebug mystery: The arsonist’s identity escaped me. I knew certain people were too obvious of a choice and was pleased to see I was right about their innocence. As for who actually started the fires and why, I will say the perp’s reasoning for setting the fires was totally plausible. Actually, I’m pretty sure if I do an Internet search I’d find a news report on such a similar situation.
If reading a good mystery wasn’t enough for you, Amy included THREE recipes in the back of the book. I can’t wait to try Noley’s Blueberry Studmuffins. Simple ingredients. Simple directions. Sounds perfect and I bet they will taste heavenly too!
Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.
She’s also a writer. She is the author of Trudy’s Diary, A Libraries of the World Mystery (Book One: Library of Congress), The Worst Noel (Book One in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.
Her days are split between writing and marketing her books, but uppermost in her mind is the adage that the best way to market a book is to write another great book.
The first book in A Dream Come True series is a heart-warming holiday romance set in “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”
Christmas. Disney. Romance. No greater magic.
When Sophie’s eight-year-old niece, Ariel, asks Santa Claus for a single wish to honor her mom’s memory, Sophie knows she must grant it. Unfortunately for Sophie, Ariel’s wish is to ride her mom’s favorite ride on Christmas day, and it’s at the last place on earth Sophie wants to visit—Walt Disney World. It will be the first Christmas without her sister, and reliving childhood memories of her best friend is not how she wants to spend her holiday. Sophie’s only desire is to spend Christmas on the slopes with her reliable and stable beau, Darren, who has reluctantly agreed to postpone their trip until the day after Christmas.
But when Sophie runs into a charming stranger, who offers up his extensive Disney knowledge, he instantly becomes her hero. A wave of relief washes over Sophie—he may just be the one to give Ariel the magical experience she desires. And, even though Sophie doesn’t realize it, he may be exactly what she needs too.
Can a bit of Christmas magic help this ruggedly-attractive stranger win Sophie’s heart when she believes it already belongs to Darren? And will Sophie continue to allow her painful past to haunt her, or will she let it go?
“Can I help you?” asked a quite attractive man wearing Mickey Mouse ears and a Mickey Mouse Hawaiian shirt, standing a few feet away from them. His broad shoulders and almost-black close-cropped beard and mustache completed his rugged outdoors-type look. He was the exact opposite of Sophie’s type.
Oh good, a concierge! “Yes, please.” Sophie was drawn into his smiling deep-brown eyes. “Could you point us in the direction of the restroom?”
“I’ll do you one better. Follow me.” He headed away from the Christmas tree with Sophie and Ariel in tow.
Ariel dumped her bags and ran in while Sophie tried to gather them. She needed to be in the restroom with her niece, Sophie didn’t allow Ariel to go into public places alone. But with her own luggage, she wasn’t able to manage it all. She looked at the concierge, muscles bulging under his short sleeves. He looks strong enough to carry all this. “Would you be able to take these bags to the check-in station while I tend to my niece?”
His confused look made Sophie wonder if Disney had slacked off of their standards of only hiring the chirpiest employees, or rather as Disney referred to them, cast members. “The bags?” She dropped everything back on the floor, except her cross-body purse.
“Okay, I get it now!” he laughed heartily. “You think I work here?”
“Well, don’t you?” She looked him up and down, as though her scan of his outfit proved the fact that he did, indeed, work there. When her gaze rested on his face, there was something pleasingly familiar about it. “The Mickey Mouse Hawaiian shirt? The ears?”
He eyed her as if she’d just said his foot was growing out of his nose and then shook his head. “You’ve never been here, have you?”
Annoyed at his insinuation, she said, “I have. But it’s been a while.”
“Well, stick around. You’ll see a lot of things here that you don’t see in everyday life.” Then he winked and said, “And you may just see some magic if you keep your eyes and heart open to it.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
I absolutely adored Once Upon A Romance by Alex Bailey. It, without a shadow of a doubt, captured the true magic of Disney.
If you’ve never been to a Disney park, I know you’ll be booking a vacation there after you read Once Upon A Romance. Alex Bailey’s love for Disney shines throughout the story. If you have been to a park before, then I’m sure it’ll bring back fond memories of your time there. It did that for me.
Like Sophie, Ariel, and Ray, I stayed at the Animal Kingdom resort. I didn’t go during the Christmas season but my time there was no less magical. Like Ariel, I was captivated by the wildlife grazing below my balcony. The resort is pricey but well worth every penny.
Disney is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ for a reason. It brings joy to hearts, no matter what age, gender, ethnicity, color, and so on. Disney is all about love and happiness. Once Upon A Romance was all about love and happiness as well: the love for a deceased wife/mother/sister/daughter, the love for a deceased fiancée, the love and compassion a child expresses for everyone, and the love blossoming between two people.
I just can’t praise Alex Bailey enough for this feel-good book. I encourage everyone, young and old, to read Once Upon A Romance. It will warm your heart and make you smile.
Alex Bailey was a bored writer/editor of documents as humdrum as vacuum cleaner manuals. She left that life behind to create more exciting worlds than the one she lived in. The Future Memoir of Ann Jones was the first book under her (absolutely necessary) assumed identity (in order to hide Ann Jones’ identity). When she’s not dreaming of being swept away to “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” she’s tending to her organic garden while belting out Disney tunes. Some of her favorite hobbies include: telling her children that “Mother knows best,” attempting to convince woodland creatures to clean her house for her, wishing upon stars, and Disney-ing.
There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love.
She saw him in her dreams . . .
It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.
She was his buddy’s sister . . .
Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son . . . and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?
“Hon, if I put another thing on top of that pile, you’re not going to be able to see where you’re going.”
Undaunted, Naomi Luther dropped her shoulders. The subtle move lowered the boxes stacked in her arms about half an inch. She was a pro. For the past five years, she’d owned Perfect Fit, a personal-shopping business. She had this.
“Lookee,” Naomi said. “If you take that last box out of the bag, there’s enough room to slide it right on top of the others. And I’ll be able to hold it all down with my chin.”
The older woman behind the counter, Patsy Crouch, looked skeptical. “One false move and the whole shebang will come crashing down.”
“I’ll be fine,” Naomi reassured her with a jovial grin. “Go ahead. Stock it to me.”
“You are so funny,” Patsy laughed. “It’s amazing the way you’ve bounced back after—”
“Gotta keep my spirits up for Hunter.” She polished her smile, brightening its sheen. Hoping to head Patsy off at the pass. This Christmas mustbe a happy one. Which granted, was hard to pull off when everyone in town kept recounting her family’s sorrows.
“How are things with Robert?” Patsy asked.
Naomi pressed her lips together. She didn’t want to get into her love life. Or lack there of. “Robert and I are….”
What was her situation with her long-distance boyfriend? She wished she knew. When Robert took the job in Denver, they’d had an understanding. Robert would get his life and career in Colorado established and then she would join him and they’d get married. It wasn’t an official engagement. Nothing formal. He’d not asked for her hand in marriage. But she’d planned on marrying him since she was a junior in high school. She had a hope chest, and a wedding idea book stuffed with dreams.
But since last Christmas, everything had changed. And Naomi was no longer quite sure where she and Robert stood. She hadn’t seen him in four months. They texted, but it was not daily. They’d both been so busy. Shocked, she realized they hadn’t even talked on the phone in over a month.
“It’s complicated,” she said as much to herself as to Patsy. “All my focus is on Hunter right now. It has to be.”
“Does that mean he’s free to date other people?”
That pulled her up short. She hadn’t really thought about it. Robert hadn’t mentioned wanting to see other people. Was he seeing other people?
“How about you?”
Naomi made a dismissive sound. “If I had time for dating I could fly to Denver every few weeks and reconnect with Robert..”
“Robert’s not coming around to the idea of you adopting Hunter, is he?” Patsy looked at her over the rim of the reading glasses perched on the end of her nose. “That’s the real issue.”
Patsy made a good point, but she wasn’t going to discuss that. She and her parents had decided as a family that Naomi should be the one to adopt Hunter since her mother’s health was fragile and her parents were both over sixty. Robert hadn’t understood, and asked why her parents were trying to “saddle” her with her dead brother’s baby.
They’d had a huge fight over it. He didn’t get that adopting Hunter had been heridea, not her folks. In fact, they’d tried to dissuade her, telling her they didn’t want her to give up her life to raise her brother’s child. But Hunter was everything to her.
Her relationship with Robert had not been the same since, even though he’d apologized, and they’d smoothed things over.
On the surface, anyway.
“I’m sure everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.” Patsy took the box out of the shopping bag she’d just put it in.
“Hopefully..” Naomi felt unsettled by Patsy’s questions because she didn’t know the answers, and she hated not being in control.
“How’s your mother?” Patsy’s voice lowered, knitting a sympathetic tone.
Naomi flinched at the pity, but kept the smile pasted on her face. Nothing was gonna get her down. The family had been steeped in sorrow long enough. Being happy didn’t mean they still didn’t grieve their losses. But if she’d learned anything, it was that life was short and you had to make the most of it.
And hey, in high school, she hadn’t been a cheerleader for nothing. Rah, Rah Twilight Titans.
“I know this is a rough time of year for your family. The holidays—”
“We’re fine.” Her smile stiffened, but she kept her voice loose. A flag flapping in the breeze. Oh, say can you see, life is good, good, good. “We’re doing great. Honest.”
“You’ve all suffered a huge loss.” Patsy added the box to the leaning Tower of Pisa in Naomi’s arms. “It’s okay to grieve. I—”
“Could you open the door for me, please? Thank you.” Naomi locked her elbows to help brace the load. Mashed her chin against the top package. Squelched the sad feelings rising up inside her.
None of that, Missy.
“How far to your van?” Patsy asked.
“It’s in the shop. Transmission overhaul. It’ll be out of commission all week.” But she wasn’t letting the inconvenience get her down.
“So how are you getting all this home?”
“Jana’s swinging around to pick me up at the curb.”
“You sure you don’t need help getting the packages into Jana’s Jeep?” Patsy folded the empty bag emblazoned with a teal peacock and stuck it back inside the drawer.
“Juggling packages is all part of the Christmas fun, right?”
Patsy hustled across the old wooden floor to open the door, moving fast for a woman in her late sixties. “Do mind your step, hon, and watch out for the workmen setting up Dickens.”
During the first weekend in December, tourists flocked to Twilight. Looking for fun at the annual Dickens on the Square festival. Normally, Naomi loved this time of year. But after last year’s tragedies…
Stop. No unwanted thoughts. Come hell or high water, this was going to be the best Christmas ever. No excuses.
With the packages blocking her view, Naomi inched down the stairs of the Teal Peacock. Workmen were stringing electrical cords and wiring. Two crewmembers carried neon orange sawhorses. They were using them to block off the cross streets.
Dang it. Now, Jana wouldn’t be able to drive through that way and pick her up. She’d have to wait on the curb with her unwieldy load while Jana circled around to the back of the building.
No worries, no worries. Smile. Life is good. Yes, her arms were screaming at her to put down the packages, but she could ignore the burn for a little longer.
Hurry, Jana, hurry.
It was okay. Achy arms weren’t going to kill her, and it wasn’t as if she didn’t have a loving community to help. Things were so much better than they were a year ago. She counted her blessings. She was healthy. Her business was turning a profit. She had parents who loved her. She lived in the best small town in Texas.
And she had the sweetest little boy who was about to become her son. Who could ask for anything more?
Lori Wilde is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers’ Weekly bestselling author of 85 works of romantic fiction. She’s a three time Romance Writers’ of America RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Readers’ Choice Award. She has won numerous other awards as well. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her breakout novel, The First Love Cookie Club, has been optioned for a TV movie.
Lori is a registered nurse with a BSN from Texas Christian University. She holds a certificate in forensics, and is also a certified yoga instructor.
A fifth generation Texan, Lori lives with her husband, Bill, in the Cutting Horse Capital of the World; where they run Epiphany Orchards, a writing/creativity retreat for the care and enrichment of the artistic soul.