Tag Archives: mystery

Review of “Sugar Skulls” – M.R. Tapia

“Life is a matter of death. Death is a matter of fact.”

Micah DeAtta learns this as he awakens with Death seated across from him, whetting his sickle. Micah has no choice but to converse with Death in order to figure out his own demise. As their conversations become a battle of wits, Micah is forced to relive prominent deaths of family and friends before learning of his own. Each death happens in real time, each correlating with the nine levels of the Aztec underworld. Before it is said and done, Micah will have been forced to face his fears, his losses, and the fact that although life may be too short, death is forever.

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(Chapter 13)

 

When Mama died, I died. Mama died of cancer. I can’t exactly remember how I died.

Now I’m sitting here with Death as he takes me back to these deaths. This whole experience is infuriating. He talks to me as if he cares while making it clear that he doesn’t.

I murmur, “You’re Death,” saying it more to myself than to him.

“I’m sorry?” he asks with confusion.

I quietly shout, “You’re Death. You—are—Death.”

I look up at him in anger.

He stares at me, blankly. Dead.

“What the fuck do you pity the lives you end for?” I point my finger and tap the air as if it were his chest. “You don’t know, do you? You don’t realize what you do to the family and friends of the person. You don’t know what sorrow feels like. Grief. What pain and heartache feel like.”

There’s no stopping me now. Not even his calm and bone-collected self. Sitting there nice and composed. Asshole.

“You don’t know what it feels like to have someone ripped away from you. You never held your sister in your arms while they cry violently, asking why God took her baby. But it was you. You took her baby. You haven’t watched a teenage family member on a hospital bed being kept alive with beeping machines and wheezing pumps. Being held away from you. Feeling helpless as you watch the Nurse’s assistant gently wipe away dried sweat and drool and blood from their inflamed face.” Sweat and drool and blood also smear my face.

“Micah—”

I cut him off, “You’ve never sat and watched as your mother was lowered beneath the ground. No. You just do the dirty deeds, don’t you? You’ve never had to repeat ‘I’m okay. Hanging in there,’ to everyone asking how you’re doing.”

I grunt, “You’ve never listened to the broken record of ‘they’re in a better place now; they’re resting in peace now; there’s no more suffering where they are now’. You’ve never had to turn your back on those attending a loved one’s funeral to keep from blowing up on them because they’re there to be nosy.”

Death sits there as tears stream from my bloodshot eyes. “Do you know how many funerals I’ve been too? What about you? You may be the reason behind the grieving families at funerals, but how many have you actually been too?”

He stands, tall and erect. “You fool!” The boner’s voice enters my soul with loud impatience. He slams the butt of the scythe’s handle to the ground and I feel my world tremble like a tremor. “Do you know how many I’ve caused? How many funerals are of my doing? The funerals you’ve been to, they’re because of me.”

My eyes are forced shut, the force of his shouting reaching my core like an explosion.

As I hold them shut I sense a breeze brush along the beads of sweat on my forehead and forearms. I’m frightened to open them. I struck a nerve now.

I remember wanting life the day after pleading for my death, but right now I want nothing more than life and Mama’s warm, reassuring embrace. Besides an ominous breeze, I feel and hear nothing. I concentrate on my panicked breathing. My heart rate high, pounding behind my eyes. That’s when I hear the voice.

“We commend unto thy hands of mercy, most merciful Father, the soul of this thy child; and we commit her body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.—”

My body is still as a gambling addict whose life’s savings are wagered in the hopes of early retirement, awaiting the judge’s results for the boxing match.

What am I awaiting? Sitting here, eyes clinched. Body, clinched. Am I waiting for Death? Confirmation of Death? Something’s out of place.

“—judgement shall come which thou hast committed to thy well-beloved Son, both this child and we may be found acceptable in thy sight. Grant this, O merciful Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, Mediator, and Advocate. Amen.”

I slowly open my eyes and realize that I am no longer in front of Death. Another memory. Now, I am tight within a crowd of people. People who are dressed mostly in black, or in dark shades. I nudge forward through the darkly dressed crowd.

My feet are inches deep in sod. As I stretch my calves, peering over shoulders, a priest comes into sight. He is closing a bible, placing a holy kiss on the cover, and hugs it tightly against his chest.

A man and woman make their way forward, leaning over in front of him. But they aren’t taking communion or asking for a blessing. They’re giving a kiss to a glossy, pink box. The box is about the size of a large sack of potatoes. I’m about as clear minded as those same potatoes.

This is all familiar. Even the man kissing the box. He is dressed in a charcoal grey suit. I recognize him as my brother.

Cheecho straightens and turns away from the box. It’s not just any box. It’s a casket. A casket holding my stillborn niece.

The box jerks immediately as it descends into the earth. Feet away from her angel-daughter—my angel-niece—my sister jerks in unison.

Behind her, my family, and others, lies a field of tombstones. Precious Moments sculptures decorating a few of them, crucifixes and Jesuses and saints and Virgin Marys adorn the majority of the rest.

A shadow meanders through them. It holds what appears at a glance to be a Johnny Appleseed knapsack.

I know what it really is, though. A sickle.

And I know who he really is.

Death.

He stops behind a tombstone and his head turns in my direction as if mourning alongside my family and I.

Some Taiwanese funerals have professional mourners. People hired to speak, and mourn for the deceased. Women with makeup streaking down their faces with tears.

The clinks of the gears lowering my niece are loud as an interstate highway accident.

My sister, she wails. Her makeup streaks down her face with tears. She attempts to tear her heart out through her black dress, mascara-tears clogging random pinholes in her black veil.

Then I look at the graceful pace of Death.

I panic.

It was hard enough the first time. This time only reiterates the fact that I can’t help her. I know this isn’t real. Just another Death joke. I do an about face, allowing my feet guide me away. But they guide me into the backside of a woman.

“—earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.—”

The words enslave me. Over the shoulder of a woman before me I again see a priest with his hand sprinkling Holy water over a casket. This black casket is tailored for an adult.

“—Grant this, O merciful Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, Mediator, and Advocate. Amen.”

I push forward again and see Ronnie’s mother wiping tears away from her cheeks. That’s Ronnie’s casket. This is Ronnie’s funeral.

My attention is returned to Ronnie’s mother and others from their family as they all wail a song of heartache as Ronnie descends into the earth. The melody is in Spanish. The singer is wailing, singing Entierranme Cantando. Sing while you bury me.

As turn away in anguish, and I see AJ texting away on her phone, her hands resting upon her fat belly that my child temporarily calls home.

I glance at the priest and his bible. Death peeks over his shoulder, looking at Ronnie? At me? It’s hard to tell with his empty eye sockets. Patches of skin flail with the misty breeze.

Panic turns to anger. Anger toward AJ’s ignorance. Anger toward Death. Anger due to me being forced to relive these moments, as if the pure memory and loss isn’t enough.

I do a half turn to escape Death’s sadistic joke. Maybe even Death himself. I stop before running into the back of another priest. Or is it the same one? I don’t know. But the casket before him is different.

The picture on the stand is one of Gabe. He’s dressed in a black cap and gown with crimson stitching and a sash and cord to match. It’s Gabe’s funeral.

I panic is turning into a frantic movements like a slow internet connection. I juke to my left and see another framed picture. This one of Artie standing next to his first car. I refrain a shout, turning once again to get out of here. Out of this moment- these moments. My past. My future. My Death. But I am stopped short by the sight before me.

A glossy, deep forest green casket sways upon thick green straps, hovering above a rectangular pit. Pictures of Saints adorn the sides of it. The centerpiece is a beacon of Mexican culture. It is a picture of the Virgen de Guadalupe. A beacon of Mama’s faith. It’s my mother’s casket.

A shadow crosses on the other side of Mama’s casket. My head jerks upward and instead of Death’s black shadow, I see a white owl with golden eyes perched atop a tombstone.

Gears crank and I look at Mama’s casket. Tears cascade from my eyes as my mother is lowered.

This is pure agony, although I know this has happened before. I know this is a part of Death’s torture. I also know that the pain I feel is real. Maybe even more painful because I am forced to relive it. Relive the fresh pain, peeling back the scab far enough that skin also rips away bringing forth more anguish.

This time, I involuntarily change a detail. While kneeling by the platform’s metal bars that support Mama’s body, my muscles contract, readying themselves. The green, thick, wide straps give way to Mama’s physical existence, lowering her to her final destination, I rise to my feet.

My core burns with the intensity of a forest fire. My weight leans forward. My feet part ways with the earth, where Mama’s body shall rest.

Earth to earth.

I chase my freefalling tears down into Mama’s resting site.

Ashes to ashes.

The damp air graces my skin, and I fall, closing my eyes, peacefully.

Dust to dust.

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My Review

Death is inevitable. Some depart this world peacefully in their sleep and some pass on painfully. We’ve all heard stories depicting angels, bright light, but no one really speaks of “Death” himself. In Sugar Skulls, Micah has quite the lengthy conversation with Death. I agree with Micah, Death behaving more like Sigmund Freud than the thing of nightmares was quite unnerving. I can see why Micah mouthed off to him. Death was basically acting like a shrink and not everyone is comfortable with a head doctor, let alone one looking like DEATH. DEATH made Micah relive the best and, more importantly, the worst moments of his existence.

 

In doing so. certain points in Sugar Skulls proved quite informative and/or fascinating. 

1.) Mictlan (underworld of Aztec mythology) and its 9 levels.

(Each level was described and integrated into the storyline very smoothly.)

 

2.) Death’s reaction to taking some lives but not others. 

(Many have pondered the question if DEATH views all his “victims” the same. Does he regret any lives taken? No regrets whatsoever? His response might amaze you. Tapia clearly didn’t want DEATH to be a silent player in this story. DEATH certainly had depth to him.)

 

3.) The ending. 

(The closer the end came, the less surprised I was by the turn of events. However, I must say, the end was pretty damn good.)

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

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M.R. Tapia has had his short stories appear in various publications including Schlock Webzine, Deadman’s Tome, Empty Sink Publishing, and Hindered Souls: Dark Tales for Dark Nights. His short story, ‘Stella Reign’ is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.

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Review of “Seashells, Spells and Caramels” – Erin Johnson

Murder at a magical baking contest off the coast of France.

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.

With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it- because it just might.

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EXCERPT

The string quartet, persuaded into playing the conga, churned out the familiar song as a middle-aged man sat next to them, an upended ice bucket between his knees, playing the “drum.” The line of rehearsal dinner guests snaked between tables. I peeled my eyes away from the conga line as a beautiful guest sauntered toward me.

She smiled, her teeth bright against her dark skin. Her hair, tightly curled and piled atop her head in an enormous bun, bounced as she swayed her hips to the music, her snow-white gown catching the candlelight from the tables.

“Cake or a cupcake?” I asked for the umpteenth time. I smiled and held up one of each.

She tapped a slender finger against her lips as her dark eyes darted from one to the other. The diamond bracelets she wore slid up toward her elbows as she threw her hands in the air. “Oh, ow about zem both, eh?”

I grinned and handed over the plates. I loved French accents. Not that I’d ever been to France, or anywhere really. Before I’d moved from St. Louis, I’d never even been out of state.

“Are you ze baker?”

I nodded.

“I’ve been earing all night about ze desserts.” She stepped closer and lowered her voice. She smelled like jasmine. “I eear they’re just bearsting weeth mageeck.” She winked, then held the cupcake up to her mouth, gingerly taking a bite around the wrapper. She moaned and bent her knees, sinking halfway to the ground. “Incredible. Just incredible. You should enter ze contest, you reeally should. And I don’t do false flattery, believe me.”

I raised a brow. “The contest?”

She looked me up and down. “You reeally don’t know? Ze Water Kingdom’s holding a contest for ze new royal baker. Last one died recently.” She looked around and leaned closer, her voice hushed. “Ze official word is she died of a ‘art attack, but if you ask me, eet was dark mageeck. Somezing underhanded, you know? Murder.” She leaned back and straightened. How much had this woman had to drink? “Zat shouldn’t scare you zough. I reeally zink you should enteer, zhere’s steel time. I probably ’ave a flyer somewhere.” She set the plates down and fished around in her sparkly white clutch.

“Zey’ve been distributing zem all over ze kingdoms. Anyone can apply, anyone at all… well almost, no shifters, ze usual, but ze’ll take emigrants like you.” She poked around some more in the tiny clutch.

Pretty sure if you haven’t found it by now, it’s not going to suddenly appear. The bag looked like it could barely hold a credit card… maybe.

She looked at me and shrugged her slender shoulders. “Can’t find one.” She glanced around and then winked. “Don’t usually break ze rules when traveling on visa, you know.

But I am here as ze date of ze retired ambassador, so if I geet in a beet of trouble, he’ll just geet me out.”

I scanned the conga line. Did she mean Ben’s grandpa?

A small sound, a zap, like snuffing a candle out with wet fingers, made me turn toward her again. In her hand she held a large, brown sheet of paper. “We’ll just keep zat between us, eh?”

Goose bumps prickled up the back of my neck and arms. I looked between the paper and her face. Where had it come from? It was too large to fit in her bag without folding, yet it was completely smooth and crisp. She handed it to me. The oddly thick paper seemed to be coated in wax. I sniffed it and smelled honey.

“Well, I’m off.” She lifted the plates. “Thank you for ze delicious treats. So good to have met you.”

I nodded, not sure how I felt about this strange and beautiful woman. “You too.”

“Think about eet.” She lifted her chin toward the flyer in my hand and danced her way back to the party.

I held the waxy paper up to my face and read, “The Magnificent Contest for the Water Kingdom’s Next Royal Baker.”

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I absolutely adore watching cooking competition shows so reading a story where competitors are magical, paranormal beings sounded too good to pass up.  Much like  Master Chef and Top Chef, in Seashells, Spells and Caramels, readers will be treated to theme challenges where contestants will be voted off until a winner is crowned. As with the other popular shows, there are baking mishaps, rivalries and tears.

However, Seashells, Spells and Caramels had a few things you’d NEVER see on any primetime competition show.

1.) You’ll never see a REAL vampire judging the sugary concoctions.

2.) You’ll never witness a flame speaking to you. 

3.) A murder mystery probably won’t pop up when watching Hell’s Kitchen.

 

Seashells, Spells and Caramels had humor, mystery, and a hint of romance. A truly magical, delicious read…..one I’m sure will be a bestseller for the talented Erin Johnson. 

 

Heart Rating System 

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

 Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

 

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ALSO AVAILABLE

Book 2

A dark carnival and a dire prophecy lead to murder and mayhem.

With the Summer Sea Carnival visiting the enchanted island of Bijou Mer, Imogen jumps at the chance to help run the royal bakery booth. It’ll get her out of the palace and allow her to continue avoiding her feelings for a certain engaged prince.

Imogen’s plans to lay low are shattered when the world-famous necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found dead, sawed in half on the dark magician’s table and Imogen’s friend Rhonda is caught red-handed. With incriminating evidence piling up against Rhonda, Zerna’s rival, Imogen promises to help clear her name by finding the real murderer. 

But between running the booth, encouraging Maple as she struggles to lead as head baker, and taking spell lessons from the friendly strong man, Imogen’s got her hands full. And it’s no easier getting information from the evasive dark magician or Madame Zerna’s secretive assistant. Even Rhonda’s hiding something. 

With the Night of the Dead fast approaching, and Rhonda headed for a maximum security witch prison, Imogen races to unearth the real killer in time to save her friend. But in a mysterious carnival where nothing’s as it seems, will Imogen have the magical powers to keep from being on the chopping block herself?

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Book 3

Murder at a Mermaid Nightclub

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).
 

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Author Showcase – Debbie Mason (Sugarplum Way)

Romance writer Julia Landon knows how to write a happily-ever-after. Creating one for herself is a whole different story. But after a surprising–and surprisingly passionate–kiss under the mistletoe at Harmony Harbor’s holiday party last year, Julia thought she might have finally found her very own chance at true love. Until she learns her Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broodingly Handsome has sworn off relationships. Well, if she can’t have him in real life, Julia knows just how to get the next best thing….
 
Aidan’s only priority is to be the best single dad ever. And this year, he plans to make the holidays magical for his little girl, Ella Rose. But visions of stolen kisses under the mistletoe keep dancing in his head, and when he finds out Julia has written him into her latest novel, he can’t help imagining the possibilities of a future together. Little does he know, though, Julia has been keeping a secret that threatens all their dreams. Luckily, ’tis the season for a little Christmas magic.
 
 
 
 

CHAPTER 1

(courtesy of Debbie Mason’s Website

 

With each frantic beat of my heart, Adrian’s name echoes in my mind. I have to reach him before he discovers my secret. As I race across the ice-crusted meadow, my breath forms small, frosted clouds in the frigid, moonlit night. My throat, my chest, my legs, everything aches but I can’t stop until I reach the white castle by the turquoise sea. Adrian is there, waiting for me. He needs to hear this from me and no one else. If he. . .

A loud buzzing sound pulled Julia Landon out of the scene she was writing and onto the hard chair behind her desk in her cramped, one-bedroom apartment. She gave her head a slight shake to free herself from the grip of her heroine’s emotions and reached for the Santa timer that danced on top of her narrow desk.

Julia’s timers had saved her butt in the past, and this was no exception. Although it didn’t feel that way at the moment because her secret crush still filled the pages of her book for all the world to see.

She turned off Santa, set him on the crowded shelf above her desk, and replaced him with a turkey. Julia had forty-eight timers in her collection, and she had a sinking feeling she’d use each and every one of them before she sent off Warrior’s Touch to her editor. Her manuscript was due tomorrow at nine a.m. sharp. And unless things had changed while she was running through a meadow on a moonlit night in the Emerald Isle, there were still just twenty-four hours in a day.

Which was where the trouble all began. She’d mistakenly assumed she’d be granted a three-day reprieve due to the Thanksgiving holiday, only to discover that New York editors rarely took time off.

Asking for an extension was out of the question. She’d blown through one deadline already. If she blew through another one, she was afraid her editor would write her off as an unprofessional one-hit wonder and cancel the contract, ruining Julia’s chance of making her dream come true.

Back in June, she’d published the first book in the Warrior trilogy, Warrior’s Kiss, on her own. It had taken off almost immediately, exceeding her wildest expectations. Reader support had been phenomenal, and the extra money had come in the nick of time. Sales were down at her bookstore—Books and Beans—and fulfilling her vow to her late fiancé was costly.

But as much as the digital success of Warrior’s Kiss had been mind-boggling in the happiest of mind-boggling ways, Julia’s dream was to see her books sitting on the same shelves as the authors she adored.

The added benefit, which was almost as important, was the hope that the four alpha males in her life—her father and three older brothers—would believe that seeing her in bookstores across the land meant they no longer had to worry about her, that she had what it took to support herself.

Maybe then every phone call home wouldn’t begin and end with her father and brothers exhorting her to move back to Texas so they could look after her—folding her like a burrito in bubble wrap to ensure she wouldn’t get hurt or have her heart broken again.

Honestly, it felt like she’d been trying to prove herself to them her entire grown-up life. If opening Books and Beans hadn’t convinced them she could manage on her own, she didn’t know why she thought being published would. No doubt her brothers would tell her it was her magical thinking at work again. To her mind, there was nothing magical or wrong with being hopeful.

If she hadn’t held onto the hope that things would get better these past couple of years, she didn’t know where she’d be. Maybe cast adrift on a turquoise sea. She wished she didn’t care what everyone thought about her, but sometimes it felt like she’d been born with an extra people-pleasing gene.

Emmeline, Julia’s mother, would have been over the moon for her. The former actress would have held Texas-sized celebrations the day Julia had finished her first book at eighteen, the day she’d received her first non-form rejection letter at twenty-eight, and the day Warrior’s Kiss hit number sixteen on the USA Today bestseller list a week before Julia’s thirty-second birthday.

Every step of the way, every small victory and minor defeat, her mother would have been there cheering her on. Even though Emmeline had died when Julia was twelve, she believed her mother held parties for her in heaven.

Julia paid tribute to Emmeline in each and every book she wrote. In the Warrior’s trilogy, an Urban Fantasy set in Ireland, her mother was the inspiration for the White Witch. In a way, it was like bringing her back to life. The White Witch looked, acted, and dressed exactly like Emmeline once had.

Julia refocused on the computer screen. She’d been a finger press away from deleting the last three chapters when Santa shook his booty and brought her back to reality. Sometimes reality sucked. Because no matter how much she wanted to, there was no way she could kill off Adrian Greystone, the trilogy’s hero. He was the book boyfriend that readers lusted after and the reason they were clamoring for more.

Including Julia’s friend Olivia, who had finished Warrior’s Kiss a few weeks earlier. But unlike Adrian Greystone’s other fans, Olivia had told her that she was uncomfortable lusting after the fictional hero. And it had nothing to do with her friend being a married woman. Olivia said it was because Adrian reminded her of her brother-in-law Aidan Gallagher.

All too clearly, Julia recalled the knowing look Olivia had given her that morning in the bookstore. She’d brushed off Olivia’s silent insinuation with a laugh before making an excuse to run up to her apartment above the bookstore. She’d taken the back stairs two at a time to check for herself.

The evidence was overwhelming. From his physical description to his badass demeanor to his name. Adrian alone may not have raised eyebrows, but then Julia had made the fatal mistake of using Greystone as his surname. Greystone Manor, the fairy-tale castle standing sentry over the town of Harmony Harbor, was the Gallagher family’s home as well as a hotel.

Julia knew exactly where to lay the blame. It was because of that one kiss they shared under the mistletoe last Christmas at the manor. Given the length of time Aidan’s mouth had been on hers, it probably wouldn’t even qualify as a kiss—more like a peck. He hadn’t known her, and she hadn’t known him, and Kitty Gallagher had been standing right there with a twinkle in her eyes demanding they take advantage of the long-standing tradition or risk a lifetime of bad luck.

Since Julia had suffered enough bad luck at that point, she wasn’t willing to take a chance she’d have to live through decades more. Beside that, Aidan was big and beautiful, and at that moment, she’d needed something big and beautiful to distract her. But she should have risked a lifetime of bad luck.

Because while the kiss was merely a brief touch of his firm lips upon hers, it had an earth-shattering effect on Julia. She’d felt like she’d been transported to another place and time, as if she were dancing among the stars. And when she looked into Aidan’s extraordinary blue eyes, something inside her clicked into place. She’d known then that she’d found him. Her soulmate. Her one true love. In her head, she could almost hear her brothers groaning at the idea she’d discovered her true love after sharing only one kiss.

But they’d be happy to know that thoughts of tall, handsome princes and fairytale endings had vanished the second the Gallagher matriarch had introduced the two. Aidan Gallagher would never be the man of Julia’s dreams. He couldn’t be. Because if he ever found out why she’d taken on the job of the Gallaghers’ fairy godmother, he’d have her thrown in jail and would instruct them to lose the key.

Oddly enough though, she’d begun writing Warrior’s Kiss months before she’d met Aidan. But it wasn’t until he’d kissed her under the mistletoe that the story took on a life of its own and her hero, Adrian Greystone, came fully alive.

As much as Julia knew a relationship between her and Aidan could never be, it didn’t stop her from living vicariously through her heroine and embarking on a love affair to end all love affairs with Adrian Greystone.

Within hours of discovering that Olivia was right and that Julia had exposed her secret crush for all the world to see, she’d developed a debilitating case of writer’s block. Every time she sat at her desk, her brain would freeze and her fingers would seize and her first deadline flew by. And now here she was again, staring another deadline in the eyes.

As she saw it, she had three choices. One, get the manuscript to her editor on time and take the risk that someone other than Olivia—who’d been sworn to secrecy—discovered that Julia was author J.L. Winters. Two, kill off her hero and risk alienating both her readers and her new publisher. Three, ask for an extension and risk the possibility of being dropped by her editor.

Deciding the risk was worth it, she went with number three and brought up a new file on the screen. As she worked on a believable way to disguise Adrian’s resemblance to Aidan, she noticed wisps of smoke floating past her. It always amazed her how quickly the real world faded away and she stepped into her imaginary one, but this was downright freaky. Never before had she. . .

The sound of the smoke detector beeping and the voice inside it repeatedly saying fire cut off the thought.

Her head snapped up, and her gaze shot around her apartment, searching for the smoke’s source. She made out the Christmas tree in the corner of her living room, its colorful miniature lights twinkling through the fog. If it wasn’t the tree . . .The bookstore! She jumped from the chair.

And that’s when the smell of burning cookies invaded her nostrils.

Her Santa timer hadn’t gone off to remind her to get up and shake her booty; it was to remind her that her contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was ready to come out of the oven!

Frantically, she searched for her cell phone on her cluttered desk, around the boxes of Christmas decorations she’d yet to unpack on the floor, and the clothes on the couch that she’d forgotten to put away. Her cell phone was nowhere to be found.

And her overprotective father, who was more overprotective than most fathers of daughters because he was a sheriff, had ordered and installed a state-of-the-art alarm system the last time he’d visited. As soon as the smoke detector went off, Julia had four minutes to call the company and report a false alarm or the Harmony Harbor fire trucks would be on their way, sirens wailing.

Just like they had last month.

* * *

Julia walked down the narrow, smoke-filled stairway from her apartment to the bookstore with a fishbowl in her arms while apologizing for a second time to the fire chief. The sixty-something man with a full head of silver hair bore a striking resemblance to Paul Newman, right down to his blue eyes that appeared to be glinting with amusement as he held open the door leading into her store.

“I really am sorry, Mr. Gallagher. From now on, I’ll make sure I have my phone on me before I put anything in the oven.”

He scratched his chin, obviously fighting back a grin. “Colin, remember? And if I’m not mistaken, last time you were making spaghetti sauce and the time before that it was oatmeal. So let’s make a deal. You don’t use the stove or oven until you’re fully awake, okay?”

She typically started her day at five a.m. to get in her word count before opening the store. But it wasn’t like she could tell him she set things on fire because she disappeared into her make-believe world, so she’d told him she fell back to sleep. She’d used the excuse so often that he probably thought she had narcolepsy.

“I think I’ll give up cooking altogether,” she said as she placed the fishbowl on a low table in the children’s section. Her worry that Ariel and Erik had been affected by the smoke in her apartment was alleviated when they began swimming around. But while she could set aside her concern over her goldfish, she had another worry to contend with. . . “My dad didn’t happen to have the alarm system wired so that he gets notified too, did he? Like a three-strikes kind of thing?”

“Not that I know of,” Colin said, no longer holding back a grin. He was giving her a smile that she was unfortunately familiar with. It was the same smile people got on their faces just before they pinched her cheeks. She’d known a lot of cheek pinchers in her thirty-two years.

“He didn’t tell you to call him if my alarm went off, did he?” She made a mental note to ask Paul Benson, the chief of police, the same question. She’d forgotten her pass code and set off the intruder alarm last Sunday when she came back from a walk. In her defense, it was a new password. She’d had to change it when . . . she forgot it the last time. She needed to think about using one password for everything.

“No, he didn’t, but your oldest brother did.” At her groan, Colin added, “Don’t worry. I won’t call unless it’s for something other than a false alarm. You should be glad they worry about you like they do, honey. It shows how much they care.”

Of course he’d side with the men in her family. Just like her father and brothers were the to-serve-and-protect Landons, Colin and his sons were the to-serve-and-protect Gallaghers.

There was one big difference though. Her family got an extra Texas-size helping of alpha which made them way more annoying than the Gallaghers. Thinking back to her interactions with Aidan Gallagher this past summer, she revised that thought. He was the a in alpha and annoying.

“I know they do, and I love them too. I just wish they’d remember I’m thirty-two and not fifteen.”

Colin looked down at her feet, and his lips twitched. She followed his gaze. She had on a cozy red plaid onesie with fake fur lining the hood and reindeer slippers on her feet. She shrugged, smiling up at him. “What can I say? I love Christmas.”

“No one would argue with you there. That’s quite the plan you’ve come up with for decorating Main Street. I got a look at it yesterday.”

“Do you think it’s too much? I made sure there was enough room for the firetrucks to pass under the lights and garland.” It was her first year as head of Harmony Harbor’s Christmas committee, and she wanted to do a good job.

“It’s ambitious, that’s for sure.”

“If you think I’m being ambitious, you should see what they’re doing in Bridgeport. It’s important that we keep up, you know? For the manor’s sake.” Bridgeport was the town adjacent to Harmony Harbor and was the home to Greystone Manor’s biggest competitor.

Which was the reason Julia had volunteered to head up the committee despite having a bookstore and coffeeshop to run and a book to write. Now that she thought about it, it was no wonder she couldn’t keep the code for her alarm straight. But it’s not like she had a choice. Greystone played an important role in ensuring the Gallagher family’s happiness. A job Julia’s late fiancé, Josh Winters, had tasked her with, and one she feared that if she failed, he’d never rest in peace.

“So my mother and the Widows Club keep reminding me,” Colin responded to her keeping up with the Jones comment, or in this case the town of Bridgeport. “Don’t worry, I approved the plan. A few of the boys have volunteered to give you a hand on Sunday. I’ll e-mail you their contact information.”

She hoped his second oldest son wasn’t one of them. “That’s great, thank you. Now we just have to pray that Mrs. Bradford doesn’t try and file another injunction against us.”

The seventy-something woman’s husband owned the local bank and had chaired the Christmas committee for the past twenty years. She wasn’t happy that she’d been replaced by Julia, and she’d made her unhappiness known by taking the town to court for wrongful dismissal. The case had been thrown out of course, but Mrs. Bradford still managed to put them two weeks behind in their decorating schedule.

“She won’t try again. Not with the Widows Club threatening to close their accounts at the bank if she does.” His radio crackled. “I better get going. Give your apartment an hour to air out before you go back up.”

She followed him through the bookstore and the small coffee bar to the front door. “Thanks so much for coming so quickly. I’m just sorry it was for another false alarm.” She wrinkled her nose. “Umm, not that I wanted it to be a real fire, just that . . . well, you know what I mean.”

He laughed and patted her cheek. “You’re welcome. Happy Thanksgiving, honey.”

She held back a heartfelt sigh. Colin Gallagher was the nicest man, and so handsome too. After everything he’d lost, he deserved the happiest of happy ever afters. She was glad that she’d played a small role in helping him achieve it. “You have a happy Thanksgiving too. Say hi to Maggie for me and tell her two o’clock Sunday is fine.”

Julia smiled at the thought that all her scheming and plotting to get Maggie and Colin together had finally paid off. She’d spent most of the fall maneuvering the couple into chance meetings all around town.

Her smile fell at the look that came over Colin’s face. It was not the look of a man who’d just heard the name of the woman he loved. He looked like a man hearing the name of the woman he’d just dumped. Again.

He shifted on his booted feet. “The thing is, Maggie and I . . . Maybe you should just call and let her know the time yourself.”

The bell above the door tinkled as Colin said goodbye and closed it behind him. Through the frosted glass, she watched him get into the firetruck. She didn’t understand it. The man was brave, heroic even. Every day he put himself in danger on the job and had been doing so for more than thirty-five years. But when it came to opening his heart to love again, he got cold feet. This was the second time he’d bailed on poor Maggie. As far as Julia was concerned it would be the last, because one way or another she was getting the couple together for good.

The Gallaghers’ happiness had been her priority, her mission, for eighty-four plus weeks. And as much as she wanted Josh to rest in peace, she wanted to hang up her fairy godmother wings and move on with her life. Being responsible for someone else’s happiness—make that five someone’s—was a heavy burden to bear.

She’d hoped by helping the Gallaghers achieve theirs, she’d find her own. Weighed down as she was by guilt, true happiness had been an elusive thing these past few years. She was ready to change that. Her goal had been to hang up her wings on New Year’s Eve. She’d been thrilled when it looked like she’d achieved her objective months before her self-imposed deadline. Now here she was strapping her wings back on with only five weeks until the ball dropped.

Disappointment and a small dose of self pity caused her stomach to head for her toes as slowly as that big old ball in Time’s Square. But before she managed to sink even a foot into despair, Julia reminded herself of something her mother used to say Nothing is impossible; the word itself says “I’m possible.”

A few years ago, she’d discovered her mother had borrowed the line from Audrey Hepburn. Julia decided she’d borrow some of that positive thinking for herself today. The odds of accomplishing her goal by New Year’s Eve wasn’t impossible or insurmountable. After all, she had only Colin left. And whether he’d admit it or not, he was in love with Maggie. Everyone in town knew it . . . Obviously he didn’t, or at the very least, he was a pro at denying his feelings.

Another small flicker of doubt crept up on her at the thought that Colin’s fear of loving again might be stronger than Julia’s matchmaking skills. But like before, she brushed those pesky worries aside. This time with the reminder that she had four successes to her name—Colin’s sons. Finn, Griffin, and Liam were all happily married, and Julia credited herself with playing a small role in helping them achieve their dreams.

Their brother Aidan’s dream hadn’t included a wife, for which Julia would be eternally grateful. And it had nothing to do with her secret crush on the man. Tall, dark, and dangerous had destroyed any tender feelings Julia might have had for him last summer. Up until then, she thought he was a prince among men. But he’d turned out to be a beast. In good conscience, she couldn’t match him with any of her friends.

So yes, she’d been relieved to learn that what Aidan wanted most was a job. The former DEA agent had moved home to Harmony Harbor in order to prove to a judge that he could provide a stable environment for his six-year-old daughter. But he’d needed a job to do that.

So, in true fairy godmother fashion, she’d finally managed to convince Paul, the chief of police, to hire Aidan at HHPD three weeks ago. She’d even been able to conclude her assignment without any direct contact with Aidan. Not an easy feat in Harmony Harbor. In her book, that made it a win all around.

As long as she didn’t think about Paul who apparently thought they were an item. Because while she didn’t have to interact with Aidan to make his wishes come true, she’d had to interact with his boss-to-be to get him the job. Interact as in date him. Three dates to be exact.

She didn’t have time to worry about Paul now. If she planned to be fairy wing-free by New Year’s Eve, she had work to do and no time to lose. She turned to look over her bookstore, and a plan formulated in her mind. One that would require a pre-dawn visit to Maggie’s house on Breakwater Way.

There was just one teensy problem with her plan. Detective Aidan Gallagher was staying in his childhood home across from Maggie’s. But surely it was early enough that he was still in bed dreaming of sugarplums. She snorted at the thought of anything sweet entering Aidan Gallagher’s dreams. He’d probably shoot it if it did.

 

 

 

Other books in the Harmony Harbor series:
Sandpiper Shore – TBA

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Review of “Addict (The Cassie Tam Files Book 1)” – Matt Doyle

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

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I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.

The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, sowelcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

The world is constantly evolving. Everyday a new gadget is being introduced to the market. At the same time, news sources can’t go a day without mentioning a story dealing with drugs. Matt Doyle took both topics and ran with it. VR (Virtual Reality) is NOT a thing of the past. You can buy the gadgets at your local department store. In Addict, Matt incorporated Flash7, a VR stimulant, which made today’s virtual reality experience the equivalent of using an Atari when you can use a Nintendo Switch.

This story, centering on a murdered VR user, had so much potential for greatness. I wanted Cassie (Caz) to embark in the VR world. I wanted more time spent there instead of the real world. Addict did have a decent plot and a nice twist towards the end of the story; however, the moments leading up to it where nothing extraordinary. I think Caz’s past with Charlie didn’t add much to the storyline. Also, Matt has this book labeled LGBT but really it didn’t have much in the way of same sex interactions. Glances. Quick peck. Honestly, those could’ve been left out and the story wouldn’t have suffered one iota. 

One character whom I thought needed more time on the scene was Bert. He was her AI Familiar that resembles a gargoyle and behaves like a good protective pet. Now I love my new kitty, but a pet gargoyle….. That would be a wonderfully crazy addition to my already crazy house. 

For utilizing today’s tech in an interesting manner and for my love of Bert, I will rate Addict a solid three.

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤

 

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Matt Doyle
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
 
 

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Review of “Beyond the Mist (Lake Lanier Mysteries)” – Casi McLean

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes. 

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams. 

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist?

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Excerpt

A soft mist hovered over the moonlit lake, beckoning, luring him forward with the seductive enticement of a mermaid’s song. Rhythmic clatter of a distant train moaned in harmony with a symphony of cricket chirps and croaking frogs. Spellbound, Nick Cramer took a long breath and waded deeper into the murky cove. Dank air, laden with a scent of soggy earth and pine, crawled across his bare arms. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled, shooting a prickle down his spine that slithered into an icy pool coiled in the pit of his stomach. He clenched his fingers into a tight fist, determined to fight through the emotion consuming him. Fear sliced through his belly like icy shards until he finally heaved, forcing rancid bile to choke into his throat.

I have to do this––he inched forward––only a few more steps and––

A sudden surge swirled around him, yanking him into a whirling vortex, where a violent blue streak dragged him deeper, deeper beneath the lake into the shadowy depths. Heart pounding, he battled against the force, twisting, thrusting toward the surface with all of his strength but, despite his muscular build, he spun like a feather in wind into oblivion. When the mist dissolved, Nick Cramer had vanished.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

Casi McLean touched on many emotions in Beyond the Mist: guilt, love, regret, anger, remorse, and fear. She had us step into the past, relive the horrific moments of 9/11, and feel the desperation to alter a moment in time. If given the opportunity, I can’t imagine many who would not want to tweak those course of events.. despite the unknown changes that might occur in the future. To save a love one. To save everyone. It is so tempting. Nick faced such a temptation and we discovered, with him, how one small change ripples.. tears….. causes more harm than good. 

After the horrific carnage unfolded around them, Nick and Piper had no option but to head back to their time. The past had to stay the past. Instead of an easy journey back to their timeline, these two destined loves got thrust (painfully) into the future.  Again, Casi tapped into two prominent emotions felt throughout this suspenseful tale: fear and love. Nick and Piper feared never going home. Never being together again. But, as you had guessed, love finds a way. They found each other. They found home. But the surprises and twists don’t end then and there. They are not the only two who found a HEA. Plus, she ended the story with one heckuva setup for the next Lake Lanier Mysteries.

 

Heart Rating System 

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

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Don’t miss out on this great mystery! 
 

A ghost town submerged beneath Atlanta’s famous man-made Lake Lanier reportedly lures victims to a watery grave. But when Lacey Montgomery’s car spins out of control and hurtles into the depths of the icy, black water, she awakens in the arms of a handsome stranger, in a place she’s never heard of — 34 years before she was born.
 
When the 2012 lawyer tangles with the 1949 hunk, fire and ice swirl into a stream of sweltering desire. BobbyReynolds is smitten the moment the storm-ravaged woman opens her eyes. Learning the truth about her origins does nothing to stop the passion from taking root in his heart, and leaves him torn between finding a way to help Lacey return to 2012 or convincing her stay with him.
 
The desperation to find her way home dissolves as Lacey falls in love with a town destined to be erased from the face of the Earth, and the man who vows to protect it. Will the couple discover the key to the mysterious portal before time rips them apart? Or will their star-crossed spirits wander forever through a ghost town buried beneath the lake?

 

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Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense, like Beneath The Lake, WINNER: 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.

Casi’s powerful memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, shares an inspirational message of courage, tenacity, and hope, and displays her unique ability to excel in nonfiction and self-help as well as fiction. Known for enchanting stories with magical description, McLean entices readers in nonfiction as well with fascinating hooks to hold them captive in storylines they can’t put down.

Her romance entwines strong, believable heroines with delicious hot heroes to tempt the deepest desires then fans the flames, sweeping readers into their innermost romantic fantasies. Ms. McLean weaves exceptional romantic mystery with suspenseful settings and lovable characters you’ll devour. You’ll see, hear, and feel the magical eeriness of one fateful night. You’ll swear her time travel could happen, be mystified by her other worldly images, and feel heat of romantic suspense, but most of all you’ll want more.

Award Winning Author

2016 Best Romantic Suspense

Winner Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 

Winner 2016 Best Heroine Still Moments Magazine

2016 Aspen Gold Finalist for Best Romantic Suspense

2015 Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews

2015 Chicago Fire and Ice Finalist

2014 Winner 2014 AWC Short Story Award

 
 

 

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Review of “Gull Harbor” – Kathryn Knight

A #1 Kindle Bestseller
A Top Ten Read of 2014 – My Shelf Reviews
19+ consecutive weeks on the top 100 Amazon Bestseller List
A Reader’s Crown Finalist in Paranormal Romance – RomCon 2014
Best Kindle Books 2014 Semi-Finalist in Romance – The Kindle Book Review
 
 

When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day. 

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. 

 

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~~ EXCERPT~~

 

She shook her head vigorously. “I can’t spend your money to do my job. That makes no sense.”

“It’s not about that, Claire. It’s about keeping you safe.” He closed the distance between them, setting off alarm bells in the back of her mind.

Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath. “I realize you’re trying to help me, and I appreciate that. But what gives you the right to worry about my safety?”

“I don’t need the right.” He stood over her, and she took a step backwards, bumping up against his desk. His words shouldn’t have sounded menacing, but for some reason, they did. She nodded weakly.

“I am going to keep you safe, Claire,” he said, his eyes flashing. He reached out and stroked her arm.

A shiver ran through her, and she gripped the edge of the desk for support. “Okay,” she breathed. Every nerve in her body was calling for him. She closed her eyes as his hands moved up to cradle her head.

His mouth seized hers, and her lips responded urgently. She lost herself in the kiss, her fingers weaving themselves around his neck and tangling in his hair. His hands moved to her waist, and she gasped as he hoisted her up on the desk.

 

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I’ve never encountered a ghost, never entered a haunted establishment, so I can’t fully grasp the prospect ghosts are real. However, Kathryn really did have me wondering what if.

Stories of the unexplained are popular because we want to believe death isn’t always the end. After reading Gull Harbor, do I have any desire to venture to the nearest spooky destination and see if there’s any truth behind any of those local whispers about ghosts, apparitions, poltergeist, etc? Sure, a part of me is curious if things of the paranormal nature exist. Then again, another part of me is a chickenshit and wants to live in the world where paranormal beings are just myth.

I have to give props to Claire, the medium/psychic. She handled the situation with Maria (restless soul) better than I would’ve dealt with it. The first time anything flew at my head I would’ve been gone quicker than you can say…..What the bloody hell was that! Frankly, seeing any dead being or hearing their voice would’ve caused me to turn tail and run quick like a bunny. Like I stated above…..mega chickenshit! 

To Kathryn, I might not 100% believe in psychics or paranormal beings but I did enjoy reading about Claire and her desire to help those in need…. living or otherwise. As a reader, I could certainly feel Claire’s determination, frustration, and her unwillingness to give up. I could also feel the passion she had for Max and the love you have for the psychic/medium/paranormal world. Only complaint, I wish there was more time spent on Claire and her dad’s relationship. I feel like you, Kathryn, barely spent any time on their characters and a bit more attention to their backstory, info, would’ve allowed me to care more about their relationship (or lack thereof).

Despite that one gray area, I do feel readers will enjoy this ghostly tale which has suspense, love, and……multiple HEA’s. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

 

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Kathryn Knight spends a great deal of time in her fictional world, where mundane chores don’t exist and daily life involves steamy romance, dangerous secrets, and spooky suspense. Kathryn writes contemporary romance spiked with mysterious hauntings as well as YA paranormal romance filled with forbidden love. Her novels are award-winning #1 Kindle bestsellers and RomCon Reader Rated picks. When she’s not reading or writing, Kathryn spends her time catching up on those mundane chores, driving kids around, and teaching fitness classes. She lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband, their two sons, and a number of rescued pets.

 

Please visit her at any of these locations……

Kathryn Knight (Amazon Author Page) / Twitter / Facebook / Blog

 

~ Passionate Romance with a Paranormal Twist ~

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Review of “Haunted Souls” – Kathryn Knight

~One of the Top 3 Best Books of 2016 at Read Freely~


Four years ago, Emily Shea and Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds agreed to part with no strings attached. Sparks flew during their brief affair, but fate intervened, sending Brett overseas. When an unexpected pregnancy derailed Emily’s own plans, her attempts to locate Brett were soon overwhelmed by the challenges of single motherhood. Now, Brett has returned home, and Emily is forced to share her secret.

Despite feeling betrayed, Brett is determined to forge a relationship with their son, Tyler. As the former lovers battle both their inner demons and their mutual desire, another presence enters their lives—Tyler’s imaginary friend. Soon, however, the chilling evidence points to a different conclusion: a ghost has formed a dangerous connection with their son. Emily’s attempts to help both a lost soul and a friend in need spiral toward a deadly confrontation, and Brett must race to save Emily before he loses her again—forever.

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 ~~ Old Jail, Cape Cod ~~

 

 EXCERPT ONE

 

“Ma’am, he’s not allowed to be in the cells.”

Emily spun around, scanning the room for Tyler. The guide pointed around the corner and she rushed past him, mumbling apologies.

Sure enough, there was a rope hanging across the open entrances to each of the three tiny cells. It hadn’t been enough to deter Tyler, apparently. He was turned away from her, standing near the shadowy back corner. His head was tilted at an angle, as though he was listening to something intently.

An icy shiver traveled up her spine. “Tyler, you can’t be in there. Come on out, honey.”

“Coming, Mommy,” he called without turning around. He nodded toward the wall, speaking in a low voice.

What on earth was he doing? Sweat pooled under the heavy ponytail at the base of her neck even as another chill washed over her. She called him again, glancing nervously at the guide. She didn’t want to break the rules further by following her son into the restricted area.

“Now,” she commanded, leaning over the rope. “One. Two…”

Tyler backed toward her, and she caught the words “I’m sure” before he turned around and ran across the long, narrow floor of the cell. Emily bent, thrusting her hands under his arms and yanking him over the rope. She held him tight, cradling him against her heaving chest. It was too hot in here, too claustrophobic. And yet, a ribbon of cold air curled around her ankles as she carried him back toward the front entrance.

 

EXCERPT TWO

“No, Emily. I don’t want anything to happen to you.” The words slipped out, but they were true. Not much scared him, but a thread of fear trickled through his veins at the thought of her dangerous plans. Brett suddenly realized he’d do anything to protect her, at all costs.

She cocked her head, lifting her eyebrows. “Really? I find that hard to believe.”

“Stop.” Damn it. She was like some kind of gravitational force, pulling him toward her. He closed the distance between them in three long strides. “You know I care about you.”

She stood, looking up at him, her eyes flashing with challenge. “As Tyler’s mom, you mean.” The old clock on her desk ticked off the seconds as they faced off, the heat growing between them.

He pushed at the chair with a savage thrust, and it rolled away quietly on its wheels. Backing her toward the desk, he grabbed her shoulders. “As Emily,” he growled, now angry with himself. But there was no resisting it. He crushed his lips over hers, allowing his desire to take control. His body needed her—it was as simple as that.

 

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Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Massachusetts.

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

 

I’m not sure if I truly believe in ghosts, the paranormal world; however, I admit stories concerning experiences with the other side fascinate me. Maybe I am like so many others in the world; I get a slight thrill out of being frightened regarding the possibility death isn’t the end for us all. In any rate, ghosts were real for Tyler, Emily and Brett. One lonely ghost, Josiah, made contact with Tyler during a trip to the Old Jailhouse in Cape Cod. Through Josiah’s journey to be reunited with his “lost” mother, we get firsthand knowledge of the hardships faced in the 1700’s. Poor Josiah, his story was just as touching as Brett’s backstory and his was extremely moving.

Many soldiers battle PTSD every day and live in fear of hurting the ones around them. Their battle aboard might be over but the internal war rages on. For Brett, he was not only facing life out of the combat zone but he was acclimating to the fact he had a son. I’m impressed how well Kathryn depicted the struggle for a soldier to keep the wartime demons at bay while rejoining life on US soil.  

Now, though PTSD and ghosts are sensitive subjects, Kathryn didn’t falter on the sensual moments. As Brett integrated himself into his son’s life, and as Josiah moved closer to his reunion with his mom, Brett and Emily couldn’t deny the fire between them never burnt out. As a parent, I can remember those days when the kid is finally asleep and mom/dad hustle to spend some alone time together. *wink wink*  

As you can see, I thoroughly loved Haunted Souls. It touched on a multitude of emotions: fear (as a parent), fear (as a soldier), love, sorrow, and joy. It was a beautiful story about being reunited with a loved one and achieving internal peace. HEA! 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest)

Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

 

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~ Passionate Romance with a Paranormal Twist ~

 

 

Kathryn Knight spends a great deal of time in her fictional world, where mundane chores don’t exist and daily life involves steamy romance, dangerous secrets, and spooky suspense. Kathryn writes contemporary romance spiked with mysterious hauntings as well as YA paranormal romance filled with forbidden love. Her novels are award-winning #1 Kindle bestsellers and RomCon Reader Rated picks. When she’s not reading or writing, Kathryn spends her time catching up on those mundane chores, driving kids around, and teaching fitness classes. She lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband, their two sons, and a number of rescued pets. 

 

Kathryn Knight (Amazon Author Page) / Twitter / Facebook / Blog

 

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Review of “Tony Mandolin Mystery, Book 1: A Slight Case of Death” – Robert Lee Beers

Vampires don’t exist, do they? That is a question Private Detective Tony Mandolin finds himself pondering as the evidence piles up in a case involving a string of dead redheads and the usual dose of weirdness San Francisco has to offer. To complicate things, Mandolin has to deal with the perception that he has become the latest golden boy of the fog city’s crime boss. Then there’s his cross-dressing friend Frankie…Just another day in San Francisco.

Dive into an exhilarating new noir fantasy series where nothing is as it seems.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Based on mentions of Magnum, P.I., TJ Hooker and other pop culture name drops, I knew this book wasn’t set in the 1920’s or 1930’s. However, A Slight Case of Death had the feel of a detective classic from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. You could blatantly sense who inspired Robert Lee Beers in his development of Tony MandolinSome of the word choices, conversations, made this modern day story appear as if we had stepped back in time. The mobsters also spoke like they were from Jersey or New York instead of San Francisco but with old school flare. At least in my opinion that’s how they came across. I don’t know any real mobsters so maybe that’s how they converse. Eh, I digress.

Plot time….

A routine missing person case turns into the manhunt for a serial killer. To stop the killer (aka a vamp) Tony (PI) finds help in the unlikeliest places. But beggars can’t be choosers when the boogey monster has his sights set on you. Gotta admit, despite the nightmare inducing man to monster transformation, Simon was quite the likable vamp. I can see why vampires can lure their prey so easily. You don’t want to like them, but you also find yourself unable to resist their charm. Plus, like Simon, I always played with my food despite my momma’s warning so…. Play on! 🙂

Besides Simon, I also adored Frankie. Frankie was so flamboyant, funny, and won the award for best character. Frankie brought life to scenes that were becoming stodgy. Frankie was the light this book needed when facing a creature only thought to come out at night. When I envision this Frankie, I picture RuPaul: an American actor, drag queen, model, author, and recording artist. Maybe after you read over his parts, you’ll see a bit of RuPaul in this role too. 

 

 

BTW: Many myths were squashed in chapter 20 about vamps but the real shocker came later when we saw what could harm a vampire. This surprising weapon bumped the score from 3 to 3.5 stars! 

  

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤1/2

 

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Robert Lee Beers was born on March 11, 1951, on the far northern California coast in the Humboldt Bay area. He is an artist, musician, and a mediator.

In 2008 he was nominated for the JFK Profiles in Courage Award for his work on the Nevada State Assembly.

He is the author of the Hilarious Tony Mandolin Mystery series as well as the epic fantasy, the five-volume Milward Chronicles.

His first novel, The Promised Ones became the number one bestselling fantasy on the Barnes and Noble Fictionwise eBook store for 6 weeks. That book eventually became the novel Birthright, the first in the Milward Chronicles series.

Graphic Audio, the premiere producer of audio books in full cast audio has optioned the first five novels for production. Hole Lotta Shakin’, a Tony Mandolin Short Story is currently in pre-production into a serialized YouTube Audiobook at Tall Tales TV. As for Robert, he is usually found at his desk, laying down the next Tony Mandolin adventure.

 

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Author Showcase / Interview / Review – Richard Paolinelli (Escaping Infinity)

 

  1. Welcome, Richard Paolinelli! For those who might not be familiar with you, would you be a dear and tell the readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start in the writing business?

(RP) I started out as a freelance writer and photographer in West Texas in the mid-1980s, was the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics series, Seadragon, and then went to work as a sportswriter for newspapers and online websites in New Mexico and in California. In 2010 I retired from newspapers and decided to restart my fiction writing and I’ve been pretty busy since then.

 

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Kam: Did you know I absolutely love comics? I own several hundred and always looking to add more.  😉 

 

 

  1. All writers fear the dreaded “block”. Please tell us how you handle it.

(RP) One of the advantages of having spent so long working for daily publications is having to produce anywhere from 800-3000 words a day, five days a week. You don’t have the option of being blocked. So I really don’t get it now that I’m doing fiction only. On those rare occasions when I just don’t “feel” like writing, I don’t try to force it. Usually a day or two later I’m back at it as usual.

 

  1. Contrary to what some people envision about a writer’s life, it’s not all glitz and glam. Well not for the majority of us. With that bubble sadly busted, when you’re not writing, how to do you spend your time?

(RP) Marketing my books, appearing on radio shows and doing in person appearances. When I’m not doing work-related tasks, I usually read, catch a movie and try to spoil my two grandsons as much as I can.

 

  1. I know many writers, such as myself, keep their pastime/career a secret. Do those close to you know you write? If so, what are their thoughts?

(RP) Everything I’ve written, fiction and newspapers, has been under my real name, so everyone who knows me knows what I do. I haven’t really asked them what they think about it. No one has ever come up and told me to get a real job or anything like that so I’d say they are supportive.

 

  1. Will you share with us your all time favorite authors? If you’re like me, it’s a long list so give us your top ten.

(RP) (In no particular order)

Jack McDevitt

Edgar Allan Poe

HG Wells

Gibson Michaels

Douglas Adams

Harry Harrison

Diane Duane

Tom Clancy

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Dan Brown

 

 

  1. If you could choose one book to go to the big screen, yours or otherwise, which book would you choose and whom would you love see casted in the parts?

(RP) I’d love to see someone take up my latest novel, Escaping Infinity, especially with the quality of CGI today. I think Luke Evans could pull off Peter Childress and Emily Blunt might make a great Liz. The Manager I always envisioned being played by Kelsey Grammer even as I was writing the book.

 

 

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  1. Would you care to tell us what you’re working on now? That is if it’s not top-secret information. If so, just whisper it in my ear. I swear it’ll go no further.

(RP) I actually am juggling three projects. I need to finish up the final two books of the Jack Del Rio series and I am writing a short story I hope will be accepted for a special sci-fi anthology. And I have started on an epic sci-fi/fantasy project that is my “Lord of the Rings” project.

 

 

  1. Where can we find your stories and is there a particular reading order?

(RP) You can find everything I’ve written on Amazon, or go to my website – www.richardpaolinelli.com – and click on the book covers and they will take you directly to their respective page on Amazon. Other that the Del Rio series – Reservations is #1 and Betrayals #2 – there isn’t any particular order you need to read them in.

 

 

  1. Would you please share how your present and future fans can contact you?

(RP) My e-mail is: rp@richardpaolinelli.com

I’m on both Twitter and Gab as: @ScribesShade

And you can leave comments on my blog: https://scribesscribblesblog.wordpress.com

 

 

  1. Before we conclude this enlightening interview, do you have anything else you’d like to share? The stage is all yours.

(RP) Just that I’d like to thank you for interviewing me and for reading my book. I would like to just say to every reader out there: No matter whose book you are reading, one of mine or any other author, the greatest kindness you can do for them is to leave a review of their book, especially on Amazon.

Whether you thought it was the greatest book, the absolute worst or somewhere in between, leaving a review helps them in so many ways. I encourage you to so, even if it is just a few words or a sentence or two. Speaking for my fellow writers, especially ones just getting started, you will have their deepest gratitude.

 

Closing Remarks

Richard Paolinelli is correct on an author’s need for reviews. It helps boost awareness of their writing, helps them improve their craft and encourages them to keep pouring their hearts & souls into their creations. Without reviews and readers sharing their love of a story, writers fade off into the sunset. If you don’t want a writer to vanish, then show them love. Write a review.

With that said, I’d like to present to you a brief look into Escaping Infinity and my thoughts regarding it. 

 

 

Nominated for a 2017 Dragon Award (Best Sci-Fi Novel), Nominated for a 2017 Nebula Award (Non-finalist).

Thousands have checked into the Infinity Hotel over the years. None of them have ever checked out.

Peter Childress and Charlie Womack are successful engineers on their way to Phoenix for an important presentation. But one of Charlie’s infamous “shortcuts” has gotten them good and lost once again. As night falls, the pair stumble across the Infinity Hotel and the promise of a meal, fuel and a good night’s sleep before starting off fresh in the morning is too good to pass up.

But while Charlie immediately takes to the hotel’s amazing amenities, Peter begins to uncover some of the hotel’s dark secrets – a seemingly unlimited number of floors, guests that appear out of time and place and a next morning that never seems to come. Worse still, the entrance to the Infinity has disappeared and no other apparent exit back to the outside world is in sight.

Now, under the watchful eyes of the hotel’s manager and front desk clerk, Peter searches for a way back out and uncovers the horrible truth behind the mystery of the Infinity Hotel.

 

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

After reading the back cover, I knew I was embarking on a freaky, mind-warping ride and was looking forward to the journey Richard was going to take me on. The front cover looked promising as well. It had me thinking this book would be taking place solely in the future. However, once I began reading the prologue, I soon realized space and alien life would encompass the plot. Even though I was only thrown for a loop for about a nanosecond, I soon found myself engrossed in the mystery of the Infinity.

 

Even though I fascinated by the happenings of the hotel, one thing was missing for me which would’ve made me feel more contacted to the storyline. For me, I wanted to know more about the lives of the hotel’s occupants before stepping into the time/space paradox. We got a glimpse of Liz and the football star, but the inquisitive side wanted more history regarding its occupants. I guess if Richard was writing a 700 page novel then my wish would’ve been granted but he wasn’t. He didn’t. To stay on track, he led us through a series of events which would test the sanity of any man or woman. His writing was equally mystifying and eerie as fellow thriller writers Stephen King, Clive Barker, and R.L Stine. That’s saying a lot about his creativity. 

 

All in all, the plot was sound. The follow-through was a tad bumpy but overall a book I am thrilled to have read and happily encourage others to purchase. 

 

Parting remarks…..

1.) Planet Disney cracked me up.

2.) I didn’t know whether to laugh or yell RUN when the door’s guardian became activated. However, I did laugh a wee bit when it went airborne.

 

Good science fiction/fantasy story! 

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

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Review of “Ghosts” – Chip Scarinzi

When you’ve lost it all, how far would you go to get it back?

Bennett Covington has a good life. The support of a loving, growing family. A satisfying job. A roof over his head. Not perfect, but close enough.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. After stumbling into the middle of a back-alley murder, Bennett becomes entangled in a web of violence set in motion by members of a shadowy criminal organization.

Subjected to psychological torment, Bennett struggles to understand the depth of their evil intentions – intentions that threaten to take much more than just his life.

Through it all, one question endures: why have they taken such a keen interest in him? When he runs, they catch him. When he hides, they find him.

The only way out is to fight back.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)  

A good mystery novel shouldn’t be easily figured out. It should be orchestrated where each chapter gives you another piece of the puzzle but the whole picture eludes you. Sometimes the piece will fit snugly against a neighboring partner and sometimes you know it has to go there, but no matter how you turn it, it just won’t click into place.

While I was reading Ghosts and presented with the puzzle pieces, I couldn’t get the bigger picture to unveil itself. Was I mad? HELL TO THE NO! I didn’t want a few clicks and boom the show was over. I wanted my brain challenged and Chip definitely made me think. He made me doubt almost everyone, questioning even the good guy’s motives and presented an evil – unsavory – vile character (Poe) who took a licking and kept on ticking… much like Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and  Michael Myers (Halloween). Those two psychopaths wouldn’t stay dead either.

You want a good mystery, then look no further. Ghosts will challenge your mind and keep you hooked until the very end. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:❤❤❤1/2

 

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