#BookTour “Dark of Night” by Colleen Coble

January 9-February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

The law is about justice—not grace. But perhaps ranger Annie Pederson can find a way to have both.

As if the last few months haven’t been hard enough—complete with threats on her life and the return of her first love, Jon—Annie has to figure out whether or not to believe a woman who claims to be her sister, Sarah, who was abducted twenty-four years ago at age five. Annie’s eight-year-old daughter, Kylie, has plenty of questions about what’s going on in her mother’s life—but there are some stones Annie doesn’t want uncovered. As Annie grapples with how to heal the gulf between her and her would-be sister and make room in her daughter’s life for Jon, she’s professionally distracted by the case of yet another missing hiker in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A woman named Michelle Fraser has now been abducted, and though the woman’s estranged husband is at the top of their suspect list, Annie and her colleagues will need to dig deeper and determine whether these recent mysteries are truly as unrelated as they seem.

In this second novel of bestselling author Colleen Coble’s latest romantic-suspense series, Annie and Jon must fight for the future—and the family—that could once more be theirs.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Published by: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: January 2023

Number of Pages: 352

ISBN: 0785253742 (ISBN13: 9780785253747)

Series: Annie Pederson #2

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Should she even be out here alone? Michigan’s U.P. was a whole lotta wilderness. Michelle Fraser’s shoulder blades gave a tingle and made her glance back to see if anyone was following her. No one there. But in spite of seeing no movement in the trees and bushes, she couldn’t discount her gut instinct. She’d been spooked ever since she left the safety of the women’s shelter.

Maybe it was just knowing she was out here with no backup that had her on edge.

The heavy scent of rain hung in the twilight air as she set the last of her wildlife cameras in the crook of a large sugar maple tree. A northern flying squirrel chattered a warning from its nest. The glaucomys sabrinus’s agitation made Michelle pull away in time to avoid being nipped.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and a spooky mist blew through the forest. The sooner she was out of here, the better. Her last set of cameras hadn’t turned up the elusive mountain lions she’d been searching for, but a hunter in neighboring Ontonagon County had snapped a picture of a large male reclining on a rock. If she could acquire more data, it would aid her research for the magazine article proving mountain lions inhabited the area. And she had to have pictures.

She’d been obsessed with big cats for as long as she could remember. Even the various names held a fascinating mystique: catamount, puma, cougar, mountain lion, panther.

A mosquito landed on her arm, and she swatted it. Her hands came away with a drop of blood on her fingers. Yuck. She wiped the residue on her khaki shorts and turned to go back to her ATV. A sound erupted to her right, and it sounded like either a puma or a woman’s scream. The hair on her neck prickled, and she moved that way.

The scream pealed again, and she removed the lens cap on the camera slung around her neck. Her palms dampened, and her breath came fast. Walking toward danger might not be the smartest thing, but Michelle couldn’t help herself. She yearned to see a puma in the wild in all its power and beauty. Her knees shook as she pulled out a bullhorn from her backpack to frighten away the cat if it sensed her as prey.

Queen pumas would be protecting their litters in June, so she needed to be careful. Her lungs labored as she rushed in that direction. Her black belt in jujitsu wouldn’t do much against the speed and power of a puma. She seized a large branch to make herself seem bigger as she advanced through the forest. Evergreen needles clawed at her arms as she forced her way through a thick stand of white pine.

She paused on the other side and caught the glimmer of water. Lake Superior’s waves lapped at the rocky shore, and she spotted a yellow kayak riding the swells in the shallow surf. A discarded backpack bobbed beside it.

Her sense of unease grew as she observed the scene. Glancing around, she approached the water and snagged the backpack from the lake, then pulled the kayak onto the rocks. Her gut told her someone was in trouble.

Should she call out? If it was wildlife threatening the woman she thought she’d heard, Michelle could scare it off with a flare. But if the attacker was human, she didn’t want to give away her presence and put the woman in greater danger. She scanned the area for bear or cougar scat but found nothing.

The sound of oars slapping the water came from her left, and she ducked back into the shadow of the pines until she could tell the intent of the boaters. Two figures partially shrouded in mist paddled a large canoe around a rocky finger of the shore. The glimpse of broad shoulders through the fog indicated they were probably men. She strained to listen through the sound of the wind and water but couldn’t hear much.

She couldn’t put her finger on why she didn’t want them to see her. Maybe because they were men, and Brandon might have sent them after her.

“I know she ran this way. Trying to get to her kayak, eh.” The man’s heavy Yooper accent carried well over the water.

“Can’t see her through this mist,” the other man said. “I don’t know why I let you talk me into this. Your love life isn’t my business.”

“You owe me. Let’s try on down the shore. There’s a deer trail toward the road she might have tried to take.”

Their voices faded as their canoe moved past. She didn’t get a good look at their faces. Was a woman out there trying to escape an abusive ex? Michelle had seen plenty of that kind of trauma this past year and had experienced abuse personally.

Once they were out of sight, she stepped back into the clearing. “Hello,” she called softly. “Is anyone here? I can help you.”

She walked across the green mossy clearing, searching for a sign of an injured woman. The bushes to her left shivered and rustled, and she stepped closer. “Hello? Do you need help?”

The leaves parted as the mist swirled along the ground, and the pale oval of a woman’s face emerged. Long blonde hair hung in strings along her cheeks, and her eyelids fluttered as though she might faint. Michelle rushed forward and helped the young woman to her feet. She was in her early twenties with a slight build. Mud smeared her khaki shorts and red top, and she was barefoot.

She seemed familiar, and Michelle reached down to touch her forehead. She nearly recoiled at the heat radiating from the young woman. “Wait, aren’t you Grace Mitchell?”

They’d met when Grace first arrived at the shelter, but Michelle hadn’t immediately recognized her with the mud and dirt on her face and hair. The woman’s fever alarmed Michelle. “You’re burning up. We need to get you to a doctor.”

“I-I’ll be fine. Do you have some way out of here?”

“My ATV is this way.” Michelle put her right arm around the woman’s waist and helped her stumble toward the trail. “What are you doing out here?”

Grace paused and wiped the beads of perspiration from her forehead. “I spotted my ex driving past the shelter, and I knew he’d found me. That day we met, you mentioned a remote area you liked with a great camping spot, and I decided to try to find it. You know, hide out until I figured out where to go to get away from Roy. But I stopped by to get camping gear from my parents, and he must have followed me here. He’s out there somewhere. He and a buddy.” Her blue eyes flashed with fear. “I can’t let him find me.”

They reached the ATV, and Michelle got Grace situated, but it was a tight squeeze on the vehicle meant for one person. Michelle got water out of her backpack and helped Grace drink some. She grabbed her phone, too, and took a quick photo of the traumatized girl before she dropped it back into the pack.

Michelle started the machine and pulled out onto the trail back to the cabin where she’d been hiding out. She should have gotten out of here earlier since the weather had caused darkness to fall sooner than expected. It would be slow going on the rough trail with only the headlamps pushing the darkness back a short distance.

After only a few minutes, Michelle realized she’d gotten off the trail. She stopped the machine and looked around. Which way should she go? She consulted her compass and decided to push due west. They’d only gone a few feet when the ground gave out under the machine, and they went flying into the air. When Michelle hit the ground, something in her right leg snapped, and the excruciating pain was instantaneous.

She bit back a scream but couldn’t stop the moan as she pulled her knee to her chest. The swelling was already starting four inches above her ankle, but at least it didn’t appear to be a compound fracture. “I-I’ve broken my leg. Are you all right, Grace?”

When Grace didn’t answer, Michelle felt along the ground until she touched her thigh. “Grace?” She felt up the young woman’s body to her face.

Grace wasn’t breathing. “Oh no,” Michelle whispered. She checked her out in the dark as best as she could. No pulse.

Michelle dragged herself to the machine but it was on its side, and she couldn’t right it with her broken leg. No one would be searching for her out here, so she had to find shelter. But how?

The pain made it hard to think. She froze at the sound of movement in the vegetation. Something big was crashing toward her. A deer? A mountain lion or bear?

A man’s shoulders moved into sight, and his expression sent shivers up her spine. When he reached down to lift her up, the pain intensified in her leg, and her vision went black.

///

Law enforcement ranger Annie Pederson sat at a table by herself in the small interrogation room at the Rock Harbor jail and waited for Taylor Moore to be brought in for questioning. Maybe it was Annie’s imagination, but it seemed as if the beige paint on the walls reeked with the guilt and despair of countless years of interrogations. Even the clean scent of the disinfectant used in the area didn’t dissipate the unpleasantness. She didn’t like this space and wished she could have talked to Taylor at the coffee shop or somewhere more pleasant.

But this meeting might be the end of her lifelong search, so she would have faced even tigers in this place.

The door opened and Taylor entered. Several weeks ago Annie had hired her to help out around the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort and with Annie’s eight-year-old daughter, but the woman had been picked up for questioning about the necklace found belonging to a murdered girl. Her claim to be Annie’s sister, Sarah—kidnapped from Tremolo Island twenty-four years ago—had turned Annie’s every thought on its head. According to Taylor’s ID, she was twenty-nine, three years younger than Annie, so that detail matched Sarah.

Annie’s heart squeezed at Taylor’s ducked head and stringy locks. The bright-red hair dye was fading, and glints of her natural blonde color showed through. Her jeans and tee looked like she’d slept in them for days, and the scent of stale perspiration wafted from her.

Taylor glanced up, and Annie bit back a gasp at the defiance gleaming in those vivid blue eyes that matched Annie’s eye color instead of the muddy brown Annie was used to. Jon Dunstan had claimed Taylor was wearing contacts to change her eye color, and it seemed he was right.

Annie had prided herself on her ability to read people in her line of work. She’d always thought she could detect a liar with no problem. Taylor had completely snowed her. After Taylor’s impeccable references, Annie had trusted the woman with her child.

Sheriff Mason Kaleva ambled in behind Taylor. He gestured to the chair across the table from Annie. “Have a seat, Ms. Moore.”

In his forties, his husky form brought solace to Annie. He’d always been there for her and his town, and his kind brown eyes swept over her in a questioning gaze. She gave him a little nod to let him know she was okay.

Taylor’s eyes narrowed. “It’s Ms. Vitanen. Sarah Vitanen.”

A wave of dizziness washed over Annie, and she bit her lip and eyed Taylor closely. “You claim to be my sister, but do you have any proof?”

The chair screeched on the tile floor as Taylor pulled it out before she plopped onto it. “I should have expected you wouldn’t welcome me with open arms. After all, you did nothing to stop my abduction.”

Heat swept up Annie’s neck and lodged in her cheeks. “What could an eight-year-old do to stop an adult? If you’re really Sarah, what was the name of your favorite stuffed animal?”

“Cocoa,” Taylor said without hesitation. “It was a brown kitten. I couldn’t have a real one because Mom was allergic.”

Annie’s eyes widened. She caught her breath as she studied the other woman across the table. “Let me see your left knee.”

Rebellion flashed in Taylor’s blue eyes, and she leaned down to yank up her baggy jeans, then stood with her tanned knee exposed. A faded two-inch scar just below her kneecap matched the one in Annie’s memory. Sarah had gotten snagged on a large metal hook under the dock at the marina. It had taken fifteen stitches to close the wound, and Annie had helped her sister hobble around for several weeks.

But was that proof? Kids had scars from all sorts of things. She wanted to believe her sister was still alive, but was Taylor really Sarah?

Her breath eased from her lips, and Annie couldn’t speak for a long moment. “You really believe you’re Sarah? Did you research all that and make sure the details matched?”

Taylor just stared back at her with that same defiance. In Annie’s dreams, finding Sarah meant a tight embrace and happy tears, but Taylor’s stance with her arms folded across her chest and her jutting chin warned Annie off any displays of affection. Not that she was feeling any warmth toward the other woman in this moment.

When the other woman plopped back in her chair and didn’t answer, Annie licked her lips. “Why didn’t you tell me when you first showed up looking for work? Why the fake name? I’ve been searching for my sister for years.”

“Have you? Have you really?”

Annie glanced at Mason. “Ask him if you don’t believe me.”

Mason shifted his bulky form and nodded. “I’ve been helping Annie search. We’ve sent DNA samples numerous times over the past ten years. Her parents searched for Sarah, and even hired investigators, until their deaths.”

Annie hadn’t known that. Her parents’ business, the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort, operated on a shoestring, so they must have taken much needed money to try to find Sarah.

Annie shifted her gaze back to the woman across the table. Taylor twisted a strand of hair around her finger in a coil. Sarah used to do that too. If this was a scam, it was an elaborate one. With all her heart Annie wanted to believe it, but she couldn’t quite accept it. It was so sudden, and the circumstances were bizarre.

Mason cleared his throat. “We’ll need a little more proof. We can get the DNA back in a week or so.”

“I have nothing to hide,” the other woman said.

Annie had spent twenty-four years agonizing over her failure to save Sarah. The guilt had nearly swallowed her alive, though everyone told her she couldn’t have done anything. Until a few days ago, she hadn’t been able to recall much about that awful night. Maybe she hadn’t wanted to remember how she froze in fear when the kidnapper grabbed Sarah.

Annie fingered the scar on her neck where the attacker had wounded her with a knife. She’d been left for dead in the cold waters of Lake Superior, and while logically she knew she was no match for the gruff woman who’d snatched her sister, Annie had struggled to believe it.

“Were any of the things you told me about your life true? Those things you said about your m-mother?”

“I had a rotten life, if that’s what you’re asking. All those things I said about my mother were true. And it was all your fault.”

There was nothing Annie could say to counter that when her own conscience condemned her too. She was only too glad when her boss, Kade Matthews, texted her with a new case. Mason could continue the questioning about the necklace.

***

Excerpt from Dark of Night by Colleen Coble. Copyright 2022 by Colleen Coble. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Connect with Colleen online at:

colleencoble.com

Goodreads

BookBub: @colleencoble

Instagram: @colleencoble

Twitter: @colleencoble

Facebook: colleencoblebooks

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Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!

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GIVEAWAY!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Harper Collins and Colleen Coble. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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#BookTour “Accursed Son (The Martyr’s Vow Book 1)” by Eric Avedissian

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    The Martyr’s Vow Series, Book 1

Urban Fantasy / Horror

To Be Published: 12-12-2022

Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing

 

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Armand Tarkanian is trapped in the ultimate dead-end job: embalming decedents under his abusive uncle’s watchful eye. Every day he goes through the motions, making death look beautiful while his life is anything but.

A car accident leaves him indebted to Berj, a mysterious man with rune-carved gold teeth and a penchant for worshipping old gods. Blackmailed and desperate, Armand feels more trapped than he was under his uncle’s thumb. But the embalmer harbors his own dark secret, a bloodline curse that allows him to communicate with the dead.

When the spirits show him how they were murdered, Armand must choose between fealty to the sadistic and manipulative Berj, or joining the Legion of the Lamb, a monster-hunting biker gang with their own agenda. What began as a dangerous game between secret societies has led Armand on a frightening quest to save the only family he’s ever known and a chance to get closer to the rebellious misfits who saved him.

 Heartfelt and provocative, Accursed Son is a story featuring generational
clashes, found families, and the rewards of tempting fate.

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EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1

THE DAMNED FAMILY

If most people knew the particulars of my career, they’d crawl back into their stuffy cubicles or retail hells and thank their lucky stars they don’t have to do what I do for a living.

For me, every day is the same. Only the bodies change.

Today it’s Mr. Haroutunian’s turn.

When I’m done with him, the former grandfather and insurance salesman sprawled on my porcelain table will look fabulous. That’s my unwritten guarantee.

My name is Armand Tarkanian, and I embalm corpses.

Not the greatest gig, but it’s the only one I know.

Of course, Mr. Haroutunian won’t look fabulous if I don’t focus on the work, so I manipulate the hose and soak him thoroughly, wetting his face, ears, and mouth. I clip the hose to the table with a suction cup and wash the rest of the body, giving Mr. Haroutunian one last shower. My gloved hands then massage his hairy arms and legs, easing the rigor mortis until those gray, lifeless limbs are pliable.

Feature-setting comes next. Plastic eye caps resembling pointy contact lenses slide over Mr. Haroutunian’s eyes, pinning them closed. I inject needles into the gums and wire his jaw shut so his mouth doesn’t flop open. He almost looks serene, like the old gent is napping.

I make a small incision above his collarbone with a scalpel and dissect the fascia with surgical instruments called aneurysm hooks, until I locate the jugular vein and carotid artery. I cut into both, then slip one end of a flexible tube into the carotid artery and attach the other to an embalming machine. A second tube runs from the jugular vein into a nearby sink. The machine clicks softly as it pumps a solution of formaldehyde, humectants, plasticizers, and dyes through Mr. Haroutunian. His blood cascades into the sink like a gurgling cranberry juice river.

Mr. Haroutunian’s pale skin blooms into a pinkish, life-like hue—though he remains quite dead.

It’s a beautiful and slightly disturbing transformation. I’m like a magician resurrecting the dead, except my magic is a cheap illusion. Smoke and mirrors. I preserve inanimate flesh for burial or cremation, nothing more.

Death isn’t pretty until I make it so.

Uncle George stands behind me, supervising my work like a teacher peering over a mischievous student’s shoulder. Drawn-faced, with hollow eyes and a wiry mustache, he resembles an old-timey silent movie villain.

“I knew Haroutunian from church,” Uncle George says in the driest way possible, a dull monotone he’s perfected. “We went way back. His viewing and funeral are tomorrow. The family spared no expense. Flowers have been coming in all day.”

I wipe the front and back of my hands on my polyethylene gown. “Since they spared no expense, maybe a bit of a pay raise is in the cards?” I nudge.

“You know money is tight, Armand,” Uncle George tells me. “We all have to make sacrifices.”

I pull the nitrile gloves from my sweaty hands and drop them in the trashcan.

“Sacrifices are all I make.” I sound exhausted, defeated. “Day in and day out, I’m burning my candle at both ends while you handle things upstairs. I could work in the office with you.”

“The office?” Uncle George stares at me like I sprouted another head. “Upstairs is not for you. What I do is delicate. Administration and bereavement counseling. It’s a skill—not a thing you learn in your,” – he makes a series of dismissive hand gestures — “school classes. You’re either good with people or you’re not. And Armand, you’re not good with people. No. You belong here, in the embalming room.”

“If I can’t grow here, then what’s the point?” I tell him. “Thirtysix years I’ve been cooped up in this town. Doing the same job isn’t healthy. I want to leave Fresno and discover what else is out there.”

Uncle George’s face wrinkles like he’s sucking a lemon. “Leave your family? This is where you belong.” He levels a stare my way. “I pay for your student loans, and I put you up in my house. Your life is pretty good here. A little gratitude won’t kill you.”

“I’ve given you nothing but gratitude,” I reply. “I’ve given you respect. All I want is for someone to listen to me.”

“You’re just having a bad day,” Uncle George tells me.

“Bad day? I’m broke! Between you charging me rent and paying my student loans from my salary, I’m practically an indentured servant,” I reply.

“I pay you just fine.”

“Not enough to save. How can I buy a car or leave Fresno?”

He dismisses my concerns with another hand wave. “You know what your problem is, Armand? You want to work in the office, you want to leave Fresno, and you want to get paid more. You can’t commit to one thing.”

“I’ve been committed to this,” I say. “I’ve been committing the hell out of this for years.”

“And you’ll continue to commit,” Uncle George’s voice is sharper than the scalpel I used to cut open Mr. Haroutunian. “As long as you’re a Tarkanian, you’re a team player.”

“Yes, sir,” I reply, then attend to the best and deadest insurance salesman in Fresno.

If only I had picked the garden trowel during Agra Hadig, my life would’ve been different.

When an Armenian baby gets its first tooth, the family drapes a veil over the teething baby’s head and showers it with pelted wheat. After much fanfare, the bewildered infant is placed in front of a series of objects and is made to choose one. The first thing baby picks determines their future profession.

Choose money, and you’ll be a banker. Pick the hammer, and you’re a builder. Scissors predict a tailor or seamstress, while a knife foretells a surgeon or doctor. Grab a book, and you’re a teacher, or a pencil for an exciting writer’s life.

That’s the Agra Hadig ceremony. Fatalism at its finest.

My mother once told me that my father wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a farmer, so he carefully positioned a garden trowel in front of me. But someone casually discarded a toy motorcycle on the floor, and that’s what I picked instead.

Dad seized the motorcycle from my stubby little baby hands and forced me to select something else. He said no son of his would suffer the vulgar indignities that comes with riding a motorcycle. My second choice was a knife, and as far as the family was concerned, fate chose me for Uncle George’s funeral home.

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About the Author


Eric Avedissian is an adjunct professor and speculative fiction author. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and a ridiculous number of books. When not chained to his writing desk, he hikes the Pinelands and wastes too much time on social media.

Accursed Son is his first novel.

Visit him online at http://www.ericavedissian.com and on Twitter: @angryreporter.

Contact Links

Website

Instagram

Twitter

Goodreads 

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Purchase Link

Amazon

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#BookTour “Domestic Violence: A Thriller” by Chuck Edmonds

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Fiction/Thriller

Date Published: December 13, 2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

 

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Agnew, a small farming community in south-central Texas, has just been obliterated in the nation’s worst rail accident in history. The
President of the United States enlists cybersecurity expert, Mike Paxton, to lead the investigation and determine who is to blame.

As Mike seeks to uncover the truth behind the attack, more weapons of mass destruction are unleashed across the country in what appears to be an attempt to eradicate western society. Those who survive are forced into a near-apocalyptic existence: transportation, manufacturing, agricultural, and oil industries crumble, and economic collapse devastates America.

With time and resources running out, Mike must discover the cruel forces at play. Are these violent attacks merely a ploy to preoccupy the American government so a larger, global plan can be carried out without the threat of intervention by America’s powerful military defense? Will Mike and his team be able to stop them before it’s too late? Or will the United States lose all hope of maintaining its status as the most powerful country
in the world?

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About the Author

Chuck Edmonds is a scientific writer whose military experience includes the evaluation of weapons of mass destruction. Most recently, his work has focused on mechanical circulatory support systems (partial and total
artificial hearts), his field of specialization at one of the nation’s leading cardiac centers. His research has appeared in national medical and surgical journals. He draws from his background of deep scientific knowledge to create his fictional works, which often incorporate apocalyptic and war themes.

Chuck and his wife live in Houston, Texas, where they enjoy spending as much time as possible with their kids and grandkids. 

 

Contact Link

Goodreads

Twitter: @chuckedmondsauthor

Instagram

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Purchase Links

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#NewRelease “The Dragon’s Dedication (Peridot Dragon Shifter Brothers Book 2)” by Marie Johnston

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Cricket

I met my husband at the wedding reception for my ex-boyfriend and my boss. I’ve only known Maverick for hours, yet I have a shiny gold ring on my finger. That’s Las Vegas for you. An annulment would be the prudent idea, but Maverick makes it so easy to stay. So easy to say yes and run to some small town in the woods with him. I didn’t know how much my decision would change my life.

Maverick

I plan to keep my new wife. Nothing ever felt so right, but between her overprotective brother and the fact that I’m a dragon shifter, it’s going to be hard not only to just to stay married, but get her to mate me. And when I tell her what I am, I can’t let her go. Keeping Cricket is my only option. But when I bring her home, there’s someone who’s not happy about our Vegas wedding.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

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#PreOrder “A Sly and Sinister Tail: A Talking Cat Cozy Mystery (A Sassy Sarcastic Cat Cozy Mystery)” by Rachel Woods

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A sinking career. A savage crime. Solving cases isn’t easy when the cat’s got your tongue…

St. Mateo, the Caribbean Islands. Sophie Carter’s head is stuck in the tropical clouds. Desperate to keep her job, the underachieving reporter’s last-ditch homicide assignment turns into a nightmare when someone swipes her notebook and a scratch from an angry calico puts her in the hospital. And after she wakes from a three-day coma to discover the fussy feline can talk, they investigate the supposed thief… only to find the poor woman DOA.

Shaken when she’s pinned as the prime suspect, Sophie and her chatty companion vow to clear her name and write the real killer into a handcuffed headline. But in between steaming mugs of mango tea and worrying her cat conversations are a sign of insanity, a string of attacks have this amateur sleuth fearing she could end up in the obituaries.

Unable to trust her mind, can Sophie catch the culprit before she’s viewing paradise from behind bars?

A Sly and Sinister Tail is the enchanting first novel in A Sassy Sarcastic Cat Cozy Mystery Series. If you like quirky characters, oceanfront vistas, and whiskered companions, then you’ll love Rachel Woods’ whimsical whodunit.

Buy A Sly and Sinister Tail to get this puzzle licked today!

Releases January 31st!

PreOrder

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#GuestBlogger Behind the Scenes: Killer in Wolf’s Clothing – A Sizzling Paranormal Gay Romance By Kelli A. Wilkins

This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.

Hi everyone!

Today I’m showcasing my incredibly unique gay romance, Killer in Wolf’s Clothing. It’s a blend of mystery, danger, super-hot erotica, and romance… with an unusual paranormal twist.

To make things a little easier to understand, here’s the book summary…

KIWC book cover

Killer in Wolf’s Clothing

A super aggressive Alpha male, a serial killer, and a visit to a kinky sex club… What has Larry gotten himself into?

When Larry learns that his boyfriend Greg changes into another man during the full moon, he has a hard time accepting it—until he meets Deke, Greg’s alternate Alpha personality.

Deke doesn’t play nice and has no time for games. He only wants two things—to get laid and to get revenge against the arsonist who murdered his friends. Finally free from Greg’s restraints, Deke is ready for action, and Larry is more than willing to submit to Deke’s needs.

Together, Larry and Deke set out to find the killer. Their hunt takes them to an all-night Alpha sex club where things heat up for the two of them. But when Larry unwittingly falls into the clutches of the murderer, it’s up to Deke—and Greg—to save him before it’s too late.

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I wrote Killer in Wolf’s Clothing several years ago when Amber Quill Press was looking for werewolf/shapeshifter stories. This novella is a hybrid of both subgenres.

It’s a “werewolf” story in the sense that Greg was bitten by someone and transforms during the full moon—but he doesn’t become a traditional werewolf with pointed ears, fur, and a tail. He shapeshifts into an Alpha male named Deke.

The book is an interesting character study. I wrote three very different male heroes/leads, and intentionally made Deke and Greg polar opposites. Larry is caught in the middle and likes things about both of them.

Deke is 100% human, but embodies lots of animalistic traits: he’s gruff, territorial, and says all he wants to do is eat and have sex. His transformation is more Incredible Hulk than American Werewolf in London.

Personality-wise, Deke is the opposite, or shadow side, of Greg: he’s domineering, rude, wild in the bedroom, aggressive, and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He’s all Alpha. But deep down, Deke is a sympathetic character who wants to do the right thing. He feels responsible for the deaths of his friends. He has a good heart under his rough exterior.

Deke and Larry have an interesting relationship. Larry is drawn to Deke’s sexy body and aggressive sexual appetite. He wonders if he’s cheating on Greg when he’s with Deke, but Deke assures him he’s not.

Greg is struggling with the fact that each month he turns into Deke, and he’s not happy about it. He doesn’t trust Deke, so he chains him up each month during the full moon. As you can imagine, Deke hates Greg for denying him a life.

Although the book is a paranormal romance involving a serial killer, I knew I had to balance the dark subject matter with a light tone; otherwise the story would get too heavy. (After all, this is a romance!) So I decided to have a little fun with the story and the characters.

That’s where Larry comes in. When Greg tells Larry he turns into another person, Larry doesn’t believe him. (After all, who would?) They have a few humorous exchanges, and Larry doesn’t take any of this seriously, until he sees a video of Greg transforming into Deke.

I added in dashes of humor via Larry’s interactions with Deke to offset the drama and danger Larry and Deke get into as they track the killer. Larry has a sarcastic wit that breaks up the tension—and drives Deke crazy.

Things get hairy (pun intended!) for them at the end of the book, and it looks bleak for all three heroes. But I’m happy to say the epilogue ties up all the loose ends nicely.

Some readers/reviews didn’t get the humor, or were annoyed this wasn’t a “traditional” werewolf book. Well, that’s on them. Right from the start, the reader is drawn into a wacky world of paranormal fantasy.

A few unkind reviewers didn’t even read the whole book before slamming it. But others got the humor and had this to say:

“4 stars! Killer in Wolf’s Clothing offers a different and very creative take on werewolves. I loved the whole concept. Two very different people sharing a body that changes too. Hot, sexy, and a little kinky, this one tells a very engaging story. Larry and Greg are great as a couple but Larry and Deke really smolder. The transformation of Greg into Deke is detailed and the whole idea just pulls you in. Add a crazy serial killer and a werewolf sex club to the mix and you a wild ride. Great fun!” – Emma, Night Owl Reviews

​”Killer in Wolf’s Clothing was a delight to read. Deke is so different from Greg in his sexual needs and desires. Larry enjoyed both men for different reasons. Then trouble brewed and they all had to work together. Kelli A. Wilkins has penned a tale that will heat your blood and increase your heart rate as you become immersed in the hot love scenes and the terror of the murderer. Killer in Wolf’s Clothing shows that you never know who your neighbor is.” – Sensual Reads

​“4 stars! Killer in Wolf’s Clothing is a quick fun read that will hook you from the beginning. A bit different than I’m used to regarding werewolves, but I totally enjoyed the book. Recommended for all who like the horror genre with a twist of fun.” – Susan, Sweet-n-Sassi.blogspot

 

I had a lot of fun writing this story, and went out of my way to make it outrageous at times. Did it work? I think so. It’s very different from all the other romances I’ve written (gay or straight), and it’s my only book that mentions the Christmas season.

I hope you enjoy reading this very unusual romance. I loved creating these quirky characters while offering a unique look at the werewolf legend.

Order Killer in Wolf’s Clothing here:

KIWC book cover

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G3V9VWW

All other platforms: https://www.books2read.com/u/mYRB6x

 

Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media. You can read more “Behind the Scenes” blogs here: www.KelliWilkins.com/blog

I also made a Facebook page for my gay romances: https://www.facebook.com/GayRomancesbyKelliAWilkins/

Happy Reading!

Kelli A. Wilkins

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli A Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

Her latest novel, In Another World, was published in 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.

She released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.

Like to write? Check out Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and social media links.

#BookTour “Under a Veiled Moon (An Inspector Corravan Mystery)” by Karen Odden

Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden BannerJanuary 2-27, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

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Synopsis:

 

In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.

September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.

For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.

As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.

Praise for Under a Veiled Moon:

“[An] exceptional sequel … Odden never strikes a false note, and she combines a sympathetic lead with a twisty plot grounded in the British politics of the day and peopled with fully fleshed-out characters. Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Will keep readers curious and guessing to the end.”

Manhattan Book Review, 5-star review

“Damn fine historical crime fiction.”

Bolo Books

“Rich in emotion and historical detail, Under a Veiled Moon is a brilliant tale of the dark, thorny places where the personal and the political intertwine.”

Mariah Fredericks, Edgar award-nominated author of the Jane Prescott series

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: October 11, 2022

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 978-1639101191

Series: Inspector Corravan, #2

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

London September 1878

Chapter 1

We all carry pieces of our past with us. Sometimes they’re shiny and worthy as new half crowns in our pockets. Sometimes they’re bits of lint or scraps of paper shredded beyond use. Plenty of my memories carry a stab of regret or a burn of shame with them, and honestly, there are times when I wonder how we all bloody well live with the fool things we’ve done.

I’ve made a fair number of mistakes since I first donned a Metropolitan Police uniform in Lambeth, over twelve years ago now. Investigating murders and missing people isn’t a task for those who aren’t willing to go down the wrong alley three or four times before finding the proper one. But those errors are a result of making a poor guess based on limited knowledge, and while they may cause a few sleepless nights, they can be set aside.

The mistakes that feel less forgivable are those that hurt someone you love. Worse still is when you discover your error only years later. Often, there’s nothing to be done. Too much time has passed to make amends. And those mistakes—ach, it’s bloody difficult to forgive yourself when you should’ve known better, should’ve known to pick your head up and cast about to see what might happen as a result of your actions. Perhaps there’s no easy way to learn that lesson, other than failing to do it once and discovering later just what it cost.

Sometimes, during the evenings we’re together, my Belinda reads aloud from whatever book is occupying her at the moment. One night she related a Greek myth about a man whose wife was killed by a snakebite. By virtue of his music, he weaseled his way into the underworld and convinced the king of Hades to release her. The king had one condition, however, of the rescue: neither the man nor his wife could look backward as they were leaving. And what did the fool do? He turned back to be sure his wife was still with him. He couldn’t help himself, poor bloke. So the mouth of hell opened up, and she vanished forever.

But perhaps we can’t always help what we do in a moment of crushing fear.

When I was nineteen, scared out of my wits and fleeing Whitechapel with only a bag of clothes and a small pouch of coins Ma Doyle thrust into my hand, I didn’t look back. Unlike the man in the myth, I should have, though.

Perhaps then hell would not have opened up around me thirteen years later.

***

On the first day of September, I woke to pale autumn sunlight and a feeling of well-being. It didn’t happen often, and it took a few moments to recall the cause. I lay still, listening to the Sunday quiet of my house, to a lone costermonger’s wheels creaking and rumbling over the cobbles outside, and the bells from St. Barnabas’s tolling from the next street over. I no longer attended church, but I did believe in God—a reasonable and just God, although sometimes the world twisted justice around, like a boat line hitched badly around a metal cleat so it emerged from the knot in a direction you didn’t expect.

As I stared at the ceiling, I collected my thoughts with some satisfaction. I’d been acting superintendent at Wapping River Police for three months now, and we’d just resolved a case involving smugglers who’d been bribing Custom House men to underweight the scales, to avoid paying proper taxes. It had occupied my every breath for the past four weeks, and now I felt a sense of relief, like a weighted yoke off the back of my neck, as I always did when an important case ended. The newspapers had even printed something good about the police yesterday as a result. God knows we needed it. Sometimes I still cringed at the memories of the corruption trial last autumn, with mobs cursing us plainclothes men for being frauds and cheats, and newspaper headlines proclaiming how London would be better off if we were all at the bottom of the Thames. But with the river murders of last April resolved and this smuggling case concluded, it seemed the police were slowly earning back public trust. Of course, the stories published about our successes were full of inaccuracies, and by omitting any reference to the tiresome inquiries, the endless walking, and the misleading clues, they were nowhere near the whole truth, but at least they painted the police in a satisfactory light.

The door to Harry’s bedroom, next to mine, opened and closed, and as I heard the boy start down the stairs, I slid out of bed. The coals in my bedroom stove had burnt to ash, and the room was cool, with a dampness that lingered after a rainy August.

Standing at the window in my nightshirt, I looked across the way at the two-story red-brick terraced houses, built cheek by jowl, mirror images of those on my side of the street. The sunlight, golden as a well-baked loaf of bread, inched down from the roofline and struck the upper windows, flashing a shine that made me squint. It was a pleasure to think I had no plan for the day but to visit the Doyles for Sunday tea. What with the smugglers and my new responsibilities at Wapping, it had been over a month since I’d seen Ma, Elsie, and Colin—longer than I liked.

From downstairs came the sound of our kettle shrieking.

Harry would be preparing tea for himself and coffee for me. My brew was a holdover from the tastes of the previous century, I knew, but I couldn’t abide weak liquids in the morning. I’d taught Harry how to make my coffee properly after he said he’d do whatever necessary to keep me from growling at him.

Harry Lish had come to live with me here in Soho six months ago, after his father died, his mother having passed away years before. Harry was Ma Doyle’s nephew, but as she’d told me when he arrived at her house in Whitechapel, he didn’t belong there. His speech was too well schooled and his manners more Mayfair than Merseyside. Although barely sixteen, Harry was determined to study medicine, and I’d found a place for him at St. Anne’s Hospital with my friend James Everett, a physician and surgeon who supervised the ward for brain injuries and mental disorders. Harry was leaving the next day to spend a fortnight or so observing in an Edinburgh hospital, a special opportunity arranged by James, who found in Harry an eager and intuitive student.

I pulled on my shirt and a pair of trousers with the special side pocket for my truncheon, a vestige of my days in uniform. It being Sunday, I was off duty, but the Doyles lived in the heart of Whitechapel, and there was no point in being foolhardy. I splashed water on my face and ran a comb through my hair before stowing my truncheon and heading down the stairs.

“Good morning, Mickey,” Harry said as I entered the kitchen.

“Morning.” I accepted the cup he pushed across the table. The pocketbook he always took to the hospital lay beside his saucer. “Are you not coming with me to the Doyles’s?”

He winced an apology. “I would, but there’s a special procedure.”

“On a Sunday?”

He nodded, his brown eyes keen. “Dr. Everett is performing a craniotomy on a woman with blood on the brain.”

The coffee suddenly tasted sour. But far be it from me to dampen his scientific ardor.

“You’ll only be watching, I assume?” I asked.

Regret flickered over his features. “Observing from the balcony.” Then he brightened. “Richard will be assisting, though.”

Richard was a second-year medical student at University College here in London, who worked at the hospital and had taken Harry under his wing.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “Blood on the brain?”

“She fell off a ladder,” he replied. “If Dr. Everett doesn’t operate, the blood will continue to press on the internal parts and organs.” He touched his fingertips to the side of his head. “She’s already having secondary symptoms—seizures, confusion, and the like.”

“Ah. What time is it? The operation?”

He upended his cup to drink the last of the tea. “Ten o’clock, but I want to be there for the anesthesia.”

“Of course.” What could be more entertaining? I thought as I raised my own cup to hide my smile.

He reached for his coat. “Besides, I doubt Aunt Mary will expect me. I saw them on Tuesday. My aunt and Elsie, I should say,” he amended as he thrust his arm into a sleeve. “Colin was out somewhere . . . as usual.”

In his voice was an undertone—hurt, strained, subdued—that could have served as a signal of something amiss. But it was one of those moments when you must be paying proper attention to take it in, when you must be standing quite still. And we weren’t. Harry was dashing up the stairs, calling over his shoulder, “Wait for me—I’ll be right down,” and I was rummaging on the table amid some newspapers for my pocketbook—where was the bloody thing?—and the warning went unheeded.

I swallowed down the last of my coffee. Harry did well by me, leaving no grounds in the bottom, meticulous in a way that boded well for his success in a profession that demanded precision. With my pocketbook found, I shrugged into my coat, and when Harry reappeared on the stairs, his boots sounding quick on the treads, I waved him outside and locked the front door. We walked to the corner, where we bid farewell and separated. I watched him, hatless, his lanky boyish frame hurrying along, not wanting to miss the thrills to be found in the medical amphitheater.

I found myself grinning as I turned away, for I liked the lad, and we’d come to understand each other. Belinda says that in our both being orphans and clever, as well as in some of our less desirable traits such as our prickly aversion to owing anyone anything, we’re more alike than I’m willing to admit. There’s part of me that agrees with her, though Harry and I have our differences. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if I’d had Harry’s book learning or someone overseeing my education and guiding my professional progress the way James does for Harry. Oh, my real mother had taught me to read before I lost her, and working at Ma Doyle’s store had made me quick at my sums. But every so often Harry would let slip a phrase in French or Latin, or he’d mention some curious bit of history, much the way James or my former partner Stiles does, not to show off his learning but just because it floats around in his brain. And I’d think about how we can’t be more than our past permits us.

Then again, my advancement within the Metropolitan Police has been my own doing. There’s some satisfaction in that too.

Chapter 2

It was a fine day for a walk, and I headed to my favorite pub— the only one within a mile of my house that served a satisfying wedge of shepherd’s pie in a proper crust. It was where I usually spent part of my Sunday, with the papers, and I knew the Doyles wouldn’t expect me before two or three at the earliest.

My favorite table was occupied by two men, but I chose another near the window where a newspaper was lying, its ruffled pages evidence of it having already been read at least once. I flipped it over to find the Times masthead and the bold headline “Sittingbourne Disaster,” with a drawing below it of a railway train with the engine, tender, and two cars tipped over on their sides and the usual chaos of people and their belongings flung from carriages.

I let out a groan.

Sittingbourne was fifty miles east of London, on the south side of the Thames, not far from where the river let out to the North Sea. I scanned the article, but there weren’t many facts provided other than it had happened the previous night, August 31, on the London, Chatham and Dover line, when an express train bringing trippers back from Sheerness and elsewhere had run off the rails. It seemed to be the result of either eroded ground or a rotted railway tie that destabilized the iron rail above it—the same problem that had caused the disaster at Morpeth last March, as well as half a dozen other accidents that had occurred around England in the past few years. Early reports indicated three dead and sixty-two injured, with numbers expected to increase. The article closed with the usual gloomy declarations about how, until railways are held to a standard of safety by Parliament, accidents such as this would continue to plague travelers.

I stood and went to another table, where I found a second paper whose account included the additional facts that, for some unknown reason, the railway train had been on the ancillary line instead of the primary line, approximately one hundred yards from the station; and five passengers, not three, had been killed. This version also included, on an inside page, lurid descriptions and illustrations of mangled bodies and children’s toys strewn among the broken carriages.

Those poor families, I thought. What a wretched ending to a pleasant excursion.

As I refolded the paper, worry nicked at my nerves. Belinda would be traveling home from Edinburgh by train in a few days. She’d been visiting her cousin for a month, which was the longest I’d gone without seeing her these three years since a burglary had first brought me to her home. The thought of her in a railway disaster carved a cold, hollow space in my chest.

But even as I imagined it, I dismissed my worry as nonsensical. Belinda had made this trip dozens of times, and the line from Edinburgh was one of the newest and safest. Besides, the newspaper’s pessimism notwithstanding, parliament had mandated new safety devices and procedures. No doubt this Sittingbourne disaster would require yet another Parliamentary Commission, and the Railways Inspection Department would be saddled with the task of providing weeks of testimony and filing endless reports. I didn’t envy them.

After finishing my pie, I took my time reading the remainder of the papers, then rose, shrugged into my coat, and left the pub, strolling east until I crossed Leman Street into Whitechapel. Many of the narrow, pocked streets were without signs, but I’d grown up among these crooked alleys, with buildings whose upper floors overhung the unpaved passages and oddly shaped courtyards, and I tacked left and right, left and right, until I reached the street with Ma Doyle’s shop. It always opened at one o’clock on Sundays, after Roman mass, and as I anticipated, there was the usual bustle around the door.

What I didn’t expect were the wooden planks that covered one of the windows.

Alarm pinched at the top of my spine and spread across my shoulders.

***

Excerpt from Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden. Copyright 2022 by Karen Odden. Reproduced with permission from Karen Odden. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Karen Odden

Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published numerous essays and articles on Victorian literature, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Her fourth mystery, Down a Dark River, introduced readers to Michael Corravan, a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer from Whitechapel who serves as an inspector at Scotland Yard in 1870s London. The sequel, Under a Veiled Moon, is available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. A member of Mystery Writers of America and a national board member for Sisters in Crime, Karen lives in Arizona with her family.

Catch Up With Karen Odden:
KarenOdden.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KarenOdden
Instagram – @karen_m_odden
Twitter – @karen_odden
Facebook – @karen.odden

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Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!

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ENTER TO WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Karen Odden. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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#BookTour “The Accidental Spy” by David Gardner

The Accidental Spy by David Gardner BannerJanuary 9 – February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified.

So he outsources it to India.

Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry.

Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.

The Accidental Spy Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions

Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC

Publication Date: November 2, 2022

Number of Pages: 274

ISBN: 9781645994206

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Encircle Publications

~~~~~

Read an excerpt:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.”
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken

Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.”
The Philips Dictionary of Espionage

Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.”
Harvey Hudson

Chapter 1: Bunny Ears

Summer, 2019

Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head.

What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three?

One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him?

He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later.

Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals.

He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber.

With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out.

He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him.

The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes.

She was his boss at his day job.

Also his high school sweetheart.

Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground.

Margo took a step back. “Oh.”

Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?”

Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.”

Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.”

Margo blinked twice.

“A sociologist,” Harvey added.

Margo gripped the edge of the door.

“Named Fred,” Harvey said.

Margo nodded.

“The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself.

He handed the basket to Margo.

Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out.

Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.”

“At least there aren’t any Skittles.”

Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?”

Harvey nodded.

Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy.

Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary.

And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.”

Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?”

No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.”

“And snoring?”

Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost.

She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?”

“No.”

She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.”

Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change.

Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence.

He didn’t quite know what to say now.

Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth.

He’d outsourced his job to India.

Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—“

“Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house.

“That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.”

Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with?

“Happy birthday, Dad!”

The daughter’s voice again from inside.

“Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?”

The daughter laughed.

Harvey recognized the man’s voice.

Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead.

So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar.

The hell with telling the truth.

Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?”

“Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.”

“Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?”

“Yes.”

Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She closed the door behind her.

Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head.

Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up.

Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation.

But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job.

Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him.

Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments.

Still, she had called him cute.

Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers.

Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears.

When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague.

What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears?

What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?)

Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?)

Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back.

Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right.

Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation.

Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job?

Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk.

A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free.

Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free.

He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky.

He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”).

Just one more reason to be angry with himself.

***

Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner. Copyright 2022 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.

He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC).

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David Gardner:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
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BookBub – @davidagardner07
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Facebook

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#BookTour “What Meets the Eye” by Alex Kenna

What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna BannerJanuary 9 – February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

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Synopsis:

 

From debut author Alex Kenna comes a pulse-pounding tapestry of secrets, retribution, and greed for fans of Jeffrey Archer.

Kate Myles was a promising Los Angeles police detective, until an accident and opioid addiction blew up her family and destroyed her career. Struggling to rebuild her life, Kate decides to try her hand at private detective work—but she gets much more than she bargained for when she takes on the case of a celebrated painter found dead in a downtown loft.

When Margot Starling’s body was found, the cause of death was assumed to be suicide. Despite her beauty, talent, and fame, she struggled with a host of demons. But as Kate digs deeper, she learns that Margot had a growing list of powerful enemies—among them a shady art dealer who had been selling forged works by Margot. Kate soon uncovers a dirty trail that leads straight into the heart of the city’s deadly underworld.

Margot died for her art—and if Kate doesn’t tread lightly, she could be the next to get brushed out.

Praise for What Meets the Eye:

“[An] impressive debut . . . Sara Paretsky fans will be pleased.”

Publishers Weekly

“Alex Kenna is the real deal, a true talent. Her prose is stunningly eloquent and characterization masterful.”

Crime Fiction Critic

“A righteous, painful debut. More, please.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Dragging the world of high art down into the muck of Los Angeles’ criminal underbelly, Alex Kenna has created an engaging mystery buoyed by the heart of its heroine, Kate Myles. Trying to win against stacked decks in her professional and personal lives, Myles’ resilience and hustle makes her an easy hero to stand up and cheer for.”

James Queally, author of the Russel Avery novels and Los Angeles Times crime reporter

“With the sure hand of an old master, Alex Kenna’s debut blurs the line between catharsis and crime in this gritty and nimble noir mystery. When a routine investigation into the apparent suicide of art superstar Margot Starling becomes anything but, down-on-her-luck PI Kate Myles must square herself up for the fight of her life or lose it all. Entertaining and provocative, What Meets the Eye reminds us that truth often comes with a price tag much higher—and deadlier—than anything Sotheby’s could ever hope to fetch at auction.”

Katie Lattari, author of Dark Things I Adore

“Kenna gives us the LA crime story we want—a fronded, sun-beaten carousel of depravity and murder, all laced up with tight plotting, sharply hewn characters, and a gripping, original story.”

Joseph Schneider, author of the Tully Jarsdel Mysteries

“A suspicious death dismissed as suicide leads PI Kate Myles deep into a web of blackmail and deceit, set against an intriguing backdrop of shady dealings in the art world. An all too human character, Kate is determined to piece together the wreckage of her life and career, and salvage her fractured relationship with her daughter. With clever twists & turns, and a host of convincing suspects along the way, the plot delivers a satisfying ending, but leaves us with tantalizing hints of more to come from Kate…”

Julie Cameron, author of Nameless Acts of Cruelty

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Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: December 2022

Number of Pages: 288

ISBN: 9781639101849 (ISBN10: 1639101845)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Penguin Random House 

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Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Six Months Ago – Margot

All week long, I’d felt a fire in my belly. The spirit passed through me like lightning, brushes flying from wet canvas to wet canvas. Cooking was a waste of time, so I ordered takeout and drank whiskey. Sleep was out of the question. I cranked up the music and worked to the beat. Sometimes I sang along, dripping globs of color onto the floor. The paint went on smooth, like buttery icing. After a while, my brushes stayed in their jar and my fingers danced across the canvas. No bristles between skin and cloth.

Soon the images came alive. I’d been studying the Spanish greats: Velasquez, Goya, Zurbaran, Ribera. For them, it was all about bottomless darks with hints of warm, mellow light. I took a break from bold colors, indulging in white and yellow ochre on burnt sienna. The effect was sinister but mesmerizing. One after another, my hands pulled ghostly figures out of a dark void.

I finally passed out around dawn on Thursday, just as the birds were starting to chatter. When I woke, it was midafternoon, and the magic was gone. My mouth tasted of bile and I felt like someone had scooped out my eyeballs and punched me in the sockets.

I wandered into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. One of Goya’s haggard witches stared back at me. My skin was the color of rice pudding. There were purple half-moons under my eyes and a cadmium streak in my hair. I picked at my nail beds, filled with Prussian blue. The thought of cleaning them was exhausting so I didn’t bother.

My stomach let out a growl and I stumbled over to the fridge. Nothing inside was fresh enough to tempt me. I turned to a soggy takeout container on the kitchen table. The waxed cardboard had partially melted, and a puddle of sauce oozed onto the table. A dead fruit fly was trapped inside the congealed orange liquid like a mosquito in amber. I pulled a half-eaten egg roll off last night’s dinner plate and popped it in my mouth. At least it was still crispy.

After lunch-breakfast-dinner, I had an edible and downed a pot of coffee. I tried to get back to work, but the electricity was gone. The images that were so alive last night now looked dull and mannered. A self-portrait smirked at me. I’d given myself a pouty red mouth like an Instagram twat and artificial jolly-rancher-green eyes. It was pathetic. The last desperate cry of a lonely train wreck nearing forty. I felt worthless. I should go jump off a bridge or wander onto the freeway.

I lay on the couch for what must have been hours, binge watching some show about British aristocrats and their servants. Thank God I wasn’t born in nineteenth century England. You can’t be a British lady if you’re a mouthy alcoholic who screws half the landed gentry. I would’ve done worse as a servant. I can barely fry an egg and half the time I’m too paralyzed by my own shit to get out of bed. I’d end up as a consumptive whore blowing sailors for my supper in a London tenement.

The curtains were drawn, and eventually light stopped leaking in from the window edges. I usually do better when the sun goes down. But nightfall didn’t bring me a second wind. It made me feel worse. I poured myself another drink and lit a cigarette.

My cell kept blowing up with a number I didn’t recognize. I’d had this phone for six months and never transferred my contacts over from the last one. Now my caller ID served as a kind of litmus test. If someone hadn’t reached out in half a year, they weren’t worth my time. I let it go to voicemail and turned back to the aristocrats. The only decent one was dead now. This show was making me tired.

There was a knock on the door. Probably the neighbor coming to tell me her baby couldn’t sleep because I make use of my electronics. I ignored it, took a swig of whiskey, and lit another cigarette.

Then whoever it was started pounding. “Margot, open up,” said a loud baritone. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. His tone had an edge of desperation. Could it be that cop from last week? A wave of dread flowed through me. My hands started shaking and a clump of ash fell on the couch. If I kept very still, maybe he’d think I wasn’t home and go away. No, the TV was too loud. He knew I was in here.

I tiptoed over to the keyhole and gasped. My drink flew from my hand and shattered, coating the floor in alcohol and shards of glass.

***

Excerpt from What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna. Copyright 2022 by Alex Kenna. Reproduced with permission from Alex Kenna. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Alex Kenna

Alex Kenna is a lawyer, writer, and amateur painter based in Los Angeles. Before law school, Alex studied painting and art history. She also worked as a freelance culture writer and sold art in a gallery. Originally from Washington DC, Alex lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and giant schnauzer, Zelda. When she’s not writing Alex can be found exploring Southern California, toddler-wrangling, and playing string instruments badly.

 

Catch Up With Our Author:
AlexKenna.com
Goodreads
Twitter – @AlexKenna9
Facebook

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Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, and giveaway entries!

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ENTER TO WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Alex Kenna. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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#BookTour “Sex in the City: A Cultural History” by Nicole Evelina

Welcome to the book tour for Sex in the City: A Cultural History by Nicole Evelina! Read on for more details!

Sex and the City 9781538165676_fc

Sex in the City: A Cultural History

Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Genre: TV/ Pop Culture

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

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An insightful look at the cultural impact of the television phenomenon Sex and the City.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one word was on everyone’s lips: sex. Sex and the City had taken the United States, and the world, by storm. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha influenced how a generation of women think, practice, and talk about sex, allowing them to embrace their sexual desires publicly and unlocking the idea of women as sexual beings on par with men.

In Sex and the City: A Cultural History, Nicole Evelina provides a fascinating, in-depth look at the show’s characters, their relationships, and the issues the show confronted. From sexuality and feminism to friendship and motherhood, Evelina reveals how the series impacted viewers in the 1990s, as well as what still resonates today and what has glaringly not kept up with the times. The world has changed dramatically since the show originally aired, and Evelina examines how recent social movements have served to highlight the show’s lack of diversity and throw some of its storylines into a less than favorable light.

While Sex and the City had problematic issues, it also changed the world’s perception of single women, emphasized the power of female friendship, built brands, and influenced fashion. This book looks at it all, from the pilot episode to the spin-off movies, prequel, and reboot that together have built an enduring legacy for a new generation of women.

Available on Here

About the Author

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Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. Her six books have won more than 40 awards, including four Book of the Year designations. She was named Missouri’s Top Independent Author by Library Journal and Biblioboard as the winner of the Missouri Indie Author Project and has been awarded the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. In addition to books, her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Independent Journal, Curve Magazine and numerous historical publications. She lives outside St. Louis, Missouri.

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