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Monday, July 28, 2014

Congratulations! :)

Happy Monday Morning! :)

I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend, and had the chance to get lost in a wonderful book (or two!).  It was a beautiful weekend here in the middle of the country, and it's going to be an even more wonderful week!  And...... I'm about to make someone else's week a little bit more awesome too! :) 

Using random.org, the lucky winner of the mystery giveaway is: 

Congratulations, Pat! :)  Check your e-mail for more details.  And a huge thank you to everyone that commented.  Your condolences meant a lot.  I also loved seeing what everyone was reading! 

Be on the lookout for the awesome stuff that I have coming up in August, as well as a winners list from July. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week! :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Are You Reading? :) (With a little Giveaway...)

You'll have to forgive me, my dear readers, as I have been preoccupied with a death in the family, as well as a prospective new job.  But since I didn't have a chance to prepare a more detailed post for today, I'll pose a question instead :) 

What are you reading right now? :)  Is there a series that you're in to at the moment?  

Comment below by 11:59pm CST on Friday 7/25, and I'll randomly choose one lucky reader to receive a mystery prize (don't worry... it's book related!). 

I'm reading Billionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle :) 
(Be sure to check back in August for your chance to win this cozy along with a handful of others!) 

Thanks for stopping by! Everyone have a great day! :) 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Romance Review: The Red Bikini by Lauren Christopher

A sparkling debut romance where a getaway vacation turns into an unexpected new beginning……

For the last five years, Giselle McCabe’s life has been about sippy cups and playdates. But when her husband suddenly leaves her, Giselle flees to her sister’s California beach house for a two-week getaway. Out of her element, she’s surprised to receive such a warm welcome—especially from gorgeous celebrity athlete Fin Hensen……

Fin is escaping his pro tour for a season, trying to lie low until all the hubbub over a huge mistake in his past blows over. And when he sets his sights on Giselle, he realizes that the beautiful good girl just might be the ticket to his success.

But Giselle never expected romance to enter the picture again—especially with a hot twenty-something from a completely different world. And even though it feels like Fin is everything she’s trying to run away from, she can’t help coming back for more.



Lauren Christopher writes funny, sexy contemporary romances that take place in California's most secret and romantic settings.

After graduating with an English degree from UCLA, Lauren launched a 23-year career as a nonfiction writer and editor -- writing more than 100 newspaper, magazine, and online articles on everything from the history of auto racing to the origins of Santa Claus.

Her first California romance – THE RED BIKINI, set in fictional “Sandy Cove” – is slated for July 2014 with Berkley Sensation, to be followed by a second Sandy Cove book in March 2015.

Lauren lives in Southern California with her husband and three teenage children.



I love books that just feel like a summer read.  The beach, the heat, the romance - it's all encompassed in The Red Bikini.  

Giselle and Fin began this book as two lonely people in very precarious situations.  Giselle is a recently heart-broken and single mother with no job and in need of something... anything to get her mind off of the difficulties she's going through.  Fin is a professional athlete in need of some really good PR.  When they meet one another, there's not an instant spark, but they do hit it off and agree to help one another get through their tough times.  Through everything, they eventually open themselves up to the idea of love and allow their hearts to join together in a charmingly beautiful way.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry that these two did have, and I also loved how their relationship took time to develop.  It made the story more believable and I actually found myself caring about both of them.  I especially loved the feel-good aspect of their relationship and the inspiring hope that good can definitely come to you when you think the whole world has come crashing down around you.  

Overall, this was a great contemporary romance read, and one that you could easily finish sitting poolside on a hot summer day :)  

Rating:  4.5 stars  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own.   

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Romance Review: Stranded with a Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #1) by Jessica Clare

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society of six men who have vowed success – at any cost. Not all of them are old money, but all of them are incredibly wealthy. They’re just not always as successful when it comes to love…

Billionaire Logan Hawkings needs a vacation.
He’s had a rough time after the death of his father and the betrayal of his fiancée. But with a visit to a recent business acquisition—a private island resort in the Bahamas—he has a chance to mend his broken heart.
When a hurricane blows in, a misplaced passport and a stalled elevator bring Logan together with an unusual woman named Bronte. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met—down to earth, incredibly sensual, and even quotes Plato.
She also has no clue that he’s rich…

Bronte Dawson, a waitress from the Midwest, is stranded with the hotel’s domineering yet sexy manager Logan. What’s the harm in a little fling when it’s just the two of them, alone in paradise? But after several steamy island nights in Logan’s arms, Bronte’s ready to give her heart—and her body—to the man in charge.

But she soon discovers there’s more to Logan than he’s told her…a billion times more. Now, Bronte’s caught in a whirlwind affair with one of the world’s most powerful men. But can their love endure their differences or will it all just blow over?



Jessica Clare is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author who writes under three different names. As Jill Myles, she writes a little bit of everything, from sexy, comedic urban fantasy to zombie fairy tales. As Jessica Clare, she writes erotic contemporary romance.

She also has a third pen name (because why stop at two?). As Jessica Sims, she writes fun, sexy shifter paranormals. She lives in Texas with her husband, cats, and too many dust-bunnies. Jill spends her time writing, reading, writing, playing video games, and doing even more writing.


As a lover of contemporary romance, I was excited about Jessica Clare's Stranded with a Billionaire.  I was intrigued to see if she could take a fairly over-worked idea and make it original.  And while it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I did enjoy following Bronte and Logan on their romantic escapade.  

Being stranded at a resort, tucked away on a private island, in the middle of a hurricane, with a hunky billionaire doesn't sound half bad.  And for Bronte, it meant a happily ever after she never saw coming.  The chemistry between her and Logan was immediate and intense.  They fit together perfectly, and their connection was made all the more evident when their wooing romance turned intimate - and boy was it steamy!  

While their romance was beautiful and sweet, unfortunately for me, it was a little too predictable.  I loved the idea of being stranded somewhere with a man that you know nothing about and having a connection, but there were elements of the "billionaire story" that were all too familiar and made me feel like I'd visited certain scenarios plenty of times before.  Were there some things original?  Absolutely.  And those things were great!  Sadly, for a lot of us, the billionaire just feels a lot less... appealing.  

That being said, however, I really did enjoy this story.  Jessica Clare is a fantastic writer who draws you in and keeps you entertained from start to finish.  And with this being the first book in a new series, I have a feeling that we'll be in for a real treat with the future books in this series.  I know I'll be reading!  

Rating:  4 stars 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Interview & Giveaway: Book Clubbed (A Booktown Mystery #8) by Lorna Barrett

New York Times bestselling author Lorna Barrett is back in town—Booktown, that is—with another page-turning mystery. This time bookstore owner Tricia Miles and her sister, Angelica, put their own problems on the shelf to catch a killer who turns a bookcase into a murder weapon…

Cranky Chamber of Commerce receptionist Betsy Dittmeyer is done reading people the riot act. After she’s crushed by a fallen bookcase, the next item to be read is her last will and testament—which is packed with surprises. It soon comes to light that Betsy was hiding volumes of dark secrets behind that perpetual frown of hers—and one of them just might have been a motive for murder.

While Tricia tries to help Angelica—the newly elected Chamber of Commerce president and Betsy’s boss—solve the mystery, she discovers a hidden chapter in her own family history that rocks her to her very core. And with her ex-husband and the chief of police vying for her affections, it’s doubly hard to focus on who might have buried Betsy in a tomb of tomes.

But as Tricia and Angelica try to read between the lines, they need to watch their step…and make sure the killer doesn’t catch them between the stacks.





Q: You have two books out today, the new hardcover, BOOK CLUBBED in hardcover, and NOT THE KILLING TYPE in paperback, so your are doing double duty promoting both.  Tricia is wonderful character, where do you get your inspiration for her adventures? 

A: I have no idea.  They just come to me. 

Not the Killing Type was a lot of fun to write, but I think I enjoyed writing Book Clubbed even more.  I've just finished Booktown #9, which I'm calling A Fatal Chapter.  Not sure if that will be the final title, though.  They get changed a lot.  

I like to play with various ideas.  The idea of a Chamber of Commerce election seemed like a great jumping off point for Not The Killing Type.  For Book Clubbed, I decided the Chamber president needed a new receptionist - that meant bumping off the old one.  I had a wonderful time coming up with her life history. 

Q: Is the fictional Booktown based on a real place? 

A: The town was inspired by the real Hay on Wey, but since I've never been there... I have no idea if it resembles it in any way.  (And probably not a bit.)  But the idea of a village with a lot of used bookstores was a germ of the idea for the series.  

Q: What authors do you enjoy? 

A: I reread Barbara Michaels and Dick Francis a lot.  For fun, I like Mary Kay Andrews, and I enjoy cozies by my friends: Leann Sweeney, Ellery Adams, Mary Jane Maffini (Victoria Abbott) and Mary Kenney, just to name a few.  

Q: What are you reading for fun right now?  

A: An advance review copy for a new cozy mystery series.  It's a lot of fun. 

Q: If money was no object and you could escape to anywhere in the world to write where would you go and what do you think the book would be about? 

A: I've been on three cruises in the last two years and spent most of my time writing.  Getting away from the Internet is great for productivity. (Sadly, I don't have that kind of discipline at home.)  I can (and have and will again) write anywhere at any time.  But if I had a choice, I'd go back to England and stay a few months.  I have no idea what I'd write, but I'd write something.  



The immensely popular Booktown Mystery series is what put Lorna Barrett's name on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it's her talent - whether writing as Lorna, or L.L. Bartlett, or Lorraine Bartlett - that keeps her there.  This multi-published, Agatha-nominated author pens the exciting Jeff Resnick Mysteries as well as the acclaimed Victoria Square Mystery series and the Tales of Telenia saga, and has many short stories and novellas to her name(s).  





Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 copy of Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

For the Cozy Lovers Out There! :)

Some of my favorite cozy authors guest blog on several different sites.  But one that I absolutely love is the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.  It features posts from Krista Davis, Sheila Connolly, Cleo Coyle, Victoria Abbott, Lucy Burdette, Peg Cochran and Daryl Wood Gerber.  They post recipes, news about their upcoming books and series, as well as so many other fun things. 

In the month of July, these awesome ladies are giving away a book a day through July 25th (so there's still time to win!), as well as hosting a huge giveaway with 5 winners.  The prizes?  Each winner will receive a tote bag containing a book by each author!  All you have to do is enter their photo contest, and they'll draw the winners at random. 

So, help support these amazing authors and maybe you'll win a prize (or two!) while you're at it! :) 



Krista Davis 

Sheila Connolly 

Cleo Coyle 

Victoria Abbott 

Lucy Burdette 

Peg Cochran 

Daryl Wood Garber 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Romance Review: For the Longest Time (Harvest Cove #1) by Kendra Leigh Castle

For Samantha Henry, it took a ten-year absence to appreciate the close-knit New England town with an appeal all its own....

After a perfect storm of events leaves Sam high, dry, and jobless, she has to head home to Harvest Cove to regroup. Growing up, she was the town misfit, and a brief high school romance that resulted in heartbreak made her realize she was never going to fit in. But now with the support of her mother and an unexpected circle of allies, Sam starts to wonder if she’s misjudged the town all these years.

Life’s been good to Jake Smith. He transitioned from popular jock to town veterinarian without any trouble. But Sam’s homecoming makes him question his choices. The sharp-tongued beauty was never a good fit for the small community, but he’s never forgotten her—or how good they were together. While she makes it clear she’s not about to repeat the past, Jake’s determined to convince her to give him—and Harvest Cove—a second chance. 





Kendra Leigh Castle is the author of numerous paranormal romances, including the MacInnes Werewolves trilogy, the RITA award-nominated Renegade Angel, the Dark Dynasties series, and the Hearts of the Fallen series. 2014 will see the release of her first contemporary romance, For the Longest Time, which will be the first in her Harvest Cove series. Kendra lives in Maryland with her husband, children, two Newfs, and one obnoxious cat.


 
What an adorable story, and not at all what I expected.  I went in to this book knowing it was a second chance romance, but expected steamy and ended up with cute.  No complaints, just pleasantly surprised! 

Sam and Jake are a perfect couple.  With Sam's hilarious sarcasm and Jake's charm, these two make a beautiful couple.  And while their road to happiness isn't perfect, these two lovebirds put the heart back in romance.  Of course, they would never make their way back in to each others lives without the help of a supporting cast of characters that are just as easy to love.   

I also loved the way that the author set up this story.  It played out like a romantic comedy you'd watch on the big screen.  It wasn't full of silly romantic nonsense, rather a slow, steadily paced and believable scenario where two deserving people finally connect and find love.  

I cannot wait to read more from this new, very promising series!  

Rating:  4 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: A Grave Matter (Lady Darby #3) by Anna Lee Huber

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.

While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage.

When Gage arrives, he reveals that the incident at the Abbey was not the first—some fiend is digging up old bones and holding them for ransom. Now Kiera and Gage must catch the grave robber and put the case to rest…before another victim winds up six feet under.




How President Lincoln inspired the plot of A Grave Matter
by Anna Lee Huber

When I was brainstorming ideas for the plot of Lady Darby Book 3, I knew I wanted to utilize the beautiful and melancholy Dryburgh Abbey near where I had set Kiera, Lady Darby's childhood home in the Border region of Scotland.  I'd been fortunate enough to visit the site in the autumn of 2010 and instantly fell in love with the crumbling ruins.  However, I needed to come up with a unique twist to a crime happening there, ad I found it in a somewhat unlikely source: by watching a documentary on President Abraham Lincoln.  

I was surprised to learn that in 1876 there had been a plot to steal Lincoln's corpse from its grave in Springfield, IL.  Apparently, a gang of Chicago counterfeiters decided to steal Lincoln's body and ransom it back to the governor of Illinois in exchange for $200,000 and a full pardon for their best engraver of counterfeit plates, who was locked up in prison.  Luckily an informant for the Secret Service became involved with the plot and was able to tip off the authorities to the plan.  

I found the entire caper to be fascinating, and a light bulb went off inside my head.  In the time and place in which I've set my stories - 1830 Scotland - body snatching was a viable, thought criminal, profession, and a terrible problem for authorities and upstanding citizens.  Resurrectionists, as they were called, would steal recently buried corpses and sell them to anatomy schools for the modest sum of 8-10 guineas, depending on how fresh the body was an whether it had any interesting abnormalities.  But how much more could a grave robber hope to make by ransoming the body of a loved one back to their wealthy family?  

Considering the predominant beliefs of the time - that a person could not rise from the dead on Judgment Day if they were not buried whole in consecrated ground - most people would be frantic to get their relative's remains back, and willing to pay far more than a few guineas.  The endeavor would also be less taxing, dangerous, and messy for the body snatchers.  By 1830, the public had become wise to the ways of resurrectionists and begun to take precautions to protect the bodies of the recently deceased until they were too decomposed to be of any use to the anatomy schools.  But a body long past that state, perhaps even deteriorated so far that it was no more than bones, would not be guarded.  Bagging up a pile of bones from an old grave was far easier than transporting a heavy, stinking corpse under close surveillance.  

It seemed feasible that an intelligent body snatcher might become wise to such a ploy.  After just a few successful ransoms, an entire team of resurrectionists could earn enough money to live comfortably for decades, so long as they didn't become too greedy.  And thus the plot of A Grave Matter - how apropos - was born.  


Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family. 



Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Grace Against the Clock (A Manor House Mystery #5) by Julie Hyzy

When Marshfield Manor hosts a charity event, Grace Wheaton, the mansion’s curator and manager, is happy to lend a helping hand—until a killer makes an unwanted donation…

With the town clock in desperate need of repair, local lawyer Joyce Swedburg and her ex-husband, Dr. Leland Keay, are trying to put their differences aside to organize a benefit at Marshfield Manor to raise money to restore the beautiful timepiece. While Grace appreciates the opportunity to support such a good cause, the tension between the unhappy exes is giving her the urge to put both of the organizers in time out.

But after Leland collapses on stage during the festivities, poisoned, Grace suspects there was more going on behind the scenes. Now, she’s in a race to catch a ticked off murderer, and, if she’s going to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, every second will count.




Six Things You May Not Know About Grace and the Manor House Mystery Series
by Julie Hyzy

Where has the time gone?  My fifth Manor House mystery, Grace Against the Clock, debuts July 1, 2014, and I'm both amazed and enthralled by the warm reception Grace and her friends at Marshfield have received. 

Whether you've read one, two, four, or none of the prior titles, you may have fun taking the following quiz.  No worries, we won't keep score.  This is simply a chance for me to share a little behind-the-book trivia with you: 

1. When writing the first book in the series, Grace Under Pressure, I knew I'd have to come up with a suitable name for the magnificent estate where Grace would work and ultimately find a family. What is Marshfield's name an homage to? 

a) A defunct sports team
b) A department store
c) A street in Chicago
d) A wide meadow I used to visit as a child

2. In Grace Interrupted, we meet a little tuxedo kitten for the first time - Bootsie.  Grace wants nothing more than to adopt the bundle of fur.  But there's a problem.  What is it? 

a) Grace is allergic
b) Bootsie's owners reclaim their pet
c) Grace can't have pets in her building
d) Grace's lifestyle can't accommodate a pet

BONUS: What's Bootsie's gender? 

3. In Grace Among Thieves, two priceless antiques play a key role in the story.  What are they? ( Pick two) 

a) An original American flag from revolutionary war times
b) Five Picasso originals
c) A jewel encrusted tiara
d) A World War II sword

4. In Grace Takes Off, Grace and Bennett visit Florence, Italy.  While there, Bennett begins to suspect that his elderly friend's treasures are being systematically stolen and replaced with fakes.  Bennett first notices something amiss (and points it out to Grace) on what piece of artwork: 

a) A Picasso sculpture of a skull
b) An oil painting from Renoir
c) A Ming dynasty vase
d) A fresco transported from Milan

5. Grace Against the Clock was written and almost complete before being assigned a permanent title.  Believe it or not, the first version had no clock in it whatsoever.  Here's the question: The book opens with a fundraiser for renovating the town clock.  What was the original purpose of the fundraiser in the manuscript's pre-title-change version? 

a) A women's shelter
b) Streets and Sanitation in Emberstowne
c) The local hospital
d) The local food pantry

6. Grace's personal issues, beginning with the loss of her mother and her subsequent discovery of other possible family connections, is based (loosely) on what other story? 

a) Jane Eyre
b) The LaPlace-Dutz Saga
c) Anne of Green Gables
d) Pollyanna

Ready? Answers below.  If you get all the answers correct - Woo-hoo!  We must have met in person, because some of this information doesn't appear in any of the books! :)  

ANSWERS: 

1. b - department store.  I named Marshfield after the former (and beloved) Marshall Field's, whose flagship store was on State Street in Chicago, and where I spent many a lunch hour when I was working in the city. 

2. a - Grace is allergic to cats.  As am I - something I didn't realize until our daughters adopted sister cats.  BONUS: Bootsie is female.

3. c and d

4. a

5. c 

6. b - My mother was raised as a LaPlace, but her real father was Joe Dutz, a fact we didn't discover until shortly after my mother passed away and her sister spilled family secrets. 

Thanks for taking the quiz!  I hope you enjoyed and that you learned a little more about Grace and the gang.  If you're new to the series, I hope this quiz piqued your interest.  



Julie Hyzy's very first job had her flipping burgers and chopping onions at a neighborhood hot dog stand. She traded that experience for a job as a singing waitress at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour -- but gave that up when she started college (and because she couldn't carry a tune).

Over the years, she's acted in community theater productions, appeared in television commercials, and crashed a previously all-male fraternity to become one of the first female brothers in Loyola University's Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. Julie had dreams of becoming a writer, but family, friends, and frat brothers convinced her otherwise. Having held positions as junior officer at a downtown bank, office manager at an architectural firm, and financial advisor at a prestigious wealth management company, she realizes that the business degree was probably a good choice -- but fiction is truly her passion. Now, with some well-earned life experience behind her, she's delighted to finally be able to make writing a priority in her life.



Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Grace Against the Clock by Julie Hyzy to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Ill-Gotten Panes (A Stained-Glass Mystery #1) by Jennifer McAndrews

Stained-glass aficionado Georgia Kelly packed up her city life for the quiet of small town Wenwood, New York. But the sleepy village’s peace is about to get shattered—by murder…

After a banking scandal loses Georgia her job and fiancé, she decides that a change of scenery will help piece her life back together. But escaping to her grandfather’s house in the old-fashioned, brick-making Hudson River hamlet of Wenwood, New York, turns out to be less relaxing than she expects. Not only is the close-knit community on edge about their beloved brickworks being turned into a marina to draw in tourists, one of those most opposed to the project winds up dead—cracked over the head with a famous Wenwood brick.

Georgia wouldn’t be broken up over the news except for the fact that the main suspect is the deceased’s biggest adversary—her grandfather. Now, to remove the stain from her grandy’s record, Georgia will have to figure out who in town was willing to kill to keep the renovation project alive, before someone else is permanently cut out of the picture.





Looking at my Pinterest boards is like looking at a graphic representation of an incomplete sentence.  I start a board with one picture, and sometimes the category I've assigned stays the same, sometimes the images I collect require an entirely new moniker.  

I have a board now called "writing supplies".  It started life as "writing spaces" because the image that inspired me to begin the board was a picture of Jane Austen's writing table (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jul/12/saturdayreviewsfeatres.guardianreview2) - a tiny twelve-sided table that looks barely large enough to hold a potted plant, never mind the entirety of Pride and Prejudice

For my part, though I have a room in my home designated - upon taking up residence - as my "home office", I don't write there.  It turned out to be too hot in summer and too cold in winter and too perfect a place to hide gifts and store books - lots and lots of books.  That, coupled with the day job, the pets, the kids, meant I learned to write wherever I was, with whatever I could grab.  If I wanted to keep working on a story - keep unspooling a tale of friendship, love, murder, adventure - I had to train myself to write in whatever moments and whatever places presented themselves. 

Ill-Gotten Panes, the first in a new series featuring stained-glass hobbyist Georgia Kelly and some other fine folk from the little town of Wenwood, NY, was written in such diverse writer's spaces as: train, plane, hotel room, day-job lunchroom (where, coincidentally, this blog is being written), local library, Panera, and my living room couch.  A lot on the living room couch - lap dog on either side of me and cat waiting for a chance to curl up on the toasty-warm keyboard, with either a Harry Potter movie on the television as the perfect background noise, or headphones firmly in place to drown out anything not Harry Potter (I have no idea why having those movies in the background helps me to work steadily.  Magic?) 

I think that collection of locations illustrates why I was so taken by the image of the little table Jane Austen wrote at.  Not that I would imagine myself equal to her or even worthy of preparing her tea.  But the idea that someone of her caliber created such wonderful stories at a tiny table near a doorway - no perfect view, no evocative music, not even a little potpourri - encourages me.  knowing that it is truly possible to create characters, stories, worlds, with nothing more than imagination and the means of capturing it on the page makes me feel like I'm a part of some special writers club.  

Of course, I do have to admit that I have frequent bouts of envy when writer pals of mine share photos of their writer spaces - beautiful desk, copies of their books on their shelves, framed prints of their book covers on the walls.  One lucky author I know even keeps fresh flowers on her desk.  Another has framed New York Times best seller lists on which her book appears.  Meanwhile, it's all I can do to keep the cat from chewing on the laptop power cord or the blind dog from walking across the keyboard while I'm writing.  And that's okay, really.  I've come to value and love my ability to write anywhere, any time, especially if it means I get to continue exploring the world of cozy mysteries and the gang from Ill-Gotten Panes.  And maybe someday I'll invest in a table the exact dimensions of Jane Austen's and create masterpieces at it.  What?  It could happen.  That little table would totally fit in my living room.



Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Ill-Gotten Panes by Jennifer McAndrews to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Muffin But Murder (Merry Muffin Mystery #2) by Victoria Hamilton

Muffin maker Merry Wynter hopes to find a buyer for the castle she’s recently inherited. But when she throws a party to draw interest, she finds someone who’s bought the farm instead…

Merry’s career as a New York City stylist has crumbled, but her passion for muffins has helped her rise upstate in Autumn Vale. Everyone in town loves the tasty treats. Still, she would like to return to her glamorous life. Besides, the upkeep of Wynter Castle is expensive, and Merry’s cup isn’t exactly overflowing.

So in order to bring some prospective buyers into the mix, Merry whisks together a spooky soiree and decorates the castle with dashes of fabric and a sprinkling of spider webs. Friends new and old are invited, and everyone has a blast. But as the revelers empty out, Merry notices one partygoer who isn’t leaving—or breathing. Now Merry must hurry to unmask a killer before her perfect plans turn into a recipe for disaster.




Muffins: the Cupcake's Underappreciated Sister
by Victoria Hamilton

If muffins and cupcakes were characters in a book, they would be the Misses Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.  For those who are not Janeites, a brief explanation is in order.  Elinor Dashwood is the 'Sense' of the title, while Marianne Dashwood, her younger sister, is the 'Sensibility', a word out of favor now but meant to describe someone who is all feeling and showy emotion.  

How does that apply to baked goods?  Cupcakes are the darling of the media nowadays.  Just look at the TV shows dedicated to them: Cupcake Wars, DC Cupcakes, The Cupcake Girls.  Cupcakes are showy, flamboyant, pretty and much adored.  Muffins... not so much.   Muffins come in sensible flavors like Bran and Banana, and the showiest they get is to be called Morning Glory Muffins, which is a fancy way of saying they have a lot of ingredients that are good for you.  Muffins are wholesome and homely.  

But delicious!  And simple to make, and bursting with flavor.  

I've never made cupcakes.  That many empty calories just isn't my thing.  But muffins... they have always been my go-to baked good.  

In Bran New Death, Book #1 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries, my protagonist, Merry Wynter, describing the difference between muffins and cupcakes, has a conversation with Jack McGill, the real estate agent who is trying to help her sell her castle.  

Merry says: "It's easy.  Most people think that if it's frosted or iced, then it's a cupcake, but that's not so.  Some muffins can be frosted too.  Instead, think of the difference between a banana cake and a loaf of banana bread." 

"Okay," he (Jack) said. "I got that." 

"Well, with the batter of a banan cake, you can make cupcakes, and with the batter for banana bread, you can make banana muffins.  You can do the same with any cake batter or quick bread batter." 

"Ah!" he said, his eyes lighting up.  "Cakes are to cupcakes as, uh, what did you call it?" 

"Quick bread," Shilo, (Merry's friend) who had not gone to feed Magic, (her bunny) filled in. 

"Right... cakes are to cupcakes as quick breads are to muffins!" 

And Merry is right on... of course, I wrote her that way!  She manages to carve out a baking niche for herself in Autumn Vale, New York, supplementing her dwindling finances by supplying muffins to the baked good craving population of the town.  

So... if you don't bake, or are intimidated by all those showy frosted cupcakes, give muffin baking a try!  I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.  Who needs icing when the muffin itself has so much flavor?  

And you can start when you get Muffin But Murder, Book #2 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries, because I give you a killer recipe for muffins Fit For The King... I'll leave you to discover what that means, but they are delicious!  


 


Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Silence of the Lamb's Wool (Yarn Retreat #2) by Betty Hechtman

Dessert chef Casey Feldstein has learned one end of a knitting needle from the other after inheriting her aunt’s yarn retreat business, but a murder threatens to unravel her latest event . . .

Casey’s running a new retreat called "From Sheep to Shawl” at a resort on the atmospheric Monterey Peninsula. Participants will learn about sheep-shearing, fixing up the fleece, and spinning, and will eventually knit a lovely shawl.

Nicole Welton has been hired to teach the fleece-to-fiber portion of the retreat. She’s an expert spinner, and her small shop in Cadbury by the Sea houses a beautiful assortment of spinning wheels and drop spindles. But when the new teacher fails to show up for class and is found lying dead on the boardwalk, it leaves everyone’s nerves frayed.

Now Casey has to knit together clues faster than she can count stitches before someone else at the retreat gets dropped . . .

Includes a knitting pattern and a recipe!




Research 
by Betty Hechtman
  
When I started writing SILENCE OF THE LAMB'S WOOL and decided that Casey Feldstein was going to call her upcoming retreat Sheep to Shawl, I knew I was in for some interesting research.  The title implied that they were going to start out getting wool from some sheep, spin it into yarn and knit a shawl.  I had tried spinning at a yarn show and so had that covered.  However I had never seen a sheep shorn or knew what you did with the fleece once it was off the sheep.  There is always You Tube, but I prefer seeing things in person if at all possible.  

That's why I was thrilled when I saw that the agricultural school at the local community college was having a farm fair and one of the activities was sheep shearing.  The community college is on 400 acres of land and a large portion of it is given over to planted fields, grazing land and animal areas  I really felt like I was out on a farm somewhere instead of in the middle of Fernando Valley when I walked down the dirt road to the sheep enclosure.  The actual sheering was faster than I would have expected and the sheep didn't seem to mind at all.  The shears looked like the kind barbers use only bigger, much bigger.  I talked to the shearer, and got to pet the newly shorn sheep.  She was amazingly affectionate and butted against e when I stopped petting her to ask for more attention.  The horizontal pupils of her eyes were a little unsettling as it was hard to figure exactly where she was looking.  


But it turned out to be only the beginning of my sheep knowledge.  A few weks later on a side trip from the Malice Domestic conference, I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wook Festival.  Wow.  I had thought that sheep were all pretty much like the Little Bo Peep variety.  Not exactly.  They come in all different sizes, colors and fleece types.  Some looked like they had dreadlocks.  The only thing they all had in common is being very sweet animals.  I found something else there that I needed.  Handspun yarn.  The Sheep to Shawl retreat in the book was going to end with my characters knitting shawls out of the yarn they'd spun.  I wanted the experience of knitting with handspun yarn before I wrote about it.  

There is also a part between the shearing of the sheep and the spinning of the wool.  I decided to try that process first hand with the fleece I had accumulated on my various sheep excursions.  The fleece has to be washed to remove the lanolin and bits of dirt.  It has to be done carefully or you end up with a big clump of wool.  Once it's rinsed and dried, it gets carded.  Carding is really brushing the fibers and I actually used some dog brushes to do it with.  

I got a little more information at the Stitches Yarn show when a vendor pointed out a pair of sharp and deadly wool combs and suggested I include them in the book.  What a good idea.  It was great to have had all those real experiences when I sat down to write.  

Some research has a bonus.  Casey Feldstein is a dessert chef and I always include some of her recipes.  Casey and I have something in common.  We both would rather bake desserts than do everyday cooking.  When I research the recipes I.e. bake them, my family are my tasters.  They love the job and keep trying to talk me into putting more recipes in each book. 




SILENCE OF THE LAMB'S WOOL is the second book in the national bestselling Yarn Retreat series that features dessert chef Casey Feldstein who puts on yarn retreats at a slightly sinister hotel and conference center on California's Monterey peninsula.  Betty Hechtman also writes the national bestselling Crochet Mystery series.  All books in both series include patterns and recipes.  She says it is like a dream come true to be able to mix her love of mystery with her love of making things.  She grew up in Chicago and has a degree in Fine Art.  In addition she has studied everything from improv comedy to magic.  She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and scripts.  She lives in Southern California and Chicago and has yarn stashes in both cities.  




Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Silence of the Lamb's Wool by Betty Hechtman to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Crime Rib (Food Lovers' Village Mystery #2) by Leslie Budewitz

Gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy is determined to get Jewel Bay, Montana’s, scrumptious local fare some national attention. But her scheme for culinary celebrity goes up in flames when the town’s big break is interrupted by murder . . .

Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is Erin busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.

But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s reputation from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer . . .

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES!




Happily Ever - When? 
by Leslie Budewitz

When I started writing Death al Dente, the first book in my Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, I know my protagonist, Erin Murphy, was a single, 32-year-old who returned to her hometown of Jewel Bay, Montana, to take over her family's hundred-year-old market.  She brought with her a decade of experience in the grocery business, oodles of ideas about retail and marketing, a chic Seattle wardrobe, and a cat.  

She did not bring a husband or a boyfriend.  

So it didn't surprise me one bit when Rick Bergstrom walked in.   A year or two older than Erin; like her, a Montana kid who couldn't wait to leave, then couldn't wait to come back; as obsessed with food and business as she is.  Tall, blond, and broad-shouldered, he's the sales rep for his family's grain business, charged with getting their flours, oats, and packaged products ino groceries, specialty shops, and restaurants - prompting Tracy, Erin's shop assistant, to dub him "farm boy."  "I never thought of Nordic wholesome as my type," Erin thinks, "until meeting him." 

Not my type either, but I admit, I fell for him almost as quickly as she did. 

So I rocked back a bit when Adam Zimmerman strolled on to the page.  A dark-haired, self-described wilderness geek who crushed on Erin in college, he knew she was the girl of his dreams - though she barely noticed him.  Now he runs a nearby wilderness camp for kids, requiring him to fund raise among the local merchants.  When Erin returns to Jewel Bay, he sees a second chance - and he's not about to blow it.  

I finished writing Death al Dente genuinely not knowing which man Erin would choose.  But in Crime Rib, the second in the series, true feelings emerge - including a shade or two I hadn't expected.  Erin's a strong-minded young woman, and it's only natural that she attract - and be attracted to - men with equally strong opinions and feelings.  

And if my characters didn't surprise me, then chances are, they wouldn't surprise you.  

I hope you'll think they make the right choices in Crime Rib.  Yes, I said "they," not me.  Because these characters, they have minds - and hearts - of their own.  

 
Leslie Budewutz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel.  Crime Rib, the scond in the series, was published by Berkley Prime Crime on July1, 2014.  Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015.  

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.  

For more tales of life in the worlds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.  





Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Maple Mayhem (A Sugar Grove Mystery #2) by Jessie Crockett

In Sugar Grove, New Hampshire, people are serious about their maple syrup—especially Dani Greene, whose family owns the Greener Pastures sugarhouse.  But when murder disrupts the small-town sweetness, Dani pores over clues to draw out a killer...

Despite being a fourth-generation syrup maker, Dani isn’t stuck in the past. She’s starting a new agricultural cooperative that reduces costs for every syrup producer who joins. Everyone considers it a sweet deal except the die-hard curmudgeon Frank Lemieux—and when a saboteur starts targeting supporters, everyone suspects Frank.

But it turns out they’re barking up the wrong tree when Dani finds Frank murdered in his own sugarhouse. As the sabotage continues, she realizes that Frank was framed. With the help of her family, and a handsome official from the Fish and Game Department, Dani must catch the killer before another syrup maker kicks the bucket.

Recipes Included!




When I go to author talks and book signings some of the questions I am often asked are why I write mysteries (because I love them) or where I get my ideas (the grocer).  People want to know about my work habits (erratic) or the process of getting published (grueling).  I've even been asked about the sorts of snacks I eat while working away on a tight deadline (baby carrots).  

Something I have never been asked is why I set my books in tiny towns in New Hampshire.  Granted, since most of my events are held in New England, the people attending the talk have no reason to ask such a question.  They know why New Hampshire is a great setting for a mystery series.  

People who live here know New Hampsire might be worth choosing just on account of the natural beauty of the mountains, lakes and coastline.   There are also the man-made features like charming villages filled with historic buildings, the stone walls zig-zagging through the woods and the delightful surprise of covered bridges.  

The weather in here also supports mysterious doings as anyone who has ever survived a winter in New England can tell you.  After months on end of being cooped up with the family it is easy to imagine old arguments becoming dangerous.  Treacherously icy roads provide ample opportunity to fake fatal accidents.  Even mud season and black flies can push upstanding citizens over the edge.  After al, with so many acres of underdeveloped land there are plenty of places to hide a body, at least once the ground thaws out.  

New Hampshire is full of people who inspire great characters too.  It's easy to imagine all that independent spirit and stoicism along with a heaping helping of forthrightness and cantankerousness giving rise to all sorts of criminal possibilities.  

There's also the fact that the past is always present in New Hampshire.  A walk in the woods is likely to reveal a tumbled down sugarhouse or cellar hole.  A leisurely drive on a sunny afternoon might easily take you past an overgrown cemetery hidden beneath a stand of maples.  But along with all the nostalgia and charm there is also the darker side of the past.  Behind the front door of any antique cape long memories, old grudges, family secrets and unforgiven debts might just be lurking.  The contrast between the white picket fences and skeletons in the closets make for fertile soil for mystery writers as well as readers.  

If you have the opportunity to visit New Hampshire in person or as an armchair traveler, I think you'll agree it is the perfect spot for sightseeing, antiquing and even the occasional mystery.  



A nearly life-long resident of the Granite State, Jessie naturally adores black flies, 98% humidity, killing frosts in August and snow banks taller than the average grandmother. When not working on her next murderous adventure she enthusiastically combs the beach, designs bento lunches and throws parties. She delights in mentoring young writers at local schools.

Her debut mystery, Live Free or Die, was the 2011 winner of the Daphne DuMaurier Award for Mainstream Mystery. Jessie lives with her dark and mysterious husband and exuberant children in a village so small most other New Hampshire residents have never heard of it. Hearing from readers makes the winter seem shorter so please drop her a line.





Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Maple Mayhem by Jessie Crockett to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways! 

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