Reviews, Interviews, New Releases
Vol 5 Issue 8
turn the page c
in this issue Articles
The Art of Writing by Barefoot Academy Part 5 -Favorite Words ... Page 15
On The Cover ...
Peggy Jaeger author of FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Stuart R. West Ghosts of Gannaway Page 6
Lawna Mackie Storm God Page 9
Review Columns Young Adult Shannon’s Space . . . Page 16 Romance Jackie’s Jargon . . . Page 13
Joanie MacNeil The Trouble With Natalie Page 11 Janet Walters The Gemini-Saggitarius Connection Page 17 Katherine Pym Jasper’s Lament Page 18
Interview on Page 4
Mystery Barefoot Reviews . . . Page 7 GLBT Ace Katzenbooks . . . Page 20
New Releases Page 5, 10, 12, 14, 19 © 2015 The Book Breeze Page 2
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Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them.
Her current titles, available now, include SKATER'S WALTZ and THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, books 1 and 2 in her 6-book The MacQuire Women Series, published by The Wild Rose Press. Tying into her love of families, her children's book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law.
Peggy holds a master's degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer's Disease during her time running an Alzheimer's in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS is your latest release and the third book in the MacQuire Women series. Tell us about it. Family Practice doc Clarissa Rogers is new to the town of Carvan. She’s purchased the retiring GP’s practice and is getting quite a good reputation among her patients and the community. Clarissa is a prodigy – she graduated from Medical school at 17. She’s now 23 and realizing she missed so much of her youth because she was in school. The death of her only relative – her grandmother – the year before has prompted her to take her life in a new direction. Socially shy and awkward with men, she is determined to break out of her shell and start having a life that doesn’t revolve around simply learning. Padric Cleary (Pat) is a local veterinarian and is considered by everyone who knows him as a “player.” He is also the brother of Clarissa’s new best friend, Moira Cleary, who we all met in There’s No Place Like Home, book 2. Pat is drawn to Clarissa. She’s like no other woman he’s ever known and the fact that she wants to be just friends and nothing more, intrigues him. He’s never been friends with a woman he’s been attracted to before and agrees to keep their relationship platonic, simply so he can get to know her better.
Their relationship begins to change, though, when a tragic event unfolds in Clarissa’s life, and Pat is the one to help her through it. She begins to wonder if everything she’s heard about the kind of man he is, is true.
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? Yes, although whether or not it is interesting or just emotional is up to the reader. I took an event that happened to me personally and used it for Clarissa’s storyline. During the writing of this book, my 18 year old cat passed away. Parts of First Impressions were extremely difficult to write and even when I read them today I still cry, because I relive
this sad time in my life when I do. Death strikes Clarissa’s life and how Pat responds to her situation is the motivation required for Clarissa to change her opinion of him.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? That the old adage of not trusting a book by its cover is true. You shouldn’t let what people say about someone else color your opinion of them. I believe every single person shows you who and what they are if you let them. Let that form your opinion, not the prejudices of others. As a quick insight, First Impressions was the original title of Pride and Prejudice. When I came up with the plot line, I realized for it to work, Pat had to show Clarissa the man he truly was, not the one she’d been led to believe, just as Darcy showed Elizabeth the man he was when he helped with the Lydia/Wickham scandal. As an homage to the Austen work, I titled this book First Impressions. So, from your blog I see that The Little Engine That Could is your favorite book. Why? Best book about self-actualization and motivation ever written. That little engine believed in himself. He knew he could get over that mountain if he believed it, and he did. I take that lesson with me everyday. In it’s purest form, the message is believe in yourself. What book do you wish you’d written? The original Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts.) It was supposed to be the first of a trilogy and 40 books later…well. I’d love to have a series endure like that.
What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? What a great question! I write about very strong and confident women. I wish an interviewer would ask my why it’s so important that my heroine’s be strong and determined women. And since you asked (heeheehee), it’s because I’ve read too many books in my life where the heroine allowed herself to either be manipulated or made to feel inferior. She was either coerced into making unwise decisions, or through poor choices wound up in a sad situation. I like being surrounded by strong, opinionated, and successful women and I’ve raised my daughter to be one. There’s nothing more Continued on page 8
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 4
Desperate to escape an arranged marriage, Cuban beauty Angelina Herrera flees to Key West to start a new life and build her own business. But when her past catches up with her, she realizes the only way she can avoid the arranged marriage is to marry another … in name only. Drawn to the fiercely independent Angelina, Cuban revolutionary, Alejandro Estava marries Angelina. Though outwardly he agrees to the platonic relationship because of his secret past, he cannot deny his powerful desire to possess her completely. But tempestuous forces more powerful than the hurricane descending on their island home unleashes their mutual passion while threatening their yearning for a lifelong bond. A desperate flight, arranged marriage, and secret past—can childhood sweethearts find love again?
ROME IN LOVE By Anita Hughes
Women’s fiction Released August 4 by St. Martin’s Press
The enchanting tale of Amelia Tate – a young actress who has just been cast as the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday and travels to Rome for the shoot. Her journey truly begins when she finds a stack of hidden letters written by Audrey Hepburn herself in her hotel suite and soon discovers that Hepburn’s own experiences will help her to make difficult choices about her own life and love.
By Carol Leister Sweet Paranormal Romance Released July 17 by The Wild Rose Press
How do supernatural creatures deal with the minutia of daily human life? Newly-divorced Gillian Burke is about to find out after taking a job as assistant to Michael, a charming, handsome and immortal ‘angel’. Gillian soon finds herself not only dealing with folkloric and mythological creatures, but falling in love.
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Stuart R. West author of Ghosts of Gannaway Multi-published author, Stuart R. West explores the hidden underbelly of the Midwest with horror, heart and humor in YA and adult thrillers. His debut YA thriller about bullying, TEX, THE WITCH BOY, was released to acclaim; teens and adults alike suggesting it should be taught in schools. Read more about West’s books at his blog, Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/
GHOSTS OF GANNAWAY is your latest release. Kindly give us a summary. Thanks for having me! GHOSTS OF GANNAWAY is an ambitious historical saga that takes place in two timelines: 1935 and 1969, neither of which I knew too much about until I did my research. And research I did! In 1935, the small mining town of Gannaway, Kansas, prospers under the leadership of town founder Kyle Gannaway. Tommy Donnelly, the youngest foreman in the town’s mining history, struggles to make changes for his men. But obstacles—greed, racism, a Native-American curse—stand in his way. And there is the problem of something affecting the miners, something evil. Something to do with ghosts. In 1969, environmental scientist Dennis Lipstein is assigned to study the toxins in the town’s water and air. But to do so, he first has to unravel the mysteries of Gannaway. And why the ghosts are restless.
(Whew. I know you asked for a brief summary, but there’s a lot going on!)
How did you come to write this story? Actually, out of curiosity. And a heavy sadness. My wife grew up in Oklahoma. Once on the way to Tulsa, we traveled through a skeleton of a town, Picher, Oklahoma, the true basis for Gannaway, Kansas (except for the ghosts, of course. I think. Heh.).
A shell-shocked town, broken down, uninhabitable. Sad and haunting. Buildings were destroyed, windows and walls blown out, reduced to mere foundations. Evocative graffiti painted the walls, the usual suspects. But there were also warnings that raised the hair on my neck. “Beware you who enter…”
I wondered how a town could’ve been reduced to such a sad state. The true story behind Picher’s rise and fall was fascinating, something I wanted to hook suspense, scares,
ghosts, heroes, villains, and a timely love story around. I hope I did it justice.
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? Yes! From now on, I’m keeping my tales set in the here and now! The research took nearly a year. And, um, some of the residents of Picher, Oklahoma, were less than accommodating, let’s say! Beware towns that fly Confederate flags on burned out buildings!
Do you have a favorite place to write? The sofa. Alas, my butt prints are forever fossilized there, uncomfortable for visitors.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? I wasted 23 or so years of my life as a graphic artist at one of the worst corporate companies known to mankind. Near the end, before they shuttered their doors, they couldn’t afford to pay the trash bill. Rats—both animal and corporate!— scuttered down the plant aisles. Is there a book out there you wish you had written? Yeah. Usually every one I’ve just read. Sigh.
What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? Not ask. Tell. “You look just like Channing Tatum.”
What’s next for you? Coming soon from Books We Love Publishing will be the first in (what I hope to be) a series of darkly humorous suspense thrillers involving a mega-corporation that sponsors serial killers. Yep, you heard it right. Look for Killers, Incorporated this fall. After that, I have a horror comedy coming out about a standup comedian who ticks off a demon one unfortunate night (“Demon With a Comb-Over”) and a saga revolving around the world’s worst bed & breakfast (“Dread and Breakfast”).
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 6
Barefoot Book Reviews DEADLY DESIRES AT HONEYCHURCH HALL Hannah Dennison Minotaur Books / Mystery (Cozy)
The delightful Kat Sanford and her slightly scandalous mother, Iris, who secretly writes bestselling romances, reappear in this new Dennison hit. The past sneaks up on both of them when the ex-wife of Kat’s former lover, a ruthless journalist, arrives on the scene with revenge heavy on her mind. The dialogue between Kat and Iris is a wellwritten tribute to mothers and daughters who love each other, yet struggle to understand why they each make the decisions they do. Kat is ready to return to London and get her antique shop opened, but Iris still needs her help to manage things due to a broken hand. The wily Iris creates every opportunity she can muster to keep Kat close.
Caught up in the fight to save the historic buildings in their community from destruction in order to build a new railway, Kat, Iris, and their neighbors work to thwart the railway company’s efforts. Scandal surrounds them when the body of the transportation minister is found on the grounds of Honeychurch Hall, casting suspicion on all of them. Adding excitement to the mix of events, Alfred, Iris’s brother, who “has visions” comes to visit with Kat and Iris. Lady Edith, the aged matriarch of Honeychurch Hall, renews her friendship with Kat, and brings her secrets to complicate things. A busy, exciting, humorous book, Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall delivers, exploring relationships within families and the challenges of historical conservation. DUPLICITY N. K. Traver Thomas Dunne Books Science Fiction (YA)
Duplicity is an electric, eccentric, exciting debut novel that keeps readers who enjoy fantasy and mathematical formula plotting glued to the page. When Brandon Eriks’s laptop grows a conscience, Brandon is thrown into a world of chaos. Everything he knows and values—including his safe zone of isolation—spiral into a mind-bending vortex.
In the normal teen world of angst and change—boy meets girl, my parents don’t understand me, and I look like a walking zit—Brandon experiences monumental changes that are anything but normal, including the mysterious disappearance of his multiple piercings and the black clothes he shields himself within magically turning, gasp!, pastel.
by Mahala Church
This complex book of moving pieces and plots provides top-notch teen entertainment that tickles the brain and makes it jiggle and wiggle until it discovers what in this world is going on. Written with captivating humor, Traver expertly taps into the teen world of imagination, hopes, and fears. SATAN’S LULLABY Priscilla Royal Poisoned Pen Press Mystery
The irrepressible Prioress Eleanor steps outside her contemplative life at Tyndal Priory to solve a mystery, several in fact. When the arrogant Father Etienne Davoir is sent by his sister, Abbess Isabeau, to audit the Tyndal Priory books and inspect the facility with his pious assistants, their furtive supports Eleanor’s suspicion that all is not as it seems. When, as expected, Fr Davoir finds everything in good order at the priory, he unleashes the truth. Eleanor has been accused of an “unchaste relationship” with Brother Thomas, one of her dear friends and advisors. Ramping up the tension, one of Davoir’s assistants is killed and Sister Anne, the medicinal sister who cares for the others who live at the abbey, is accused of a revenge murder. Prioress Eleanor, a possible accomplice in the death of the assistant, is prevented from investigating the death and interviewing Sr. Anne, so she seeks assistance from Ralf, the local coroner.
While the story idea is a good one and the plot developed, the characters lack substance. The only one I could see was Gracia, who is also the only with sociological characteristics that rang true. Oddly, more detail was revealed about Ralf and his pregnant wife (a distant character in the story) which did not add to the book. While the character gaps do not spoil the plot and subplots, more character depth would have enriched the reading experience.
Royal takes a risk in using more dialogue than narrative, unusual in historical novels. Her dialogue does move the story forward; although, it lags at times. Additional narrative on the history of the Priory, Abbess Isabeau, Fr. Davoir, and Sr. Eleanor would have strengthened reader involvement. Obviously, Royal has a loyal following, since this is her eleventh medieval mystery, but my overall enjoyment of the book would have been embellished with heightened character development and links to previous information from other books in the series. Continued on next page
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 7
Peggy Jaeger Interview Continued
stimulating to me to read about than a strong woman and an equally strong man who love, respect and encourage one another. They can still go through all the toils and tribulations that a true romance story dictates they go through, but in the end they will be together, stronger, and equals in every way. What social media do you participate in? I hate to admit this but I have to: I’ve become a social media junkie. I have a Facebook author page, an Amazon author page, I lovelovelove Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ Instagram. I search any and all blogs that relate to contemporary romance books, too. I write the pieces for my website blog, peggyjaeger.com, myself 2-3 times per
week and then use the various media links to promote them.
What’s next? Currently I’m editing book4 in the MacQuire Women, titled The Voices of Angels. It’s a prequel to Skater’s Waltz, my first book, where you learn how Cole and Tiffany meet and you see the romance between Tiffany’s widowed mother, fiction writer Carly MacQuire Lennox, and news broadcaster Mike Woodard. It was the very first romance novel I ever wrote, but I never promoted it because I felt it wasn’t good enough. Now, with all the editing and updating I’ve done to it, I believe it’s a great way to introduce the readers to the original MacQuire women, Carly and her sister Serena who, by the way, is Pat and Moira Cleary’s mom.
Barefoot Book Reviews BYE, BYE LOVE K. J. Larsen Poisoned Pen Press Cozy Mystery
K. J. Larsen—aka as sisters Julianne, Kristen, and Kari Larsen—have struck gold with their Pants on Fire Detective Agency series and the irrepressible PI Cat DeLuca. BYE, BYE LOVE is the fourth in this series and promises more mysteries that will keep us laughing and guessing. How many PIs call the bad guy “potty mouth” when he curses at her? Look out V I Warshawski (Sara Paretsky), there is a new gal in Chicago, and she can get into as much trouble as Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) in New Jersey. Often ridiculed by her family members who are active duty and retired policemen, PI DeLuca shows them who’s boss and not always in a gentle way. Larsen has created a memorable cast of characters and a well-developed
by Mahala Church
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mystery plot in Bye, Bye Love and is to be applauded for a fast moving pace that would keep James Patterson hopping. Throw in a dog with “soulful brown eyes and an ever-joyful tail” who rivals Sara Booth Delaney (Carolyn Haines) in Mississippi and some bad guys who like to kill people, and Cat DeLuca is on the move, her colorful family hot on her trail. Mahala Church is a freelance editor and writer and teaches creative writing for teens and adults through her Barefoot Writing Academy. An accomplished workshop leader and award winning author, Pushcart Prize nominee, and published editor, she enjoys all aspects of writing. An avid reader of both literary and commercial fiction as well as biographies and memoirs, she particularly likes books set in Britain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Deep South of the United States. You can follow her at www.lyricalpens.com.
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Lawna Mackie was born in Jasper, Alberta. After finishing high school and post secondary she moved to Calgary, Alberta, married her husband and settled in the small town of Didsbury, Alberta. She worked briefly as a legal assistant, but quickly realized this wasn’t the career for her. Fates intervened saving her from the legal profession and she ended up working for Olds College in a marketing position. Over twenty years later she is still employed at the post-secondary college. Lawna would tell you that a lot of her creativity comes from her mother, who could design and build, just about anything. Her mother never lacked the talent for hand-making toys. “She always amazed me. My brother and I were never bored because she made us flutes, toy cars, and even parallel bars in the trees,” Lawna explains. Her other creative inspiration comes from her husband Jeff, and the many adventures they have had. It was on one particular trip to British Columbia, when she stopped at the Enchanted Forrest that the fairy tale world called to her to write a story. Her first paranormal romance, MAGIC AND FLAMES book one in the ENCHANTING LOVE series was born. Along with the love she has for her husband and family, is the deep admiration and compassion she has for animals. “They bring so much joy and inspiration to my life I don’t know how I would ever live without them,” she says. Alaskan Malamutes are near and dear to her heart. With one Malamute, one Bichon Shih Tzu, one farm cat and a Bengal, her house is never quiet. Lawna writes many genres from paranormal and fantasy, to romantic suspense and erotica. One fan writes, “Lawna’s books are well-written and are impossibly good! The scenes are unexpected and very creative. I highly recommend her books!” A new chapter begins quite literally for Ms. Mackie as she joins the fantastic team of Books We Love. Look for her there and be sure to drop her a note to say hello. Your latest release is STORM GOD, Book 1 in the Aliens and Gods series. Tell us about the story and an intro to all the intriguing characters in this book. My hero, Nevar is very unique and very intriguing. He is a Storm God so he has no physical form other than the elements of nature. He takes the form of rain, snow, mist…hopefully you you get the idea. Eventually, he ends up in human form, it’s really interesting and I think quite different from anything else I’ve ever read. Oh, he also has no emotions. Of course as time goes on he falls in love with my heroine but there are other gods and an alien species who seem to have different plans for the couple.
My heroine, Raven is a young researcher who has always believed that a giant cat jumped from the clouds in the Sahara Desert and saved her from death as a young child. Raven knows there is an invisible force that seems to follow her in the form of weather, be it a thick mist that swirls around her ankles, the raindrops that slide over her body during a thunderstorm, or the snowflakes that tickle her nose on a winter day. Raven is different. Her father confirms that fact. The mystery seems linked to the disappearance of her mother and Raven is determined to find out how and why.
Stormcat is another great character in this book. He is a companion to the Storm God, but the cat has an interesting fascination with Raven. Although the giant tank-size critter is forbidden from interfering with humans, he does jump down from the clouds to save Raven from a desert storm… just before Nevar finds out what he has done.
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? I was born in the beautiful town of Jasper, Alberta. I feel very privileged to have had so many experiences in such an incredible place. One of my all time favorite places is the Tonquin Valley and Mount Edith Cavell and my story does reflect on those two locations. Everyone should visit there if they have not had a chance to. Do you people watch for character inspiration? Yes, I suppose I do watch people for character inspiration, but I also watch animals for the same thing. I get a lot of inspiration from the critters I have or have had. I love wild animals and really enjoy watching them when the chance presents itself. We really aren’t so different.
What’s more important: characters or plot? I think the characters and the plot have to fit together or you wouldn’t have a story. You have to have the right characters to drive the plot.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? I really can’t say that I’ve ever had a bad job, but I would say that you can certainly decided from a young age what you do and don’t like. I know that I was not meant to be an accountant. Numbers are not my thing. My husband would tell you balancing the bank account is not my forte <laughing>. I have always liked to write, draw and when time permits, do crafts. I love animals and at one time thought I could be a veterinarian, but quickly realized that at the site of blood I’d be the one laying on the floor and not much help at all. Continued on next page
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THE CHOCOLATE KISS-OFF By Heather Haven Mystery Released Sept 1
Valentine’s Day is around the corner and vats of delicious chocolate are being cooked up to win fair lady’s heart. But at Carlotta’s Chocolates, Carlotta is found cooking in her own vat of chocolate, and not so deliciously. Arrested for her murder is chocolatier Howie Goldberg, good friend to Persephone ‘Percy’ Cole. As one of Manhattan’s first female private detectives, Percy is determined to hunt down the real killer. But the sleuth, herself, is being stalked by the murderer, who not only keeps a diary of the latest kills, but records who is next. Percy Cole tops the list. When the lady shamus finds the illusive killer, will Death be her Valentine?
works with an international group of clients, providing writing and editing services.
Lawna Mackie Interview Continued
Specialties: • Editing manuscripts (line, copy, substantive) • Ghostwriting • Developmental coaching for fiction and non-fiction • Business writing and editing, blogging, and web articles • Press releases and marketing tools For more information on specific services, see Written Word pages at www.lyricalpens.com. www.lyricalpens.com www.twitter.com/mahalachurch www.facebook.com/mahalachurch
What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? Maybe this is more of a story, but I like to share this with people. I did struggle academically in high school, for a number of reasons, but I always had the intent of going to university or college, which I did eventually do. Now, I actually work at a college and have done so for over twenty years.
I had to jump streams in high school in order to get the diploma I needed, and while this was difficult it wasn’t as difficult as one teacher that made things so hard for me during that time. Unfortunately, this was a high school English teacher who would not allow me into his class so I could hopefully graduate with the proper classes. I had high enough marks to take his class from the lower class. In the end he got into BIG TROUBLE and then after the class had already started (by three weeks) he told me I could attend but that my chances of success would be very slim. I decided to take the grade twelve English by correspondence. He actually laughed at me and said I would fail for certain.
Well I can say that I didn’t fail…I passed! Not with great success but I did pass. I guess the moral of my story is that I didn’t give up but it really scarred me. I didn’t write for many years because I thought I wasn’t good enough. Of course now I know I should have been writing.
I also had many wonderful teachers who were invaluable. In my heart I knew I should write…so FOLLOW YOUR HEART is what I say and DREAM BIG has always been my favorite saying.
What’s next for you? I love to write pretty much anything. Right now I’m writing a romantic suspense that I’m very excited about. The book is called WINTER KILL and is the first in a series called Snow Lake. Of course the story and places are somewhat fictional but I did get my inspiration from the very really small town of Snow Lake in Manitoba. I hope my readers will enjoy it. Watch for it this fall! For more about Lawna and her books visit her at: Facebook
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Australian romance author, Joanie MacNeil, writes short contemporary romances: a blend of sweet, sexy and heart-warming stories about new love and second chances. Some of her tales may make you smile. Home, family and friends are important to Joanie, and she has blended these elements into some of her stories. She is a member of Australian Romance Readers Association; Romance Writers of Australia, and a regular attendee at their annual national conference. Joanie loves to travel with her own romantic hero. When she’s not travelling or creating her own romantic stories, she enjoys reading romance, going to the movies, having coffee with friends, participating in aqua aerobics, catching up with her daughters, and travelling interstate to spend time with her three lively little grandsons and their parents.
Your latest release is THE TROUBLE WITH NATALIE. Tell us about the story. Luke and Natalie are friends from years ago. When Luke comes back into her life, Natalie is swept off her feet by this gorgeous and confident young man. However, he is twelve years younger than she is, and now works for her. The last thing she needs is to fuel office gossip. An office romance will complicate her life, and risk the success of her recent appointment to the much coveted role of CEO. While Luke knows in his heart he loves Natalie, she believes he should be looking for a woman his own age. Are the characters of Luke and Natalie loosely based on people you know? No, not at all. When I wrote THE TROUBLE WITH NATALIE, I was aiming for something a little different for my hero and heroine and decided to give them an age difference.
You write heartwarming stories about new love and second chances. Do you have a favorite romance couple by another author? Couples come and go. I was drawn in by the heroes/heroines in some of the early Sandra Marton series – Landon’s Legacy and The Barons, particularly the heroes. I came across these books in the early days of reading category romance, and the characters still linger.
It is important for a reader to feel the central characters are meant to be together for the rest of their lives, that they are well-suited to one another.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? I hope my readers enjoy my characters’ journey together, that they have empathy for the hero/heroine, and feel warm and uplifted at the end of that journey.
Why is the setting important? If possible, I prefer to set my stories in an area that I am
familiar with, or have at least visited. It makes the background more realistic for me. Most of my books are set in and around Australia’s National Capital, with a couple of them set along the south east coast of Australia, a 2-3 hour drive from where I live.
I spent the majority of my career as an executive assistant, so the office setting was an easy fit for THE TROUBLE WITH NATALIE. The views from the building, and the area where the story is set, are familiar to me. For the same reasons, I have used an office setting for NO BOUNDARIES as well. Two of my novels are set in Scotland. Following a visit there some years ago, I couldn’t resist writing a Scottish hero or two. A SENSE OF DUTY and A TRADITIONAL AFFAIR resulted from that visit.
I have traveled overseas to some fascinating destinations in the last couple of years and would like to incorporate some of these settings into future stories, though I have nothing planned as yet. What social media do you participate in? Facebook: romanceauthorjoaniemacneil Twitter: @JoanieMacneil Website: www.joaniemacneil.com
What’s next for you? I am excited to be working on something new – without giving too much away – I am writing the first story in a series or sequence of novels. These stories will be connected by either a common theme, characters or settings. Each will have its own title and will be a stand-alone read. I am still planning the details and am looking forward to the project. At this point, I expect there to be at least three stories. I plan to have the first finished within the next 2-3 months.
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Catalina Reyes has sacrificed everything to own a beach-front recreational vehicle Park. Widowed and struggling, her Park falls on hard times and needs extensive renovations to stay open.
When Manuel Batista, a widowed and successful contractor rents a slot at the Park, he's immediately attracted to Catalina and captivated by her fiery spirit and determination. Manuel helps Catalina to renovate her Park. Working together, their relationship sizzles, but Catalina realizes Manuel will return north after the winter. Unwilling to start a long-distance relationship after a painful breakup in her previous marriage, she must learn to trust again.
GHOSTS OF GANNAWAY Stuart R West
Can they overcome Catalina's fears and bridge the gap of hundreds of miles between their homes and families to find a second chance at love?
Mystery/thriller/ suspense/supernatural /ghosts/history Released June 27 by Books We Love Ltd in ebook
LOST AND FOUND Kathryn Kelly Mild Contemporary Romance
Released July 22 by Psychological Publishing in ebook
Madison McKivitz had no explanation for how she ended up in a small Colorado town with a new job - falling in love with a man who is not her fiancé. Daniel Beaumont is the conductor of the tourist train that travels from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. When Madison breezes into his life, it's love at first sight. Now all he has to do is to convince her that what they have is true. As he tries “Creepy…extremely well-written…the characters stuck with to help her recover memories of her identity, it beme long after I finished the book. Highly recommended!” comes clear that he runs the risk of destroying US Review their relationship. When Madison regains her memory, will she forget Daniel?
Ghost whispers echo through the mines of Gannaway. They have a story to tell. It’s the story of a town torn apart by greed, pollution and vanity, by racial discord between the Native Americans and the invading miners, by the Great Depression, by the violent union strikes of the 1930’s. That’s not all that brought Gannaway to its knees, though. Not by a long shot. Because something—else—lives in the deserted tunnels of the mine, something dark and evil. Something that breathes life into the Ghosts of Gannaway.
“Super creepy. Done so well. Like watching a really spooky movie. Stuart really is an artist.” US Review
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 12
ROMANCE REVIEWS BY JACKIE MCMURRAY
A FIREPROOF HOME FOR A BRIDE by Amy Scheibe St. Martin's Press (March 10, 2015) Genre: Women's Fiction
CHASING VICTORY by Joanne Jaytanie Publication Date: Books To Go Now, March 21, 2013 Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
There are no whimpering females or laid-back males in Jaytanie’s debut novel, CHASING VICTORY. Instead, the reader gets a fast-paced suspense populated by a kick-ass heroine, a determined military undercover agent, and a murderous villain.
Victory Winters is a world-renowned geneticist with the paranormal ability to communicate with animals. Her work with canine DNA prompts the CEO of Biotec to have her kidnapped with the hope she will help them inject canine DNA into humans to make a perfect soldier. When Tristan Farraday is sent to investigate Biotec, he learns Victory is being held against her will and starts to uncover the true intentions of the genetics giant.
Jaytanie finishes her cast of characters with several welldeveloped minor characters including the heroine’s Dobermans who have their own special personalities.
In CHASING VICTORY, Jaytanie has seamlessly managed to weave elements of three genres together—paranormal, romance, and suspense—into one neat package.
CHASING VICTORY is the first book in the Winters Sisters Series, and while each book in the series can stand alone, I recommend you start with this book and read your way through each book in the series. Book Two, Payton’s Pursuit, is available now and the third book, Willow’s Discovery, will be out soon. But, before you start reading, settle in. You’ll find it hard to put CHASING VICTORY down.
A FIREPROOF HOME FOR THE BRIDE is a compelling coming-of-age story set in North Dakota and Minnesota during the 1950s. Scheibe tackles the unsettling themes of family secrets, racial unrest, and small town politics through the main character, Emmaline Nelson. Unlike many other young women in the 1950s, Emmaline wants more for herself than settling down with a man and raising a family. She lands a job at the newspaper office as a switchboard operator. She dreams of becoming a reporter. Little does she know that her research for the newspaper leads her to painful family secrets. Scheibe's gift for metaphors is apparent throughout the book. One of my favorite passages describes how the heroine, Emmaline Nelson, feels when faced with the prospect of marriage. She visualizes the whole wedding as if watching a movie, then comes up blank.
A blank white space filled the frame, as though the projector had stuck long enough for the happy film to melt from the center out, the loose end of the beginning of life with … flapping with each turn of the reel. More of this, more of this, more of this. A FIREPROOF HOME FOR THE BRIDE captures the feel of the Midwest. If you like small town stories, this one's for you.
Jackie McMurray and her husband live on a macadamia nut farm on the island of Hawai'i where they feed a clowder of cats and a flock of hodgepodge chickens. In a past life, she was an elementary school teacher; currently, she writes contemporary romance from the Hawaiian Islands and beyond under her pen name, Jackie Marilla.
Unleashed Love by Jackie Marilla
Glenda Weber is tired of roaming around her big empty house alone. Her volunteer work at the local animal shelter in Cedar Grove, Iowa is satisfying, but she’d give anything to have a companion and a few pets. Too bad her loyalty to her deceased husband prohibits bringing pets into the house and her insecurities about finding new love complicates matters. When Glenda meets Loman Cejka at the animal shelter and he invites her for supper two times in one week, she starts to gain confidence that she can build a relationship and maybe even fall in love.
Loman is sure his grown kids will love Glenda. She’s friendly and smart and loves animals, including Bert, the family parrot. When his daughter hatches a plan to reunite her divorced parents, Loman has to make a difficult choice—alienate his daughter or give up on his relationship with Glenda.
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 13
N E W R E L E A S E S
THE SILVER LOCKET By Sophia Bar-Lev
Mild Inspirational Women’s Fiction Released July by CreateSpace in print and ebook
SHADOW WARRIOR By Loribelle Hunt Erotic Science Fiction Romance Released July 13 in ebook
CASABLANCA: APPOINTMENT AT DAWN By Linda Bennett Pennell Mild Historical Fiction Released Aug 28 by The Wild Rose Press in print and ebook
Spicy Contemporary Romance Released August 13 by Choc Lit in ebook
Spicy M/M Gothic Historical Released July 21 in ebook
HIDING By Katherine McDermott
Mild Vintage Romance Released May 29 by The Wild Rose Press in print and ebook
MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL By Angela Quaries Spicy Time Travel Romance Released July 12 in print and ebook
HER HEART’S DESIRE
Book 1 of the Sunflower Series
By Linda Joyce
Mild Contemporary Romance Release Aug 18 by Word Works Press in print and ebook Mild Contemporary Inspiration Romance Released July 10 by White Rose Publishing – A Pelican Book group in ebook
WHERE HEARTS MEET By LoRee Peery
Spicy Romantic Suspense Released Sept 11 by The Wild Rose Press in print and ebook
SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH By Kathryn Freeman
THE TUTOR By Bonnie Dee
Mild Romantic Suspense Released Aug 7 in print and ebook
EXPOSED, BOOK 2, ASPEN LAKE SERIES By Karyn Good
INTO THE SUNRISE By Carolyn Haley
FEAR LAND By Rolynn Anderson
Mild Romantic Suspense Paranormal Released August 1 in print and ebook
DESTINED – ALIENS, MYTHS, & MAGIC: BOOK ONE By Sylvina Storm
Sizzling Paranormal Ménage Erotica Released Aug 10 by Nyxie Press in ebook
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 14
BENEATH THE LAKE By Casi McLean
Mild Historical Time-Slip Novel Released Aug 4 by The Wild Rose Press in print and ebook
A DEMON’S WITCH By Tena Stetler
Spicy Paranormal Romance Released Sept 25 by The Wild Rose Press in print and ebook
Barefoot Writing Academy Presents:
Favorite Words by Mahala Church
Every writer has them: Favorite Author Words: words that appear in all your manuscripts all by themselves. See what I did in that sentence? I used one of the words that I often pour into everything, or rather, I used to do that. As a born and bred Deep Southerner, I use the word all all the time when speaking, so it inserts itself into my writing all the time. I consciously do a word search on each chapter as I complete it to find and eliminate that sneaky three-letter word.
Idioms are often the culprits in our favorite author word list. An idiom is a natural way of using language for a group of people from a specific area. As a child, I heard the word “bit” used often, a word my college professors took issue with in both narrative and dialogue. Here are a few translations. As a fiction writer and editor, I know that slipping these idioms into dialogue is perfectly acceptable to add ambiance to a character or setting, but they can get old fast.
“I’ll be down in a bit.” = “Give me a minute.”
“I’ll just take a bit of cherry pie.” = “Give me a sliver of the cherry pie.” “He was just a bit of a fellow.” = “He was thin and short.”
Did you catch the other one I use frequently? Just. That dang word flows from me like syrup from a maple tree and is still a problem when I write. I also make it a point to search for those little buggers and delete them.
Not every all, just, and bit have to eliminated, but the bulk should be removed. In a good critique group, extraneous and repeated words should be identified and elevate our work up a notch or two. “She had not been conscious that Sally’s behavior weighed so heavily on her conscience.”
The conscious/conscience I’m sure were obvious to you. The so is another one of my go-to words. Any well-breed Southerner knows that if “She is just a bit of a thing and sooo (we always extend the o when speaking) nice, it’s just fun to be around her all the time.”
Wherever you are from, you have words that are unique to your area. A Vermonter who moved to the South joined our critique group and was lost when I wrote the word “washstand” in a manuscript. When I explained what it was, she said, “That’s a dry sink.” I couldn’t wait to build that into a story.
Look for your Favorite Author Words, delete most, and learn new words to exchange for the others. Your editor and readers will appreciate it. Write like you mean it… Mahala Mahala Church is a freelance editor and writer and teaches creative writing for teens and adults through her Barefoot Writing Academy. An accomplished workshop leader and award winning author, Pushcart Prize nominee, and published editor, she enjoys all aspects of writing.
An avid reader of both literary and commercial fiction as well as biographies and memoirs, she particularly likes books set in Britain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Deep South of the United States. You can follow her at www.lyricalpens.com.
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 15
YA Reviews by Shannon Kennedy BEYOND SUSPICION by Catherine A. Winn The Poisoned Pencil Press ~ May 2015 ~ 4 Stars
WABANAKI BLUES ~ The Wabanaki Trilogy – Book 1 by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel Poisoned Pencil Press - June 2015 ~ 4 Stars
“Some days you appreciate the dead; others, you don’t dare think about them.” Seventeen year old, blues musician, Mona has enough problems dealing with a high school principal who sabotages her high school graduation, existing on the fringes of high school society with all that means and emotionally unavailable parents. When they take off for Russia, they drop Mona off at her grandfather’s home deep in the New Hampshire woods. Before she knows it, she finds herself busy making new friends as well as new enemies. Along the way, she becomes enmeshed in solving the mystery of a teenage girl murdered eighteen years ago, Mia Delaney. Not only her dead grandmother but other spirits as well guide Mona on her crime-solving journey.
It may take a while for Mona to endear herself to some readers because she simply doesn’t make good choices and then has trouble dealing with the aftermath. For example, her propensity for wearing offensive t-shirts can be off-putting, but she doesn’t understand her principal’s reaction to a “Dead Kittens” tee. Yes, it’s a band. No, it’s not school appropriate. Her inability to empathize with some of the other characters, especially Del, the guy she meets through her grandfather is a consistent flaw throughout the entire story. Since this is the first book in a series, it can be hoped that Mona grows and evolves. She will need to see more than her point of view if she dreams of becoming a successful songwriter, or of establishing a solid romantic relationship with Del.
Another problem in the ensemble cast is the lack of depth. They are sketched lightly and the lack of details may keep readers from forming connections to them In addition, needed information is held back for far too long. Mona learned a great deal of musical craft from a street musician and no spoiler intended, but what was the point in not letting us know the guy had been dead for years? Could we please have more description of the ghosts especially when they’re on or off-stage?
Still the wonderful descriptions of the New Hampshire forests and Grump’s cabin provided a terrific backdrop to the story. Native American details gave the book an authentic tone. Mona was an interesting character and her romance with Del isn’t over. As the stories progress, readers will enjoy the opportunity to learn what happens next in Mona and Del’s world.
At fifteen, artistic Shelby Palmer has tired of being Cinderella at home. Tonight will be far different when she actually gets to attend her best friend’s birthday party and be with the guy of her dreams. She has a new dress, new manicure and she’s good to go. Then, she gets home from school and discovers that her mother and stepfather plan to dump her little brother on her one more time. Of course, when Shelby erupts with justifiable anger and hurt, she hears about it until she storms off to her room.
Readers will definitely be rooting for Shelby by this point. She tries to do the right thing and take care of the crying baby – which annoyed me. Where were the parents? What would have happened if Shelby hadn’t come home from school? When her attempt to reason with her mother and stepfather doesn’t work, Shelby takes care of the baby and the two head out to the park where he is kidnapped.
The hysterical reaction from her friends, the police and the local citizens shocks Shelby. She knows she didn’t have anything to do with her brother’s disappearance beyond looking away for a moment. Still, everyone seems to want to blame her. Everyone, that is except for her mother, stepfather and her grandparents. This lack of consistency on the mother’s and stepfather’s part should have been at least hinted at in the beginning.
Why would they trust Shelby? Who wouldn’t think an abused teen forced to give up her art classes, her friends, her social activities may have over-reacted and taken out her anguish on her younger sibling? Isn’t it somewhat farfetched to believe in a stranger abduction? Then again, perhaps the parents are right to think their indoctrination has worked. After all, Shelby is a second-class citizen in her own home. Of course, she wouldn’t dare harm the chosen child, the much loved boy prince. When nobody believes her truth, Shelby sets out to find Josh and bring him home. She meets an older teen who offers to help. Is he for real or does he have a hidden agenda?
Other than the lack of consistency on the part of the parents, this was an engaging, well-crafted mystery. As an adult reader, it was fairly obvious who the villain was, but even so the story will entertain those who love the genre. It will be interesting to see what happens next in Whispering Spring, the world Ms. Winn has created.
Shannon lives on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills, where she organizes most of the riding programs and teaches horsemanship around her day-job as a substitute teacher. She writes books in her spare time, mainstream western romance as Josie Malone for SirenBookStrand and young adult novels for Black Opal Books and Fire & Ice YA. She’s a member of RWA, YARWA, the Greater Seattle RWA and Evergreen RWA chapters.
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 16
I've been writing as I often say since the "Dark ages", the time of typewriters and carbon paper. I've been published since 1968, though I took a few years off to return to nursing to usher four children through college. They are well launched and I have seven grandchildren, 4 biracial and 3 Chinese. The family is also eclectic as you can see. Besides being a nurse I've also worked as an Astrologer, casting charts for people and composed several pieces that were used during church services. Astrology and music are really in the past. Writing takes all my time these days. I'm married to a retired psychiatrist who refuses to cure my obsession with the printed world.
THE GEMINI-SAGITTARIUS CONNECTION is the latest in your long published career and is Book 3 in the Opposites in Love series. Tell us about it. This is a nurse/doctor story. How to begin to tell you how this series began. Once I did horoscopes with a friend. We actually earned enough to take a trip to Ireland. So when I began writing again, there was a break in my long career when I returned to work as a nurse to help with children's college expenses. One day it came to me that Astrology was a good way to develop characters and I began using this develop my character's traits. I decided working with Astrological opposites would be an interesting idea, so I began. Gemini and Sagittarius are the third set of opposites.
About the book. My heroine Liz is the mother of twin boys and a widow. As a nurse, she has a BA and is working on her Masters. The job offer from a friend's husband seems to be a great one. She will remove her boys from the city. One of her problems is that she doesn't want another marriage. Her husband, a volunteer fireman, died in a house fire trying to rescue two children. The children were saved but he didn't come out.
In Eastlake she encounters Jeff the hero, a doctor who had a wonderful marriage and has no desire for another. His wife died of cancer when his children were in their teens. He has some problems coping with the coming use of computers at the hospital. He also suffers from what I call "hoof in mouth" disease. Though there is an attraction to Liz he's not buying.
Getting these two together presents problems. Her twin sons provide part of the catalyst as does his daughter, a nurse and Kate's friend.
You call yourself an eclectic writer with books published in the romance genre and fantasy/paranormal. Let's talk about eclectic writer first. Besides what you've mentioned, I also have published a cozy mystery series, a number of YA fantasy novels with not a bit of romance. There are also some non-fiction books to my credit. I've done one Regency historical and a series that are alternate world. These might be considered paranormal but are based on history. I'm also published in poetry and short stories. Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written? I'm rather fickle about my books. What ever I'm working on
is my favorite book and the next one in line will be the favorite then. Why? Because when I'm writing a story I'm immersed in the work until it's finished. I really can't think about what went before. There are some books of mine I wish I'd spent more time with but I'm usually happy with them.
Do you have a favorite place to write? I used to have a really favorite space and I'm adapting to a new space right now. What I really need to be happy and content is a recliner, a clipboard and some pens. My computer is across the room and that's where I type the words into form and revise or make notes as I type. I write by hand very fast and very easy to read. Typing takes more time since I've never learned the proper time. Above my computer are my dragons. There are thirty or more who look over the writing. I've written in a car when stopped for a traffic light. Don't ask about the ticket. I've written in a surgical waiting room while my husband was undergoing extensive cardiac surgeon. It's the clipboard and the pen that are important.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? The interesting fact that nearly sent a book off track was, there were no camels in Egypt until about 1 AD. Since I was writing a book using ancient Egypt, I had to turn the book into an alternate history. I really wanted camels. I've also learned I do enjoy creating villains and villainesses. They add a great depth to any story. Do you have a favorite fantasy/ paranormal character by another author that you’d like to spend the day with? Actually not a particular character but I would really enjoy spending a day in Andre Norton's Witch World of Anne McCaffrey's Pern. Maybe Marian Zimmer Bradley's Darkover. I've been reading these books over and over again for years.
What’s next for you? As usual I'm working on more than one project. Divided Dreams book 4 in the Moon Child series is undergoing revision. I've finished the rough draft of Wizards of Fyre, part of the Isle of Fyre series. I'm also looking over some books where the rights will be returned to me and updating and preparing to re-launch them with BWL. After that I'll be looking at the 4th book in the Opposites In Love series. Social Media for Janet: Twitter Website BooksWeLove
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 17
Your latest release is JASPER’S LAMENT. Tell us about it. It is London 1664. The 2nd Anglo/Dutch war is imminent and England prepares against the threat. After Jasper's father dies, he learns his father hid the truth of who he was behind a façade of religion. Secrets abound and Jasper finds himself in a plot not of his making.
You have a passion for 1660’s London. What drew you to this time period? 17th century England is an exciting era to study, filled with intellectual, science & political growth, and the decade of the 1660’s its focal point. Living through these extraordinary historical events, people went about their lives as best they could, and tried to accept these changes, some subtle, some that exploded in their faces. There was so much going on during these years, history deserves one novel per year until old London nearly burns to the ground in 1666.
As with most people, my characters embrace these life-shifts or merely cope with them. The main characters are not actual historical persons. My stories deal with the common man during a time most extraordinary.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? I hope readers will take away the experience of being there, in old London, as they walk through narrow lanes. On most days, the city is under a pall of coal smoke, its grit and grime settling on everyone’s noses and cheeks.
When they stroll down the lanes they will encounter a cacophony of sounds. Vendors yell or sing as they hawk their wares and try to be heard over the boisterous activity in the streets.
In some areas, you can spread your arms and touch houses on both sides of the lane, all the while crowds jostling you. As he or she rambles along, the reader will bypass curs and pigs rooting in the refuse piled on walkways. The wider streets allow carts to squeeze through, but if they are too tall, the edges will scrape against upper eaves, while their iron clad wheels (against the law in London) clatter over broken cobbles until you are near deaf.
Readers will experience the myriad of smells, from the enticement of gently roasted pullets in cook shops to the malodorous stink of offal and piss, the tannery section of town, or new beer being made for a family’s daily consumption. Rounding a corner, the reader will run into bakeries with
newly baked bread that mingles alongside churches where bodies are buried under the flagstone floors, and for an extra coin or two, a loved one rests near your pew.
When the last page is finished, I hope the reader will sigh, then at night dream of London during the tumultuous years of the 1660’s. Do you have a favorite writing place? I have a little office with my research stacked around me (not much elbowroom to type), my notes, music, and a window I can look out of as I think of the next line to write.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? Research over centuries shows people are the same no matter where or when we are born. We run, walk, or skip through our lives and soak in whatever knowledge we can before passing on to wherever is out there.
If you could have dinner with any fictional character by another author, whom would you choose? Sidney Carton from Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. What’s next for you? I am researching London 1665 when plague fills the land. It’ll be a trick to keep the deadly scythe as a backdrop to my real story when it fills most of the year, takes many lives, and has been written about so often, but to continue in my ‘series’, for lack of a better word, I can’t simply skip 1665 and go straight to 1666 (which will include the great fire and often written about).
People have a tendency to look the other way when they run into something unhappy. If it doesn’t involve them, they’ll feel sad, maybe help the person. We are curious, but once we see what happens, or know what will happen, as a safety precaution, it’s too hard to watch the horror unfold, and many walk away. When I write of London 1665 I’ll have to be mindful not to be too dreary. I don’t want the reader to put down the book because it is filled with too much death and horror. Even Shakespeare knew how to break into a tragedy with a bit of comic relief. I’ll have to do the same throughout my next novel. Too much tragedy can ruin a story. Katherine and her husband (along with their puppy-dog) divide their time between Seattle and Austin.
READ, PONDER, REPEAT
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 18
New Releases FIRST IMPRESSIONS By Peggy Jaeger Sensual Contemporary Romance Released Sept 23
THE GEMINI SAGITTARIUS CONNECTION Opposites Attract Book 3 Janet Lane Walters Contemporary Medical Romance Released June 23 by Books We Love Ltd in ebook
STORM GOD Book 1 – Aliens and Gods Series Lawna Mackie Romantic Fantasy/ Paranormal Released July 13 by Books We Love Ltd. in ebook
JASPER’S LAMENT Katherine Pym Historical fiction Released June 29 by Books We Love Ltd in ebook
THE TROUBLE WITH NATALIE Joanie MacNeil Contemporary Romance Released June 23 by Books We Love Ltd in ebook
The adventures of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Arthur Conan Doyle in late 19th-century. Victorian mysteries with nostalgic fun and spunky characters by speculative fiction author Roberta Rogow
© 2015 The Book Breeze Page 19
LIKE ME OR NOT Andrea O'Day Sensual Romantic Comedy Release July 10
BOOTLEG BROADWAY Diana Rubino Spicy Vintage Historical Release June 17
HIGH SEAS Madelon Smid Sensual Romantic Suspense Release June 26
THE DETECTIVE'S DRAGON Karilyn Bentley Spicy Paranormal Fantasy Romance Release June 12
BEAUTY SUBMITS TO HER BEAST Sydney St. Claire Erotic BDSM Romance Release June 26
THE GUARDIAN David Wilma Historical Drama Non-romance adult content Release July 31
http://thewildrosepress.com ÂŠ 2015 The Book Breeze Page 20
Ace Katzenbooks Reviews THE BEST CORPSE FOR THE JOB by Charlie Cochrane Mystery / Riptide Publishing
I've read Charlie Cochrane's "Lessons In" mysteries, set in Cambridge, so it was no surprise to see another tale of mayhem in the hallowed halls of learning. "Best Corpse" is a little different, however – the students are seldom seen except at a safe distance because they're all youngsters at the prestigious St. Crispin's Academy. The story concerns the school's Board of Governors and its seemingly hopeless quest to find a new Head Teacher. (As a Yank, I believe this corresponds to a school board and principal, this side of the pond.) The Board is an odd collection of characters -- if this tale was born of plot bunnies from the author's life, I would love to see the people who inspired the characters. Or.. maybe I wouldn't.
The story starts out by introducing us to teacher Adam Matthews, an obvious good guy, who's serving on the selection committee as a representative of the teaching staff. He's good at teaching but is bored out of his wits by the interview procedure—predictable answers to boilerplate questions, clichés and mind games, the inevitable reactionary board member who wishes it were still 1950. I was absolutely convinced of how tedious the procedure was and feared the story was going to get bogged down in the process of picking one mediocre candidate over another. Then somebody narrows the field by strangling one of the candidates, and the pace picks up in a hurry as Detective Inspector Robin Bright appears on the scene. Adam gets a bad case of love-at-first-sight that makes him so nervous he's lucky he has an alibi for the time of the crime.
Inspector Bright feels the same attraction, but he has a job to do and a code of ethics to follow. He's also painfully uneasy being at St. Crispin's, where he went to school – the place where he developed a thirst for justice because, being the target of bullies, he had nowhere to turn himself.
There are a lot of clichés that could have been trotted out in this mystery, but Cochrane deftly avoids them. Instead of a locked-room situation, we have a building with a tight security system that Adam describes as "semi-permeable," so while it seems the murder must have been an inside job.. it might not have been. But the staff and board of governors are such a collection of nervous neuroses that almost anybody might be the killer. Nobody's alibi is airtight, different people have different versions of the truth, and there's the question of a previous search for Head Teacher that was called off for reasons nobody wants to talk about.
Robin Bright finds the only person who will talk to him is Adam Matthews – and though they're both circumspect about being gay, it doesn't take long before they both realize they want to do more than talk. The problem is, any involvement with a witness who is also a potential suspect could wreck the case – and his career. (Note to self, three, Robin thinks, Don’t even think about falling for him… and later, Note to self, four: do not ignore note three.) Of course, by then it's a bit too late. And then another body turns up…
I don't want to give away any of the plot or spoil the fun— and it is fun, there's quite a bit of dry humor here—but I will say a couple of things: it's a pleasure to read a story where the author assumes the reader is paying attention, and it's also great, after all the stories where characters fall madly into bed and let the chips fall where they may, to see a story in which the lovers act like intelligent adults who can feel passion but control themselves, at least until the wily killer is caught.
The resident review cats believe this mystery should have only 4 paws up because there were no cats in featured roles, but the strong supporting performance of Campbell, Adam's Newfoundland, suggests the author may realize that mysteries are not always solved by humans alone. It's not impossible to imagine that Adam and Robin might adopt a cat as company for Campbell. Dogs are excellent creatures, but cats rule when it comes to mysteries. The human reader feels it was just a bit unfair, after all the kerfuffle, not to tell us who did finally become Head Teacher. I was kind of hoping the Governors would decide to offer the position to Adam, who was still alive at the end and not tangled up in any kind of scandal. But maybe there's a sequel in the works? 4.5 paws up!
We hope you enjoyed this edition of The Book Breeze. Contents of this emag are repeated on our blog throughout the month.
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