Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


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REVIEW: Obsession by Patricia Bradley

Wow! I can breathe again. I’m reading (well, listening to) this series in a mixed-up order, but each book has been so full, with a riveting story, twisted plot, and engaging characters.

Set near the Mississippi River, the story involves likable characters amplified by an amazing vocal performance by Rachel Dulude. I’ve been listening to books more often nowadays. Some, like this one, are SO well done! (Seriously, I’ve listened to a few that I’d rather hear a computer voice than the narrator.) Rachel Dulude’s performance enhances the book like cream cheese icing on a red velvet cake.

And this book is already that scrumptious. The story amps up from chapter 1 and only gives a few chances to breathe as it progresses. I teared up and even laughed out loud, but mostly, I just braced myself as Emma and Sam tracked through confusing clues while dodging stalkers and even bullets.

Speaking of the characters, I really liked Emma. At first meet, I got the impression of a little slip of a thing ill-equipped to step beyond her safe haven of documenting historical details and leading tours. Boy, was I wrong! Sure, she has a passion for history, but she enjoys archeology and investigating it as much as sharing it. And the stubborn streak in this gal can substitute for a Glock anytime a weapon is needed.

Her counterpart, Sam, isn’t quite as stubborn, but really close. He’s a little kinder about it, but resolute, especially when it comes to trying to keep Emma safe. . . Safe being a relative term.

Romantic suspense and mystery lovers will love this winning story!

Here’s a little more about it:

Natchez Trace Ranger and historian Emma Winters hoped never to see Sam Ryker again after she broke off her engagement to him. But when shots are fired at her at a historical landmark just off the Natchez Trace, she’s forced to work alongside Sam as the Natchez Trace law enforcement district ranger in the ensuing investigation. To complicate matters, Emma has acquired a delusional secret admirer who is determined to have her as his own. Sam is merely an obstruction, one which must be removed. 

Sam knows that he has failed Emma in the past and he doesn’t intend to let her down again. Especially since her life is on the line. As the threads of the investigation cross and tangle with their own personal history, Sam and Emma have a chance to discover the truth, not only about the victim but about what went wrong in their relationship.

Get a copy of Book 2 of the Natchez Trace Suspense series.


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New Christian Fiction for May

May 2022 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Contemporary Romance:

Anchored Hearts by Julie Arduini — Can two go-getters surrender their need to control and find a happily-ever-after? Jordyn Bell Hart succeeds in everything she does. Her promotion to morning show co-anchor blossoms her career in the same way her mother’s work had. Jordyn keeps tabs on her family and enjoys helping them grow. When life around her starts to change, can she surrender her desire to control? Spencer Collins knows how to balance a busy life. He has his work as a reporter, his time caregiving for his grieving father, and looking out for his little brother. When he learns he’s the new co-anchor of a morning show with Jordyn Hart, can he handle working with a celebrity who brings a lot of challenges to life on and off the set? (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

 

Finding Love in San Antonio by Miralee Ferrell and Kimberley Rose Johnson — For TV chef Adela Romero, the lights of LA have lost their luster. The grief of her husband’s death three years ago still hangs heavy over her and her daughter, Fabi. When Adela returns to San Antonio for a summer break with her daughter, she learns her mother-in-law’s Mexican diner is struggling. Adela wants to help, but her career is tugging her in another direction.Local food critic David Agraponte has a history with Adela. A history he’d like to rekindle. When he interviews Adela, sparks fly—both good and bad. In Adela’s struggle to put her past behind her, she’s tentative about a new relationship, but David hopes she’ll stay at Romero’s long enough to give him a chance. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

 

From Shore to Shore by Tabitha Bouldin — Bree Jamison comes to Sparrow Island for one reason: to study coral reefs. She’s not interested in happily-ever-after and certainly won’t allow her handsome boat captain to sway her into believing these islands are different from any others. But when she finds an old shipwreck and learns the history of pirates and treasure, Bree finds herself searching for something that always feels just out of reach. Cooper Carmichael takes the job as boat captain for the enigmatic Bree to further his career. He never expected her to be so driven—or so painfully opposed to God. All Cooper wants is his happy island life. He wants for nothing. In fact, he’s made it his mission to be content. In every aspect of his life. Bree throws a wrench in his plan as her presence pushes Cooper to want for things he deems unnecessary. A man striving for contentment. A woman who believes God is picking on her. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

 

Home Where She Belongs by Penny Frost McGinnis — Small-town romance with a dash of mystery and the promise of hope. Tired of being a pawn for her father and an emotional punching bag for her ex-boyfriend, Sadie Stewart escapes to Abbott Island where she spent summers with her grandparents. Would the love and faith she learned from them be enough to fuel her new life? She wants to believe God’s promises, yet broken trust holds her back. Joel Grayson left the island long enough to train at the Police Academy. The community trusts him, even though he’s failed. When he finds Sadie at her grandparents’ cottages, his heart skips a beat. He’d love to get to know her again, but no one needs to share the hurt he harbors. When Sadie discovers someone is sabotaging her future, she seeks Joel’s help. As they are drawn together, will Joel let down his guard and let her in? Will Sadie trust the man who loves her and the Father Who cares? (Contemporary Romance from Mt. Zion Ridge Press)

 

If You Rescue Me by Jerusha Agen — Can his love set her free? Not all prisons have bars. Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in a prison of abuse for years. When her abuser goes too far and threatens her ten-year-old daughter, Charlotte runs to the stranger her mother believed would save her. She hopes to find answers and escape, but she doesn’t expect to meet a man who’s everything she fears yet everything she could love. Police Sergeant Gabe Kelly can tell Charlotte’s hiding something and doesn’t trust cops. But despite his better judgment, his heart is drawn toward Charlotte and her little girl. What begins as kindness threatens to turn into something riskier if Gabe doesn’t get ahold of his feelings. When Charlotte’s secrets catch up with her, Gabe’s badge puts them on opposite sides of the bars between them. Will God’s redemption be enough to set them free to love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

 

Love in Second Bloom by Sandra Ardoin — She’s searching for direction. He’s trying to change his. Are they beyond renewing the dream of a future they once believed in? At a crossroads in her career, Erin Ward works as a groundskeeper in a small town filled with precious, romantic memories. With Shaun Hadley’s surprise arrival, Erin dreams of a second chance at romance with the guy she broke up with in college. But Shaun isn’t the same man she once loved, and she blames herself. As an easygoing college computer geek, Shaun let Erin’s rejection light a determined fire under him. Today, he’s a successful businessman seeking to relax. Letting go of his workaholic ways is harder than he’d imagined, even when it threatens both his health and a renewed relationship with the love of his life. What hope do they have when Shaun can’t slow down, and Erin refuses to stand up for herself and their future…again? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

 

A Mother for His Son by Betty Woods — Back in the little town of Sunrise, Texas, to help her grandmother, Dallas chef Rachel Landry plans to use the time to heal her broken heart. She has no need to help handsome neighbor Mac Greer with his guest ranch. But her growing affection for his little boy could be just the push she needs to once again see the possibility of something more. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 

Not Since You by Dulcie Dameron — When Claudia Clark was involved in a tragic accident in high school, it set her on a devastating path toward heartbreak. For the past eight years, she’s carefully guarded her heart. With her business now thriving, she doesn’t have time for any unwanted distractions. She’s learned from her mistakes. But when the biggest one of all comes face to face with her again, she starts to question the belief she’s desperately clung to for so long. Dorian Vance can’t get over his past—or the girl that it’s wrapped up in. So when a family emergency brings him back to the small town of River Hollow, he decides it’s time to accept the truth and confront the girl he left behind. Unfortunately for him, she’s dead set on making him pay for his sins. As sparks start flying and well-meaning townsfolk meddle in their affairs, Dorian and Claudia are forced to resurrect old ghosts that lay buried in a mire of guilt and shame. But as they find themselves in the center of a vengeful scheme, the hope and forgiveness they seek seem impossible to obtain. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

 

Royally Married by Jill Boyce — Dr. Claire Thomson, queen of Amorley, has banished all the dragons in her life—or so she hopes. Her wedding to Ethan Kane, the love of her life, looms on the horizon, yet unwelcome houseguests of her stepmother, Lord Chicanery of Maltenstein and his son, Hans, threaten her upcoming wedding with new obstacles. New questions abound about the integrity of the crown and the necessity of its future. If Claire cannot prove her loyalty to Amorley and disavow her involvement in a nefarious plot to defraud the country’s coffers for personal gain, then she may have to postpone more than just her wedding. She may have to leave the life she’s come to love in her father’s homeland as Parliament calls the monarchy into question. Dangers lurk in the castle, and if Claire’s not careful, she will lose more than her crown; she will lose her life. If she survives, will Claire and Ethan finally make it to the altar and solidify her position as queen? Can she protect the monarchy and those she loves from the evil plans of her enemies? Has time finally run out for Claire on her quest for her happily ever after? (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

 

Short and Sweet: 13 Sweet, Romantic Stories by Susan Page Davis — This collection of short stories is perfect for quick reads. Fall in love with a firefighter, a florist, a soldier, or a church usher. Join Kelly at a wedding, Sam at a charity box social, and Kara at a date she’s looked forward to for ten years. Whether it’s an office romance or a chance meeting on a railroad platform, join the fun and soak up the romance. (Contemporary Romance from Tea Tin Press)

 

The Road Home by Cathe Swanson — Christopher Wright came home from Afghanistan a changed man. He’s found peace as an over-the-road trucker, but he’s never forgotten the woman he grew close to overseas – or the promises they made to each other. But when a newspaper article leads him to the Unity Plenkiss Community Center, the elusive Tally isn’t happy to be found – and she’s definitely not interested in picking up where they left off.
After two years on the streets, Tally Zemmer has found a home and begun to heal, building a new life for herself. Christopher’s reappearance is a reminder of her scars and the ghosts that followed her home from Afghanistan. But he’s the one man who knows her secrets and still cares for her. They have a special connection, shared faith, and experiences no one else can claim. Can they find a new road home together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

 

What Remains True by Nancy Naigle — Working at a little shop on Main Street in a small town is exactly the break that executive Merry Anna Foster needs following her divorce. She’s made a bet with her ex-husband that she can live on the amount of money she’s giving him in alimony. If she can do it, then Kevin will have to stop complaining and leave her alone. But after three months of this new life, will she even want to leave Antler Creek? (Contemporary Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House))

 

Historical Romance:

A Promise Engraved by Liz Tolsma — Can Promises Made in Times of Struggle Endure 200 Years? Young, spirited Josie Wilkins life is about to take a turn when faced with political turmoil and forbidden love in San Antonio of 1836. John Gilbert has won her heart, despite being a Protestant preacher who is forbidden to practice his faith in Texas. Will either of them survive an epic battle for liberty to create a legacy of love? Nearly 200 years later, Kayleigh Hernandez takes breaks from her demanding job as a refugee coordinator working with Mexican migrants to attend flea markets where she has found a uniquely engraved ring. Enlisting the help of appraiser Brandon Shuman, they piece together a love story long forgotten. But will dangers linked to Kayleigh’s work end her own hopes for leaving a legacy built on hope, faith, and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

 

When the Meadow Blooms by Ann H. Gabhart — If any place on God’s earth was designed to help one heal, it is Meadowland. Surely here, at her brother-in-law’s Kentucky farm, Rose and her daughters can recover from the events of the recent past—the loss of her husband during the 1918 influenza epidemic, her struggle with tuberculosis that required a stay at a sanatorium, and her girls’ experience in an orphanage during her illness. At Meadowland, past troubles become rich soil in which faith can grow. Dirk Meadows may have opened his home to his late brother’s widow and her girls, but he keeps his heart tightly closed. The roots of his pain run deep, and the evidence of it is written across his face. Badly scarred by a fire and abandoned by the woman he loved, Dirk fiercely guards his heart from being hurt again. But it may be that his visitors will bring light back into his world and unlock the secret to true healing. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

 

Speculative Fiction:

Celestial by Hannah Mae — For millenniums, angels like Captain Jediah had waged war against their former brethren: the demons. As Keeper of the Abyss, it’s his duty to ensure Appolyon’s army remains imprisoned until the end of the age. Unfortunately, despite all that God had entrusted him with, Jediah is plagued by an unceasing guilt. It drives him to thirst for Christ’s redemptive power, but there’s one glaring problem. He’s not human. God’s gift of salvation is meant for mankind alone. When God appoints him to lead a task force of five wildly different angels to capture two dangerous demons, Jediah ponders if his return to earth might be his only chance to learn what the core of human salvation truly is. however, one of Jediah’s angels hides a secret agenda, and Jediah’s dark past is hellbent on hunting him down too. Can Jediah risk everything for the relief he’s desperate for? Or should he even bother chasing what he cannot have at all? What does living redeemed mean? (Speculative Fiction, Independently Published)

 

This Dreamer by Sara Watterson — When Evie, an immortal Watcher turned reluctant assassin, finds herself captivated by her intended target, Adan the Dreamer, is it worth the cost to prevent his untimely end? Evie grows restless observing mortals from the safety of her desk in the Control Room. When the promotion for the only job she’s ever wanted—Guardian among humans in Sector Five—is canceled, a friend offers to smuggle her by portal into a booming metropolis called Shura. Evie jumps at the chance to see the world with mortal eyes. Secretly, though, she also hopes to observe Adan, a human Dreamer, in his natural habitat. Only a glimpse, she promises herself. All seems well until she returns to the Control Room, where she has landed in a heap of trouble. Not only did she take an unsanctioned trip to the ground, but the boy, the Dreamer, is missing. And all blame is placed squarely at Evie’s feet. This Dreamer is a clean fantasy romance adventure inspired by Joseph and the coat of many colors. (Speculative Fiction, Independently Published)

 

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

The Rancher’s Want Ad Mix-Up by Megan Besing, A mail-order mistake…Or a made-to-be match? (Historical Romance)

Saving Grace by Candee Fick, Not all heroes wear a uniform. (Contemporary Romance)

Magi Journey: Babylonia by Terry Phillip Garner, Magi Journey – Babylonia – continues the sweeping saga as the Magi continue their journey from Assyria in 734 BC to Bethlehem in the year -0-. (General Historical)

Brides of Seattle by Kimberly Rose Johnson, Three strong women discover love where they least expect it. (Contemporary Romance)

Puppy Ciao: Novel Companion and Study Guide by Annette Ohare, An All in One Devotional and Inspirational Novel Study Guide. (Children’s)

The Bookseller’s Promise by Beth Wiseman, The book leads the trio deep into mysterious questions about life and death, love and loss, and the impenetrable purposes of God. (General Contemporary)


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I’m not sure how I missed this the first time around …

Cute covers, too!

But I’m sure not going to miss it this time as I’m beginning a series of reviews called Digging Through the Backlists

First up ar the Squeaky Clean Mysteries by Christy Barritt. 

What a delight! These mysteries feature a crime scene cleaner as the amateur detective. I can’t tell you that’s why I missed these the first time around. I heard about Christy’s series when I was finishing up my Grime Fighter series which also has a crime scene cleaner as the main character. I didn’t want to read hers until I was completely finished, but now that I am . . .

And her character is so much fun. Straight-talking and a little coarse, Gabby St. Claire is a character to truly love. She’s authentic and sincere if a little rough around the edge. She has a genuine desire to do her best, so it’s easy to like her. 

The first story, HAZARDOUS DUTY, jumps into action immediately. Gabby cleans up from what is assumed to be a robbery gone wrong, leaving the homeowner with a bullet in his leg and the man’s wife dead. Gabby imagines all sorts of duplicity as she works, but she isn’t alone for long before her suspicions are confirmed in a heart-pounding way.

The action has a good rhythm throughout the book. Add to that the bud of a romantic triangle, some quirky neighbors that add to her trouble, and her cleaning assistant who is blamed for the crimes that occur, and Gabby is in more than the muck from her crime scenes. 

This is a fun story, and the characters have all sorts of potential. I enjoyed Book 2 as well (SUSPICIOUS MINDS) and I’m now well on my way through Book 3, ORGANIZED GRIME

If you, like me, missed this series when it was new, don’t miss it now! 


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I KNEW I was in Trouble!

I remember when I was a kid. I grew up in a Dallas suburb and we played until the streetlights came on. Then I checked in with my mom, and sometimes went out and played some more. The worst tension came when I had two shows that I wanted to watch coming on at the same time on different channels.

But I always knew when I was really in trouble.

“Margaret Elaine …” There was never an ending to the sentence. Only my name, but that was all that was needed. I think the fact that there was no verb collaborating with my name made my mom’s call all the more frightening. Threatening. And the ellipsis that shows up after my name? Let me tell you, it was real. Like palpable. I knew there was something that would follow, and I wasn’t going to like it.

My mom named me after one of her best friends. I always hated the name Margaret because it was twisted into the most awful nicknames. And no, I am not going to share them with you. Yikes! But she chose the word Elaine because it went well with Margaret and rolled off the tongue.

So, drawing conclusions here, she knew, before I was born, that I was going to be a handful, and she chose my names so that she could call them out easily together. Clearly, she knew she’d be doing that a lot.

BTW, my brother has the same type of name. I can still hear my mom calling out to him: “Randell Loyd!” Seems I didn’t hear that name nearly as much as I heard my own though.

When hubby and I chose names for our kids, we were very careful to pick names that would roll like that with my son. And let me tell you, he wore it out! But when my redhead was born – now you’d think I would be even more careful with a redhead, right? – we chose a name for her that really doesn’t sound like her nickname. We call her Katie, but her name is Kathryn. I don’t think, even now, that I have it in me to call her Kathryn. She’s too much of a Katie. So forget about even trying to add the middle name. With my twins, we didn’t even attempt to make their names yell-able. And it was okay with them anyway because they were always really good. 

So now I’m having a grandbaby. Yea! He’s a boy! Woohoo! His parents (Katie and her hubby Matt) have named him Caleb after the great man of faith and strength in the Old Testament. And they’ve given him the middle name of Dean after my hubby. Katie even wrote a letter to her baby to the effect that he is named after two of the most godly and faithful men she knows. Yes, sweet hubby teared up at that one.

And I can’t help but notice how Caleb Dean just rolls off the tongue! Is that in preparation? LOL!


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BOOK REVIEW: Rules of Murder

There was a time when I read constantly and reviewed at least one book per week. When I started editing for a living, reading become less of a joy and more of a job. As a result, I pretty much stopped reading for fun, but I did listen to books on Audible from time to time.

Well, I’ve begun to listen to books even more than before. I hope to review them more often as well. Lately, I’ve reviewed several books at the Suspense Sisters blog.

My latest review is one that I put up on the Goodreads website. I’ve added that link to the bottom, but suffice it to say that enjoying Julianna Deering’s book, RULES OF MURDER, made my week! Drew Farthering is an outstanding hero – with the status and wealth to do what’s needed, but also possessing just enough humility and insecurity to be real and empathetic. His leading lady has just the right amount of snark combined with spunk and charm. I can’t wait to see what happens in this relationship.

And Farthering’s best friend is quite intriguing. I’m hoping that Ms. Deering has plans for him in the coming stories! And you can bet, with or without the audiobook option, I’ll be reading the rest of the series!

Here are the details of the story:

From the tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his cheviot trousers, he’s the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered.

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he’s learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be – not the butler nor blackmailer, the chauffeur nor embezzler. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer – and trying harder to impress Madeline – Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads about the book:

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What a delightful “read.” True confessions, I enjoyed this through audible, and I loved the vocal talent almost as much as I loved the story! Excellent choice!

And this story is one of the best I’ve enjoyed! A tight mystery with the charm and intrigue of days gone by. I can’t wait to enjoy the others from this series!

View all my reviews


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Accused – in PARIS!

“I didn’t do it.”

“Do what? Madam?” The airport security guard had introduced himself as Toussant. He had only a mild accent, but he didn’t fool me. He’d pulled me into this bare, little room for something.

“Whatever it is you’ve brought me in here for.” I wasn’t making a whole lot of sense, but such was typical when I got nervous.

“We merely want to speak to you, Madam Laine.” He gestured to a chair on one side of a small table, but I didn’t feel like sitting.

How did the man know my name? I’d just been sitting in the waiting room when he stepped up and ushered me in here. It certainly wasn’t the random choice I’d thought it was. “About what?”

“What is it that brought you to Paris, Madam?” He seated himself in the chair across the table and steepled his fingers.

I don’t know what bothered me most about the man: his condescending tone or his half-lidded eyes. But since he’d sat down, I went ahead and sat across from him. “I was in Germany, visiting a mission with one of my friends, and I decided to come to Paris, just to say that I’d seen the place, and fly out from here.” I know I’m weird, but Paris has never been one of my dream vacays. Still, when I was only a hop, skip, and jump away, I needed to see what all of the fuss was about.

“And the Louvre?” The man lifted an eyebrow in, clearly doubting all that I’d just said.

“Was open when I got here. I decided to visit.” I lifted my chin and held his gaze for a second. “What’s the look for? I like art.” My mind flitted to the painting of the dogs playing cards that had hung in my game room when I was a kid.

I liked all sorts of artistic stuff.

“You were in the Louvre this morning?”

“Yes.” What was he getting at?

“And last night?” He gave a lazy blink as though he was working at being patient with me.

And I had no idea what he was fishing for. “I stayed in a little village just over the border from Germany. I can’t pronounce the name, but the chalet was owned by a family named Fontaine.”

“Then you did not come into Paris last night.”

“No.” Wasn’t that obvious? “I traveled yesterday and stayed at the chalet. Then I drove into Paris today and went straight to the museum.”

“To see the art.” He took out a notepad and jotted something down.

“Yes.” What was with this guy?

“And then you came straight here to the airport.” He didn’t look up at me this time.

“Yes.” I had a late afternoon flight to Heathrow. Was that so odd?

The man stood and gazed down at me. “So how did you enjoy the painting of the Russian Princess?”

I thought through the rooms I’d visited. I’d made a point to put my eyes on every picture, but that didn’t mean I would remember them all. Or any of them. Well, a few stood out in my mind. And some of them had looked royal. “Was that the painting of the little girls near the roses?” They had been dressed in multiple layers, so they might have been royal.

He merely shook his head.

“Well, I liked most of what I saw, so I’m sure I liked it.” Wait, why had he asked about that specific painting? “Was there something odd about it?”

“Only that it is missing.”

So that was why I’d been pulled aside. I stood. “Okay, I really didn’t take that. The only thing from Paris that I have in my bag is a magnet for my fridge and a thimble for my collection.” Well, and a couple of photos on my phone, but they didn’t count. I pushed my carry-on toward him as the door behind me opened.

I turned in time to see another guard step in and simply shake his head.

Toussant smiled benignly. “It seems you were indeed where you said last night.”

No news to me. “So I’m free to go?”

“I do have one other question.” He eyed me again. “When did you decide to go to the Louvre? I mean, there are many sights here in Paris. And you only had time for one of them. What made you choose that particular place?”

I’d actually planned this jaunt before I’d even purchased my plane tickets. “A friend of mine back in the states talked to me about the Louvre. Come to think of it, she mentioned some painting of a princess.” I immediately wished I hadn’t added that comment.

The guard pounced on it. “And who was that friend?”

Well, at least I didn’t need to worry about that. She was safely in California. “Chautona Havig. You might have heard of her. She’s the author of over seventy books.”

“Spell, please?” He jotted down the name as I spelled it for him. She couldn’t even be a suspect since she wasn’t even in France, but he wrote it down anyway.

“Thank you for your time, Madam.” He ushered me to the door and closed it behind me. The little room in the airport hadn’t been on my list of things to see in Paris, but I was glad that at least I wouldn’t be missing my plane.

Have you been able to follow this mystery? The Ever After authors are again caught up in a theft, this time of priceless art. Follow the trail of the missing painting:

Cathe Swanson – Feb 1
April Hayman – Feb 2
Denise Lauren Barela– Feb 3
Sandy Barela – Feb 4
Rebekah Jones – Feb 5
Liz Tolsma – Feb 6
Marji Laine Clubine- Feb 7
Chautona Havig – Feb 8

I’m so excited to celebrate with Liz Tolsma on her Ever After mystery Slashed Canvas. Here’s a little more about her new book which is now available in paperback and ebook at Amazon:

Held prisoner by all she’s lost, Katarina’s about to lose all she has.

Grand Duchess Katarina Volstova barely escaped the Russian revolution, arriving in Paris just before the birth of her twin daughters. With her heart still captive in her homeland, she haunts the Louvre each day, spending hours gazing at one painting, lost in her pain.

Not the man he once was, Timothy Smythe never returned home to England after the Great War. Instead, he hides himself away doing maintenance in the Louvre and watching the beautiful woman whose pain seems riveted on one painting.

When Katarina returns home to find her daughters and their nanny missing, the loss opens her eyes to all she has to lose now.

Frantic to find her girls, her distress causes Timothy to offer his assistance. Together they put together clues to a puzzle they must complete before the kidnapper ensures Katarina and her daughters are never reunited.

Slashed Canvas offers a retelling of The Lost Princess that mingles self-centered grief, spoiled little girls, and proof that nothing will stop a mother from saving her children.

And don’t miss your chance to win an Amazon gift card. Giveaway Link:  https://promosimple.com/ps/18dfa/slashed-canvas-marji


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going, Going, GONE!

“And gone is exactly what it was.” I tried to be nonchalant as I pulled a candy cane from beside my front walkway. I wasn’t fooling any of my neighbors, though. I never did outdoor decorating, or undecorating, as in this case. And when the police car pulled in front of the house, at least three of the houses nearby suddenly had activity at their windows.

Blinds suddenly had a kink in them. Curtains were pulled back. A crazy dog started barking and pawing in the front window at the house across the street. I knew Mrs. Myers was crouching in the dark behind the dog. She probably even had her binoculars out.

I resisted the urge to wave at her and pulled up another candy cane as I turned my attention to the young officer.

He eyed me, holding a stylus above an iPad. “I realize the poster was gone, but I need to know what happened leading up to that moment.”

“Well, there isn’t much to tell. The auctioneer announced that the freakshow poster was the next thing to be auctioned. I picked up my paddle, but I never got the chance to bid. When they revealed the item, all they revealed was a big fat empty.”

“And you . . .”

I felt the heat rise up my neck. “Well, I had a plane to catch. I couldn’t bid on the item I wanted, so what was the point of me staying?”

“You went directly to the airport?”

Sort of. I reached for another candy cane and dropped my voice to a little over a whisper. “I did have to use the ladies.”

“So you stopped along the way.”

I merely nodded at this point. I wasn’t about to go into detail. “Bottom line, I had nothing to do with the disappearance of the poster.” I shook a candy cane in his direction. “No matter what you heard from Cathe Swanson. I was only interested in it for memorabilia anyway. I’ve collected all the books of the series; why not add to the presentation. And it really is a nice poster – was a nice poster.”

“And you never went near the poster before the auction began?”

Okay, that was a different question. I certainly couldn’t outright lie about it. Even if I could force out something that might sound rather affirmative, my flaming face would give it away. Judging from my feverish cheeks, it already was. “I wanted to see the thing before I began bidding on it. You know how it is. I had to be sure it was the real thing.”

“So . . .”

I glanced up at the sky and then down the street toward the corner. Why was some officer questioning me about the auction now? Out of the blue? I spotted a car parked on the entry road to my neighborhood. Cars never parked down there. A head ducked as I looked at it. Was that Cathe Swanson? Surely not. She lived way up north, for pity’s sake.

Was that why the officer was here?

“So you were the last to view it.” This officer, young or not, wasn’t missing anything.

I thought back to the episode I’d seen. Cathe had raced out of the auction house dragging some poor terrier in a hideous Christmas sweater. A moment later, security guards followed in hot pursuit. I had the chance to check under the red drape over the picture. “I wasn’t alone. April Hayman wandered over as well. She held up one edge of the drape and I held up the other.” It had been the real thing, all right.

“I see.” He lifted one eyebrow and jotted something into his iPad.

I pointed at him with the cane. “All I did was look at it. I didn’t touch it. I wasn’t even the last one with it.”

“Who was?”

I couldn’t really be sure about that. A few others joined us as we viewed it. “I think there were a few people there when I dropped my corner of the drape. I know April Hayman was. Have you even spoken to her?”

He ignored my question. “You’re certain she was there?”

“Yes. She had been standing right next to me and went around to the other side as I was leaving.” I took a breath, hoping this would encourage him to leave. I’d already tangled myself up in the candy cane wires and I still had about a dozen of them left to remove.

“I’ll see about this.” He didn’t even say goodbye as he strolled back to his car and got in. The dog across the street stopped barking. The curtains in the house next to it fell back into place. The blinds next door suddenly lost their kink.

I glanced toward the car parked at the corner as it pulled away. If it was Cathe Swanson, she’d been meddling in the wrong barrel. I had nothing to do with the theft no matter how much I’d wanted that poster. I pulled up another cane and solidified a huge tangle around the others and myself.

There was a reason why I didn’t do the outdoor decorating.

***

The authors of the Ever After series are celebrating Denise Barela’s release of Silencing the Siren, even more special because it is her premier publication! Woohoo! It’s available today on Amazon. Here’s a little more about her story:

Andrew Grayson thought he had everything… until he met her.

The indulged son of wealthy parents, Andrew has always gotten whatever he wanted almost before he knew he wanted it—clothes, gadgets… even a car! What more could a young man desire?

Enter Annabel Thompson. Freakshow mermaid extraordinaire… in a wheelchair!

Of course, her beauty attracts him. How could it not? Add to that a kind heart, and Andrew can’t help but fall for her.

Annabel’s connection with the freakshow repels his parents and their society friends. They want him to sever all ties with her and his new friends. Oh, and marry the “right” girl with the “right connections.” But he won’t do it. He’ll defy them and marry his little mermaid.

When Annabel turns up missing, declared dead, things don’t add up, Andrew begins asking some difficult questions, the most important being, “What happened to the little mermaid of the Coney Island freak show?”

Find out in this next book in the Ever After Mysteries, combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries. Silencing the Siren offers a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” that will keep you gripped to the edge of your seat as you watch the story unfold.

Enjoy the rest of this little bloghop:

Rebekah Jones – Jan 4
Chautona Havig – Jan 5
Cathe Swanson – Jan 6
Marji Laine Clubine – Jan 7
April Hayman – Jan 8
Liz Tolsma – Jan 9
Sandy Barela – Jan 10
Denise Lauren Barela – Jan 11

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below! Great opportunity to win an Amazon gift card!


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In Pieces

I ordered some eggs over easy and toast and then heard the ding on my phone as the waitress left our table.

“Do you need to get that?” my friend asked me.

I hated interrupting the way-too-infrequent times I get to see my friend, but sometimes my mom’s caregivers will text instead of call when she’s having a problem. “Just a sec.”

I opened the text and found the picture of a headless doll. The next image was of the missing head. And it wasn’t exactly a doll. More of a nutcracker. You know the type: dressed in a soldier uniform with a big head that allows for the nuts to fit in between his wide-opening mouth. This one had a tiny sword in one hand and a tall hat like a palace guard.

“Check this out.” I handed my phone over to my friend.

“Is this some sort of threat or just some weird coordination between mystery writers?”

I snorted. “Probably more of the latter than the first. It’s from April Hayman, one of the authors of the Ever After series.”

“Do y’all exchange pictures of broken dolls often?” She handed the phone back to me. “And should I ask for the check now?”

“No.” I laughed. “Apparently, the nutcracker from Chautona Havig’s new book, The Nutcracker Suite, has lost his head somehow.”

“Probably over some Raggedy Ann doll.”

“Cute.” I looked up at the ceiling. “April thought I might know who broke it.”

“Do you?” Her eyebrow arched and she leaned over her elbows on the table.

“I could probably make a pretty good guess. I mean, if it has to do with a nutcracker, then there are likely some mice involved.” Though I really didn’t think Chautona would have mice in her house.

“Maybe the mouse king shoved him off a high shelf?” my friend suggested. “Like yours. Don’t you have a nutcracker on that high shelf in your living room?”

“Yeah, but it’s not a soldier. Mama brought it back from Germany, though it looks more like a Leprechaun.”

My friend took a sip of her coffee. “So, if Chautona doesn’t have mice that could have broken the nutcracker, who broke it?”

“Well…” I thought of some of the sundry characters who fill my own books, but there would be no reason for them to hop into Chautona’s book to create havoc. “While Chautona doesn’t have mice, she does have a passel of kids.”

“I seem to remember somewhere that a couple of kids fought over a nutcracker and broke it. Do you suppose that’s what happened?”

I remembered that story. “I think at least one of those kids was pretty bratty. Chautona’s kids aren’t like that.”

“But it could have still happened that way, maybe they were playing with it?” My friend was certainly getting into the spirit of the mystery. “Or it could have fallen when Chautona was cleaning.”

I couldn’t answer for Chautona, but the poor guy on my high shelf likely had an inch of dust on his little green cap, not that anyone would be tall enough to see it. Which was exactly why I didn’t worry over keeping him dusted. “Either way, I certainly think she’s the one we should ask next about all of this.”

I typed in a short message and attached the pictures to the text. She had some explaining to do.

This little mystery celebrates the release of The Nutcracker Suite, the newest book in the Ever After series by Celebrate Lit. Chautona Havig offers this take on the famous Christmas story:

“Time to dance, sugarplum.”

A painter at the Meyer’s Toys factory, Clarice Stahl, knows something is strange about the way so many men come and go through Mr. Meyer’s office, especially one in particular.

Then murder strikes a little too close to home and uncorks a barrel of secrets.

When mob king, Mario Topo’s, enforcer goes missing the race is on to prove he’s behind the murder. Police and mobsters alike are after Milo Natale, and he who finds Milo first might determine the enforcer’s fate.

A race through the city, a new friend… or more… a new life in the offing. Milo and Clarice must find who killed Topo’s man and why before the police arrest him for murder or Topo’s men bump him and Clarice off,
too.

This next book in the Ever After Mysteries combines “The Nutcracker Suite” with a murder mystery set in the heart of 1920s Rockland.

Order your copy HERE.

And don’t forget to enter at the link below for an Amazon gift card giveaway.

ENTER HERE!


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I Know My Goldmine!

The knock at the door interrupted my new story. Again. I was determined to complete this 1940s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but between phone calls and errands, most of my story remained in my head.

My loveable rescue mutt started in on a tirade of protective barks when someone rang the doorbell.

Really? The Amazon delivery person was more than a little determined to get me to empty my porch. I put Rosie (aka Madam Barksalot) into her crate and went to the door.

Now, I live in the suburbs of Dallas, but even in my quiet neighborhood, I know better than to simply open my front door, broad daylight or not. But the fall wreath that I had put up last week completely blocked the peephole.

Grr.

The best I could do was to crack the door open. I thought there was probably a door-to-door salesman there. Over the last couple of months, we’ve entertained cable salesmen, a roofer from down the street, and a fellow attempting to sell us new windows. Well, and a girl scout, but since she came bringing me extra thin mints, I won’t count her among the nuisances.

Either way, I wasn’t expecting dusty men with crumpled fedoras pushing their way into my house.

Instant terror. The thing of nightmares. Or my suspense stories.

Rosie let out a blitz of non-stop barks in the living room. What I wouldn’t give for her sharp little teeth chasing the men off. But I took comfort that sweet hubby was only out on a short walk, and dear daughter and her taser were in the next room. She’d probably even seen the men approaching the place. “Get out of my house.”

The taller one walked through the entry hall looking at my shelves and the pictures on the wall. He made it to the living room, took one glance at Rosie in her crate, and backed away. “Not ’til you tell us where it is.”

“Huh?” I guess my expression confused them. They looked at each other and then back at me. Not that I had any answers. “What is it?”

Rosie had finally stopped barking, and the first man shushed me. “Keep your dog calm.”

The second man stepped into my dining room. “Drawers in here.”

Only in the china cabinet. “Hey.” I held up my hands, but the first guy shushed me again.

The second man pulled out the wide drawer under the glassed cabinets, and, as I discovered several years ago, learned that the drawer has no stopping device. It came out of the slot, and heavy as it was with flatware and Christmas utensils, it fell to the floor, slamming into his toes. “Ow.” He hopped up and down on first one foot and then the other. His friend, the last one at the door, came to help, but the injured man shoved him away.

“Who you shoving?” The last man acted as though to tackle the hopping fellow.

His friend who had returned from the living room yelled at him. “Keep it down.”

They hadn’t closed my door behind them, and my neighbor across the street was out sweeping the acorns off of his sidewalk. He kept glancing in the direction of my doorway. That was good.

And with so much commotion, my daughter had probably already called 911.

I lowered my voice, hoping a calming tone was coming out. “Look, this is a quiet area with nosy neighbors. The police are probably already on their way”

The first one held his hands out toward me. “Ain’t no need for that lady. We just wants the location.”

Did they break into the wrong house? “Location to what? I don’t even know you.” What in the world were they talking about?

“We wants to know where to find the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, and don’t say you don’t know ’cause Chautona Havig done mailed choo the map.” The last fellow pointed a finger at me.

I would have to remember to thank Chautona, but I hadn’t gotten the mail yet. Had it come today? “But what if I don’t know where your mine is?” I almost said mind which would also have been appropriate.

At this point, I could see the lady who lived catty-corner to me join my across-the-street neighbor in open curiosity. I resisted the urge to wave. Wouldn’t want them to think I was okay with the men bursting in.

“Prove it.” This time, the first man pointed at me.

Were these guys for real? How was I supposed to prove that? But then, I’m a words person. Maybe I could reason with them? “Well, first, the mine is lost, right?”

“Yeah,” the trio chorused.

They might have been dressed like Indiana Jones, but they didn’t seem to be all that intelligent, though that’s a rather harsh thing for me to think. Still, I had few other options since neither the police nor my family members had made an appearance as yet. I pursued my line, “I’m at home here, so clearly I am not… lost, that is. Wouldn’t you agree?”

The expressions on the men’s faces dumbed up with wrinkles across their foreheads and their mouth’s looking like they’d just had a bite of months-old stew. “Uh, okay,” the third guy grunted.

“Second, do I look Dutch to you?” Okay, there might’ve been some Dutch ancestors way, way back in the family tree, but the question just intensified the confusion on the men’s faces. “I can prove to you that I am not.” I pulled out my phone and opened the app that had my family tree in it. Well, at least the first eight generations. “See here? Scottish.” I showed them the line from two of my grandparents. “It’s that way all around.” I didn’t mention the Native American, the French, or the German ancestors, but they couldn’t have handled anymore anyway.

Their faces looked like their brains were fairly about to pop as it was.

I casually wandered into the living room and the men followed me. “And you said it was the ‘Dutch man‘ goldmine, right?”

They nodded.

“I’m am happily female. Not a man.” I shrugged. “In conclusion, I am not lost, not Dutch, and not a man. But I do have a goldmine.” I neared the crate where my silent dog lay. Bright orange with tan markings, my Rosie can easily be described as gold.

I unlatched the door and flung it open. She immediately advanced on the trio with her protective bark and growl performance. “Madam Barksalot is my own personal goldmine.”

The men backed up, fairly falling over each other. “Cain’t you get her to quit.”

“Believe me, boys,” I shout over her earsplitting tirade. “I have tried.” Many times, but not so much in this case.

Rosie escorted them to the door. The post office deliverer was on the other side of the street, way down on the east end. I had to think of something quick before they noticed the truck. “You might give Denise Barela a holler. She lives out in California, and at one time, they had quite a lot of gold out there.” It was the first thing that I thought of and purely by accident. I really expected the police to have been here by now. They’re usually so quick.

The men glanced at each other one last time as a distant siren blared. Then they scrambled out the door and ran west, down the street and around the corner.

I gave my neighbors a wave and a thumbs-up as the siren grew closer. Then I shut the door and went to my daughter’s room. I tapped on the door and opened it a crack. “What did you tell the dispatcher, so I can connect the dots.”

She whirled around and pulled an earbud from one ear. “Did you need something?”

So much for the cavalry. And sure enough, the siren faded as he obviously passed my neighborhood. Thankfully, I hadn’t needed him.

But if the map they’d mention did end up here… well, Denise was pretty creative. She’d figure out what to do with it once she moved those fellows along. Check-in with Denise Barela tomorrow to see how she works with them.

I love these blog hops for the Ever After series! And these mysteries are so much fun. This blog hop celebrates the latest release from Rebecca Jones, The Lost Dutchman’s Secret. Here’s a little about the book:

There’s a deadly secret in them thar hills—and gold, or so they say.

Deeply in debt to a wealthy local, Charles Sinclair, Dorothy Hodges’ father finally promises she’ll pay and in gold, no less. If only Dorothy could take to take the promises he spins out of thin air and turn them into that gold, all would be well.

With the help of a strange, rumpled man, Dorothy does manage to bring payment to one of Sinclair’s sons only to discover it won’t pay off the debt. Will the next payment be enough?  The next?

When Charles Sinclair ends up dead, Dorothy is the obvious prime suspect, but Sinclair’s son isn’t so certain. Together they work to clear her name and find the real murderer of the Superstitions, but will they find the answers buried in those hills?

Find out in this next book in the Ever After Mysteries, combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries. The Lost Dutchman’s Secret offers a retelling of “Rumplestilskin” that requires more digging than a miner searching for The Lost Dutchman Mine.

The Lost Dutchman’s Secret is available. And don’t miss entering the giveaway at the link below for an Amazon gift card! Yea!

https://promosimple.com/ps/142a5/the-lost-dutchman-s-secret-marji


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Guess What I Did?

I was so honored to be a finalist for the Chrisitan Literary Awards, but then I won! Yea! So excited!