Oct 202017
 

I have been so busy lately that I have not been reading as much as I would like to. Plus I have so many books in my TBR pile, that I have been so frustrated, that I haven’t gotten to them YET! I knew Dewey’s Read-A-Thon was coming up, and am so glad that I didn’t miss it. IT’S TOMORROW!! Care to join? There is still time….you can sign up HERE.

I really should be doing my Fall cleaning, however, there are priorities in life, and me reading is right there on the top!! So I’m in!!

I will be checking in when I need a little break. You can see how I’m doing HERE.

Oct 192017
 

Bones To Pick

by Linda Lovely

on Tour October 16 – December 16, 2017

Synopsis:

Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely

Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.

Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: Oct. 24, 2017
Number of Pages: 266
ISBN: 9781635112597
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery, #1
Get Your Copy of Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her newest series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Catch Up With Linda Lovely On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

INTERVIEW

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both. I was a journalism major in college, and I’ve always written for a living, mostly nonfiction—well, except for ad copy. However, my work brought me into contact with people from different walks of life. For example, I produced a newsletter for an international private investigative firm and wrote speeches for one of the company’s bank fraud specialists. Working with this client gave me the opportunity to do in-depth interviews with experts in forensic accounting, real estate scams, corporate espionage, corruption, counterfeit products, and international bribery and blackmail schemes. What terrific background material for writing crime fiction. Over the years, I’ve also met a number of people who in my opinion never got their just desserts. I’ve stolen elements of their personalities to create villains and then make sure justice is served. Since I know the individuals who inspired my villains, it’s quite satisfying to pen their demise.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When I begin a novel, I know the main characters—though I learn more about them as I write. Yes, characters do talk to authors (at least this one). They let me know when I’ve screwed up. I also begin with a core criminal activity—perhaps real estate fraud or counterfeiting. In the back of my mind, I know I also want to weave in relationship themes to give my characters more depth. For instance, lovers may need to learn to trust each other. Over-protective parents may need to let their children make mistakes. At the start, these are just general ideas. I’m a “pantser” not an outliner. I start at the beginning and write to the end. I don’t jump around, but I may backtrack to revise subplots and change or eliminate characters if the story isn’t working.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
All of my characters are fictional but I often take personality traits and quirks from people I know (or have known in the past). That’s an advantage of being older. You’ve met just about every type of character. But usually my fictional characters are a blend—A’s arrogance coupled with B’s sarcasm. I always, always change names, backgrounds, appearance, and sometimes even the genders of characters so no one will ever guess the people who inspired them.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
Because I’ve made my living as a writer, I simply put my fanny in a chair and write. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. If I just start writing a scene that’s giving me trouble I’m fine. If I put something (even crapola) down on paper, I can revise it. If I stare at a blank page, nothing good is going to happen. Once I start writing, ideas come. Though I must add that I often get my best ideas while taking a shower. Can’t explain it. Maybe I should take multiple showers every day.

Tell us why we should read this book.
I hope readers will like the characters. All of my novels feature strong, smart women heroines. In Bones To Pick, the main character, Brie, is independent, but she is also very close to her mother and father and her Aunt Eva. In this series, the Hooker family members may have differences of opinion but they love and respect one another. Mollye, Brie’s best friend since childhood, adds sparkle and zest, and gives Brie an adventure sidekick and a confidant. Then there are the two men vying for Brie’s affections. If I were Brie, I’d have a hard time choosing between them. I work hard to achieve a balance between humor and thrills. I want readers to chuckle but also find their hearts hammering in tense action scenes.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Susan Isaacs’ novels that blend humor and mystery. My favorite Isaacs book is After All These Years. I find the main character’s descriptions of her thought processes really funny because I can see myself making similar dumb mistakes. I love Michael Connelly because his books have great pacing but his Harry Bosch character also grows in his series. I’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s situational humor, too. On the cozy mystery side, I have to give a shout out to Cindy Sample, a long-time author friend, and to Wendy Tyson and Annette Dashofy, two of my fellow Henery Press authors. Fun reads from all three.

What are you reading now?
I just finished a nonfiction book, April, 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jan Winick. It was this month’s selection by my book club. I have to admit I’d never have picked up this nonfiction if I weren’t in a book club. But I learned so much I didn’t know before about the Civil War. I especially liked the insights into the personalities of the generals and politicians on both sides. Book club selections force me to read outside my usual “happy” zone of mysteries, thrillers, and romantic suspense.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I just sent my editor at Henery Press the manuscript for the second Brie Hooker Mystery. The core Bones To Pick “family” remains—Brie, her parents, Aunt Eva, Mollye, and Brie’s would-be love interests, Paint and Andy. But there are also new cast members. Eva’s friend Carol is running for governor of South Carolina, and her son, Zack, a pro-football quarterback, is home to attend a fund-raising event at Udderly Kidding Dairy. But, while Zack may be a hero to most people in his hometown, others wish he was dead. Ditto for his mother whose politics are anathema to some and threaten another group’s profits. Brie will have to figure out which of these enemies are willing to commit murder.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I have the hardest time casting Brie, in part because she’s shorter than most of the actress candidates. But, if Tom Cruise can play Jack Reacher, I guess Katherine Heigl or Kate Winslet could play Brie. I would love to have a younger Shirley MacLaine for Aunt Eva. Jude Law and Liam Hemsworth would be candidates for Brie’s love interests.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to swim. I was once on a synchronized swim team and love being in the water. We live on a lake in Upstate South Carolina and it’s such a pleasure to walk down to the dock and jump in.

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Hello, I’m Brie, and I’m a vegan.

It sounds like I’m introducing myself at a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting. But, trust me, there aren’t enough vegetarians in Ardon County, South Carolina, to make a circle much less hold a meeting.

Give yourself ten points if you already know vegans are even pickier than vegetarians. We forgo meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But we’re big on cashews, walnuts, and almonds. All nuts are good nuts. Appropriate with my family.

Family. That’s why I put my career as a vegan chef on hold to live and work in Ardon, a strong contender for the South’s carnivore-and- grease capital. My current job? I help tend four hundred goats, make verboten cheese, and gather eggs I’ll never poach. Most mornings when Aunt Eva rousts me before the roosters, I roll my eyes and mutter.

Still, I can’t complain. I had a choice. Sort of. Blame it on the pig—Tammy the Pig—for sticking her snout in our family business.

I’d consorted with vegans and vegetarians for too long. I seriously underestimated how much cholesterol meat eaters could snarf down at a good old-fashioned wake. Actually, I wasn’t sure this wake was “old fashioned,” but it was exactly how Aunt Lilly would have planned her own send-off—if she’d had the chance. Ten days ago, the feisty sixty- two-year-old had a toddler’s curiosity and a twenty-year-old’s appetite for adventure. Her death was a total shock.

I glanced at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph hanging behind the picnic buffet. She’d penned it years back. Her twin, Aunt Eva, found it in Lilly’s desk and reprinted it in eighty-point type.

“There once was a farmer named Lilly

Who never liked anything frilly,

She tended her goats,

Sowed a few wild oats,

And said grieving her death would be silly.”

In a nod to Lilly’s spirit, Aunt Eva planned today’s wake complete with fiddling, hooch, goo-gogs of goat cheese, and the whole panoply of Southern fixins—mounds of country ham, fried chicken, barbecue, and mac-and-cheese awash in butter. Every veggie dish came dressed with bacon crumbles, drippings, or cream of mushroom soup.

Not a morsel fit for a vegan. Eva’s revenge. I’d made the mistake of saying I didn’t want to lose her, too, and hinted she’d live longer if she cut back on cholesterol. Not my smartest move. The name of her farm? Udderly Kidding Dairy. Cheese and eggs had been Eva’s meal ticket for decades.

My innocent observation launched a war. Whenever I opened the refrigerator, I’d find a new message. This morning a Post-it on my dish of blueberries advised: The choline in eggs may enhance brain development and memory—as a vegan you probably forgot.

Smoke from the barbeque pit permeated the air as I replenished another platter of shredded pork on the buffet. My mouth watered and I teetered on the verge of drooling. While I was a dedicated vegan, my olfactory senses were still programmed “Genus Carnivorous.” My stomach growled—loudly. Time to thwart its betrayal with the veggies and hummus dip I’d stashed in self-defense.

I’d just stuck a juicy carrot in my mouth when a large hand squeezed my shoulder.

“Brie, honey, you’ve been working nonstop,” Dad said. “Take a break. Mom’s on her way. We can play caterers. The food’s prepared. No risks associated with our cooking.”

I choked on my carrot and sputtered. “Good thing. Do you even remember the last time Mom turned on an oven?”

Dad smiled. “Can’t recall. Maybe when you were a baby? But, hey, we’re wizards at takeout and microwaves.”

His smile faltered. I caught him staring at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph. “Still can’t believe Lilly’s gone.” He attempted a smile. “Knowing her sense of humor, we’re lucky she didn’t open that epitaph with ‘There once was a lass from Nantucket.’”

I’d never seen Dad so sad. Lilly’s unexpected death stunned him to his core. He adored his older sisters.

Mom appeared at his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. She loved her sisters-in-law, too, though she complained my childless aunts spoiled me beyond repair.

Of course, Lilly’s passing hit Eva the hardest. A fresh boatload of tears threatened as I thought about the aunt left behind. I figured my tear reservoir had dried up after days of crying. Wrong. The tragedy—a texting teenager smashing head-on into Lilly’s car—provoked a week- long family weep-a-thon. It ended when Eva ordered us to cease and desist.

“This isn’t what Lilly would want,” she declared. “We’re gonna throw a wake. One big, honking party.”

Which explained the fifty-plus crowd of friends and neighbors milling about the farm, tapping their feet to fiddlin’, and consuming enough calories to sustain the populace of a small principality for a week.

I hugged Dad. “Thanks. I could use a break. I’ll find Eva. See how she’s doing.”

I spotted her near a flower garden filled with cheery jonquils. It looked like a spring painting. Unfortunately, the cold March wind that billowed Eva’s scarlet poncho argued the blooms were false advertising. The weatherman predicted the thermometer would struggle to reach the mid-forties today.

My aunt’s build was what I’d call sturdy, yet Eva seemed to sway in the gusty breeze as she chatted with Billy Jackson, the good ol’ boy farrier who shod her mule. Though my parents pretended otherwise, we all knew Billy slept under Eva’s crazy quilt at least two nights a week.

I nodded at the couple. Well, actually, the foursome. Brenda, the farm’s spoiled pet goat, and Kai, Udderly’s lead Border collie, were competing with Billy for my aunt’s attention.

“Mom and Dad are watching the buffet,” I said. “Thought I’d see if you need me to do anything. Are you expecting more folks?”

“No.” Eva reached down and tickled the tiny black goat’s shaggy head. “Imagine everyone who’s coming is here by now. They’ll start clearing out soon. Chow down and run. Can’t blame ’em. Especially the idiot women who thought they ought to wear dresses. That biting wind’s gotta be whistling up their drawers.”

Billy grinned as he looked Eva up and down. Her choice of wake attire—poncho, black pants, and work boots—surprised no one, and would have delighted Lilly.

“Do you even own a dress?” Billy laughed. “You’re one to talk.” Eva gave his baggy plaid suit and clip-on bowtie the stink eye. “I suppose you claim that gristle on your chin is needed to steady your fiddle.”

He kissed Eva’s cheek. “Yep, that’s it. Time to rejoin my fellow fiddlers, but first I have a hankering to take a turn at the Magic Moonshine tent.”

“You do that. Maybe the ’shine will improve your playing. It’ll definitely make you sound better to your listening audience. After enough of that corn liquor even my singing could win applause.”

A dark-haired stranger usurped Billy’s place, bending low to plant a kiss on the white curls that sprang from my aunt’s head like wood shavings. Wow.

They stacked handsome tall when they built him. Had to be at least six-four.

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

I’d spent days sobbing, and my libido apparently was saying “enough”—time to rejoin the living. If this bad boy were any more alive, he’d be required to wear a “Danger High Voltage” sign. Of course, Aunt Lilly wouldn’t mind. She’d probably rent us a room.

I ventured a glance and found him smiling at me. My boots were suddenly fascinating. Never stare at shiny objects with the potential to hypnotize. I refused to fall under another playboy’s spell.

“How’s my best gal?” he asked, hugging Eva. “Best for this minute, right?” my aunt challenged. “I bet my niece will be your best gal before I finish the introductions.” Eva put a hand on my shoulder. “Paint, this young whippersnapper is Brie Hooker, my favorite niece. ’Course, she’s my only niece. Brie, it’s with great trepidation that I introduce you to David Paynter, better known as Paint, unrepentant moonshiner and heartbreaker.”

Eva subjected Paint to her pretend badass stare, a sure sign he was one of her favorite sparring partners. “Don’t you go messing with Brie, or I’ll bury you down yonder with Mark, once I nail his hide.”

Paint laughed, a deep, rumbling chuckle. He turned toward me and bowed like Rhett Butler reincarnated.

“Pleased to meet you, Brie. That puzzled look tells me you haven’t met Mark, the wily coyote that harasses Eva’s goats. She’s wasted at least six boxes of buckshot trying to scare him off. Me? I’ll gladly risk her shotgun to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Eva gave Paint a shove. “Well, if that’s the case, go on. Give Brie a shot of your peach moonshine. It’s pretty good.”

“Peach moonshine it is,” he said and took my arm. A second later, he tightened his grip and pulled me to the right. “Better watch your step. You almost messed up those pretty boots.”

He pointed at a fresh pile of fragrant poop, steaming in the brisk air inches from my suede boots. “Thanks,” I mumbled. Still holding my arm, he steered me over uneven ground to a clear path. “Eva says you’re staying with her. Hope you don’t have to leave for a while. Your aunt’s a fine lady, and it’s going to be mighty hard on her once this flock of well-wishers flies off.”

His baritone sent vibrations rippling through my body. My brain ordered me to ignore the tingling that remained in places it didn’t belong.

He smiled. “Eva and Lilly spoke about you so often I feel like we’re already friends. ’Course head-shaking accompanied some of their comments. They said you’d need to serve plenty of my moonshine if you ever opened a vegan B&B in Ardon County. Here abouts it’s considered unpatriotic to serve eats that haven’t been baptized in a vat of lard. Vegetables are optional; meat, mandatory.”

Uh, oh. I always gave relatives and friends a free pass on good- natured kidding. But a stranger? This man was poking fun at my profession, yet my hackles—smoothed by the hunk’s lopsided grin— managed only a faint bristle.

Back away. Pronto.

Discovering my ex-fiancé, Jack, was boffing not one, but two co-workers the entire two years we were engaged made me highly allergic to lady-killers. Paint was most definitely a member of that tribe.

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I replied. “It’s my life’s ambition to convince finger-lickin’, fried-chicken lovers that life without meat, butter, eggs, and cheese does not involve a descent into the nine circles of hell.”

Paint released me, then raised his hand to brush a wayward curl from my forehead. His flirting seemed to be congenital.

“If you’re as feisty as your aunt claims, why don’t you take me on as a challenge? I do eat tomatoes—fried green ones, anyway—and I’m open to sampling other members of the vegetable kingdom. So long as they don’t get between me and my meat. Anyway, welcome to the Carolina foothills. Time to pour some white lightning. It’s smoother than you might expect.”

And so are you. Too smooth for me.

That’s when we heard the screams.

TWO

Paint zoomed off like a Clemson running back, hurtling toward the screams—human, not goat. I managed to stay within a few yards of him, slipping and sliding as my suede boots unwittingly smooshed a doggie deposit. Udderly’s guardian dogs, five Great Pyrenees, were large enough to saddle, and their poop piles rivaled cow paddies.

I reached the barn, panting, with a stitch in my right side. I stopped to catch my breath. Hallelujah. I braced my palm against the weathered barn siding.

Ouch. Harpooned by a jagged splinter. Blood oozed from the sensitive pad below my right thumb. I stared at the inch-plus spear. Paint had kept running. He was no longer in sight.

The screams stopped. An accident? A heart attack? I hustled around the corner of the barn. A little girl sobbed in the cleared area behind Udderly’s retail sales cabin. I recognized Jenny, a rambunctious five-year-old from a nearby farm. Her mother knelt beside her, stroking her hair.

No child had produced the operatic screams we’d heard. Maybe Jenny’s mother was the screamer. But the farm wife didn’t seem the hysterical type. On prior visits to Udderly, I’d stopped at the roadside stand where she sold her family’s produce. Right now the woman’s face looked redder than one of her Early Girl tomatoes. Was the flush brought on by some danger—a goat butting her daughter, a snake slithering near the little girl?

I walked closer. Then I saw it. A skull poked through the red clay. Soil had tinted the bone an absurd pink.

I gasped. The sizeable cranium looked human. I spotted the grave digger, or should I say re-digger. Udderly’s newest addition, a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Tammy, hunkered in a nearby puddle. Tiny cloven hoof marks led to and from the excavation. Tell-tale red mud dappled her dainty twitching snout. The pig’s hundred-pound body quivered as her porcine gaze roved the audience she’d attracted.

A man squatted beside Tammy, speaking to the swine in soothing, almost musical tones. Pigs were dang smart and sensitive. Aunt Eva told me it was easy to hurt their feelings. The fellow stroking Tammy’s grimy head must’ve been convinced she was one sensitive swine.

“It’s okay,” he repeated. “The lady wasn’t screaming at you, Tammy.”

Tammy snorted, lowered her head, and squeezed her eyes shut. The pig-whisperer gave the swine a final scratch and stood, freeing gangly limbs from his pretzel-like crouch. Mud caked the cuffs and knees of his khaki pants. Didn’t seem to bother him one iota.

The mother shepherded her little girl away from the disturbing scene, and Paint knelt to examine the skeletal remains. “Looks like piggy uncovered more than she bargained for.” He glanced at Muddy Cuffs. “Andy, you’re a vet. Animal or human?”

“Human.” Andy didn’t hesitate. “But all that’s left is bone. Had to have been buried a good while. Yet Tammy’s rooting scratched only inches below the surface. If a settler dug this grave, it was mighty shallow.”

“Probably didn’t start that way.” I pointed to a depression that began uphill near the retail cabin. “This wash has deepened a lot since my aunts built their store and the excavation diverted water away from the cabin. The runoff’s been nibbling away at the ground.”

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Eva joined the group eyeballing the skull. Eva looked peaked, almost ill. I felt a slight panic at the shift in her normally jolly appearance. I thought of my aunts as forces of nature. Unflappable. Indestructible. I’d lost one, and the other suddenly looked fragile. Finding a corpse on her property the same day she bid her twin goodbye had hit her hard.

Dad cocked his head. “Could be a Cherokee burial site. Or maybe a previous farmer buried a loved one and the grave marker got lost. Homestead burials have always been legal in South Carolina. Still are.”

For once, the idea of finding a corpse in an unexpected location didn’t prompt a gleeful chuckle from my dad, Dr. Howard Hooker. Though he was a professor of horticulture at Clemson University by day, he was an aspiring murder mystery author by night. Every time we went for a car ride, Dad made a game of searching the landscape for spots “just perfect” for disposing of bodies. So far, a dense patch of kudzu in a deep ravine topped his picks. “Kudzu grows so fast any flesh peeking through would disappear in a day.”

Good thing Dad confined his commentary to family outings. We knew the corpses in question weren’t real.

Mom whipped out her smartphone. “I’ll call Judge Glenn. It’s Sunday, but he always answers his cell. He’ll know who to call. I’m assuming the Ardon County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dad nodded. “Probably, but I bet SLED—the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division—will take over. The locals don’t have forensic specialists.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “You spend way too much time with your Sisters in Crime.”

It amused Mom that Dad’s enthusiasm for his literary genre earned him the presidency of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Mom didn’t fool with fictional crime. Too busy with the real thing. As the City of Clemson’s attorney, she kept a bevy of lawyers, judges, and city and university cops on speed dial. However, Udderly Kidding wasn’t in the same county as Clemson so it sat outside her domain.

“Judge Glenn, this is Iris Hooker. I’m at the Udderly Kidding Dairy in Ardon. An animal here unearthed a skull. We think it’s human, but not recent. Should we call the sheriff?”

Mom nodded and made occasional I-get-it noises while she clamped the cell to her ear.

“Could you ask them to keep their arrival quiet? Better yet, could they wait until after four? About fifty folks are here for my sister-in- law’s wake. I don’t want to turn her farewell into a circus.”

A minute later, Mom murmured her thanks and pocketed her cell. “The judge agrees an old skull doesn’t warrant sirens or flashing lights. He’ll ask the Ardon County Sheriff, Robbie Jones, to come by after four. Since I’m an officer of the court, his honor just requested that I keep people and animals clear of the area until the sheriff arrives.”

Andy stood. “Paint, help me bring some hay bales from the barn. We can stack them to cordon off the area.”

“Good idea.” Paint stood, and the two men strode off. No needless chitchat. They appeared to be best buds.

I tugged Dad’s sleeve, nodded toward his sister, and whispered, “I think Aunt Eva should sit down. Let’s get her to one of the front porch rockers.”

Dad walked over and draped an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Eva, let’s sit a while so folks can find you to pay their respects. This skeleton is old news. Not our worry.”

Eva’s lips trembled. “No, Brother. I feel it in my own bones. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Jed Watson come back to haunt me.”

THREE

Jed Watson? The man Eva married in college? The man who vanished a few years later?

Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Eva, that’s nonsense. That dirtbag ran off forty years back. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

Eva straightened. “Some crime novelist you are. You know darn well any skeleton unearthed on my property would have something to do with that nasty worm. Nobody wished that sorry excuse for a man dead more than me.”

“Calm down. Don’t spout off and give the sheriff some harebrained notion that pile of bones is Jed,” Dad said. “No profit in fueling gossip or dredging up ancient history. Authorities may have ruled Jed dead, but I always figured that no-good varmint was still alive five states over, most likely beating the stuffing out of some other poor woman.”

Wow. I knew Eva took her maiden name back after they declared her husband dead, but I’d never heard a speck of the unsavory backstory. Dad liked to tell family tales, including ones about long- dead scoundrels. Guess this history wasn’t ancient enough.

Curiosity made me eager to ask a whole passel of none-of-my- business questions, though I felt some justification about poking my nose here. I’d known Eva my entire life. So how come this was the first I’d heard of a mystery surrounding Jed’s disappearance? Was Dad truly worried the sheriff might suspect Eva?

I was dying to play twenty questions. Too bad it wasn’t the time or place.

I smiled at my aunt. “Why don’t I get some of Paint’s brew to settle our nerves? Eva, you like that apple pie flavor, right?”

“Yes, thanks, dear.”

“Good idea, Brie,” Dad added. “I’ll take a toot of Paint’s blackberry hooch. Eva’s not the only one who could use a belt. We’ll greet folks from those rockers. Better than standing like mannequins in a receiving line. And there’s a lot less risk of falling down if we get a little tipsy.”

Aunt Eva ignored Dad’s jest. She looked haunted, lost in memory. A very bad memory.

I hurried to the small tent where Magic Moonshine dispensed free libations. A buxom young lass smiled as she poured shine into miniature Mason jars lined up behind four flavor signs: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Peach, and White Lightnin’.

“What can I do you for, honey?” the busty server purred. I’m still an Iowa girl at heart, but, like my transplanted aunts and parents, I’ve learned not to take offense when strangers of both sexes and all ages call me honey, darlin’, and sweetie. My high school social studies teacher urged us to appreciate foreign customs and cultures. I may not be in Rome, but I’m definitely in Ardon County.

I smiled at Miss Sugarmouth. The top four buttons of her blouse were undone. The way her bosoms oozed over the top, I seriously doubted those buttons had ever met their respective buttonholes. No mystery why Paint hired her. Couldn’t blame him or her. Today’s male mourners would enjoy a dash of cleavage with their shine, and she’d rake in lots more tips.

“Sweetie, do you have a tray I can use to take drinks to the folks on the porch?”

The devil still made me add the “sweetie” when I addressed Miss Sugarmouth. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Probably too weighed down with mascara.

“Sure thing, honey.” I winced when the tray slid over the wood sliver firmly embedded in my palm. Suck it up. No time for minor surgery.

As I walked toward Eva’s cabin, crunching noises advertised some late arrivals ambling down the gravel road. On the porch, Dad and Eva had settled into a rhythm, shaking hands with friends and neighbors and accepting sympathy pats. Hard to hug someone in a rocker.

I handed miniature glass jars to Eva and Dad before offering drinks to the folks who’d already run the gauntlet of the sit-down receiving line. Then I tiptoed behind Dad’s rocker.

“I’ll see if Mom wants anything and check back later to see how you and Eva are doing.”

“Thanks, honey.” He kissed my cheek. I returned to Paint’s moonshine stand and picked up a second drink tray, gingerly hoisting it to avoid bumping my skewered palm. Balancing the drinks, I picked my way across the rutted ground to what I worried might be a crime scene.

Mom perched between Paint and Andy atop the double row of hay bales stacked to keep the grisly discovery out of sight. The five-foot-two height on Mom’s driver’s license was a stretch. At five-four, I had her by at least three, maybe four, inches. My mother’s build was tiny as well as short—a flat-chested size two. I couldn’t recall ever being able to squeeze into her doll-size clothes. My build came courtesy of the females on Dad’s side of the family. Compact but curvy. No possibility of going braless in polite society.

Mom’s delicate appearance often confounded the troublemakers she prosecuted for the city. Too often the accused took one look at Iris Hooker and figured they’d hire some hulking male lawyer to walk all over the little lady in court.

Big mistake. The bullies often reaped unexpected rewards—a costly mélange of jail time, fines, and community service.

Mom spotted my tray-wobbling approach. “Are these Paint’s concoctions?”

I nodded. “Well, Daughter, sip nice and slow. Someday I may file charges against Magic Moonshine. Paint’s shine is often an accomplice when Clemson tailgaters pull stunts that land them in front of a judge.”

Paint lifted his glass in a salute. “Can I help it if all our flavors go down easy?”

Mom turned back to me. “Have you met these, ahem, gentlemen?”

I suddenly felt shy as my gaze flicked between the two males. “I met Paint earlier. This is my first chance to say hi to Andy. I’m Brie Hooker. You must be the veterinarian Aunt Eva’s always talking about.”

Andy rose to his feet. “Andy Green. Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Your aunts were my very first customers when I opened my practice.”

He waved a hand at Tammy, the now demure pig, wallowing a goodly distance away. “I’m really sorry Tammy picked today to root up these bones. I feel partly to blame. Talked your aunts into adopting Miss Piggy. It aggravates me how folks can’t resist buying potbellied pigs as pets when they’re adorable babies, but have no qualms about abandoning them once they start to grow.”

Andy’s outstretched hand awaited my handshake. I held up my palm to display my injury. “Gotta take a rain check on a handshake. Unfortunately, I already shook hands with the barn.”

Andy gently turned up my palm. “I’ll fix you right up, if you don’t mind a vet doing surgery. Give me a minute to wash up and meet me at my truck. Can’t miss it. A double-cab GMC that kinda looks like aliens crash landed an aluminum spaceship in the truck bed. I’m parked by the milking barn.”

As Andy loped off toward the retail shop’s comfort station, Paint called after him. “Sneaky way to hold hands with a pretty lady.”

Andy glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.”

Paint chuckled and focused his hundred-watt grin on me. “Bet my white lightning could disinfect that sliver. Sure you don’t want me to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Somehow I doubt honor has anything to do with it.”

The moonshiner faked an injured look. Mom rolled her eyes. “Heaven help me—and you, Brie. Not sure you’re safe with the wildlife that frequents this farm. Forget those coyotes that worry Eva, I’m talking wolves.” She looked toward the porch. “How’s Eva holding up?”

“Better.” I wanted to grill Mom about Jed Watson, but I needed to do so in private. “Guess I should steel myself for surgery.” I took a Mason jar from the tray I’d set on a hay bale. “Down the hatch.” My healthy swallow blazed a burning trail from throat to belly. Before I could stop myself, I sputtered.

“Shut your mouth,” Paint said. Yowzer. My eyes watered, and my throat spasmed. I coughed. “What?”

“Shut your mouth. Oxygen fuels the burn. You need to take a swallow then close your mouth. None of this sipping stuff.”

“Now you tell me.” I choked. Mom laughed. “That’s the best strategy I’ve heard yet to shut Brie up.”

I wiped at the tears running down my cheeks. “Your moonshine packs more punch than my five-alarm Thai stir fry.”

Paint’s eyebrows rose. “My shine is smooth, once you get used to it. You want a little fire in your gut. Keeps life interesting.”

A little too interesting. I’d been at Udderly Kidding Dairy just over a week, and I already felt like a spinning top with a dangerous wobble.

***

Excerpt from Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2017 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

Tour Participants:

Stop by these awesome hosts to learn more about Linda Lovely & her amazing book, Bones To Pick. Plus, there are some great reviews, interviews, and giveaways!!

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Lovely. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 14 and runs through December 17, 2017.

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Oct 172017
 

Act of Betrayal

by Matthew Dunn

on Tour October 23 – November 30, 2017

Synopsis:

ACT OF BETRAYAL by Matthew Dunn

In this riveting entry in the celebrated thriller series, former intelligence operative Will Cochrane—a “ruthless yet noble” (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) man from whom “Bond and Bourne could learn a thing or two” (Madison County Herald)—comes out of hiding to expose a conspiracy involving a past assassination that reaches to the highest echelons of the U.S. government.

Three years ago, intelligence officer Will Cochrane was brought in by a Delta Force colonel to assassinate a terrorist financier in Berlin. After the job, the commander vanished, and hasn’t been heard from since. The details don’t quite add up, and one of the CIA agents who was involved has been investigating the mission. He reaches out to Will for help, but before they can connect, the CIA man is poisoned.

Will is determined to uncover the truth about Berlin, even if it means putting himself in the crosshairs. Framed for multiple murders, the skilled former spy has gone deep underground to evade his enemies and the feds. But honor and loyalty to his old colleague thrust him into danger once again.

When Marsha Gage at the FBI discovers that Cochrane—one of America’s Most Wanted—has resurfaced, she immediately launches a manhunt, and she won’t stop until she brings the former CIA/MI6 operative in.

With time running out, Cochrane will use all of his training and formidable skills to outmaneuver the FBI and uncover a shocking conspiracy that will rock the foundations of our nation . . . if he can stay alive.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 24th 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062427229 (ISBN13: 9780062427229)
Series: Spycatcher #7
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

IT WAS PAST midnight as wind and rain pounded the exterior of the tiny bookstore in Chicago. The store was closed and its owner was sitting at his desk checking the week’s receipts. The task wouldn’t take long—his store specialized in rare works that he sourced from around the world. He had some loyal customers, but they were few. This week seven people had made purchases.

The only light in the room came from his green desk lamp, old-fashioned in design to match the ambience of the shop. Aside from some electronic devices on his desk and recessed lights that cast a discreet yellow glow when turned on, the place looked like it could have been a purveyor of fine works established and un- changed since the eighteenth century. He’d constructed it that way: dark maple bookshelves; many of the books leather bound, all of them hardcover; two armchairs for customers to sit in when perusing potential acquisitions; an urn for his more discerning patrons who valued his loose-leaf tea collection; and a cage for his two lovebirds.

He was an old-fashioned guy at heart.

And though he could have done with more cash coming in, he’d deliberately established a business and identity that drew little attention. He playacted a shy man, his trimmed beard intended to put up barriers between him and others, his shoulders artificially stooped during the day as if he were ashamed of his six-foot-four physique, his cropped blond-and-gray hair functional because he had no woman in his life to impress, and his unneeded glasses covering one green eye, one blue. He was always in a smart three-piece suit because the attire was good at hiding his athletic frame and scars. Customers thought he was Edward Pope, a gentleman scholar from the South. They’d probably estimate his age was late forties. They’d be wrong about that and most other things. He’d led a hard life and was forty-five.

His name wasn’t Edward Pope.

It was Will Cochrane.

The assassin. The one Sapper and Kane were terrified of.

He wasn’t from the Deep South. He was raised in Virginia and earned a double first-class degree at England’s Cambridge University. And he’d been a bookseller for only under a year.

But he had to be Pope. In the eyes of the world, Will was a murderer. He’d killed people as a special forces French Foreign Legionnaire and assassinated targets in French intelligence black operations. He had been the West’s prime joint operative with the CIA and Britain’s MI6 for fourteen years, until he went crazy and killed a lot of cops and civilians in the States before throwing himself off the Brooklyn Bridge and dying.

His death was essential. He was America’s Most Wanted. He wasn’t what some thought of him—a psychopath. But he was a former special operative and killer. Had been all his adult life. It started when he was seventeen and walked in on four criminals suffocating his mother and about to kill his sister. His mother died; sister didn’t, because he grabbed his mother’s carving knife and ended the criminals’ lives before fleeing to the Legion. He wished he didn’t know how many people he’d killed since. It would be a lie. He knew every victim. Their souls lingered around him, taunting him, reminding him of who he was.

All 263 souls.

But the souls of the people they say he killed in the States didn’t hassle him.

Because he didn’t kill them. He never killed innocents, only those who needed to be killed.

But in the eyes of the law, that’s not the case and that’s why he had to fake his death and reinvent himself. A year ago, his situation was desperate, despite all of his training and covert operations experience in hostile countries. He’d received only one bit of help, but it was significant. Russia’s most formidable intelligence officer, code name Antaeus—now, thanks to Will, a defector living in the States—had cleverly managed to get $300,000 into Will’s pocket. Will didn’t know exactly why he’d done it. After all, Will had accidentally killed his family with a car bomb when in fact he’d intended only to kill the spy. But he suspected he knew why the Russian had become his benefactor: Antaeus wanted his generosity to plunge the knife that was Will’s guilt deeper.

Regardless of Antaeus’s motives, the cash helped set up Will’s new life.

Will’s family and close acquaintances were all dead. He’d be given the needle if cops found out who he was. The West he’d served with unflinching duty had hung him out to dry. He thought of himself as a scavenging dog, kicked out of its owner’s backyard and left to fend for itself. He was resigned to that, every day expecting the Feds to rush into his store and put a bullet in his skull. That’s what they’d do. No attempt to arrest. No negotiations. Execution only. Will wouldn’t blame them. They knew he’d cause carnage if given the slightest of chances.

He finished his accounts, took a swig of Assam tea, and frowned as he heard the female lovebird make an unusual sound. Like her male companion, she resembled a small parrot, her plumage green and yellow, face and beak red, large eyes pure white with black pupils. He’d taken the birds off the hands of an old lady who frequented his store. Her son, a merchant marine officer, had brought them back from exotic climes, though she couldn’t remember where because she was suffering from dementia. And she could no longer look after them, particularly now that the male had broken his wing. Will hated seeing animals in cages. But the female wouldn’t leave the male’s side. And for the time being, the male had to be kept in the cage until he was fully recuperated. Then Will would release them to a large aviary or the wild.

Their previous owner couldn’t remember their names, so Will called the male Ebb and the female Flo. Flo was now agitated, hopping about as opposed to what she usually did, which was nestling her face against that of her lover. Will opened the cage, knowing Flo wouldn’t go anywhere while Ebb was there. The former special operative bowed his head. Ebb was all wrong, flopping on the base of the cage, his good wing twitching, his broken one immobile. Will knew he was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. What goes through a bird’s brain? He didn’t know. And he didn’t know whether lovebirds were in fact lifelong lovers or if that was a myth. But Will knew how he felt. He had to give Flo closure, let her be free, not allow her to think there was hope that Ebb would return to her. Gently he lifted Ebb. His body was warm but now limp. He carried him to the store’s backyard. Flo followed him. Will had hoped she would.

Will looked at Flo, who was perched close by on the branch of a tree. She was watching. It seemed she and Will didn’t know what to do.

“I have to let you know this is the end,” Will said to her. Actually, he was saying it to himself.

He snapped Ebb’s neck and buried him.

Flo looked at him before flying into the darkness. As tears ran down his face, he wondered if she hated him. Or maybe she understood. Of course, he’d never know.

He returned to his desk and stared at the birdcage. After brushing soil off his fingers, he looked at his laptop and saw he had a new e-mail. Nobody sent him mail apart from spammers.

But this one was different. And shocking. It was from CIA officer Unwin Fox, the man who, alongside Will, had been one of those involved in the Berlin operation. Aside from Colonel Haden, Will didn’t know who the other people on the small team were.

His heart was beating fast as he read the mail. Its tone was desperate. There was no way Fox could know that Will was alive. Something was terribly wrong. Fox wanted to meet. Tomorrow. In Washington, D.C.

In all probability it was a trap. Lure Will out, then bam! Swooped on by cops. But then again, Will knew what happened in Berlin. The law didn’t. This would have been far too implausible a tactic to entrap him.

What to do?

He looked at the lovebirds’ empty cage. The door was open. He glanced at the entrance to his store.

What to fucking do?

He opened the drawer in his desk, pulled out his handgun, grabbed his bag containing all he needed if he ever had to run, and left.

He knew he’d never return.

***

Excerpt from Act of Betrayal by Matthew Dunn. Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Dunn. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow. All rights reserved.

Matthew Dunn

Author Bio:

As an MI6 field officer, Matthew Dunn recruited and ran agents, coordinated and participated in special operations, and acted in deep-cover roles throughout the world. He operated in environments where, if captured, he would have been executed. Dunn was trained in all aspects of intelligence collection, deep-cover deployments, small-arms, explosives, military unarmed combat, surveillance, and infiltration. Medals are never awarded to modern MI6 officers, but Dunn was the recipient of a rare personal commendation from the secretary of state for work he did on one mission, which was deemed so significant that it directly influenced the success of a major international incident. During his time in MI6, Matthew conducted approximately seventy missions. All of them were successful. He currently lives in England, where he is at work on his next novel.

Learn More About Matthew Dunn On harpercollins.com!

Tour Participants:

Stop by these great hosts for reviews, and giveaways!

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Matthew Dunn and William Morrow. There will be 5 winners of one (1) print copy of ACT OF BETRAYAL by Matthew Dunn. This giveaway is open to US & Canada addresses only. The giveaway begins on October 23 and runs through November 30, 2017.

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Oct 162017
 

It’s been a few weeks since I have posted due to travel. My hubby and I were in Aruba for 12 days, our yearly vacation destination. The following weekend after we returned home, we drove to PA for our granddaughter’s 1st birthday!

If you ever get the chance and want a truly relaxing vacation, I highly recommend a trip to Aruba. The weather is perfect year round. If by chance it does rain, which we only experienced once in 10 years going there, lasts for approximately 10 minutes and then back to perfect. And being a reader, I plan on what books to bring before I even start thinking about packing. Our daily routine is that we are on the beach reading, which I usually go to our palapa at 7:30 am with my morning coffee, breakfast around 10:30 am then back to the room around 5 pm, to get ready for a wonderful dinner at one of the many fine restaurants. Paradise!
Here are a few pictures we took this time.

I did receive books during this time which I will share now.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A girl and her books and is now hosted on its own blog.

According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

DRAWING LESSONS by Patricia Sands eBook won from GR
MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU by Mary Higgins Clark PB (an oldie but goodie that takes place in RI) Personal Purchase
CATHARSIS by Noorilhuda TPB from Author~Won via Seasons of Reading

And have received since I have been home:

Wednesday: SOMETIMES I LIE by Alice Feeney ARC/TPB from MacMillan

Oct 122017
 

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3 by Bella Andre Tour Banner

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3
by Bella Andre
on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2017

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3 by Bella Andre

More than 6 million readers have already fallen in love with the Sullivans! Now get ready to meet your new favorite family in Bella Andre’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romances with the first three books in the #1 hit series.

“Not since Nora Roberts has anyone been able to write a big family romance series with every book as good as the last! Bella Andre never disappoints!” ~ Revolving Bookcase Reviews

THE LOOK OF LOVE

Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is–until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love–and protect–her, but will she let him?

FROM THIS MOMENT ON

For thirty-six years, Marcus Sullivan has been the responsible older brother, stepping in to take care of his seven siblings after their father died when they were children. But when the perfectly ordered future he’s planned for himself turns out to be nothing but a lie, Marcus needs one reckless night to shake free from it all.

Nicola Harding is known throughout the world by only one name – Nico – for her catchy, sensual pop songs. Only, what no one knows about the twenty-five year old singer is that her sex-kitten image is totally false. After a terrible betrayal by a man who loved fame far more than he ever loved her, she vows not to let anyone else get close enough to find out who she really is…or hurt her again. Especially not the gorgeous stranger she meets at a nightclub, even though the hunger – and the sinful promises – in his dark eyes make her want to spill all her secrets.

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE

Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.

**Read my Review and enter the Giveaway HERE**

Author Bio:

Bella Andre

Bella Andre is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of “The Sullivans”, “The Maverick Billionaires”, “The Morrisons”, and the NYT bestselling “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” sweet romance series written as Lucy Kevin.

Q&A with Bella Andre**

Welcome to CMash Reads
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Inspiration is everywhere! My friends, my family, my pets, and—of course—my readers all inspire me on a daily basis. <3

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Each book is different! Sometimes it starts with character, sometimes it starts with story. I work so hard on my stories to make sure they’re emotional and fun and sexy and that they take my readers out of their lives for a little while. I don’t wait for inspiration or a muse to come calling. Fortunately, my favorite thing is writing. In fact, today as I was sniffling over my keyboard during a really emotional scene between my hero and heroine, I was thinking how very happy it made me to be able to write books all day…and to know that I have the best fans in the world waiting to read them!

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I can write anywhere, anytime. I’m a big believer in revising my books until they’re the best they can possibly be, which means that I can sometimes spend as much time rewriting as I do getting the first draft down. It helps to know that there truly are no wasted words.

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
It is! When I first got started, I was simply excited about the chance to write and release the books that my loyal readers had been asking for. I honestly had no idea that everything would go as stupendously well as it did, allowing me to become a full-time author! It’s been a thrilling journey every step of the way, and I absolutely adore meeting so many new readers and fans every single day.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m currently heading toward “The End” on You Do Something To Me, which will be the third book in my New York Sullivans series! Alec Sullivan has become something of a reader favorite (he’s certainly one of my favorite Sullivan heroes) and I can’t wait for everyone to read his book. He’s so romantic!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many wonderful authors out there, it’s hard to name just a few! Some of my all-time favorites include Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, Christie Ridgway, and Jami Alden. They write such sexy, memorable characters, and their books just keep me turning the pages!

What are you reading now?
I’ve been re-reading my favorite Tasmina Perry books this summer. She’s a fantastic UK author and also a wonderful friend!

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I would love to see the Sullivans on the big screen! My street team often has casting parties to pick the actors and actresses they think would do the best job portraying the Sullivans. At present, they’ve decided that Chase Sullivan from THE LOOK OF LOVE should be played by Matt Bomer and Marcus Sullivan in FROM THIS MOMENT ON by Joe Manganiello. What do you think? Hopefully we will be able to get the Sullivans made into a movie or TV show soon! And, I do have some exciting news that my Lucy Kevin “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” series has lots of TV/Film interest right now too! I’ll have more news hopefully about that soon!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love taking walks with my husband around the vineyards that surround our neighborhood and holding his hand the whole time. We do this every single day and people in our town have even taken to calling us the “Happy Hiking Couple”. We’re a bit famous for this innocent loving gesture, and I love that!

Favorite meal?
I’ve been really into chick peas this summer! And cashews too. 🙂

Sign up for Bella’s newsletter at www.BellaAndre.com/Newsletter
Visit Bella’s website at www.BellaAndre.com
Follow Bella on twitter at www.twitter.com/bellaandre
Join Bella on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bellaandrefans

Having sold more than 6 million books, Bella Andre’s novels have been #1 bestsellers around the world and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists 32 times. She has been the #1 Ranked Author at Amazon (on a top 10 list that included Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, James Patterson and Steven King), and Publishers Weekly named Oak Press (the publishing company she created to publish her own books) the Fastest-Growing Independent Publisher in the US. After signing a groundbreaking 7-figure print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA, Bella’s “The Sullivans” series is being released in paperback in the US, Canada, and Australia.

Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly), her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into ten languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post called her “One of the top writers in America” and she has been featured by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine. A graduate of Stanford University, she has given keynote speeches at publishing conferences from Copenhagen to Berlin to San Francisco, including a standing-room-only keynote at Book Expo America in New York City.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100-year-old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Read an excerpt:

THE LOOK OF LOVE

Chase almost missed the flickering light off on the right side of the two-lane country road. In the past thirty minutes, he hadn’t passed a single car, because on a night like this, most sane Californians—who didn’t know the first thing about driving safely in inclement weather—stayed home.

Knowing better than to slam on the brakes—he wouldn’t be able to help whomever was stranded on the side of the road if he ended up stuck in the muddy ditch right next to them—Chase slowed down enough to see that there was definitely a vehicle stuck in the ditch.

He turned his brights on to see better in the pouring rain and realized there was a person walking along the edge of the road about a hundred yards up ahead. Obviously hearing his car approach, she turned to face him and he could see her long wet hair whipping around her shoulders in his headlights.

Wondering why she wasn’t just sitting in her car, dry and warm, calling Triple A and waiting for them to come save her, he pulled over to the edge of his lane and got out to try and help her. She was shivering as she watched him approach.

“Are you hurt?”

She covered her cheek with one hand, but shook her head. “No.”

He had to move closer to hear her over the sound of the water hitting the pavement in what were rapidly becoming hailstones. Even though he’d turned his headlights off, as his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, he was able to get a better look at her face.

Something inside of Chase’s chest clenched tight.

Despite the long, dark hair plastered to her head and chest, regardless of the fact that looking like a drowned rat wasn’t too far off the descriptive mark, her beauty stunned him.

In an instant, his photographer’s eye cataloged her features. Her mouth was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide-set on her face. She wasn’t even close to model thin, but given the way her T-shirt and jeans stuck to her skin, he could see that she wore her lush curves well. In the dark he couldn’t judge the exact color of her hair, but it looked like silk, perfectly smooth and straight where it lay over her breasts.

It wasn’t until Chase heard her say, “My car is definitely hurt, though,” that he realized he had completely lost the thread of what he’d come out here to do.

Knowing he’d been drinking her in like he was dying of thirst, he worked to recover his balance. He could already see he’d been right about her car. It didn’t take a mechanic like his brother, Zach, who owned an auto shop—more like forty, but Chase had stopped counting years ago—to see that her shitty hatchback was borderline totaled. Even if the front bumper wasn’t half smashed to pieces by the white farm fence she’d slid into, her bald tires weren’t going to get any traction on the mud. Not tonight, anyway.

If her car had been in a less precarious situation, he probably would have sent her to hang out in her car while he took care of getting it unstuck. But one of her back tires was hanging precariously over the edge of the ditch.

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Get in my car. We can wait there for a tow truck.” He was vaguely aware of his words coming out like an order, but the hail was starting to sting, damn it. Both of them needed to get out of the rain before they froze.

But the woman didn’t move. Instead, she gave him a look that said he was a complete and utter nut-job.

“I’m not getting into your car.”

Realizing just how frightening it must be for a lone woman to end up stuck and alone in the middle of a dark road, Chase took a step back from her. He had to speak loudly enough for her to hear him over the hail.

“I’m not going to attack you. I swear I won’t do anything to hurt you.”

She all but flinched at the word attack and Chase’s radar started buzzing. He’d never been a magnet for troubled women, wasn’t the kind of guy who thrived on fixing wounded birds. But living with two sisters for so many years meant he could always tell when something was up.

And something was definitely up with this woman, beyond the fact that her car was half-stuck in a muddy ditch.

Wanting to make her feel safe, he held his hands up. “I swear on my father’s grave, I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay to get into my car.” When she didn’t immediately say no again, he pressed his advantage with, “I just want to help you.” And he did. More than it made sense to want to help a stranger. “Please,” he said. “Let me help you.”

She stared at him for a long moment, hail hammering between them, around them, onto them. Chase found himself holding his breath, waiting for her decision. It shouldn’t matter to him what she decided.

But, for some strange reason, it did.

**

Excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE by Bella Andre. Copyright © 2017 by Bella Andre. Reproduced with permission from Bella Andre. All rights reserved.

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