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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Blog Tour: Excerpt from Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon

 


Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
ISBN: 9780778386100
Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: MIRA Books

Gone Girl meets Fargo in this deliciously sinister suspense novel about a man who plots his wife's murder to cash in on her inheritance, only to have his brilliant plan turned around on him.
 
First comes love, then comes murder
 
Set to inherit his in-laws’ significant fortune, which would help him care for his ailing father, Lucas Forester decides to help things along by ordering a hit on his wife. (Michelle’s not exactly the most lovable person, anyway.) Everything is going according to his meticulous plan, until he receives a potentially recent photograph of Michelle. Frantic that his plan is being foiled, Lucas must find out if she’s alive, and silence her forever before she can expose him.

 
Buy Links: 
 

Enjoy this excerpt:

1

SUNDAY

The steady noise from the antique French carriage clock on the mantelpiece had somehow amplified itself, a rhythmic tick-tick, tick-tick, which usually went unnoticed. After I’d been sitting in the same position and holding my ailing mother-in-law’s hand for almost an hour, the incessant clicking had long wormed its way deep into my brain where it grated on my nerves, stirring up fantasies of hammers, bent copper coils, and shattered glass.

Nora looked considerably worse than when I’d visited her earlier this week. She was propped up in bed, surrounded by a multitude of pillows. She’d lost more weight, something her pre-illness slender physique couldn’t afford. Her bones jutted out like rocks on a cliff, turning a kiss on the cheek into an extreme sport in which you might lose an eye. The ghostly hue on her face resembled the kids who’d come dressed up as ghouls for Halloween a few days ago, emphasizing the dark circles that had transformed her eyes into mini sinkholes. It wasn’t clear how much time she had left. I was no medical professional, but we could all tell it wouldn’t be long. When she’d shared her doctor’s diagnosis with me barely three weeks ago, they’d estimated around two months, but at the rate of Nora’s decline, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if it turned out to be a matter of days.

Ovarian cancer. As a thirty-two-year-old Englishman who wasn’t yet half Nora’s age I’d had no idea it was dubbed the silent killer but now understood why. Despite the considerable wealth and social notoriety Nora enjoyed in the upscale and picturesque town of Chelmswood on the outskirts of Boston, by the time she’d seen someone because of a bad back and they’d worked out what was going on, her vital organs were under siege. The disease was a formidable opponent, the stealthiest of snipers, destroying her from the inside out before she had any indication something was wrong.

A shame, truly, because Nora was the only one in the Ward family I actually liked. I wouldn’t have sat here this long with my arse going numb for my father-in-law’s benefit, that’s for sure. Given half the chance I’d have smothered him with a pillow while the nurse wasn’t looking. But not Nora. She was kindhearted, gentle. The type of person who quietly gave time and money to multiple causes and charities without expecting a single accolade in return. Sometimes I imagined my mother would’ve been like Nora, had she survived, and fleetingly wondered what might have become of me if she hadn’t died so young, if I’d have grown up to be a good person.

I gradually pulled my hand away from Nora’s and reached for my phone, decided on playing a game or two of backgammon until she woke up. The app had thrashed me the last three rounds and I was due, but Nora’s fingers twitched before I made my first move. I studied her brow, which seemed furrowed in pain even as she slept. Not for the first time I hoped the Grim Reaper would stake his or her claim sooner rather than later. If I were death, I’d be swift, efficient, and merciful, not prescribe a drawn-out, painful process during which body, mind, or both, wasted away. People shouldn’t be made to suffer as they died. Not all of them, anyway.

“Lucas?”

I jumped as Diane, Nora’s nurse and my neighbor, put a hand on my shoulder. She’d only left the room for a couple of minutes but always wore those soft-soled shoes when she worked, which meant I never heard her coming until she was next to me. Kind of sneaky, when I thought about it, and I decided I wouldn’t sit with my back to the door again.

As she walked past, the air filled with the distinctive medicinal scent of hand sanitizer and antiseptic. I hated that smell. Too many bad memories I couldn’t shake. Diane set a glass of water on the bedside table, checked Nora’s vitals, and turned around. Hands on hips, she peered down at me from her six-foot frame, her tight dark curls bouncing alongside her jawbone like a set of tiny corkscrews.

“You can go home now. I’ll take the evening from here.” Regardless of her amicable delivery, there was no mistaking the instruction, but she still added, “Get some rest. God knows you look like you need it.”

“Thanks a lot,” I replied with mock indignation. “You sure know how to flatter a guy.”

Diane cocked her head to one side, folded her arms, and gave me another long stare, which to anyone else would’ve been intimidating. “How long since you slept? I mean properly.”

I waved a hand. “It’s only seven o’clock.”

“Yeah, I guess given the circumstances I wouldn’t want to be home alone, either.”

I looked away. “That’s not what this is about. I’ll wait until Nora wakes up again. I want to say goodbye. You know, in case she…” My voice cracked a little on the last word and I feigned a cough as I pressed the heels of my palms over my eyes.

“She won’t,” Diane whispered. “Not tonight. Trust me. She’s not ready to go.”

I knew Diane had worked in hospice for two decades and had seen more than her fair share of people taking their last breaths. If she said Nora wouldn’t die tonight, then Nora would still be here in the morning.

“I’ll leave in a bit. After she wakes up.”

Diane let out a resigned sigh and sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the bed. A comfortable silence settled between us despite the fact we didn’t know each other very well. I’d first met Diane and her wife Karina, who were both in their forties, when they’d struck up a conversation with me and my wife Michelle as we’d moved into our house on the other side of Chelmswood almost three years prior. Something about garbage days and recycling rules, I think. The mundane discussion could’ve led to a multitude of drinks, shared meals, and the swapping of embarrassing childhood stories, except we were all what Michelle had called busy professionals with (quote) hectic work schedules that make forging new friendships difficult. My Captain Subtext translated her comment as can’t be bothered and, consequently, the four of us had never made the transition from neighbors to close friends.

Aside from the occasional holiday party invitation or looking after each other’s places whenever we were away—picking up the mail, watering the plants, that kind of thing—we only saw each other in passing. Nevertheless, Karina regularly left a Welcome Back note on our kitchen counter along with flowers from their garden and a bottle of wine. Not one to be outdone on anything, Michelle reciprocated, except she’d always chosen more elaborate bouquets and fancier booze. My wife’s silent little pissing contests, which I’d pretended to be too dense to notice, had irked me to hell and back, but when Nora fell ill and Diane had been assigned as one of her nurses, I’d been relieved it was someone I knew and trusted.

“I’m sorry this is happening to you,” Diane said, rescuing me from the spousal memories. “It’s not fair. I mean, it’s never fair, obviously, but on top of what you’re going through with Michelle. I can’t imagine. It’s so awful…”

I acknowledged the rest of the words she left hanging in the air with a nod. There was nothing left to say about my wife’s situation we hadn’t already discussed, rediscussed, dissected, reconstructed, and pulled apart all over again. We’d not solved the mystery of her whereabouts or found more clues. Nothing new, helpful or hopeful, anyway. We never would.

Silence descended upon us again, the gaudy carriage clock ticking away, reviving the images of me with hammer in hand until the doorbell masked the sound.

“I’ll go,” Diane muttered, and before I had the chance to stand, she left the room and pulled the door shut. I couldn’t help wondering if her swift departure was because she needed to escape from me, the man who’d used her supportive shoulder almost daily for the past month. I decided to tone it down a little. Nobody wanted to be around an overdramatic, constant crybaby regardless of their circumstances.

I listened for voices but couldn’t hear any despite my leaning toward the door and craning my neck. I couldn’t risk moving in case Nora woke up. Her body was failing, but her mind remained sharp as a box of tacks. She’d wonder what I was up to if she saw my ear pressed against the mahogany panel. Solid mahogany. The best money could buy thanks to the Ward family’s three-generations-old construction empire. No cheap building materials in this house, as my father-in-law had pointed out when he’d first given me the tour of the six bedrooms, four reception rooms, indoor and outdoor kitchens (never mind the abhorrent freezing Boston winters), and what could only be described as grounds because yard implied it was manageable with a push-along mower.

“Only the best for my family,” Gideon had said in his characteristic rumbly, pompous way as he’d knocked back another glass of Laphroaig, the broad East Coast accent he worked hard to hide making more of a reappearance with each gluttonous glug. “No MDF, vinyl or laminate garbage, thank you. That’s not what I’m about. Not at all.”

It’s in the houses you build for others, I’d thought as I’d grunted an inaudible reply he no doubt mistook for agreement because people rarely contradicted him. As I raised my glass of scotch, I didn’t mention the council flats I grew up in on what Gideon dismissed as the lesser side of the pond, or the multiple times Dad and I had been kicked out of our dingy digs because he couldn’t pay the rent, and we’d ended up on the streets. My childhood had been vastly different to my wife’s, and I imagined the pleasure I’d find in watching Gideon’s eyes bulge as I described the squalor I’d lived in, and he realized my background was worlds away from the shiny and elitist version I’d led everyone to believe was the truth. I pictured myself laughing as he understood his perfect daughter had married so far beneath her, she may as well have pulled me up from the dirt like a carrot, and not the expensive organic kind.

Of course, I hadn’t told him anything. I’d taken another swig of the scotch I loathed, but otherwise kept my mouth shut. As satisfying as it would’ve been, my father-in-law knowing the truth about my background had never been part of my long-term agenda. In any case, and despite Gideon’s efforts, things were working to plan. Better than. The smug bastard was dead.

And he wasn’t the only one.


Excerpted from Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Copyright © 2022 by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.




Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Spotlight: Giveaway & Excerpt from Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky

Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky Banner

Finding Light in a Lost Year

by Carin Fahr Shulusky

May 16 – June 10, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
 

Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky
Roni Wright thought she had everything; huge home, successful husband, kids, and a brilliant career. That is until the worse pandemic in 100 years swept away the shallow fa├žade of her life and she nearly lost it all.   This is the story of how a broken family navigated the most difficult year of their lives and found hope in the middle of so much loss. You will recognize many of the things that nearly broke us all as we struggled with pandemic restrictions and the new normal. But you will cheer as they work their way out of darkness into a better world.
 

Book Details

Genre: Family & Relationship, Biographical Fiction Published by: Fossil Creek Press Publication Date: May 2022 Number of Pages: 170 ISBN: 978-1-7362417-2-1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 

Read an excerpt:

April 2020 – When It Rains, It Pours

On April 1, I picked up my calendar, as I did at the beginning of every month—usually to see what we had coming up and to schedule more—and started crossing off everything. I had already crossed off the March trip to Paris. Now I crossed off this month’s planned trip to the banking conference in San Francisco. I slashed through the conference in New York. And with a little more pain, I crossed off the two Broadway shows to which I had tickets. An old college girlfriend was going to go with me to one and Dan the other. Broadway closed. New York closed. All crossed off, as was the St. Louis Symphony concert to which we had tickets. Canceled. Hockey, canceled. Three birthday parties, canceled. My appointment at the nail salon, canceled. Hairdresser, canceled. Canceled, canceled, canceled. April was looking so gloomy. The only exercise I was getting was walking through one of our beautiful parks with the kids. Sometimes, we took bikes and rode a trail. But with April came gloom and rain and even that little bit of escape became impossible. Then the St. Louis County Executive closed all county parks. We were now required to wear a mask if we were out in public, especially indoors, and to stay six feet apart wherever we were. The gloom was growing daily. My life had no order. We were in free fall. On April 9, we got a big shot in the arm, as it were, when $2,400 appeared in our checking account—a gift from the U.S. government. Officially the money was part of the Economic Impact Payment, but the payments were more often called stimulus checks. We just called it salvation. Like many families, we weren’t sure how we would make ends meet. This money was a gift from heaven—or the government, depending on your point of view. By the second week of April, our school district was making an effort at learning. They asked parents to pick up “home learning packets” from the school. When I drove up to the school, someone handed me the packet for our kids’ grade levels. But when I got home, there was little explanation about the work. It was terribly disorganized and made little sense to me. Katlin wanted to learn more, and Oliver wanted to learn less. I just wanted more alcohol. Lots more. I decided hard times called for hard alcohol. Wine was OK now with lunch, but by dinner time, I needed a cocktail. I set up a place in the basement family room for the kids to study. I tried hard to make Oliver work on letters and sight words. He would work with me for maybe thirty minutes, then he’d start disrupting everything I did. He’d rip papers and run away. Meanwhile, Katlin was trying to figure out her lessons with great frustration. She didn’t know what was wanted of her, and I couldn’t figure it out either. Oliver did everything in his considerable ability to disrupt our efforts. Most sessions ended with all three of us crying. Not only was I failing at trying to teach my kids, I was failing at keeping them out of Nathan’s living room office. Every time Oliver ran away from me, he ran right into one of Nathan’s meetings. No order. No peace. No joy. --- Excerpt from Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Copyright 2022 by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Reproduced with permission from Carin Fahr Shulusky. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:

Carin Fahr Shulusky
Carin Fahr Shulusky was born and raised in west St. Louis County. She attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she received a B.J (Bachelor of Journalism). After college she worked in advertising for GE and Monsanto. She was the first professional woman in her division of each. After 25 years in Marketing, she created her own firm, Marketing Alliance. She was president of Marketing Alliance, from 2002 – 2014. She is a past-president of the Business Marketing Association of St. Louis. Carin Fahr is married to Richard Shulusky. They have two grown children and one marvelous granddaughter. Grandma Carin has a life long love of cooking, even writing her own cookbook. In 2014 Carin retired to devote full time to writing. Her first book, In the Middle was inspired by her own battle to care for her beloved mother, Dorothy Fahr. Many of the stories Carrie Young’s mother tells her in In the Middle came from Carin’s mother. Carin is a lifelong member of Pathfinder Church in Ellisville, Missouri, where she volunteers in early childhood.

Find Carin Online:

carinshulusky.com Goodreads Instagram - @cshulusky Twitter - @shulusky Facebook
 

Tour Host Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!        
This is a giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
 

Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Spotlight: Cyber Fighter by William Joseph Hill

 



Author
: William Joseph Hill
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Scifi/Martial Arts/Action/Adventure

Release Date: Updated February 2022; originally Published November 21, 2019.
Publisher: Independent
Number of pagesHard Cover/206 pages/ASIN: B09QP6QPG8 ISBN-13: 979-8727262665, Paperback/284 pages/ASIN: 1082737933-ISBN-10: 9781082737930-ISBN-13:19781082737930Kindle e-book/286 pages. Kindle — ASIN: B081SJRMJ1

Amazon Link:  
Audio version LinksApple Audible 
Social MediaFacebook  Twitter   Instagram

Cyber Fighter is the story of a clumsy temp Brian Baldwin who takes a job at defense contractor Kirkman Enterprises, where he volunteers to test their latest software program on himself by getting black belt fighting skills downloaded directly to his brain via a Virtual Reality immersive experience, turning him into a human weapon.  

When Brian discovers that the eccentric main programmer Humbert Cloogey has sold him off to the Army for induction, he makes his escape, assisted by his only ally Dr. Kate Rand, a neuroscientist who works for the company, but who has some secrets herself.

Simultaneously as Brian is undergoing the experiment, a Triad crime boss and part-time cloning engineer Lau Xiaoming, operating out of North Korea, hacks into the U.S. server hosting the software, planting a Trojan program into Brian’s brain that holds the secret to “Project Starfish”, his plan for world domination.

Brian finds himself pursued by not only the U.S. Army, and FBI, but also by Xiaoming and his minions, all looking to grab him for their own exploits.

From the author:

The core of my story is Brian’s journey, going from a middle-aged man who gave up on his dreams, to suddenly finding himself empowered with skills he never thought he’d ever achieve.  Almost overnight he acquires a superhero status.  But he discovers that he apparently hasn’t achieved any more control over his life than before.  In fact, his life seems pretty much out of control now. 

Plans for a CYBER FIGHTER feature length movie from William Hill lie ahead. He said, “I am also developing CYBER FIGHTER into a feature film.  Part of that process includes doing a short film version for a proof-of-concept for my vision of the full feature.  I am hoping to produce and shoot the short film this summer and have it go to festivals.  I also did a comic book adaptation of that short film version that is also for sale on Amazon.  Learn more at this link




About the author:

When interviewed, the author tells us his life story, “I’ve actually been writing since elementary school.  I always liked writing my own science-fiction stories, though my early work was derivative of TV shows I loved like SPACE: 1999 and the 1970s version of Buck Rogers.  When my family moved to Hawaii (my Dad was a Captain in the U.S. Navy), I started making my own movies first with a Super-8 camera and then our family’s VHS camcorder.  In high school I wrote, directed, and starred in my very first feature Law of the Ninja, with my siblings as co-stars and the neighborhood kids as background actors.

When I came to Hollywood, I not only continued with my acting career, but also used my writing skills to pen some screenplays, a few of which I was hired to write from an indie producer.  CYBER FIGHTER was originally intended as a vehicle for my acting career, but gradually developed into a bigger story which my debut novel tells.  It is my very first book that I’ve ever published.

My wife Pamela and I started our own production company Four Scorpio Productions, and we have our own YouTube channel where we began making short films and then developed our own web series sitcom That Darn Girlfriend which is in its third season.  It’s a quirky fun parody of classic 1960s/1970s sitcoms, done in that style as well.  We’ve built an audience of over 3,500 subscribers.  I also share my filmmaking/VFX knowledge with a tutorial series that I produce and host on the channel as well:  https://williamjosephhill.com/  and http://fourscorpio.com/  and  https://www.youtube.com/fourscorpio.
 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt from Sweet Home Alaska by Jennifer Snow

 


Author: Jennifer Snow
ISBN: 9781335448613
Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books

  When old feelings resurface, will the truth bring them back together?

Skylar Beaumont never wanted to return to Alaska. Still, when duty calls, she can’t refuse. And, as a third-generation “Coastie” and the only female captain in the local coast guard, she has too much to prove. Being stationed in her hometown of Port Serenity isn’t ideal—but she’ll tough it out until her transfer goes through and she can move on to warmer waters. That’s the plan, at least, until she crashes into Dex Wakefield. Again.

Shocked to see his secret high school sweetheart after all this time, Dex can’t help but wonder if he should finally come clean. Skylar deserves to know the real reason why he abandoned the dream they’d shared—and broke her heart. But this small tourist town is home to one big grudge where their families are concerned… And leaving the past behind might be the only way Dex and Skylar will finally realize that their first love deserves a sweet second chance. 

 
Buy Links:


Enjoy this excerpt!

CHAPTER ONE

They say you can’t go home again. If only that were true.

As Skylar Beaumont drove past the town limit sign with its featured serpent queen, Sealena, welcoming visitors to Port Serenity, the weight of expectation immediately set­tled on her shoulders.

Could she really do this?

Her heart had been pounding since she’d deboarded the plane in Alaska, her insecurities barely contained during the two-hundred-mile drive to her hometown.

Her reflection in her coast guard uniform in the rearview was one she’d never doubted she’d achieve. A third genera­tion coastie, Skylar had been around the sea her entire life, fascinated by its mysteries, astonished by its paradoxical sense of danger and calm. She’d always known she’d follow in her father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. She just hadn’t exactly wanted to follow those legendary footsteps back to the jagged shores along her hometown.

Being stationed here meant that everyone would natu­rally assume she’d gotten this far this fast because of her family name…that her father or grandfather had had some influence over her unusually speedy career advancement. Nothing could be further from the truth. She’d busted her ass at the academy for four years, working harder than everyone else, putting in extra time and excelling in her courses. Then she’d worked alongside the experienced crew of the North Star cutter on the East Coast for two years, gaining her on-sea requirements to write the captain’s exam. And she’d aced it.

But maybe her last name had helped a little in securing the competitive spot at the academy in the first place…

Nope. She squared her shoulders and gripped the steer­ing wheel tighter as she fought against the self-doubt. She’d been accepted into the highly competitive program based on her transcripts, her letters of recommendation (not from anyone with her last name) and her own application letter. She’d earned her spot.

Still, expectations were high and she had a lot to prove.

She was there now and until she could request a transfer or apply for a new position, she’d have to make the best of it.

Pulling off the highway, she drove along Main Street, which cut through the center of town. It was just after nine, and the shops were flipping their Closed signs to Open. Tourist season hadn’t officially launched yet, but in the coming weeks, as the late spring weather turned milder, the town’s population would explode, nearly tripling with visitors. By summer, all the local inns would be full and the outdoor restaurant patios would be a constant flutter of laughter and loud music. The marina and beach would be hotspots for families, fishermen and water sport en­thusiasts.

Skylar scanned the familiar surroundings as she drove. She’d lived in Port Serenity her entire life. She’d loved it there as a child, especially during tourist season. She craved the bustle and all the strange, exciting faces of visitors flocking there for the chance to see Sealena for themselves.

A glimpse of the serpent sea witch was a rare occurrence indeed, but not an impossibility according to the old fishermen who were happy to recount their tall tales to anyone willing to listen, encouraging tourists to pay an outrageous price to get out on the water for the search themselves. It had been fun to see the renewed excitement on people’s faces as tourists arrived in Port Serenity for the first time.

Unfortunately, that excitement seemed to dull over the years as Skylar had learned what this popularity had cost the town. As she’d realized that Port Serenity really only be­longed to one family: the Wakefields. Their name adorned almost every awning on the main street. Wakefields’ Phar­macy, Wakefields’ Convenience and Grocery, Wakefields’ Outpost and Fishing Supply… The wealthy Wakefields had reinvented the town and in doing so, they basically owned it. It was no secret that the mayor consulted the family pa­triarch, Brian Wakefield, on every major decision.

And no one opposed. Everyone appreciated the security the Wakefields’ businesses had provided when the fishing industry had struggled to support families. The influx of tourists meant every local had a way to make a living. Like her cousin Carly, who ran the bookstore and local museum. Restaurants, inns, cafes and gift shops capitalized on the sea witch’s popularity and likeness, making enough dur­ing tourist season to keep afloat all year. It was hard to fault the Wakefields.

Unless of course you were a Beaumont.

Skylar’s own family had been generations of civil ser­vants, protecting the community they loved. Her great-great-grandfather, Castor Beaumont, had been a state trooper. It was rumored that he’d been responsible for ar­resting Earl Wakefield, his former childhood friend, on smuggling charges. The man had done time for bringing contraband into Alaska through Port Serenity; the town had been divided and the family feud between the Wakefields and Beaumonts had begun.

Small towns held long grudges.

As she turned the corner at the end of Main Street and the ocean came into view, her chest tightened. It felt as though things had frozen in time the day she left. The scene unfolding was eerily familiar. A father and his daughter stood on the water’s edge skipping rocks along the surface. An older woman sat on a graffiti-tagged concrete bench wearing a pensive expression as she stared at the waves and the sun rising over the horizon. A young couple strolled along the wooden pier, hand in hand, a young puppy ex­citedly walking ahead with a stick in its mouth. Farther down, a seniors’ group did sunrise yoga on the sandy area of the small beach and several fishermen enjoyed a morn­ing beer on the docks with their fishing poles doing the work along the shore.

On the other side of Marina Way, there were boarded-up beach huts that would open in the hotter summer months, selling ice cream, refreshments, swim gear and overpriced Sealena-themed souvenirs. Among them was a small hut that advertised adventure whale watching tours, bird island excursions and trips to the ice fields in winter.

In the distance, there was a small research cabin that housed the Marine Life Sanctuary and beyond that, a light­house stood high on the hill above. Sailboats and power boats lined the coastline below.

Everything looked exactly the same as the day she’d left.

Though her pulse raced as she approached the marina and the nondescript coast guard station, her heart swelled with pride at the sight of the Starlight docked there. With its deep V, double chine hull and all-aluminum construc­tion, the forty-five-foot response boat was designed for speed and stability in various weather conditions. Twin diesel engines with waterjet propulsion eliminated the need for propellers under the boat, making it safer in missions where they needed to rescue a person overboard. Combined with its self-righting capability to help with capsizing in rough seas, it had greater speed and maneuverability than the older vessels. The boat was the one thing she had total confidence in. And she would be in charge of it and a crew of five.

The crew was the tougher part. She was determined to gain their trust and respect. She was eager to show that she was one of them but also maintain a professional distance. Her father and grandfather made it look so easy, but she knew this would be her hardest challenge, to command a crew of familiar faces. People she’d grown up with, peo­ple who remembered her as the little girl who’d wear her father’s too-big captain hat as she sat in the captain’s chair in the pilothouse.

Did that hat finally fit now?

Weaving the rental car along the winding road, and seeing the familiar Wakefield family yacht docked in the marina, her heart pounded. The fifty-footer had always been the most impressive boat in the marina, even now that it was over thirty years old. Its owner, Kurt Wakefield, had lived on the yacht for twenty-five years.

Kurt had died the year before. Skylar peered through the windshield to look at it. Had someone else bought the boat? Large bumpers had been added to the exterior, and pull lines could be seen on deck. She frowned. Had it been turned into some sort of rescue boat?

It wasn’t unusual for civilians to aid in searches along the coast when requested, but the yacht was definitely an odd addition. There had never been a Wakefield who had shown interest in civil service to the community…except one.

The man standing on the upper deck now, pulling the lines. Wearing a pair of faded jeans and just a T-shirt, the muscles in his shoulders and back strained as he worked and Skylar’s mouth went dry. She slowed the vehicle, un­able to look away. Almost as if in slow motion, the man turned and their eyes met. Her breath caught as familiar­ity registered in his expression.

And unfortunately, the untimely unexpected sight of her ex-boyfriend—Dex Wakefield—had Skylar forgetting to hit the brakes as she reached the edge of the gravel lot next to the dock. Too late, her rental car drove straight off the edge and into the frigid North Pacific Ocean.

Holy shit.

Dex Wakefield dropped the lines he was securing and hopped over the side of his boat onto the pier, risking a sprained ankle at the ten-foot drop. He hurried at a break­neck pace toward where the small Fiat bobbed among sev­eral small ice pans, the hood sinking below the water.

Skylar Beaumont had made quite the unexpected en­trance.

Ignoring the chill in the late April air, Dex kicked off his shoes and jumped into the water.

Goose bumps covered his exposed flesh and his breath came in small pants as he tried to adapt to the shock. Ice bobbed next to him as he took a deep breath and dove below the surface in time to see Skylar open the driver’s side door and escape from the sinking vehicle.

Swimming toward her, he reached for her and wrapped an arm around her waist as they moved toward the dock. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Saving your life.”

She removed his arm from around her waist before grip­ping the wooden planks of the pier overhead. Her breath came in quick gasps and her teeth chattered. “I’m fine. I don’t need your help.”

His ex hadn’t changed, not one little bit. Still as inde­pendent and stubborn as ever.

He moved back an inch and treaded water as she climbed out onto the wooden dock. Her coast guard uniform dripped with water, and her tight blond bun was slicked to her head.

The sight might stir a reaction from him, if his limbs weren’t about to freeze off. He was actually grateful for the chilled water. It numbed the myriad of emotions he knew he’d be struggling with soon enough.

Skylar was back. She was standing right there. On the dock. In Port Serenity.

 

Excerpted from Sweet Home Alaska by Jennifer Snow. Copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Snow. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.


 

Author Bio: 

Jennifer Snow is a USA Today bestselling author and screenwriter of contemporary romance and thrillers. Her novels have won awards and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. Mistletoe & Molly, a romcom adapted from her novella, aired on UPTV and Super Channel, and she has four new films airing in 2022. A Canadian living in Torrevieja, Spain, with her husband and son, she loves to travel and spend time near the ocean. More information can be found at jennifersnowauthor.com
  
Author Website: https://jennifersnowauthor.com/contact
Facebook: jennifersnowbooks
Twitter: @jennifersnow18
Instagram: jensnowauthor

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt of On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass



 
Author: Seraphina Nova Glass
ISBN: 9781525899751
Publication Date: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House Books

 A simple arrangement. A web of deceit with shocking consequences.
 
Welcome to Brighton Hills: an exclusive, gated community set against the stunning backdrop of the Oregon coast. Home to doctors, lawyers, judges--all the most upstanding members of society. Nothing ever goes wrong here. Right?
 
Cora's husband, Finn, is a cheater. She knows it; she just needs to prove it. She's tired of being the nagging, suspicious wife who analyzes her husband's every move. She needs to catch him in the act. And what better way to do that than to set him up for a fall?
 
Paige has nothing to lose. After she lost her only child in a hit-and-run last year, her life fell apart: her marriage has imploded, she finds herself screaming at baristas and mail carriers, and she's so convinced Caleb's death wasn't an accident that she's secretly spying on all everyone in Brighton Hills so she can find the murderer. So it's easy for her to entrap Finn and prove what kind of man he really is.
 
But Paige and Cora are about to discover far more than a cheating husband. What starts as a little agreement between friends sets into motion a series of events neither of them could have ever predicted, and that exposes the deep fault lines in Brighton Hills. Especially concerning their mysterious new neighbor, Georgia, a beautiful recluse who has deep, dark secrets of her own...


My thoughts:

On a Quiet Street is a slow burn mystery that takes place on an upper middle class street where everyone has secrets.  The story is told through the perspective of three of the residents.  I'll be honest, it took me a while to get through this book.  The first two-thirds was really slow. I didn't like any of the characters all that much.  The only one I truly had any empathy for was Georgia...for obvious reasons that show up about halfway through the book. There is a lot of cheating in this book.  You all know I'm not a fan of that.   The last third of the book was better and I did like the ending. It's always nice when there is justice.   It's OK, just nothing very thrilling.



Here is a sneak peek:

ONE

Paige



Paige stands, watering her marigolds in the front yard and marvels at how ugly they are. The sweet-potato-orange flowers remind her of a couch from the 1970s, and she suddenly hates them. She crouches down, ready to rip them from their roots, wondering why she ever planted such an ugly thing next to her pristine Russian sage, and then the memory steals her breath. The church Mother’s Day picnic when Caleb was in the sixth grade. Some moron had let the potato salad sit too long in the sun, and Caleb got food poisoning. All the kids got to pick a flower plant to give to their moms, and even though Caleb was puking mayonnaise, he insisted on going over to pick his flower to give her. He was so proud to hand it to her in its little plastic pot, and she said they’d plant it in the yard and they’d always have his special marigolds to look at. How could she have forgotten?

She feels tears rise in her throat but swallows them down. Her dachshund, Christopher, waddles over and noses her arm: he always senses when she’s going to cry, which is almost all the time since Caleb died. She kisses his head and looks at her now-beautiful marigolds. She’s interrupted by the kid who de-livers the newspaper as he rides his bike into the cul-de-sac and tosses a rolled-up paper, hitting little Christopher on his back.

“Are you a fucking psychopath?” Paige screams, jumping to her feet and hurling the paper back at the kid, which hits him in the head and knocks him off his bike.

“What the hell is wrong with you, lady?” he yells back, scrambling to gather himself and pick up his bike.

“What’s wrong with me? You tried to kill my dog. Why don’t you watch what the fuck you’re doing?”

His face contorts, and he tries to pedal away, but Paige grabs the garden hose and sprays him down until he’s out of reach. “Little monster!” she yells after him.

Thirty minutes later, the police ring her doorbell, but Paige doesn’t answer. She sits in the back garden, drinking coffee out of a lopsided clay mug with the word Mom carved into it by little fingers. She strokes Christopher’s head and examines the ivy climbing up the brick of the garage and wonders if it’s bad for the foundation. When she hears the ring again, she hollers at them.

“I’m not getting up for you people. If you need to talk to me, I’m back here.” She enjoys making them squeeze around the side of the house and hopes they rub up against the poi-son oak on their way.

“Morning, Mrs. Moretti,” one of the officers says. It’s the girl cop, Hernandez. Then the white guy chimes in. She hates him. Miller. Of course they sent Miller with his creepy mustache. He looks more like a child molester than a cop, she thinks. How does anyone take him seriously?

“We received a complaint,” he says.

“Oh, ya did, did ya? You guys actually looking into cases these days? Actually following up on shit?” Paige says, still petting the dog and not looking at them.

“You assaulted a fifteen-year-old? Come on.”

“Oh, I did no such thing,” she snaps.

Hernandez sits across from Paige. “You wanna tell us what d id happen, then?”

“Are you planning on arresting me if I don’t?” she asks, and the two officers give each other a silent look she can’t read.

“His parents don’t want to press charges so…”

Paige doesn’t say anything. They don’t have to tell her it’s because they pity her.

“But, Paige,” Miller says, “we can’t keep coming out here for this sort of thing.”

“Good,” Paige says firmly. “Maybe it will free you up to do your real job and find out who killed my son.” Hernandez stands.

“Again, you know we aren’t the detectives on the—” But before Hernandez can finish, Paige interrupts, not wanting to hear the excuses.

“And maybe go charge the idiot kid for trying to kill my dog. How about that?”

Paige stands and goes inside, not waiting for a response. She hears them mumble something to one another and make their way out. She can’t restrain herself or force herself to be kind. She used to be kind, but now, it’s as though her brain has been rewired. Defensiveness inhabits the place where empathy used to live. The uniforms of the cops trigger her, too; it reminds her of that night, the red, flashing lights a nightmarish strobe from a movie scene. A horror movie, not real life. It can’t be her real life. She still can’t accept that.

The uniforms spoke, saying condescending things, pulling her away, calling her ma’am, and asking stupid questions. Now, when she sees them, it brings up regrets. She doesn’t know why this happens, but the uniforms bring her back to that night, and it makes her long for the chance to do all the things she never did with Caleb and mourn over the times they did have. It forces fragments of memories to materialize, like when he was six, he wanted a My Little Pony named Star Prancer. It was pink with purple flowers in its mane, and she didn’t let him have it because she thought she was protecting him from being made fun of at school. Now, the memory fills her with self-reproach.

She tries not to think about the time she fell asleep on the couch watching Rugrats with him when he was just a toddler and woke up to his screaming because he’d fallen off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table. He was okay, but it could have been worse. He could have put his finger in an outlet, pushed on the window screen and fallen to his death from the second floor, drunk the bleach under the sink! When this memory comes, she has to quickly stand up and busy herself, push out a heavy breath, and shake off the shame it brings. He could have died from her negligence that afternoon. She never told Grant. She told Cora once, who said every parent has a moment like that, it’s life. People fall asleep. But Paige has never forgiven herself. She loved Caleb more than life, and now the doubt and little moments of regret push into her thoughts and render her miserable and anxious all the time.

She didn’t stay home like Cora, she practically lived at the restaurant. She ran it for years. Caleb grew up doing his homework in the kitchen break room and helping wipe down tables and hand out menus. He seemed to love it. He didn’t watch TV all afternoon after school, he talked to new people, learned skills. But did she only tell herself that to alleviate the guilt? Would he have thrived more if he had had a more nor mal day-to-day? When he clung to her leg that first day of preschool, should she have forced him to go? Should he have let him change his college major so many times? Had he been happy? Had she done right by him?

And why was there a gun at the scene? Was he in trouble, and she didn’t know? Did he have friends she didn’t know about? He’d told her everything, she thought. They were close. Weren’t they?

As she approaches the kitchen window to put her mug down, she sees Grant pulling up outside. She can see him shaking his head at the sight of the cops before he even gets out of the car.

He doesn’t mention the police when he comes in. He silently pours himself a cup of coffee and finds Paige back out in the garden, where she has scurried to upon seeing him. He hands her a copy of the Times after removing the crossword puzzle for himself and then peers at it over his glasses.

He doesn’t speak until Christopher comes to greet him, and then he says, “Who wants a pocket cookie?” and takes a small dog biscuit from his shirt pocket and smiles down at little Christopher, who devours it.

This is how it’s been for the many months since Grant and Paige suffered insurmountable loss. It might be possible to get through it to the other side, but maybe not together, Paige said to Grant one night after one of many arguments about how they should cope. Grant wanted to sit in his old, leather recliner in the downstairs family room and stare into the wood-burning fireplace, Christopher at his feet, drinking a scotch and absorbing the quiet and stillness.

Paige, on the other hand, wanted to scream at everyone she met. She wanted to abuse the police for not finding who was responsible for the hit-and-run. She wanted to spend her days posting flyers offering a reward to anyone with information, even though she knew only eight percent of hit-and-runs are ever solved. When the world didn’t respond the way she needed, she stopped helping run the small restaurant they owned so she could just hole up at home and shout at Jeopardy! and paper boys. She needed to take up space and be loud. They each couldn’t stand how the other was mourning, so finally, Grant moved into the small apartment above their little Italian place, Moretti’s, and gave Paige the space she needed to take up.

Now—almost a year since the tragic day—Grant still comes over every Sunday to make sure the take-out boxes are picked up and the trash is taken out, that she’s taking care of herself and the house isn’t falling apart. And to kiss her on the cheek before he leaves and tell her he loves her. He doesn’t make observations or suggestions, just benign comments about the recent news headlines or the new baked mostaccioli special at the restaurant.

She sees him spot the pair of binoculars on the small table next to her Adirondack chair. She doesn’t need to lie and say she’s bird-watching or some nonsense. He knows she thinks one of the neighbors killed her son. She’s sure of it. It’s a gated community, and very few people come in and out who don’t live here. Especially that late at night. The entrance camera was conveniently disabled that night, so that makes her think it wasn’t an accident but planned. There was a gun next to Caleb’s body, but it wasn’t fired, and there was no gunshot wound. Something was very wrong with this scenario, and if the po-lice won’t prove homicide, she’s going to uncover which of her bastard neighbors had a motive.

She has repeated all of this to Grant a thousand times, and he used to implore her to try to focus on work or take a vacation—anything but obsess—and to warn her that she was destroying her health and their relationship, but he stopped responding to this sort of conspiracy-theory talk months ago.

“What’s the latest?” is all he asks, looking away from the binoculars and back to his crossword. She gives a dismissive wave of her hand, a sort of I know you don’t really want to hear about it gesture. Then, after a few moments, she says, “Danny Howell at 6758. He hasn’t driven his Mercedes in months.” She gives Grant a triumphant look, but he doesn’t appear to be following.

“Okay,” he says, filling in the word ostrich.

“So I broke into his garage to see what the deal was, and there’s a dent in his bumper.”

“You broke in?” he asks, concerned. She knows the How-ells have five vehicles, and the dent could be from a myriad of causes over the last year, but she won’t let it go.

“Yes, and it’s a good thing I did. I’m gonna go back and take photos. See if the police can tell if it looks like he might have hit a person.” She knows there is a sad desperation in her voice as she works herself up. “You think they can tell that? Like if the dent were a pole from a drive-through, they could see paint or the scratches or something, right? I bet they can tell.”

“It’s worth a shot,” he says, and she knows what he wants to say, also knows he won’t waste words telling her not to break into the garage a second time for photos. He changes the subject.

“I’m looking for someone to help out at the restaurant a few days a week—mostly just a piano player for the dinner crowd—but I could use a little bookkeeping and scheduling, too,” he says, and Paige knows it’s a soft attempt to distract her, but she doesn’t bite.

“Oh, well, good luck. I hope you find someone,” she says, and they stare off into the backyard trees.

“The ivy is looking robust,” he comments after a few minutes of silence.

“You think it’s hurting the foundation?” she asks.

“Nah,” he says, and he reaches over and places his hand over hers on the arm of her chair for a few moments before getting up to go. On his way out, he kisses her on the cheek, tells her he loves her. Then he loads the dishwasher and takes out the trash before heading to his car. She watches him reluctantly leaving, knowing that he wishes he could stay, that things were different.

When Paige hears the sound of Grant’s motor fade as he turns out of the front gate, she imagines herself calling him on his cell and telling him to come back and pick her up, that she’ll come to Moretti’s with him and do all the scheduling and books, that she’ll learn to play the piano just so she can make him happy. And, after all the patrons leave for the night, they’ll share bottles of Chianti on checkered tablecloths in a dimly lit back booth. They’ll eat linguini and clams and have a Lady and the Tramp moment, and they will be happy again.

Paige does not do this. She goes into the living room and closes the drapes Grant opened, blocking out the sunlight, then she crawls under a bunched-up duvet on the couch that smells like sour milk, and she begs for sleep.




Excerpted from On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2022 by Seraphina Nova Glass. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.




Author Bio: 
 
Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she's also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.