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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Spotlight: Excerpt of Sweet Paradise by Gene Desrochers

Sweet Paradise Banner

Sweet Paradise

by Gene Desrochers

April 5 - May 7, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Sweet Paradise by Gene Desrochers

In this harrowing Caribbean noir murder mystery, we meet Private Investigator Boise Montague, a man on the brink who is trying to get his life together after his wife died. He has returned to his childhood home and he’s started a private investigator firm of one. Since returning, his drinking has accelerated and he needs clients desperately before the life insurance money dries up.

Enter Junior Bacon, grandson of Francine Bacon of the Bacon sugar and rum empire. Granny’s gone missing and Junior wants Boise to figure out what happened.

As Boise delves into the mystery of the missing matriarch, a reporter associated with her winds up dead in his new office, dramatically raising the stakes. Now Boise must contend with questions from the police, the newspaper president, and the reporter's widow.

As Boise investigates he uncovers surprising truths about a woman seeking redemption, a family on the brink, and why no matter how hard we try, the past can sometimes never be fixed.

In the end, Boise must not only confront a killer, but the island's dark history and his own inner demons.

Kudos:

“Boise Montague, intrepid St. Thomas, V.I. private investigator, returns in SWEET PARADISE. Talented author Gene Desrochers delivers a suspense-filled tale overflowing with duplicitous characters and greed-driven agendas in lushly authentic Caribbean environs. A mature generation is determined to hold tight to the empire that provides them with every luxury, while the next generation attempts to fulfill its dreams … Others will compromise all that is decent. And Boise Montague will do what he does best as he separates the winners from the losers and the innocent from the guilty. A 5-star read.”
--Laura Taylor - 6-Time Romantic Times Award Winner

“Boise is back! Gene Desrochers returns his readers to the island paradise of St. Thomas. You’ll feel the warm tropical breeze as Private Investigator Boise Montague must discover [what happened to] the matriarch of a wealthy island rum producer. The deeper he digs, the closer he gets to his own mortality. Wandering and sometimes stumbling through his investigation, Boise learns about family secrets—and they could kill him. Outstanding writing and the vivid setting will keep you transfixed.”
--R. D. Kardon, award-winning author of Flygirl and Angel Flight

Book Details:

Genre: Murder Mystery
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: April 6th 2021
Number of Pages: 299
ISBN: 9781952112379
Series: Boise Montague, #2 (Each book in the series is a stand alone mystery)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The first coat was drying. More droplets of sweat rivered between my shoulder blades as I slugged water and Guinness alternately. Two in the afternoon was no time to be painting in the October heat, but I didn’t know what else to do and sitting around worrying about my looming penury seemed pointless.

The used old-timey clock radio I’d picked up at Bob’s Store babbled on about hurricane warnings as reception fizzled in and out. It was the latter part of hurricane season and we’d seen minimal storm damage in the region. We might dodge hurricanes for one or two years running, but it was never long enough to truly get complacent about them the way places like New Orleans had.

The overhead fan whirred. Outside my door sunlight filtered thinly through a cloud, illuminating the traffic circle a faint ocher. As I considered the faded lines denoting parking spaces and the cracked pavement, a young man bobbed into my line of sight. He was one of those people who walked on his toes at all times, like the tendons in his calves were so tight his heels couldn’t touch the ground for more than an instant before popping up again. He squinted at the building, turning his head back and forth, then perusing a sheet of paper clutched in both hands. A green Osprey backpack hung loosely off his shoulders. People in California used them for hiking. He tugged at the built-in sippy straw and sucked. The bubbly slurping of the last drops of water in his pouch filtered up to me. Disappointment clouded his face.

His attention snagged on my door. I grinned and gave myself a mental pat on the back. He shifted one hand to his hip and gave a slight lean. I wasn’t sure whether I should let him see me in my ratty painting outfit, but figured that could be explained by the wet door. A spooge of cantaloupe paint dominated the center of my gray t-shirt. I eased the door open a couple more feet.

“Help you?” I asked. “You look lost.”

“Nice door.” He pointed at his forehead and swirled his finger around. “You got some.”

He was college-aged and his face was sunburned, as were his arms. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants, a classic tourist outfit.

He continued to stand in the same spot, squinting and considering the sheet of paper. I returned to my inner office, needing another sip of water and the breeze from the fan. Out my open doorway, I could barely make out the top of his Caesar-style haircut.

“You should get a hat!” I hollered out.

His head rose up from the paper and he pushed up on tip-toes so I could see his eyes. “The sun’s doing a number on you,” I said. “Want a drink of water?”

He stared at me a while with a strange stillness, like he was in no hurry as he weighed every option. This boy was a local and he would pull me into events that would rock one of the largest industries in the Virgin Islands.

“Do you have Perrier?”

***

Excerpt from Sweet Paradise by Gene Desrochers. Copyright 2021 by Gene Desrochers. Reproduced with permission from Gene Desrochers. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gene Desrochers

Gene Desrochers hails from a dot in the Caribbean Sea called St. Thomas. He grew up with minimal supervision and free-roaming animals in a guesthouse that also served as a hospital during wartime. If you ask, he will regale you with his Caribbean accent and tennis prowess.

After a lifetime of writing and telling short stories, he ventured into the deep end, publishing his first novel, Dark Paradise in 2018. Sweet Paradise is Gene’s second published novel in the Boise Montague Series.

He lives in Southern California with his wife, step-daughter, and two cats.

Catch Up With Gene Desrochers:
GeneDesrochers.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @problemsolvergene
Instagram - @authorgenedesrochers
Twitter - @problemsolverge
Facebook - @ggdesrochers

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gene Desrochers. There will be two (2) winners. Each winner will receive an Amazon.com gift card. The giveaway begins on April 5, 2021 and runs through May 9, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Blog Tour: Review of An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart

Author: Mariah Stewart 
Publisher: Montlake 
Publication Date: May 1, 2021

It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town’s golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie’s dreams—and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.

Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting—and embracing—the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won’t be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true.

Purchase Links
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

An Invincible Summer follows Maggie who return to her home town for her fortieth high school reunion. As there always are in small town, there are secrets that need to be revealed and dealt with.    I think this book will be a good summer beach read for a lot of fans of this author.  For me, I found it to be just OK.  I felt like it took me forever to get through.  The first couple of chapters felt very much like an info dump and I could myself skimming.  I like Maggie well enough.  But none of the other character really stood out to me.  In the end, I felt like I had read this plot before.  As I said, I think it just wasn't for me, but I do think others will probably enjoy it.

About Mariah Stewart


Mariah Stewart is the New York TimesPublishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of several series, including The Chesapeake Diaries and The Hudson Sisters, as well as stand-alone novels, novellas, and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life, tends her gardens, and works on her next novel. She’s the proud mama of two fabulous daughters who—along with her equally fabulous sons-in-law—have gifted her with six adorable (and yes, fabulous) granddarlings.

Connect with Mariah
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Instagram features:
Monday, April 5th: @megsbookclub
Monday, April 5th: @stumblingintobooks
Tuesday, April 6th: @lovelyplacebooks
Wednesday, April 7th: @suethebookie
Wednesday, April 7th: @acericolalife
Thursday, April 8th: @irishgirliereads
Friday, April 9th: @workreadsleeprepeat
Friday, April 9th: @mrsboomreads
Saturday, April 10th: @mynovelmenagerie
Sunday, April 11th: @mybooksandplants
Sunday, April 11th: @the_unwined
Monday, April 12th: @talielovesbooks
Tuesday, April 13th: @pages.and.plates
Wednesday, April 14th: @theocbookgirl

Reviews:
Monday, April 5th: Where the Reader Grows and @wherethereadergrows
Tuesday, April 6th: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip
Wednesday, April 7th: Booked on a Feeling
Thursday, April 8th: @sarahandherbookshelves
Friday, April 9th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm and @pnwbookworm
Monday, April 12th: @what.ems.reading
Wednesday, April 14th: @bryantparkbooks
Thursday, April 15th: Books Cooks Looks
Friday, April 16th: From the TBR Pile
Saturday, April 17th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook
Monday, April 19th: @tamsterdam_reads
Monday, April 19th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, April 20th: Laura’s Reviews and @laurasreviews_1
Wednesday, April 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 21st: @bibliolau19
Wednesday, April 21st: Reading Reality
Thursday, April 22nd: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie
Friday, April 23rd: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, April 23rd: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Saturday, April 24th: @rozierreadsandwine
Sunday, April 25th: @bookscallmyheart
Monday, April 26th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, April 26th: @readerofthewrittenword
Tuesday, April 27th: Seaside Book Nook
Wednesday, April 28th: @bookish.bethany
Thursday, April 29th: Living My Best Book Life and @livingmybestbooklife
Friday, April 30th: The Sketchy Reader
 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Spotlight: Excerpt of The Glass Slipper by K. Webster

The Glass Slipper
K. Webster
Published by: Dangerous Press
Publication date: April 13th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Betraying the most powerful man in New York wasn’t something I ever envisioned when I first started playing games with Winston Constantine. But he’s engaged in far more dangerous games than ours, and his enemies are out for blood.

Winston has my heart, the Morellis have incriminating photos, and I’m left with nothing except three stepbrothers who want to hurt me and a future in doubt. I knew Winston wouldn’t be my prince charming, but that didn’t stop me from falling for him.
After all, the slippers fit, and I let myself believe I’d be dancing with Winston forever.
Until too much truth comes to light.

Until I realize instead of ruling the board, I was just a pawn.

In the end, I have only one question. When his game with me is over, will I be able to pretend as if the glass slipper wasn’t a perfect fit?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

Chirp.

I love my bird. Shrimp is the best little birdie on the planet. But, the one single sound he makes isn’t a pleased one. It’s angry. Hurt. Scared. This, above anything else that’s happened tonight, is the most upsetting. I’ve let Winston down. And, I’ve let my damn bird down.

Stupidly, I got swept up in the little fairy tale I’d imagined where I was a maid turned princess who perfectly fit into her filthy prince’s story. Winston, billionaire CEO and world’s hottest bachelor, gave me a fantasy not a reality. He offered me a world made of glass. I stepped into those new shoes, blinded by the shininess, eager to be his little plaything.

But the cracking has begun.

At the first sign of trouble, everything feels as though it’s going to shatter at my feet.

No charming prince will be sweeping me in his arms this time.

I bite down on my lip to keep from crying. I’m tired of crying. Emotionally exhausted. Sick of it. Swallowing down the tight ache in my throat, I lock the apartment door and then swivel around to greet my bird.

“Shrimp,” I say in a raspy, wobbly voice as I toss my purse onto the love seat and kick off my heels. “Welcome home.” To the whore apartment.

He flaps his wings angrily from inside his cage. I’m unnerved wondering how he even got here. Winston obviously handled this during all the chaos that was dinner when he’d been texting someone.

It’s not just my bird.

Sitting on my bed is my bag of toiletries, my backpack, and a garment bag that most definitely doesn’t belong to me. I don’t have to unzip it to know it’ll be filled with outfits that were once hanging in my room at Winston’s place.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry,” I chant, even as fresh, hot tears roll out.

I unlatch Shrimp’s cage door so he can get some space. Rather than hopping into my waiting hand, he flutters past me, swooping around the small area. He chirps in sharp, high-pitched noises that indicate he’s not pleased about his surroundings. The poor bird misses his chandelier playground, high ceilings, and huge windows.

“I fucked it up,” I explain to him with a wave of my hand. “I can’t even begin to imagine what the fallout for all of this will be.”

And I can’t.


Author Bio:

K Webster is a USA Today Bestselling author. Her titles have claimed many bestseller tags in numerous categories, are translated in multiple languages, and have been adapted into audiobooks. She lives in "Tornado Alley" with her husband, two children, and her baby dog named Blue. When she's not writing, she's reading, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and researching aliens.

You can easily find K Webster on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads!

Can't find a certain book? Maybe it's too hot for Amazon! Don't worry because titles like Bad Bad Bad, This is War, Baby, The Wild, and Hale can all be found for sale on K's website in both ebook and paperback format.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bookbub / Newsletter


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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review: The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie

Author: Craig DiLouie
Publisher: Redhook
Publication Date: November 2020

Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Craig DiLouie brings a new twist to the cult horror story in a heart-pounding novel of psychological suspense.
David Young, Deacon Price, and Beth Harris live with a dark secret. As children, they survived a religious group's horrific last days at the isolated mountain Red Peak. Years later, the trauma of what they experienced never feels far behind.

When a fellow survivor commits suicide, they finally reunite and share their stories. Long-repressed memories surface, defying understanding and belief. Why did their families go down such a dark road? What really happened on that final night?

The answers lie buried at Red Peak. But truth has a price, and escaping a second time may demand the ultimate sacrifice.

The Children of Red Peak was a recommended horror/thriller by my library. I'm always intrigued by cults, so it seemed right up my alley.  The book follows 4 adults who were the only survivors of a cult.  Years before when they were kids, the cult disappeared and the survived with no memory of what happened. Now an anniversary is coming up and the group is compelled to return to the mountain to finally figure out what happened. 

I had high hopes for this book, I was on board with it up until the last third of the book.  We get to see what happened a within the cult through each of the characters' perspectives in flashbacks.  I enjoyed those parts.  We get to see the buildup to how a small co-op community ended up becoming a doomsday cult.  We also get to see how the past has affected and shapes each character as an adult.  Where the book lost me was the amount of time it took for them to go back to the mountainOnce they got there, I'm not even sure what happened.  I hated the ending.  I felt like I had no real answers after all of that buildup.  You all know I'm not a fan of ambiguous endings.  Maybe someone out there who has read it can explain to me what happened.  If you can ignore the ending, I would recommend checking out the book for the rest of it.



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Blog Tour: Excerpt of The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak

 


Brenda Novak
On Sale Date: April 6, 2021
9780778361053
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD
448 pages
 
For fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Kay Andrews, comes New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak's newest standalone work of women's fiction, a big, sweeping novel about family and the ties that bind and challenge us. In this novel, three generations of women from the same family share a house and work together at a bookstore in Colonial Beach over the course of a summer.
 
How do you start a new chapter when you haven’t closed the book on the last one?
 
Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers—she still has no idea where he went or why. After being happily married for twenty years, she can’t imagine moving forward without him, but for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.
 
Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort by working alongside her mother and aunt at their quaint bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a life change neither of them saw coming and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into Quinn Vanderbilt—the boy who stole her heart in high school—old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.

Enjoy this excerpt:


CHAPTER 1

Tuesday, June 8

 

Today her daughter was returning for the summer. Mary Langford gazed eagerly out at the street in front of her small bookstore, looking for a glimpse of Autumn’s car and, when she saw nothing except a large family going into the ice cream parlor at the end of the block, checked her watch. Three-thirty. Autumn had called at lunchtime to say that she and the kids were making good time. They probably wouldn’t be much longer.

“You’ve been quiet today,” Laurie commented from where she sat behind the counter, straightening the pens, tape, stapler and bookmarks.

Mary turned from the large front window she’d recently decorated with posters of the hottest new releases. “I worry when she’s on the road for so long.”

“She’ll make it, and it’ll be great to see her and the kids. They haven’t been back since Christmas, have they?”

“No.” She picked up the feather duster and began cleaning shelves—a never-ending job at Beach Front Books, which she and Laurie owned as 50/50 partners. Autumn lived in Tampa, Florida, far enough away that it wasn’t easy to get together when Taylor and Caden were in school. “And I doubt they’ll come back for the holidays this year.” Fortunately, they were more consistent about returning for the summer—except for last summer, of course, which was understandable. Mary hoped she’d be able to count on that continuing, but with the kids getting older, nothing was certain. Taylor had only one more year of high school before heading off to college. Caden had two. Mary feared this might be the last time, for a while, they’d all be together in Sable Beach.

“You could go visit them,” Laurie pointed out.

Autumn had invited her many times. Remembering the arguments her refusal had sparked over the years caused Mary’s stomach to churn. She wanted to go to Tampa, wanted to make it so that her daughter wouldn’t have to do all the traveling. Autumn had been going through so much lately. But the thought of venturing into unfamiliar territory filled Mary with dread. Other than to go to Richmond occasionally, which was the closest big city, she hadn’t left the sleepy Virginia Beach town she called home in thirty-five years. “Yes, but you know me. This is the only place I feel safe.”

Laurie rocked back on the tall stool. “Well, if the fear hasn’t gone away by now, I guess it’s not going to.”

“No. I don’t talk about it anymore, but the past is as real to me now as it’s ever been.”

Although the store had been busy earlier, what with the influx of tourists for the season, foot traffic had slowed. When that happened, they often talked more than they worked. Beach Front Books wasn’t Laurie’s sole source of income. Her husband, Christopher Conklin, was a talented artist. He painted all kinds of seascapes, and while he wasn’t in any prestigious galleries, he sold his paintings in a section they reserved for him in the store as well as online.

But Mary, who’d never been married, had no other support. Beach Front Books didn’t make a large profit, but no one loved the escape that books provided more than she did, and the store garnered enough business that she could eke out a living. That was all that mattered to her.

“Autumn gets so mad that I won’t go out and see the world. Visit. Travel. That sort of thing,” she murmured, wishing she didn’t have the scars and limitations that had, at times, put such a strain on their relationship. “She keeps saying I’m too young to live like an old lady.”

“She has a point.”

Mary sighed. “I’m not young anymore.”

“What are you talking about? You’re nine years younger than me. Fifty-four is not old.”

That was true, but she’d had to grow up far sooner than most people. “I feel ancient.”

“Next year, you should go to Tampa, if they ask you.”

She shook her head. “I can’t.”

“Maybe you’ll prove that you can.”

Mary couldn’t help bristling. She didn’t like it when Laurie pushed her. “No.”

“Autumn doesn’t understand, Mary. That’s what causes almost every fight you have with her.”

“I know. And I feel bad about that. But there’s nothing I can do.”

Laurie lowered her voice. “You could tell her the truth…”

“Absolutely not,” Mary snapped. “Why would I ever do that?”

“There are reasons. And you know it. We’ve talked about this before,” Laurie said, remaining calm, as always. That was one of the many things Mary liked about her—she was steady and patient, and that steadiness somehow helped Mary cope when old feelings and memories began to resurface.

In this instance, Laurie might also be right. Mary could feel the past rising up from its deep slumber. Maybe it was time to tell Autumn.

But there were just as many reasons not to—compelling reasons. And the thought of revealing the past, seeing it all through her daughter’s eyes, made Mary feel ill. “I can’t broach that subject right now, not with what she’s been dealing with the past year and a half. Besides, it’s been so long it’s almost as if it happened to someone else,” she said, mentally shoving those dark years into the deepest recesses of her mind. “I want to stay as far away from that subject as possible.”

Laurie didn’t call her out on the contradiction her statement created. And Mary was glad. She couldn’t have explained how it could be real and frightening and always present and yet she could feel oddly removed from it at the same time.

“Except that it didn’t happen to someone else,” Laurie responded sadly. “It happened to you.”

* * *

The scent of the ocean, more than anything else, told Autumn she was home. She lowered her window as soon as she rolled into town and breathed deeply, letting the salt air fill her lungs.

“What are you doing?” Taylor held her long brown hair in one hand to keep it from whipping across her face as she looked over from the passenger seat.

Autumn smiled, which was something she knew her children hadn’t seen her do enough of lately. “Just getting a little air.”

“You hate it when I roll down my window,” Caden grumbled from the backseat.

“I’m hoping I won’t be so irritable anymore.” For the past eighteen months, Autumn had been mired in the nightmare that had overtaken her life. She almost hadn’t come to Sable Beach because of it. But when her children had each pleaded with her, separately, to ask if they could spend the summer with “Mimi” like they used to, she knew they needed some normalcy in their lives—needed to retain at least one of their parents. Her grief and preoccupation with her husband’s disappearance had probably made them feel as though she’d gone missing, too—at least the mother they’d known before. She hoped by returning to the place that held so many wonderful memories for them all, they’d be able to heal and reconnect.

It wasn’t as if she could do anything more for Nick, anyway. That was the ugly reality. She’d exhausted every viable lead and still had no idea where he was. If he was dead, she had to figure out a way to go on without him for the sake of their children.

The second she spotted the bookstore, the nostalgia that welled up—along with memories of a simpler, easier time—nearly brought her to tears. When she was a little girl, she’d spent so many hours following her mother through the narrow aisles of that quaint shop, which looked like something from the crooked, narrow streets of Victorian London, dusting bookshelves or reading in the nook her mother had created for her.

She’d spent just as much time at Beach Front Books when she was a teenager, only then she was stocking shelves, ordering inventory, working the register—and, again, reading, but this time sitting on the stool behind the counter while waiting for her next customer.

God, it was good to be back. As hard as she could be on her mother for her unreasonable fears and idiosyncrasies, she couldn’t wait to see her. Until this moment, she hadn’t realized just how much she missed her mother. So what if Mary was almost agoraphobic with her unwillingness to leave her little bungalow a block away from the sea? She was always there, waiting to welcome Autumn home. Maybe Autumn had never had a father, or the little brother or sister she’d secretly longed for, but she was lucky enough to have the enduring love of a good mother.

“There it is.” She pointed to the bookstore as she slowed to look for a place to park.

“We’re not going to the beach house?” Caden asked, looking up from whatever he’d been doing on his phone.

“Not right now. First, we’re stopping to see Mimi and Aunt Laurie. Then we’ll take our stuff over to the house.”

A glance in the rearview mirror showed her his scowl. “I hope it won’t be too late to go to the beach,” he said.

“I’m sure we can manage to get there before dark,” she responded as she wedged her white Volvo SUV between a red convertible and a gray sedan and grabbed her purse.

Taylor spoke, causing her to pause with her hand on the door latch. “You already seem different.”

“In what way?” Autumn asked.

“Less uptight. Not so sad.”

“Coming here makes me happy,” she admitted.

“Then why were we going to skip it again?” Caden asked.

Autumn twisted around to look at him. “You know why.”

A pained expression claimed her daughter’s face. “Does this mean you’re letting go?”

“Of Dad? Of course she’s letting go,” Caden answered, the hard edge to his voice suggesting he considered the question to be a stupid one. “Dad’s dead.”

“Don’t say that!” Taylor snapped. “We don’t know it’s true. He could be coming back.”

“It’s been eighteen months, Tay,” Caden responded. “He would’ve come back by now if he could.”

“Stop it, both of you.” Autumn didn’t want them getting into an argument right before they saw her mother. They were at each other’s throats so often lately; it drove her crazy to constantly have to play referee. But she could hardly blame them. They’d lost their father, and they didn’t know how or why. And she had no explanation. “Life’s been hard enough lately,” she added. “Let’s not make it any harder.”

“Then you tell her,” Caden said. “Dad’s dead, and we have to move on. Right? Isn’t that the truth? Go ahead and say it—you are letting go.”

Was she? Is that what this trip signified? If not, how much longer should she hold on? And would holding on be best for them? She couldn’t imagine her kids would want to spend another eighteen months swallowed up by grief and consumed with seeking answers they may never find. Taylor was seventeen, going to be a senior and starting to investigate colleges. Caden was only a year behind her. Surely, they would prefer to look forward and not back.

Regardless, Autumn wasn’t sure she could continue to search, not like she had. She was exhausted—mentally and physically. She’d put everything she had into the past year and a half, and it hadn’t made a damn bit of difference. That was the most disheartening part of it.

“I’m continuing to hold out hope,” she said, even though everyone she’d talked to, including the FBI, insisted her husband must be dead. It was difficult to see the idyllic, two-parent upbringing she was trying to give her kids—something she’d never had herself—fall apart that quickly and easily, and the heartbreak, loneliness and frustration of looking for Nick, with no results, created such a downward spiral for her. She knew it had been just as painful for her children. That was why maybe she should let go—to provide the best quality of life for them as possible.

“What does that mean? Are you going to keep looking for him?” Caden pressed. “Is that how you’re going to spend the summer?”

He could tell something had changed, that coming here signified a difference, and he wanted to reach the bottom line. But Autumn wasn’t ready to admit that she’d failed. Not with as many times as she’d tried to comfort them by promising she’d have answers eventually.

She opened her mouth to try to explain what she was thinking in the gentlest possible way when she spotted her mother. Mary had come out of the store and was waving at them.

“There’s your grandmother,” she said.

Thankfully, her children let the conversation lapse and got out of the car.

“Hi, Mimi.” With his long strides, Caden reached Mary first. Although he wasn’t yet fully grown, he was already six-one. And Taylor was five foot ten. They were both tall, like their father.

Mary gave each of the kids a big hug and exclaimed about how grown-up they both were and how excited she was to see them before turning to Autumn.

“You’ve lost weight,” she murmured gently, a hint of worry belying her smile before they embraced.

“I’m okay, Mom.” Autumn could smell a hint of the bookstore on Mary’s clothes and realized that was another scent she’d never forget. It represented her childhood and all the great stories she’d read growing up. She’d once hoped to read every book in the store. She hadn’t quite made it, thanks to new releases and fluctuating inventory, but she’d read more books than most people. She still considered books to be a big part of her life. “It’s good to be home.”

“Laurie’s dying to see you. Let’s go in and say hello,” Mary said and held the door.

As soon as the bell sounded, Laurie hurried out from behind the register. “There you are! It’s a good thing you came when you did. I was afraid it would drive your mother crazy waiting for you. She’s been so anxious for you to arrive. We both have.”

Taylor allowed her aunt to give her an exuberant squeeze. “I’m glad we got to come this year. Where’s Uncle Chris?”

“Probably on the beach somewhere, painting. You know how he is once the weather warms up—just like a child, eager to get outdoors.”

They took a few minutes to visit the small section of the store dedicated to Christopher’s work so they could admire his latest paintings. Autumn was especially enamored with one he’d done of the bookstore that portrayed a child out front, hanging on to her mother with one hand and carrying a stack of books with the other. That child could’ve been her once upon a time. She almost wondered if his memory of her had inspired it, which was why she decided, if that painting didn’t sell before she left, she’d buy it herself and take it back to Tampa.

Fortunately, she had the money. As a corporate attorney, Nick had always done well financially. After the first few years of their marriage, which he spent finishing school, they’d rarely had to scrimp. But it was what he’d inherited when his father passed away that’d really set them up. After Sergey’s death, Autumn had quit working as a loan officer for a local bank and, for the past ten years, had focused on her family, her home, gardening and cooking. Her financial situation was also one of the reasons she rejected the idea that Nick might’ve left her for another woman, a possibility that had been suggested to her many, many times. Why would he leave his children, too, and walk away without a cent? Sure, they’d had their struggles, especially in recent years, when his work seemed to take more and more of his time and attention, but neither of them had ever mentioned separating.

“This is amazing,” she exclaimed as she continued to study the little girl in the painting. “I love Chris’s work.”

“The last original he donated to charity went for six thousand dollars,” Laurie announced proudly.

“Who bought it?” Autumn asked. If whoever it was lived in Sable Beach, chances were good she’d know him or her.

“Mike Vanderbilt, over at The Daily Catch. He was drunk when he got into a bidding war for it, and now it’s hanging in his restaurant. I think he’s glad to have it, but I imagine he also sees it as a reminder not to raise his paddle when he’s been drinking.”

They all laughed to think of the barrel-chested and good-natured Mike letting alcohol bring out his competitive nature.

“His wife must be doing well, then,” Autumn said. “She’s still in remission?”

Laurie shot Mary a surprised glance, and it was Mary who answered. “I’m afraid not. She was when he bought that painting, but they received word just a couple of months ago that Beth’s breast cancer has come back.”

“Oh no,” Autumn cried. Everyone knew the owners of The Daily Catch. They did a lot for the community. And it was her favorite restaurant. When she was home, she ate there all the time. “What’s her prognosis?”

“Not good. That’s why Quinn has moved home from that little town in upstate New York. He helps his father with the restaurant these days. I’m sure he’s also here to spend time with his mother before…well, before he has to say goodbye to her for good.”

“Quinn’s home?” Autumn said. She wasn’t expecting that; the mention of his name knocked her a little off-kilter. When he was a senior and she was a junior, she’d given him her virginity in the elaborate tree house that was in his backyard, even though he hadn’t been nearly as interested in being with her as she was him. And then he’d broken her heart by getting back together with his girlfriend, the same woman he married five years later. “So his wife and kids are here now, too?”

“No, he doesn’t have any kids,” Laurie said, chiming in again. “And he and Sarah—what was her maiden name?”

“Vizii,” Autumn supplied.

“Yes. Vizii. They divorced almost two years ago. You didn’t know?”

“How would I?” She’d seen nothing about it on social media, but then, Quinn had never been on social media, and she’d never been able to find Sarah, either—not that she’d checked recently because she hadn’t. “I haven’t seen him since he was working as a lifeguard at the beach after his first year of college and he had to swim out and save me from drowning.” She didn’t add that she’d faked the whole episode just to get his attention. She was mortified about that now and cringed at how obvious it must’ve been to him.

“I’m surprised the gossip didn’t reach you all the way down in Tampa,” Laurie said. “For a while, it was about the only thing anyone around here could talk about.”

But who would tell her? Her mother wasn’t much for gossip, which was ironic, considering she’d lived in Sable Beach for so long. The town where Autumn had been raised took talking about their friends and neighbors to a whole new level.

“Why would his divorce be such big news?” she asked. Besides being one of the most popular boys in school, Quinn had been handsome, athletic and at the top of his class—undoubtedly one of Sable Beach’s finest. But still. Divorce was so commonplace it was hardly remarkable anymore. And Quinn was thirty-nine. He’d been gone from this place—except for when he visited his folks—for twenty-one years. How could what was going on in his life be such a hot topic?

Laurie tilted her head toward Taylor and Caden in such a way that Autumn understood she was hesitant to speak in front of them. “There were some…extenuating circumstances. Have your mother tell you about it later.”

I want to hear,” Caden protested.

“Why? We don’t even know him.” Taylor jumped in before Autumn could respond, then Caden snapped at her to shut up and they started arguing again.

“Don’t make Mimi regret inviting us.” Autumn rolled her eyes to show how weary she was of this behavior.

“Should we go over and get you settled in?” Mary asked. “Laurie offered to close the store tonight, so I’m free to start dinner while you unpack.”

“Sure,” Autumn said. Once Caden and Taylor got to the beach, maybe they’d mellow out and fall into the same companionable rhythm they usually achieved when they came to Sable Beach.

Her mother’s house seemed the same, except that its shingle siding was now white instead of green. It had needed a fresh coat of paint, and the white looked clean and crisp. But as much as she loved the update, Autumn was relieved to find that nothing else had changed. Visiting Mary was like going back in time. Not many people could do that twenty years after they’d left home.

Because it was such a small cottage, Caden had to sleep on the couch, Taylor took Autumn’s old room next to Mary’s, and the three of them shared the only bathroom, which was off the hallway. Autumn slept above the detached garage, where she had her own bed and bath, thanks to Nick. Because he’d typically had to work when she brought the kids, he’d never spent more than a few days at a time in Sable Beach. That had caused more than a few arguments over the years, so she’d readily agreed when he’d insisted they have their own space for when he did come. She’d thought it might mean he’d accompany them more often, or stay a little longer when he did. It made no difference in the end, but he was the one who’d hired an architect to create the plans to finish off the top of the garage, even though it had been Autumn who’d picked out the finishes and colors.

A wave of melancholy washed over her as she left the kids with her mother to get settled in at the main house, let herself into the garage and climbed the narrow stairs at the back to the apartment, where she’d be living for the next few months, by herself. As often as she’d been here over the years, it felt strange to know that Nick would not be visiting. At times, she was still so lost without him.

“Where are you?” she whispered as she walked around, touching the things he’d touched. She’d come for Christmas without him, but she and Taylor had shared her old room in the house. They could do that for a week or so but not for three months—not without wanting to turn around and head straight home.

She stopped in front of the dresser, where her mother had put a picture of her family. She’d known her husband was getting involved in something secretive, that a friend who was with the FBI had recruited him for his knowledge of Ukraine. Because his parents had emigrated from there, he’d known the language, was familiar with the customs and still had a few relatives in the country. That made him useful in what had become a very troubled region.

Although he couldn’t tell her exactly what he was doing for the government, she guessed he was working in counterterrorism, probably trying to infiltrate various radical groups. She’d read that the FBI sometimes used civilians who were particularly adept with computers, or had some specific knowledge or ability, to assist them.

Maybe he’d become a full-fledged spy, and whoever was on the other side had discovered his activities. The FBI claimed they hadn’t sent him to Ukraine to begin with, but she’d discovered that he’d flown into Kyiv before disappearing and had no idea why he’d go there if not at their request. If he wanted to reacquaint himself with his uncle and cousins, he would’ve told her. Besides, the family he had there claimed they hadn’t heard from him. She’d traveled halfway across the world to speak to them face-to-face—not that the long, tiring trip had accomplished anything.

She lifted her suitcase onto the bed and was unpacking her clothes when her mother came up. “The kids would like to go to the beach before we have dinner, but I told them I’d rather they not go alone.”

“Mom, they’re sixteen and seventeen,” she said. “Kids that age go to the beach by themselves all the time.”

“Still. I don’t mind walking down with them.”

That was her mother’s polite way of saying she was afraid they wouldn’t be safe and felt the need to watch over them. Mary had always been overprotective. But Autumn managed not to say anything. What would it hurt for their Mimi to walk down to the water with them? There was no need to transfer the suffocation she’d felt to her children, especially because they’d had to put up with so much less of it. “Okay.”

“Would you like us to wait for you?”

“No, I’ll find you in a few minutes.”

With a nod, her mother turned to leave but paused before descending the stairs. “It can’t be easy for you to stay out here, knowing that Nick won’t be coming. Would you rather we make other arrangements, like we did at Christmas? Have you stay in the house with us?”

Unless Nick suddenly showed up, she’d have to brave it at some point, wouldn’t she? It might as well be now. “No. There’s not enough room. Taylor and I both need our space.”

“If you’re sure.”

“Mom?”

She looked up. “Yes?”

“Before you go, tell me what Laurie was referring to at the bookshop.”

“About…”

“Quinn and Sarah,” she said.

“Oh. No one really knows exactly what happened,” her mother said.

“There must’ve been a story circulating.” And she was eager to focus on something besides her own troubles for a change. She could see Nick’s rain boots in the corner of the room and knew there would probably come a time—in the not-too-distant future—when she would have to make the difficult decision about what to do with them.

She couldn’t even imagine that. But she had a whole houseful of his belongings in Tampa, and if he didn’t come back, she’d have to decide what to do with all of it. Should she box it up and put it in storage? Stubbornly continue to wait? And if so, for how long?

Her mother seemed as reluctant as ever to repeat gossip, but she must’ve understood that what’d happened to Quinn might create a good distraction, because she finally relented. “Sarah claims he was having an affair, which caused her to fly into a jealous rage and stab him.”

This was not what Autumn had expected. “Did you say stab him?”

Her mother frowned. “I’m afraid so.”

“But…he must be okay. Laurie said he was here, helping his father run the restaurant.”

“She didn’t hit anything vital, thank goodness. But I heard he spent a few days in the hospital, so his wounds weren’t superficial, either.”

Autumn whistled as she imagined how bad their marriage must’ve been for something like that to happen. “I thought they’d be happy together. They dated for so long before they got married. It’s not as if they didn’t know each other well.” She sank onto the bed next to her suitcase. “Did he admit to cheating?”

“Not that I know of.”

“But you think he did—cheat, I mean.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. Something had to have made her react so violently.”

Mary never gave the benefit of the doubt to a man. Autumn had noticed this before and assumed her father was to blame. Although Mary refused to talk about the past—went rigid as soon as Autumn mentioned her father—there were times, more of them as she got older, when she found herself wondering who he was and what he was like. Before Nick went missing, she’d told her mother that she was tempted to try to look him up, and Mary had been so appalled—that Autumn would have any interest in him when he was such a “bad person”—that she’d dropped the idea.

It was something she thought she might like to revisit, though. Times had changed. Nowadays, a simple DNA test could possibly tell her a great deal. And there were moments when she felt she should be allowed to fill in those blanks.

But she hated to proceed without her mother’s blessing. She owed Mary a degree of loyalty for being the parent who’d stuck with her.

Finished unpacking, she put her empty suitcase in the closet while trying to ignore Nick’s snorkel gear, which was also in there, changed into her bathing suit and cover-up, slipped on her flip-flops and grabbed her beach bag. She was on her way down the stairs when she heard her phone buzz with an incoming call.

Assuming it would be her mother or one of her children, wondering what was taking her so long, she dug it out of her bag so that she could answer. But according to Caller ID, the person attempting to reach her wasn’t a member of the family. It was Lyaksandro Olynyk, the Ukrainian private investigator she’d hired to look for Nick.

It was seven hours later in that part of the world. Why would he be calling her in the middle of the night?

 

Excerpted from The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak, Copyright © 2021 by Brenda Novak, Inc. Published by MIRA Books.

 

 


 





About the Author: 


Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a five-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader's Choice, the Bookseller's Best, the Bookbuyer's Best, and many other awards. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit www.brendanovak.com.
 
SOCIAL:
TWITTER: @Brenda_Novak
FB: @BrendaNovakAuthor
Insta: @authorbrendanovak 
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Monday, April 12, 2021

Blog Tour: Excerpt & Giveaway of Max and the Spice Thieves by John Peragine

Max and the Spice Thieves
John Peragine
(Secrets of the Twilight Djinn #1)
Publication date: April 20th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

When his mother goes missing, Max Daybreaker’s world is turned upside down. Luckily, a crew of Spice Pirates, led by the mysterious Captain Cinn, help Max on his dangerous mission across the three seas.

Along the way, an unlikely alliance aids in his search—a teenage warrior queen, a three-eyed seer, and an assassin spy.

Their journey takes them through treacherous lands while facing shapeshifting bears, an ancient witch, harpies, and the nightmarish Djinn, who will stop at nothing to enslave the world.

With every new challenge, Max unlocks the secrets of his unsettling past. Powers awaken within, forcing him to question everything he knows.

Is Max who he thinks he is? Only time and destiny will tell…

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Enjoy this excerpt:

“Ye must be Master Max. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Cornelius Cinn—captain of the Saucy Pig—at your service.” Cinn took off his hat briefly and bowed.

I stood paralyzed.

“Yer Max . . . Max Daybreaker, right?” asked Cinn as he straightened and took a step closer.

“Uh, yes, sir. But my mom . . . she told me not to talk to strangers.”

“Yes, yes. Sage advice. Yer mom is a very sharp woman, Master Max,” he said, looking around. “Might ye know where she be?”

Before I could answer, I heard Tully nicker. The tallest and most powerful-looking man I had ever seen approached with Tully in tow. He wore a thick leather tunic, and his britches looked to be made from waxed sailcloth. He had a bald head, and his skin was the color of moonless midnight. He stood a good foot taller than Captain Cinn and was covered in thick muscles that looked like taut rope. I backed up in the wagon a bit and searched for anything I could use to protect myself.

“Oh, good show, Piers, good show. Any problems?”

“No, Captain,” Piers replied in a deep, rich voice.

“Well, Max, yer safe, and we have yer horse. Now, where be ye mother?” Cinn asked.

“You know my mom?” I squinted at Cinn. How could such a strange man know my ordinary mother?

“Aye. She was supposed to meet me at the Grog Blossom hours ago. A dreadful place that be. Their food is bland, makin’ me wonder if they cut old potatoes to look like fish. Awful, don’t ye think?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never eaten there,” I replied.

“Of course ye haven’t. That’s no place for a young boy. It’s full of all kinds of rogues, even . . . pirates.” Cinn grinned, showing his pearly-white teeth with a top front tooth capped in gold.

“Pirates, yes . . . Mom mentioned pirates. She said we were going to sail on a pirate ship.”

“She’d be correct. The Saucy Pig is the terror of the high seas, lad.”

I stepped off the wagon for a closer look at Cinn. “So, you’re a Spice Pirate?” I asked, looking him over.

“Aye, but don’t say that so loud,” whispered Captain Cinn. “I’ve a reputation to keep in these parts. I can’t be seen helping boys and their ponies. Why I’d be a laughingstock.”

I bristled, puffing up to show I wasn’t some little kid. I was almost thirteen, and though I didn’t have a beard yet, I was practically a man.

“I don’t know how much help I can be. Mom told me to wait for her, then she left. I knew I should have gone with her. She was meeting with a . . . Well, I guess she was meeting you. But that was hours ago when the sun was still down.”

Tears clouded my vision, and so I squeezed my eyes shut. The strange sensation I had felt earlier returned—a pressure under my ribs, except this time heat rose through the center of my body. It was as if I’d stepped out of the shade into direct sunlight—waves of energy pulsed through my arms and legs. My fear of losing my mother became desperate anger.

I opened my eyes to see Captain Cinn gripping his throat. His eyes were red and bulging, and his skin started turning a muddy purple.

 

Author Bio:

John Peragine is an author of over fourteen books. The Secrets of the Twilight Djinn series was written as a bedtime story for his son Max to cope with medical issues he was facing as a little boy. John is a full-time ghostwriter who lives with his son, wife, and a menagerie of animals on his vineyard overlooking the Mississippi River.

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Blog Tour: Excerpt of Before Summer Ends by Susan Mallery

We are super excited to be a part of the excerpt tour for the latest from Susan Mallery,   This is stop #1.  Make sure to check out the other blogs over the week to read a continuation of this sneak peek.

Author: Susan Mallery 
Publication Date: April 27, 2021

A long, hot summer with her secret crush…
What could possibly go wrong?
Nissa Lang knows Desmond Stilling is out of her league. He’s a CEO, she’s a teacher. He’s gorgeous, she’s…not. So when her house-sitting gig falls through and Desmond offers her a place to stay for the summer, she vows not to reveal how she’s felt about him since their first—and only—kiss.
Desmond should’ve known better than to bring temptation into his house. He decided long ago that his best friend’s sister was too sweet, too good, for him. She deserves a guy who can give his heart. For her sake, he’s stayed away. But as her laughter breathes life into his lonely mansion, he’s not sure how long he’ll be able to resist.
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.


Purchase Links


Excerpt #1

“Darling, we’re pregnant!”

“We are?” Nissa Lang asked, somewhat confused by the “we,” as well as the news of the pregnancy.

Mimi was in her midforties and as far as Nissa knew, Mimi and her husband hadn’t even been try­ing. Not that Nissa could be sure about that. Her re­lationship with Mimi was casual at best. Nissa was going to house-sit Mimi’s grand mansion while the happy couple spent the summer in a different man­sion in Norway. Not only would Nissa get paid a princely sum for things like flushing the many toilets and making sure the gardeners (yes, plural) did their thing, the money was going directly into her I’m-turning-thirty-and-to-prove-my-life-isn’t-a-disaster, I’m-taking-myself-to-Italy-for-three-weeks-next-summer fund.

Knowing she had a place to live for July and Au­gust, Nissa had rented out her own small condo, to add even more money to her fund. Only the sink­ing feeling in her stomach told her that maybe she was about to get some bad news in that department.

Mimi laughed. “I know it’s a shock. We’re stunned. We didn’t think we were ever going to be able to have children, but I’m pregnant and it’s wonderful. I’m calling because the baby means a change in plans. Between my age and the previous miscarriages, I’m a high-risk pregnancy, and travel is out of the ques­tion. So we’ll be staying home this summer. I hope you understand.”

Yup, there it was. Disappointment on a stick, stab­bing her right in her travel dreams.

“Of course,” Nissa said politely, because that was how she’d been raised, but on the inside, she was pouting and stomping her feet. “Congratulations. You must be thrilled.”

“Thank you. We’re beyond happy. Take care. Bye.”

With that, Mimi hung up and Nissa sank onto the sofa. She looked at the open boxes scattered around her small condo, the ones she was filling up with personal items so the charming young couple who had rented her place for two months would have room for their own things. She glanced at the calendar she’d tacked on the wall, with the date she was supposed to be out circled in red.

About Susan Mallery


No.1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives – family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur.

Connect with Susan
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Excerpt Tour:
Sunday, April 11th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, April 12th: Books and Spoons
Monday, April 12th: Seaside Book Nook
Tuesday, April 13th: Jathan & Heather
Wednesday, April 14th: Palmers Page Turners
Thursday, April 15th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm
Friday, April 16th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Saturday, April 17th: The Lit Bitch
Sunday, April 18th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Monday, April 19th: Novel Gossip
Tuesday, April 20th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Wednesday, April 21st: The OC Book Girl
Thursday, April 22nd: Romantic Reads and Such
Friday, April 23rd: Books and Bindings
Friday, April 23rd: View from the Birdhouse
Saturday, April 24th: What is That Book About
Sunday, April 25th: Books Cooks Looks
Monday, April 26th: Nurse Bookie
 
Instagram features:
Monday, April 26th: @megsbookclub
Monday, April 26th: @savbeebooks
Tuesday, April 27th: @nsiabblog
Tuesday, April 27th: @tamsterdam_reads
Wednesday, April 28th: @acericolalife
Wednesday, April 28th: @workreadsleeprepeat
Thursday, April 29th: @suethebookie
Thursday, April 29th: @readerofthewrittenword
Friday, April 30th: @everlasting.charm
Friday, April 30th: @stumblingintobooks
Saturday, May 1st: @a_bookish_dream
Saturday, May 1st: @what.ems.reading
Sunday, May 2nd: @readswithrosie
Tuesday, May 4th: @lovelyplacebooks
 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt of Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis

 


Author: Wendy Francis
ISBN: 9781525895982
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Sip cocktails in the lounge, bask in the summer sun by the pool, and experience the drama of the rich and famous firsthand in Wendy Francis’s newest novel, SUMMERTIME GUESTS (Graydon House; April 6, 2021; $16.99 USD). With its rich history and famous guests, The Seafarer is no stranger to drama. But the bustle at the social hotspot reaches new heights one weekend in mid-June when a woman falls tragically to her death from the tenth floor, unwittingly intertwining her life with the lives of the hotels’ guests and staff.

Claire O’Dell, reeling from the loss of her husband and possibly her job, has gone to The Seafarer for a little vacation…and to reconnect with a long-lost-love.  Jean-Paul, the hotel’s manager, is struggling to keep his marriage and new family afloat. Bride-to-be Riley is at the hotel to plan her wedding with her fiancé ... or, she’s at the hotel with her fiancé while her mother-in-law tells them how to plan their wedding. Jason, whose romantic getaway with his girlfriend has not exactly gone the way he'd hoped and instead has him facing questions about his past that he can't bring himself to answer.

As their truths and secrets come to light, the lives of these four will collide in tragic, beautiful ways none of them could have expected that will teach them about the love they deserve and the strength they possess to change their lives for the better.
My thoughts:

I think I am going to be a dissenting voice on Summertime Guests.  When I was done reading, all I could think was it was fine.  The book follows four different characters who are at the Seafarer Hotel in Boston on the day that a woman plunges to her death from one of the balconies.  We also get flashbacks of before that day to give more context to each of the characters reason for being at the hotel. 

I guess for me, this was more of a "slice of life" book than anything else.  I mean that day does help each character somewhat resolve their issues, but I was also let down by this. For example, one of the characters ends up getting her own way regarding her future plans.  It made me wonder if she would have been ultimately better off sticking up for what she wanted rather than the convenience of this woman's death.  It isn't revealed who died until the end, but it isn't hard to figure out.  The "twists" were a bit predictable.  Then, the book just ends.  I would have liked to see the further after effects of what happened that day.  

Would I recommend it?  Sure.  I mean it was well written and a fairly easy read.  I just wanted more from the book.



Here is a sneak peek:

Friday June 11th, 2021


ONE



It wasn’t as if Riley could have anticipated what would happen later that day. None of them could. Because when you’re at a tasting for your wedding reception at one of Boston’s ritziest hotels, trying to decide between crab cakes or lobster quiches, no one thinks of anything bad happening. Or at least, this is what Riley tells herself later. Why she—and no one else there—could possibly be to blame.

At the moment, though, Riley is sitting at a table by the window, half-listening to her future mother-in-law while she sips gazpacho the color of marigolds. Something about wanting to know if the outdoor terrace can be transformed into a dance floor, assuming the weather cooperates. If Riley were asked to gauge her interest in planning her own wedding, she would characterize it as mild at best. Her only requirement being that she and Tom marry in July—and that the flowers are pale pink peonies from Smart Stems, the shop where she has worked for the past three years.

It was Tom who’d suggested the Seaport District for their reception, Boston’s new up-and-coming neighborhood, and Riley had happily agreed. It’s an easy spot for guests to travel to, and the setting is over-the-top gorgeous with views of both the city and the water. Not to mention the promise of fresh seafood—an almost impossible request if they were to wed in Riley’s hometown of Lansing, Michigan, where everything remains hopelessly landlocked.

But she hadn’t counted on Tom’s mother wanting to be so, well, involved. Maybe it’s the fact that Riley’s own mother passed away a few short years ago, and so Marilyn feels compelled to step up and fill her mother’s shoes. A retired schoolteacher, her mother-in-law-to-be still tackles each new day with the necessary energy for a classroom of boisterous second-graders, a gusto which she now seems to be funneling into her son’s nuptials. At first, Riley was grateful, but while she sits listening to the hotel’s wedding coordinator drone on about the Seafarer’s rich history, she’s beginning to feel as though she has stepped into one of those horrible, never-ending lines at Disney for a ride she doesn’t particularly want to go on.

Riley is well aware that the Seafarer is one of the most coveted venues for weddings, especially in light of its recent renovations. It’s no secret that New England’s most glamorous, its most fashionable clamor to stay here and that the Seafarer’s well-appointed rooms are typically booked months in advance. She should be grateful that they’re even considering it as an option. Rumor has it that everyone from Winston Churchill to Taylor Swift has been a guest (as the saying goes, if you want to appear in the society pages of the Boston Globe, then spend a few hours at the Seafarer’s exclusive summer cocktail hour from four to six). As for out-of-towners hoping to take in the full scene that Boston can be—with its attendant snobbishness and goodwill and weird accents wrapped into one—the Seafarer, Riley understands, puts you in the heart of it.

Not that she has anything against tradition, but if it were up to her alone, she would probably choose a smaller, more modest setting, a wedding with no more than fifty guests. There’d be a justice of the peace and rows of white chairs lining the harbor, the wind whipping her veil in front of her face. Naturally, she’d want a reception afterward, but Riley counts herself as the type of girl who’d be equally content with trays of fish tacos and margaritas under a tent as with oysters on the half shell served in a tony hotel restaurant.

“I can’t reveal everyone,” the coordinator is saying in hushed tones, “but it’s no secret that some of Boston’s greatest legends have celebrated their nuptials with us.” Riley shoots Tom a sideways glance, as if to say Is she for real? but her fiancé’s chin rests firmly in his hand, his attention rapt. He’s eating up every word.

“Well, Gillian, it’s all very impressive,” Tom’s mother says, slipping her reading glasses back into her pocketbook after a review of the menu. Her hair is pulled back in a severe ponytail, her lips coated in her trademark color, fuchsia. “It’s no wonder Boston’s finest flock here for their special occasions. The view alone is to die for.” She gestures toward the expanse of crystalline water out the window, the romantic outline of the city’s financial district in the distance. “Kids, wouldn’t it be something to come back here every year to toast your anniversary?”

Marilyn shoots Riley a wink, as if the two of them are in cahoots to convince Tom that this is the spot, meant to be. There’s no need to point out that she and Tom could never afford such a venue. They already discussed it over dinner the other night when Marilyn revealed that she’d gone ahead and booked an appointment for a tasting at the Seafarer on Friday and how she hoped Riley wouldn’t mind. “I don’t want you to worry about money, dear,” she instructed. “Tom’s dad and I would be honored to host. Tom is our only child after all.”

And Riley had breathed a tiny sigh of relief while swallowing her pride. Not because she wants an extravagant wedding but because it means that she and Tom can now channel the nest egg they’ve been building toward a mortgage on a new home instead of toward an elaborate one-day celebration. It’s a much more sensible use of their money, and Riley, having grown up poor verging on destitute, is nothing if not sensible.

Can she really imagine herself celebrating her marriage here, though? Tom keeps missing her not-so-thinly veiled comments about the food on the menu, which leans toward the bite-size variety that he hates (precisely because it never fills him up), but he has said nothing. Maybe he’s just being polite. Riley quickly scans the room for other future newlyweds, but most of today’s diners appear to be here for business lunches—buttoned-up men in suits and women in sharp blazers with silk shifts underneath. A few couples, perhaps away for a romantic long weekend, and a group of older women sharing a bottle of wine, sit wedged into the corners. It’s a lovely space, but is it too lovely?

She shifts in her seat and tries to picture her dad here, wearing his familiar old sports coat that’s nearly worn through at the elbows, his khaki pants and penny loafers, pretending to feel comfortable when he wouldn’t know which fork to reach for, which glass to use.

When Marilyn turns toward to her and says, “Don’t you agree, Riley?” Riley feels her cheeks flushing because she hasn’t been paying attention. She has no idea what her future mother-in-law is referring to.

“I’m sorry. What was the question again?” She’s slightly annoyed that Tom can’t—or won’t—decide on a few things himself or at the very least rein his mother in. Especially because they talked about this very thing—not letting Marilyn take over the tasting—last night! They’re discussing the appetizers, apparently, and all Riley knows is that she doesn’t want crudités. If there’s one rule she’s abiding by, it’s that her wedding menu will include only those foods that she can pronounce.

It seems there should be a box on a list that they can check for the Standard Reception—something not overtly cheap but not insanely expensive, either. Tom squeezes her knee beneath the table, though it’s unclear if it’s meant as encouragement or as a reprimand for her not giving this conversation one hundred percent. What Riley really wants to know is this: How can she avoid attending any more tastings with Marilyn? Should she just agree to the Seafarer right now and be done with it?

“Mom was wondering,” Tom says in complete seriousness, “if you thought it would be better to have cold and hot hors d’oeuvres or just cold since the wedding will be in July?”

“Oh, right.” Riley pretends to consider her options. “Good point. It’s bound to be hot, so I wonder—”

But somewhere between the words so and wonder, a loud whistle of air followed by a deafening blast socks through the room like a fist, sending Riley to grab the table and Tom to reach for her hand. Marilyn’s fork drops from her elongated fingers, clattering onto her plate, and the room seems to shake for a brief moment. There are shouts followed by an eerie hush while the dining room settles back into itself. Riley watches the other diners who begin to mumble to each other across their tables, asking if they’re okay and spinning in their seats to better determine the source of the blast. The woman at the adjacent table hovers on the edge of her chair, as if considering diving underneath the table.

When Riley glances over at Gillian, she looks equally alarmed and as surprised as the rest of them, which means this isn’t some kind of bizarre emergency testing by the hotel. Whatever they heard was real. Significant. Riley’s eyes slide toward Tom, then Marilyn, whose face has turned a shade as pale as milk, then back to Tom.

“What on earth was that?” Marilyn gasps, her voice an octave too high, her fingers fluttering to her necklace. It’s a silver chain studded with azure stones, the kind of jewelry that Riley has come to associate with women of a certain age.

“I’m not sure.” Gillian’s voice cracks. “It almost sounded like some kind of explosion, didn’t it?” And then, as if remembering her wedding-coordinator cap, she rushes to reassure them. “But I’m sure it’s nothing like that. Maybe a blown transformer?

But both Riley and Tom exchange glances because no matter how ill-versed they are in loud noises, that definitely was not a transformer. It wasn’t so much a popping sound as a crash, she thinks. Did the massive chandelier in the lobby fall? Did it come from the kitchen? Construction work outside maybe? It’s hard to tell.

“Not to be overly dramatic, but it almost felt like an earthquake,” Riley says. “The table actually shook, I think.” And although she understands that the curiosity sparked inside her is somehow inappropriate, she wants an explanation. “Whatever it was,” she says, lowering her voice, “it sounded awfully close.”

“Yes, very close,” Marilyn agrees, still fiddling with her necklace.

And that’s when the screams begin. Not from the kitchen at the back of the restaurant, not from the lobby, but from outside, just beyond the elegant bay windows peering out onto the terrace that fronts the water, the ocean seemingly close enough to dip a hand into. Riley’s glance swivels toward the small crowd that’s beginning to form outside near the firepit and hot tub.

“If you’ll excuse me?” Gillian says, as if emerging from a fog, and rises awkwardly to her feet before heading toward the row of windows.

Riley’s gaze follows her, and suddenly, she, too, feels compelled to get up, as if an invisible string tugs her toward the window. She hurries forward and angles around Gillian for a better view. But when she does, she immediately regrets her decision. Because it’s not a collapsed scaffolding or an awning or even construction work that has caused the sudden shaking, the loud blast.

But a woman, lying facedown on the terrace, several yards beyond the window.

The body lies completely still, the woman’s legs scissored like a rag doll’s, her left leg angled upward awkwardly. A curtain of muddy blond hair shields her face from view. Riley watches while a few bystanders move hesitantly toward the woman, as if afraid of startling her, until someone kneels down and grasps her wrist, presumably to check for a pulse. A man in blue running shorts and a Red Sox T-shirt yells for someone to call 9-1-1.

To Riley, it looks as if the woman was perhaps reaching for a glass that slipped from her hand, her arms still outstretched above her head. Her body is long, lean, even elegant. Riley holds her breath, waiting, and feels Gillian stiffen beside her when a youngish man, nicely tanned and formally dressed, parts the crowd and gently encourages everyone to take a few steps back. He assures them that an ambulance is on the way and speaks with an authority that suggests his importance.

“That’s Jean-Paul, our manager,” Gillian says quietly as they watch him crouch down next to the woman and brush her hair away from her face.

Just then, a young man in the crowd throws his hand to his mouth and rushes off, and Riley stands on her tiptoes for a better view. And that’s when she sees it, too—the wild splash of bright red she hadn’t noticed earlier that lies at the far edge of the woman’s hair. And in that awful moment, Riley—and everyone else watching—understands. An image of a woman in her yellow summer dress, cartwheeling through the air from somewhere up high, perhaps her hotel balcony, spirals through her mind.

“Oh, my God.” It hits her all at once, a hollow pit forming in her stomach.

“Jesus,” says Tom, who has come up beside her to rest a hand on her shoulder. “She’s not moving.”

“No.”

It’s obvious to them both, but somehow still needs to be said, as if by acknowledging it aloud, the woman might hear their words through the open window, might somehow will herself to move an inch, if only to give them a sign—a flutter of a hand, the shifting of a foot—that she’s going to be all right.

But her body remains completely, horribly still.






Excerpted from Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis, Copyright © 2021 by Wendy Francis

Published by Graydon House Books




Author Bio:
 

Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of the novels The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good IntentionsThree Good Things, and Best Behavior. Her essays have appeared in Good HousekeepingThe Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR's Cognoscenti. A proud stepmom of two grown-up children, she lives outside Boston with her husband and eleven-year-old son.