Saturday, December 31, 2022

Kari's Top 22 of 2022


I had a really good reading year and it was hard to pick the top 10 "5 star" books.  I just happened to have 22, so here they are in no particular order.  What's in your top list of the year?

Becoming Family by Elysia Whisler
Unforgiven by Rebecca Zanetti
Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy
The Honeymoon Cottage by Lori Foster
Crazy Wicked Love by Melissa Foster
The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

Beach Wedding by Michael Ledwidge
The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery
The Bachelor Bargain by Maddison Michaels
Edward and Annie by  
The Lying Club by Annie Ward
The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence

Model Behavior
by Tricia Lynne
The Collectors by Lorien Lawrence
UNSUB by Meg Gardiner
These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall
Never Lie by Freida McFadden
The Sorority Murders by Allison Brennan

Ruin the Friendship by S.A. Clayton
Cold Silence by Toni Anderson
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Daphne by Josh Malerman

Friday, December 30, 2022

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt from The Siren's Scream by Thomas White


Author: Thomas White
Publisher: Savvy Books
Pages: 492
Genre: Mystery/Horror
Release Date: October 5, 2022
Publisher: Savvy Books
Soft Cover: ISBN: ‎ 978-1088067819; 480 pages; $21.14
Barnes & Noble
Purchase your copy at the author’s website
An old mansion sits atop of a cliff, overlooking the ocean, in Santa Cruz, CA. A young realtor, Darcy Wainwright, manages to sell the dilapidated old house to Henry Childs, an obese nebbish who is obsessed with the property. In the backyard is a pool. Not an ordinary pool but a giant tide pool. In the tide pool is a siren with an evil agenda for revenge. 
The Thornton Mansion was a talisman for the death and mystery that surrounded it. Unoccupied for years until Henry Childs was summoned by the house. As directed, he reached out to unsuspecting, novice realtor Darcy Wainwright. Darcy finds herself intricately involved with the house, its history and the haunting tide pool that filled the backyard. It was the pool that beckoned her, and it was the pool that would decide if she lives or dies. The Siren’s Scream. Available on Amazon.

My thoughts:

I was very pleasantly surprised with The Siren's Scream.  It's really a book that is best going into it not knowing much.  It's a slow burn in the beginning, but things begin to quickly fall into place and turn horrific. I was sucked in and read it in one sitting.  The writer did a great job of creating a very creepy atmosphere at the house. He created characters I was genuinely rooting for.  There were also some great twists and reveals.  If you are looking for a good old fashioned scary horror novel, I highly recommend this one.

Book Excerpt:

Henry Childs led a life of total inconsequence. He had no friends, no hobbies, no guilty pleasures. He had spent his thirty-eight years in the space behind his mother’s aggression, lacking the courage to reach for anything more than this pitiless world deigned to dish to him.                                                             
Edith Childs screamed at Henry from the other room, “Henry, I’m bored. I want to go for a drive.”                                                             
Henry’s face scrunched in disdain, and the folds in his ample neck turned red. There was no denying her, not that he had ever had the backbone to attempt anything so drastic. Henry Childs had spent his thirty-eight years in the space behind his mother’s aggression, lacking the courage to reach for anything more than this pitiless world deigned to dish to him.                                                 
With a stoic exhale, he paused his video game, gulped down his cinnamon roll, lifted his considerable bulk out of the comfort of his reclining chair, and began the routine that would eventually get his mother from her bedroom to her wheelchair and into the car.       
He grabbed her yellow sweater to be sure that she would stay warm.     
“Henry, I’m not a child. I know if I’m cold or not.”             
He held up the cardigan and attempted to help her into it.                                           
“I can dress myself, thank you.”                                
Then there was the transfer from her sitting chair to her wheelchair.                                       
“For goodness sakes, Henry, you would think this was the first time you’ve ever done this. Move the chair closer. I’m not an acrobat.”                                              
...the parade out to the porch.                  
“Henry, don’t scrape the wall. You’re always so careless. We have gouges up and down the whole hallway.”                                         
...down the ramp.                           
“Don’t go so fast. Are you trying to launch me into outer space?”                                              
...across the walkway toward the car.                                                     
“Do you have to hit every bump on the walk? Wait, go back, I think you missed one.”      
...then finally into the car.                                            
“Be careful of my head. I don’t want to lose what sense I have left.”                         
By the time the car door was closed, with his disintegrating mother safely ensconced inside, Henry had sweat running down his forehead and was breathing hard. His double chins were dripping from each crevice, and his shirt was beginning to stain from the accumulating moisture. He dropped her chair into the trunk, wiped his brow on his sleeve, and embraced his final moments of silence before he opened the door and plopped behind the steering wheel of his Nissan Murano.

About the Author
Thomas White began his career as an actor. Several years later he found himself as an Artistic Director for a theatre in Southern California and the winner of several Drama-Logue and Critics awards for directing. As Tom’s career grew, he directed and co-produced the world tour of “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells”. The show toured for over two years, was translated into seven different languages and seen by over a million children. Tom served as President and Creative Director for Maiden Lane Entertainment for 24 years and worked on many large-scale corporate event productions that included Harley Davidson, Microsoft, Medtronic Diabetes, and dozens of others. The Siren’s Scream is Tom’s second novel that follows up Justice Rules which was nominated as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2010 Literary contest.

Tom’s latest book is the mystery/horror, The Siren’s Scream.
Visit his website at or connect with him at Twitter and Facebook.

Sponsored By:

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Books I DNF'd in December

The Weight of Blood
:  I read this book already.  It's titled Carrie.  I mean I got about 30% in and it's a blatant rip-off of the Stephen King novel.  Except, he did it better. I don't recommend this one and had no interest in finishing it.

Fairy Tale
:  Speaking of Stephen King.  It's clear the author I loved years ago is not the same author writing today.  This book was SO boring.  I read about 40% and literally nothing happened.  I'm officially done with Mr. King and his books.

:  I got about 20% in and realized I could not stay in the mind of Hannah any more.  She was obnoxious and insufferable.  There are too may books out there to waste my time.

The Bequest
:  Yet another bore fest with an unlikable main character. She made poor and weird choices.  I got about 40% in and found I didn't care anymore.  It wasn't for me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

December Mini Musings

M for MurderI was so bored listening to this book.  I'm genuinely surprised I finished it.  The twist at the end was fine. it just took too long to get there.  I know this takes place in the 90s, but the over the top sexism from Rebecca's colleagues was a bit much.  I mean I know it existed, but every male character in this book is a sexist.  I kept rolling my eyes.  I don't think I'll read the sequel.

Vanishing Hour :  This is a romantic suspense.  From what I can tell it's a stand alone.  However, I could see it continuing as a series with some of the side characters.  I enjoyed this one.  The characters were interesting.  I loved the relationship that developed between Ava and Grant.  I also thought the mystery was enjoyable and was not easy to figure out.  I definitely recommend this one. 

:  I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book.  The mystery was OK  but kind of predictable.   However, the romance between Sharpe and Donovan was meh.  There was too little communication about their feelings.  I just wasn't excited for it and would have been fine had they gone their separate ways.  I may read the next one.  

Don't Lie to Me:  I really did not like this book.  It felt like the author didn't know what tone the book should take.  It was at times serious but then would feel like a cozy mystery, then switch to a rom com.  The solution was ridiculous and I laughed at how it ended up not being that big of a deal in the end.  No mention of how the kids reacted to the reveal of the killer.  Instead, let's just brush it off and put in a new calendar for the kids various activities.  Really?  I won't continue with the series.

:  This is definitely a middle grade horror that I would have loved in middle school.  The three main characters were misfits and come together once they discover they have similar abilities.  The growing friendship between the trio was fun to watch.  The story was creepy and the danger was just enough to make it middle grade scary..  I do recommend this one.  

The Christmas Murder Game:  I didn't love this one.  I was hoping for a good closed room - stranded msytery.  It's been done and written better.  I didn't care about any of the characters.  The villain was so obvious from the beginning.  I started this 3 times before I finally finished it.  I should have taken it as a sign and DNF'd.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Review: Cold Deceit by Toni Anderson

Author: Toni Anderson
Publisher: Toni Anderson Inc.
Publication date: December 2022

When forensic anthropologist Zoe Miller stumbles across a murder victim in the blisteringly hostile Sonoran Desert, she triggers a chain of events that puts her in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer.

FBI HRT operator Seth Hopper is on secret assignment near the Mexican border when he suddenly finds himself on a rescue mission. The former Navy SEAL is ordered to protect Zoe, whether she likes it or not, which sets them off on a cross-country journey back to Virginia.

Zoe has good reason not to trust a man like Seth, but there is no denying the scorching heat that flares between them, hotter than the desert sun. Can Zoe find justice for the murdered woman? Or will the killers close in to destroy them both…

Cold Deceit is the second book in the Cold Justice: Most Wanted series.  This one involves Seth and Zoe.  Zoe's job as a forensic anthropologist lands her in hot water with a drug cartel boss.  Seth Hopper happens to be on a mission in the area and ends up rescuing Zoe.  Turns out she is the daughter of the vice President and Seth is tasked to getting her across the country in one piece.

I am a big fan of this author's books and this one was no exception.  I devoured the book. I was looking for a good romantic suspense and this hit the spot.  It was fast paced with scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.  I loved the relationship that developed between Zoe and Seth.  There was definitely a lack of communication and I was rooting for them to figure things out.  The epilogue was really sweet.  I don't want to spoil the plot, so you'll have to read it.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Blog Tour: Excerpt from Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver

Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver Banner

Chaos at Carnegie Hall

by Kelly Oliver

December 5 - 30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver

Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in the Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane Mystery series opener.

Can Fiona catch a killer and find a decent cup of tea before her mustache wax melts?

1917. New York.

Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?

From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!

And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.

When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.

But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby…

If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery
Published by: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 298
ISBN: 9781804831564
Series: The Fiona Figg Mysteries
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

* * *

Inside, the cabin was the opposite of Hugo Schweitzer’s. Whereas the German’s room was disorderly and repulsive, this man’s berth was tidy and attractive. In fact, it hardly looked occupied. The bed was made in a neat military style. There wasn’t an article of clothing nor a personal item in sight. A faint scent of pine and citrus graced the room. Like a familiar embrace, the uniform order and pleasing smell put me at ease.

Hugo Schweitzer’s disgusting mess had allowed clues to remain hidden in plain sight. This man’s neatness required clever hiding places. Where would I hide a secret document in this room? Under the mattress? In the wardrobe? Sewn inside an article of clothing?

I crossed the room. Getting to the wardrobe was considerably easier than it had been in Schweitzer’s clutter. When I opened the wardrobe, a waft of pine and citrus caressed my nostrils again. I thought of Archie. When would I see him again?

Concentrate, Fiona. Now was not the time to behave like a lovesick schoolgirl.

Two neat suits hung on hangers, spaced apart like sentries guarding a gate. One was a uniform. A British uniform. Could this traitor be in the British army? The other was a black evening suit. Whatever the blackguard was wearing under that trench coat constituted his third and final outfit. There were no more.

Standing to attention at the bottom of the wardrobe were two tall black boots. I bent down to get a closer look. Inside a boot would make a decent hiding place.

“Looking for something?” a man’s voice boomed from behind me.

I gasped and squeezed my eyes shut tight.

If only I were wearing my maid’s costume—although what maid would be cleaning at this time of night? I should have changed into Harold the helpful bellboy. At least then I’d be dressed as a man. As it was, I was wearing a flimsy evening gown and as vulnerable as a lamb in a ship full of wolves. Did I dare turn around and face my accuser?

“Did you find it?” The voice was closer now… and softer… and familiar.

Good heavens. I whipped around and practically flew into his arms. “Archie.”

He chuckled. “I should have known I’d find you breaking into my room.” He pulled me into an embrace. “Fiona. Dear Fiona.” He kissed the top of my head.

I buried my head in his shoulder. Ahhh. The scent of pine and citrus… and those horrible Kenilworth cigarettes. The scent of Lieutenant Archie Somersby.

My heart was racing. From being scared out of my wits, or from being in Archie’s embrace, I didn’t know. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same.” He held me tighter.

“You, first.” I inhaled his familiar presence.

“I will tell you, but only because it’s necessary.” He pulled out of the embrace and held me out at arm’s length. “It’s crucial that you don’t expose me.”

“Expose you?” I had to censor my imagination. His earnest green eyes framed by those dark lashes and that wild lock of chestnut hair falling across his forehead made it deuced difficult.

“I’m on an important mission.” He fortified his countenance with a steely gaze. “You mustn’t let on that you know me. In fact, you should stay away from me.” He pulled a gold pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket and glanced at it.

I pulled my arm out of his grip. “Does your mission involve Hugo Schweitzer?” My tone was pained, but I couldn’t help it. I wished my feelings for him weren’t so strong. After all, I hardly knew him. Still, I knew he worked for British Intelligence, despite Fredrick Fredricks’s accusations to the contrary. Afterall, who was more trustworthy? A German spy or a British soldier, an especially attractive one too?

Archie tilted his head and gave me a quizzical look. “How did you know?”

“I saw you together earlier on deck.” Without a doubt, the trench coat and fedora Archie was wearing, along with his sleek silhouette and graceful gait, were identical to those of my mysterious compatriot and Hugo Schweitzer’s clandestine companion.

He laughed. “I should have known that was you watching us.” He kissed me on the cheek. “Fiona, you’re an ace. I’ve never met a girl quite like you.” His eyes danced mischievously.

The way he was laughing, I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered. Wait a blooming minute. “Did you forget something?” I’d seen that amused expression before. “Why did you return to your cabin?”

“To catch you in the act, love.” Archie grinned.

“So, you saw me in the corridor?”

He raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Afraid so.”

I punched his shoulder. “And instead of saying anything, you pulled this trick?”

“I’m sorry.” He intercepted my hand and brought it to his lips. “Can you forgive me?”

I pulled out of his grip. “Only if you can tell me about Mr. Schweitzer and the chemists’ war.”

“You know I can’t do that.” He sighed. “It’s classified.”

“What does the war have to do with aspirin, the headache remedy?”

He led me to the bed, sat down, and patted the bedcover, inviting me to sit too.

My cheeks flamed. It was only then that I realized I was alone in a gentleman’s room… after midnight, no less. Dilly Knox’s words echoed through my head. “Our Fiona will do anything for King and country, don’t you know.” That only strengthened my resolve. I was on official business and not a romantic getaway.

I took a seat on the bed and tucked my gown tightly around my thighs. “You were going to tell me about aspirin?”

“You’re nothing if not persistent.” Archie smiled and put his arm around my shoulders.

I scooted to the head of the bed and out of his reach. “Aspirin?”

He shook his head. “You really are quite a girl.”

I folded my arms over my chest and glared at him.

“Righto.” His smiled faded. “Aspirin is made from a chemical called phenol.”

Phenol. I’d heard Hugo Schweitzer mention it. And phenol was in the letter from the Kaiser. The Kaiser’s letter. Should I tell Archie about the letter? Or report it to Captain Hall first? “What does phenol have to do with the war?”

“We need phenol to make trinitrotoluene.” Archie gave me a knowing look.

I gave him an ignorant stare in return. “What is trinitrotoluene?”


“The explosive?”

He nodded.

“Golly.” Still, why did it matter if aspirin and TNT shared one element? How did that affect the war? Could aspirin be turned into an explosive?

“Golly is right.” When he smiled, tiny dimples appeared at the corners of his mouth.

I had to stop myself from reaching across the bed to touch that tempting lock of wavy hair… and those dimples. Stop it, Fiona. You’re on an espionage mission and not on holiday. A holiday with Archie… how divine. Stop! Just stop.

“I’m sorry we can’t work together in the open.” He took my hand and kissed it. “But for now, I’m undercover and I have to stop Schweitzer at all costs.”

“I have a confession.” I sat on my hands to keep from touching him. “I broke into Hugo Schweitzer’s cabin.”

Archie sat up straighter. “Go on.”

“He has a briefcase full of papers and letters… in German.”

“Yes,” Archie said encouragingly.

“One of the letters was from the Kaiser.” I glanced over at him.

“I don’t suppose you can recount the letter verbatim?” He raised his eyebrows. He’d seen me do it before.

“I don’t suppose you have a pencil and paper?” I released my hands from their bondage.

Archie got up and went to the dressing table. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper and then withdrew a pencil from his breast pocket and held it up.

I joined him and sat down at the table.

He placed the paper on the table in front of me and handed me the pencil. “Work your magic, my love.”

My pulse quickened. Did Archie just call me my love? My cheeks warmed. With a smile in my heart, I closed my eyes and let the words form before my mind like captions across a black screen. I didn’t know what they meant, but I could see them as clearly as if I were holding the letter in my hands. I opened my eyes and began setting to paper what I had seen. My hand was flying across the page. When I finished, I scanned my reproduction and then held it up to Archie. He’d been breathing over my shoulder as I wrote, which was deuced distracting.

As he read, the grim look on his face spoke volumes. “Good God,” he gasped. “So that is what they’re up to. And the phenol plot goes all the way to the Kaiser himself.” He dropped the paper on the dressing table. “Schweitzer is siphoning off phenol from the allies on orders from the Kaiser himself.”

Siphoning off phenol. The chemical needed to make explosives. So that was the phenol plot.

The corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. “Fiona, you’re a genius.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

His eyes hardened. “I’ve got to stop him.” Archie’s hand trembled as he ran it through his hair. “I’ve got to stop Schweitzer.”

I gazed up at him with as much resolve as I could muster.

“You mean we’ve got to stop him.”


Excerpt from Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver. Copyright 2022 by Kelly Oliver. Reproduced with permission from Kelly Oliver. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Kelly Oliver

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: the seven-book suspense series, The Jessica James Mysteries; the three-book middle grade series, Pet Detective Mysteries; and the four-book historical cozy series, The Fiona Figg Mysteries.

Chaos at Carnegie Hall is the latest Fiona Figg mystery, and the first to feature sidekick, Kitty Lane.

When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

To learn more about Kelly and her books, go to:
BookBub - @KellyOliverBook
Instagram - @KellyOliverBook
Twitter - @KellyOliverBook
Facebook - @KellyOliverAuthor



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Saturday, December 24, 2022

Happy Holidays!!


Whatever you celebrate, may your days be filled with peace and joy.  
We are off for a couple of days to celebrate with friends and family!

Love, Kari & Autumn.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt from A Small Affair by Flora Collins


Flora Collins
On Sale Date: December 27, 2022
Trade Paperback
$17.99 USD
336 pages
A twisting novel of psychological suspense about a young woman whose life is torn apart when her wealthy ex-lover is found dead, along with his wife.
Vera is ruthlessly ambitious, beautiful by her own account, and knows how to get exactly what she wants--no matter who stands in the way. When she starts a relationship with a wealthy older man who tells her he’s separated from his wife, she thinks litte of it. After only a few dates, she ends things, but that’s only the beginning. Days later, the man and his wife are found dead in their home, leaving behind a note saying Vera’s rejection had driven him to the horrible act of violence.
Vera is immediately blamed for the couple’s deaths, demonized by the press, fired from her job, and when stalkers and paparazzi begin to haunt her apartment, she flees to her mother’s house upstate. A year later, emerging from a cocoon of self-pity, she tries to re-enter the world, to get her job back—or any job—but the specter of scandal still clings to her. Then she’s invited to a memorial for the wife of the man she had an affair with. As she learns more about the family, and about the couple and their friends, she begins to suspect there was much more to the story than a simple affair gone wrong. In a quest for redemption, Vera soon begins uncovering layers of lies and close-kept secrets held by an inner-circle of filthy rich tech millionaires who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations.

Buy Links: 

Read an excerpt:

One year ago
We met on an app, one of those achingly boring, exclusive ones. White text on a black background. Where you have to work in a certain industry, have a certain type of education, a pedigree to differentiate yourself from the riffraff.
Oddly, or perhaps not oddly at all, I remember the exact moment we matched. I was on my couch under a heavy knit green blanket, my legs splayed across my best friend and roommate’s legs. We were watching Real Housewives—though which franchise, I can’t recall—ignoring each other, ignoring the TV. Classic millennials on our phones, doom scrolling.
I wish with all my might I could do that again. Sit next to Quinn on that olive green couch we’d found in a West Village Housing Works and ignore each other without these ghosts separating us, sitting on my chest. Incapacitating me. Incapacitating all my relationships.
“Ugh, can you move your legs? Mine are asleep,” Quinn whined, throwing his end of the blanket in my face and getting up on unsteady feet, stretching. He padded across to our small kitchen and took out a beer, watched me on my phone, my face lit by the glare of the TV.
I looked up. “Want to help? I’m back on the apps.” Quinn set his beer down and clapped his hands. Quinn didn’t date much. He’d been on and off with his partner, Sam, for seven years now, since we were sophomores in college. Right then they were off, had been off for the past six months or so. I knew it would only be so long until they got back together; they rarely dated other people. It was like they were actually meant for each other.
But he loved to live vicariously through me. Loved to vet and interrogate all the guys who had come home with me over the years, commenting on their clothes, their hair, their smell, to their faces, forcing me to tell every minute detail about the sex, the morning after, whether they snuggled me up close at night. Whether they followed my instructions in bed, asked what I wanted, needed.
So I wasn’t surprised when he plopped back down on the couch, grabbed my phone away from me and began to swipe. 
“All these people have liked you?” he asked, eyes roving over the screen. I nodded. “Damn, Vera, you haven’t been on this app in ages, have you? You have like fifty likes.” I nodded again. I hadn’t gone out with anyone in a few months, mostly because of new responsibilities at work. It wasn’t even like I felt incapacitated by those responsibilities; I just had no wish to spread my enthusiasm for work thin. Dating forced me to spread it thin, and if I were being honest, the whole process of dating made me utterly exhausted.
But now I had a handle on everything. I was ready to start anew, begin the process yet again like every other mad straight woman always assuming the next man will be different. And I was bored. I hate that most of all, that I was bored. My whole life in pieces because I didn’t buy a good enough vibrator.
“So you get to ‘like’ them back? And that’s a match?”
“Yes. If you gave me my phone, I could show you.” But it was no use; he was already at it. “You know, we have different tastes. You keep swiping no on people I think are cute.”
But Quinn kept the phone. “Babe, I have better taste than you. Just trust me.” And I did.
In a few minutes he passed back my phone. He’d only “liked” three people back: a tall, built guy with too many selfies. A dweeby-looking dude with excellent education credentials, but barely any neck.
And Him. Tom Newburn. Older, the oldest end of the spectrum I’d set. Thirty-seven—ten years older than I was then. Square jaw. Slicked back, dark hair. Shapely lips. One child. Liberal.
Within minutes, he’d messaged me. And it occurred to me, as my phone buzzed with a notification, that there was no way to tell when he’d “liked” me first, that he could have been waiting for months, since the moment I’d first logged off the app. And just like that, he pounced the moment I “liked” him back.
Are you a fan of Eyes Wide Shut?
And that made me smile, because that was my answer to the prompt “What’s one thing you can never stop talking about?” And I’d said: “Nicole Kidman’s poison green Galliano for Dior dress from the 1997 Oscars.” It was a cheeky answer for a straight woman to give; it easily filtered out the men who would automatically dismiss me as a “fashion chick” and swipe left.
I typed out a reply. Then deleted it. Typed it out again. Quinn wasn’t paying attention to me anymore; he was back on his own phone. I didn’t want his opinion, anyway.
Yes, but I prefer To Die For if you really want vintage Kidman.
That was the beginning of the end, I guess. 
Excerpted from A Small Affair by Flora Collins, Copyright © 2022 by Flora Collins. Published by MIRA Books.

Flora Collins was born and raised in New York City and has never left, except for a four-year stint at Vassar College. When she's not writing, she can be found watching reality shows that were canceled after one season or attempting to eat soft-serve ice cream in bed (sometimes simultaneously). Nanny Dearest was her first novel.
Instagram: @floracollins_author

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt from Someone Had To Do It by Amber and Danielle Brown


Authors: Amber and Danielle Brown
ISBN: 9781525899966
Paperback Original 
Publication Date: December 27, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House

 Brandi Maxwell is living the dream as an intern at prestigious New York fashion house Simon Van Doren. Except “living the dream” looks more like scrubbing puke from couture dresses worn by hard-partying models and putting up with microaggressions from her white colleagues. Still, she can’t help but fangirl over Simon’s it-girl daughter, Taylor. Until one night, at a glamorous Van Doren party, when Brandi overhears something she shouldn’t have, and her fate becomes dangerously intertwined Taylor’s.
Model and influencer Taylor Van Doren has everything…and is this close to losing it all. Her fashion mogul father will donate her inheritance to charity if she fails her next drug test, and he’s about to marry someone nearly as young as Taylor, further threatening her stake in the family fortune. But Taylor deserves the money that’s rightfully hers. And she’ll go to any lengths to get it, even if that means sacrificing her famous father in the process.
All she needs is the perfect person to take the fall…


I had a ton of illusions, vivid fantasies of what it would be like to score a coveted internship at Van Doren. Deluded old me thought I would be strutting around the stunning tri-story headquarters in single-soled heels, flitting from design concept meetings to on-location photo shoots, living my best fashion-girl life. Instead, I’m in the back corner of the two-thousand-square-foot ready-to-wear samples closet scrubbing fresh vomit from a slinky gown worth double my rent during my lunch hour.

Italian Vogue’s current cover girl borrowed the hand-sewn dress for a red-carpet event last night, and apparently getting it back on a rack without ruining it was too much for one of the other interns to handle. She was so hungover when she came to the office this morning that she vomited all over the dress before making it out of the elevator. But of course this dress needs to be ready for another model to wear to some big extravaganza tonight, and since I’m the designated fuckover intern, I have to clean it by hand because the satin-blend fabric is too delicate to be dry-cleaned.

This is what it takes.

I chant this to remind myself why I’m here as the lactic acid builds up in my biceps. Working for Van Doren has been on my proverbial vision board ever since I reluctantly gave up the idea, in middle school, that I could be Beyoncé. It’s a storm of hauling hundreds of pounds of runway samples around the city and sitting in on meetings with the sketch artists. A glorious, next-to-holy experience when I’m on duty at photo shoots and one of the stylists sends me to fetch another blazer, not a specific blazer, which means I get to use my own vestiary inclinations to make the selection. Which has only happened once, but still.

Just as I get the stain faded by at least seventy percent, I hear the sharp staccato of someone in stilettos approaching. I turn around and see Lexi. Lexi with her bimonthly touched-up white-blond hair and generous lip filler that she’ll never admit to having injected. When she steps closer in her head-to-toe Reformation, I am grateful that I remembered to put on a few sprays of my Gypsy Water perfume. The one that smells like rich people. But the way she’s staring at me right now, it’s clear that no matter how much I try, I am still not on her level. I do not fit in here. She does not see me as her equal, despite the fact that we are both unpaid, unknown, disposable interns. It’s become glaringly obvious that at Van Doren, it’s not actually about what you contribute, but more about how blue your blood is. Lexi doesn’t even know my name, though I’ve been here a solid nine weeks and I’m pretty sure I’ve told her at least a dozen times.

I’m already on edge because of my assignment, so I jump in before she can ask in her monotone voice. “Brandi.”

“Right,” she says, like she does every time yet still forgets. “Chloé wants the Instagram analytics report for last week. She said she asked you to put it together an hour ago.”

Which is true, but completely unfair since Jenna from marketing also asked me to run to Starbucks to buy thirty-one-ounce cups of liquid crack for her and her entire department for a 9:00 a.m. meeting, an effort that took three trips total, and technically I’m still working on the data sheets I promised Eric from product development. Not to mention the obvious: getting rid of the puke from the dress.

“I’m still working on it,” I tell her.

Lexi stares at me, her overly filled brows lifted, as if she’s waiting for the rest of my excuse. I understand her, but also I’m wondering how she still hasn’t realized this is not a case of Resting Bitch Face I have going on, that I am actually intolerant of her nagging.

Normally, I am not this terse. But nothing about today has been normal. Since this week is my period week, I’m retaining water in the most unflattering of places and the pencil dress I’m wearing has been cutting off the circulation in my thighs for the past couple of hours, and being that I’ve spent most of my break destroying the evidence of someone else’s bad decisions, it is not my fault that I’m not handling this particularly well.

“I’ll send it over as soon as I’m done,” I say to Lexi so she can leave. But she doesn’t.

“HR wants to see you,” she says with what looks like a smirk.

My mouth opens. I have no idea what HR could want, and although I’m still new to this employee thing, I know this can’t be good.

“Like, now,” Lexi barks and pivots away in her strappy, open-toe stilts.

I hang the sample next to the door, and before I leave the room I pause to briefly take in the rest of the dresses stuffed on the racks, each one in that chic, elevated aesthetic that is the cornerstone of Van Doren. This is my favorite part of the day, the chaotic nature of this room a little overwhelming but also inspiring, and I can’t wait for the day that this is my world, not just one I’m peeking my head into. A world in which I command respect.

I cross through the merchandising department, where everyone has their own private office with aerial views of Hell’s Kitchen, Soho and the Garment District, and then move through the maze of the sprawling suite in a mild sort of panic until I remind myself that I have done nothing wrong. Ever since spring semester ended, I’ve been putting in more hours than the sun. I slip in at six-thirty when the building is dark and vaguely ominous, my eyes still puffy with sleep, and when I finally drag myself into the elevator at the end of the day, it’s just as black and quiet outside. I religiously show up in current-season heels despite the blisters, albeit mass-produced renditions of the Fendi, Balenciaga and Bottega Venetas the other summer interns casually strut around in, and mostly stick to myself. I am careful about raising my voice, even if I vehemently disagree with my neurotic supervisor. I keep my tongue as puritanical as a nun’s, even when fucking incel or coddled narcissistic bitch are on the tip of it. I’m not rude or combative. I stay away from gossip. I complete all my tasks with time to spare, which is usually when I check Twitter and help out some of the other interns, even though I’d rather FaceTime Nate in the upstairs bathroom with the magical lighting. I even entertain the gang of sartorially inclined Amy Coopers in the making who insist on obnoxiously complaining to me about all of their first-world, one-percenter problems. I’ve done nothing but consistently given them reasons to think I am a capable, qualified, talented intern who would make an exceptional employee.

I have nothing to worry about.

When I knock on the door to Lauren’s office, she looks up from her desk and waves me in through the glass. I have a feeling this will not go my way when I see that my supervisor, Chloé, one of the more amiable assistants, is also here, fiddling with her six-carat engagement ring in the corner and avoiding eye contact.

“Have a seat, Brandi,” Lauren says, and I tell myself to ignore that her bright pink lipstick extends above her lip on one side.

There is no small talk. No hello or how’s it going? Under alternate circumstances, I would feel slighted, but because I’m growing more anxious by the second, I’m grateful for her smugness.

As I sit down, Chloé shifts in her chair, and I speak before she can. “I’m sorry. The Instagram report is at the top of my task list. I’ll definitely have it to you before I leave today. I just—”

“That’s not why you’re here, Brandi,” Lauren interjects.

“Oh.” I pause, and as she glances down at her notes, I try to make meaningful eye contact with my supervisor, but she is still actively dodging my eyes.

Lauren begins by throwing out a few compliments. My work ethic is admirable and I have great attention to detail, she says, and the whole time my heart is pounding so loud, I can barely make out most of her words. Chloé jumps in to effusively agree, then Lauren finally stops beating around the bush and looks me directly in the eyes.

“We just don’t feel like you’re fitting into the culture here at Van Doren.”

Every word feels like a backhanded slap across the face, the kind that twists your neck and makes the world go still and white for a few disconcerting moments, like an orgasm but not like an orgasm. It’s obvious what they mean, yet can’t quite bring themselves to say.

They just don’t like that I’m black.

They don’t like the way I wear my braids—long and unapologetic, grazing my hips like a Nubian mermaid.

They don’t like that I’m not the smile-and-nod type, willing to assimilate to their idea of what I should be, how I should act.


That’s their code for we-can’t-handle-your-individuality-but-since-we-don’t-want-to-seem-racist-we’ll-invent-this-little-loophole.

Black plus exceptional equals threat.

“If we don’t see any improvement in the coming weeks, we’re going to have to let you go,” Lauren says with no irony, her mouth easing into a synthetic smile.

I blink. I cannot believe this is happening right now. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, my internship at Van Doren, the one fashion company whose ethics align with mine. I wasn’t just blowing smoke up Lauren’s ass when I interviewed for this job, though I was looking at her sideways, wondering why she had not a stitch of Van Doren on. I’d splurged on a single-shouldered jumpsuit from this year’s spring collection that I couldn’t really afford just to impress her, while she hadn’t even felt the need to represent the brand at all as she shot out all those futile questions interviewers love propelling at candidates, I’m convinced, just to see them squirm. Even minuscule amounts of power can be dangerous.

This is bullshit, being put on probation, and I’d give anything to have the balls to call them on it. As I sit here paralyzed, Lauren’s words reverberate in my head and I rebuke them, want to suffocate and bury them.

Authors’ Bio: 
Amber and Danielle Brown both graduated from Rider University where they studied Communications/Journalism and sat on the editorial staff for the On Fire!! literary journal. They then pursued a career in fashion and spent five years in NYC working their way up, eventually managing their own popular fashion and lifestyle blog. Amber is also a screenwriter, so they live in LA, which works out perfectly so Danielle can spoil her plant babies with copious amount of sunshine.
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