Sunday, April 21, 2024

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Two Heads Are Deader Than One (Eddie Shoes Mysteries, #2) by Elena Hartwell

The Eddie Shoes Mysteries by Elena Hartwell Banner

Two Heads Are Deader Than One

The Eddie Shoes Mysteries, Book Two

by Elena Hartwell

March 18 - April 26, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

 

Synopses:

*One Dead, Two to Go

One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book One in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

Two Heads are Deader Than One

Two Heads are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book Two in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.

Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham, in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her.

Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
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Book Three in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles over a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable object. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Praise for The Eddie Shoes Mysteries:

"ONE DEAD TWO TO GO is a well-written fast-paced story that kept me fully engaged from beginning to end. It’s one of those stories where you get to the end of a chapter and think, “Okay, just a few more pages.” And the next thing you know, you’ve read three more chapters."
~ Mayor Sonni, Readeropolis

"…an engaging mystery that will keep you stumped to the very end."
~ Susan Sewell, Readers’ Favorite

"THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE DEAD gives us another vivid adventure with the quirky, genuine private eye Eddie Shoes. As usual, author Elena Hartwell’s characters are so real you feel like you could run into them at your local dive bar. Three Strikes takes us even deeper into Eddie’s complex family relationships with her charming-but-deadly father Eduardo and hilarious mom Chava, giving us further insight into Eddie’s psyche. The laugh-out-loud moments are many in this vital third installment, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in the world of Eddie Shoes."
~ LS Hawker, USA Today bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Private Eye Mystery
Published by: Open Road Media, March 2024
Series Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go:

CHAPTER ONE

Call me Eddie Shoes.

Not a very feminine moniker, but it suits me. My father’s name was Eduardo Zapata. In a fit of nostalgia, my mother Chava named me Edwina Zapata Schultz, even though by the time I was born she hadn’t seen my father in seven months. Edwina was a mouthful to saddle any child with, so at the ripe old age of six, I announced that I would only answer to Eddie. I didn’t have any nostalgia for a guy I’d never met, so Zapata just seemed like a name no one ever spelled right the first time. Chava wasn’t particularly maternal in any conventional sense, so not a lot of nostalgia for Schultz either. At eighteen I legally changed my name to Eddie Shoes.

It said a lot about my sense of humor.

Chava and I had come to an understanding. She stayed in my life as long as our contact was minimal and primarily over email. It was just enough to allay her guilt and not enough to make me crazy, so it worked for both of us. She’d always been down about my choice of career, but what did she expect from a girl who called herself Eddie Shoes? If I hadn’t become a private investigator, I probably would have been a bookie, so she should have been a little more positive about the whole thing.

My career was the reason I sat hunkered in the car, in the dark, halfway down the block from a tacky hotel, clutching a digital camera and zoom lens, waiting to catch my latest client’s husband with a woman not his wife. I’d already gotten a few choice shots of the guy entering the room, but he’d gone in alone and no one else had arrived. I assumed the other woman was already waiting for him. After tailing the guy for a few days, I had a pretty good guess who the chippie would turn out to be. I didn’t think he’d hired his “office manager” for her filing skills, and sleeping with the married boss was a cliché because it happened all the time. I could already prove the man a liar. He’d told his wife he played poker with the boys on Wednesday nights, and I didn’t think he was shacked up in this dive with three of his closest buddies, unless he was kinkier than I imagined.

But then, people never ceased to amaze me.

December in Bellingham, Washington, often brought cold, clear weather and that night was no exception. Starting the engine to warm up sounded tempting, but I didn’t want anyone to notice me sitting there. Nice it wasn’t raining, but if the thermometer had crept much over twenty, I hadn’t noticed. To make matters worse, I’d scrunched my almost six-foot frame down in the driver’s seat for more than two hours. Even with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I was half frozen, and desperately hoped my mark didn’t have more stamina than I’d pegged him for. All I wanted was to go home and go to bed.

And at some point, I would need to pee.

Up on the second floor, the door of the hotel room I had my eye on finally opened. I brought my camera up, ready for the money shots. My earlier pics proved that the dirty white stucco on the side of the building bounced the pale glow from the minimal exterior lights enough for pictures to be clear without a flash. Even from this distance, there was a nice unobstructed view of the location. The only barrier between someone standing on the narrow walk and my camera lens was a flimsy, rusty-looking, wrought-iron railing. The balusters looked too thin to stop anyone from falling the height of the first floor to the asphalt parking lot below. I doubted anything at the tawdry place passed code.

But what did I care? I wasn’t going to stay there.

The “liar”—I have always been creative with nicknames—stepped out, straightening his tie. I snapped a few pictures and held my breath, hoping the other woman would come out behind him. Even if I took pictures of her exiting a few minutes later, the husband needed to be in the picture with her. A surprising number of wives would argue with me about what actually took place in these various, if interchangeable, hotel rooms. For some reason they would rather believe the info about their husband cheating was fake than admit he strayed, which confused me because I got paid either way. It felt especially crazy when they must already know the truth, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. But I knew better than to look for logic in the ways of the human heart and got the best evidence possible.

The man turned sideways. Light from the room behind him threw his face into silhouette. He had an exceptionally generous head of hair, which made him very recognizable even in bad light. Mid-forties, and mostly in good shape, he appeared athletic as long as he didn’t unbutton his sport coat. I could see why women were attracted to him, though he didn’t do a thing for me. I preferred men a little more honest.

But then, I’d never been married, so what did I know?

A figure moved from behind him into the shadow of the doorway.

“Come on, honey, step out into the light.” I held the camera to my eye. “One more step, so I can see your face.”

The woman obliged by leaning into the cold blue glow cast by the old style, energy inefficient streetlights, her cheeks stained red in the flash of the vacancy sign. I happily clicked away as the “office manager” wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered sweet nothings in his ear. She clearly wore nothing but lingerie. She must assume no one else would be out this late on such a cold weeknight. Or maybe she enjoyed having people see her, a bit of an exhibitionist in the happy homewrecker. Whatever the cause, she had him in the perfect spot for the best pictures.

I loved it when guilty people made my job easy.

My photos might not be art, but they were gold in my book. No way the wife could believe this was anything other than what it looked like.

Several photos later, the husband extricated himself from the mistress and she ducked back into the room and closed the door. He walked briskly toward a shiny red Chevy Camaro. The guy owned a GM dealership and drove a new car every day. He lit a cigarette, which he puffed on for a few drags before he tossed it into the gutter. Not just a cheater, a litterer. The bastard. The cigarette stench backed his poker party story and covered the smell of another woman, killing two birds with one cancer-causing stone.

As soon as he pulled out onto the street, I stretched back up to full height, relieved to still feel my feet. I started up my ancient green Subaru Forrester, cranked my heater, and headed for home, relieved I didn’t have to wait around in the cold for the mistress to reappear. Whatever she did next wasn’t my concern. Having the two of them in the pictures together convinced me my work was done.

The hotel was located downtown—the blue-collar north end, not the high-priced, brick, historical south end, so I dropped down to Lakeway Drive, scooted under the freeway, and wound through the streets that curved around Bayview Cemetery. Traffic at ten o’clock on a midweek winter night was light, and I arrived at my little house by ten-thirty. I downloaded the photos from the hotel onto my computer, wrote up a final bill for my client, and went to bed content.

What could possibly go wrong with such an easy case?

***

Excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell. Copyright 2024 by Elena Hartwell. Reproduced with permission from Elena Hartwell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Review:

5 stars!

This second Eddie Shoes Mystery may be even better than the series' debut! 

Two Heads Are Deader Than One is the second book in the fun and fabulous Eddie Shoes Mysteries series by author Elena Hartwell, and it may be even better than the first! The plot is intricate, the dialogue clever, and the characters have quickly come to feel like old friends. 

The main characters are private investigator Eddie Shoes and her former card-sharp mother, Chava Schultz. However, in this latest case, Eddie takes a more solitary leading role than in the first book, though she still shares much of the spotlight with Chava. While in book one, the two women had seemed almost like peers, several months have passed with them living together, and it feels like they've developed into more of a mother-daughter relationship. All indications seem to point to Chava settling into Bellingham for a long stay and with Eddie's approval. In addition to coming to terms with her mother, Eddie's childhood best friend shows up unexpectedly one Friday night, in trouble with the local police and needing bail money. I had many questions about this girl who dodged answering even the simplest inquiries into her past. She often turned the questions on Eddie, trying to make her think less of herself and attempting to manipulate her emotions. I liked that Eddie saw through much of these efforts and used this girl's machinations to get more information from her instead. It was a difficult trip into the past for Eddie. 

The plot moves at a smart pace with a murder occurring early in the story, the appearance of a stalker with an uncanny likeness to a dead man, and the delicate nature of Eddie's relationship with ex-boyfriend Detective Chance Parker. I enjoyed Eddie's investigations as she tries hard to stay in her lane and still get the answers she needs while Chance and his partner work on the official case. The odd attempts by the person unknown to implicate Eddie in the murder and subsequent events intrigued me and kept me glued to the story. While this is the second book in the series, it can easily be read and enjoyed on its own. The author does a great job filling readers in with the perfect amount of backstory from book one without giving that one away so fans can back up and enjoy Eddie's and Chava's previous adventure. 

I recommend TWO HEADS ARE DEADER THAN ONE to mystery readers who enjoy strong female protagonists and humor in their stories and fans of the series.

*See my review of Book One in the series, One Dead, Two to Go HERE.

Author Bio:

Elena Hartwell

Elena Hartwell spent several years working in theater as a playwright, director, designer, and educator before turning her storytelling skills to fiction. Elena is also a senior editor with Allegory Editing, a developmental editing house, where she works one-on-one with writers to shape and polish manuscripts. If you’d like to work with Elena, visit www.allegoryediting.com.

Her favorite place to be is at Paradise, the property she and her hubby own south of Spokane, Washington. They live with their horses, Jasper, Radar, and Diggy, their dogs Polar and Wyatt, and their cats Coal Train and Cocoa. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

She also writes as Elena Taylor, to learn more visit www.ElenaTaylorAuthor.com

Catch Up With Elena Hartwell:
www.ElenaHartwell.com
TheMysteryOfWriting.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @elenahartwell
Instagram - @elenataylorauthor
Twitter/X - @Elena_TaylorAut
Facebook - @ElenaTaylorAuthor

 

 

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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: A Taste of Datura by Lorenzo Petruzziello

The Taste of Datura by Lorenzo Petruzziello Banner

The Taste of Datura

by Lorenzo Petruzziello

April 2 - 26, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Taste of Datura by Lorenzo Petruzziello

An alluring affair in Napoli.

Nick seeks the value of an antique bracelet in his possession. He encounters Laura, an amateur medium cursed by uncontrollable visions. With Laura’s help, Nick closes in on the origin of his treasure. But as the word gets out, the quest puts them both in danger.

A noir-inspired story ensnared by mystery, myth, and murder; all under a watchful eye shadowing Italy’s vibrant city of Napoli.

Praise for The Taste of Datura:

"A thrilling mystery that combines Italian history and international intrigue."
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Fiction. Noir. Crime.
Published by: Magnusmade
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 370
ISBN: 9781735065441 (ISBN10: 1735065447)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Magnusmade

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Naples, Italy
December 1890

The crisp breeze trickled in from the bay, across the piazza, through the narrow buildings, and brushed along the back of the neck of the elderly German archaeologist. He was determined to have his afternoon walk through the Spanish Quarter. Being out of the hotel room and in the open air made him feel a lot better.

He’ll get back to Athens soon enough. Sure, he should have been celebrating the holidays, surrounded by his family and fellow archaeologists, but his health kept him from continuing on his journey. A special gift he bought in Naples was ready to be picked up, so he wanted to go get it and bring it with him to Athens. He imagined showing the piece to everyone waiting for him. If only his infection hadn’t come back, he would have been allowed to take the ship to Greece and be in Athens for Christmas as he had planned.

But being stuck in Naples was a consolation, though. While he had spent some of the time in bed recovering, he had made the most of his time until the doctors could clear him to continue on his travels. For example, he was able to return to Pompeii and examine the ruins with more detail—something one cannot do during the summer holiday with the influx of tourists crowding around.

So, he couldn’t really complain. After all, he was absolutely fine staying in the comforts of the wonderous and luxurious Grand Hotel, with its incredible view of the bay. Not a bad place to recover from his lung infection.

As Christmas was getting closer, the visits from the doctors had diminished. Of course, the old man understood doctors had families too. Besides, they did see improvement in his condition, and said they would check in on him after the holiday.

When he was feeling better, he bathed and dressed and focused his time on visiting the artifacts in the museums of Naples, including that excursion to museum and ruins of Pompeii. On Christmas Day, however, the museums were closed, so the old man had agreed to participate in the hotel’s abundant holiday lunch with other guests. The staff were kind enough to understand his condition and seat him alone at a private table, so he didn’t risk getting anyone else sick.

After the meal, he had decided to take a walk to the church. A young concierge procured the old man a driver as he helped him put on his coat and handed him his gloves and hat.

As he walked across the front gardens and onto the main street along the bay, the old man greeted the staff and some of the other guests he had met while he was stuck recovering in the hotel. He looked at the water, took a deep breath, and allowed the crisp, salty air to fill his lungs, immediately feeling the renowned healing powers of the Mediterranean Sea.

He turned away from the bay and crossed back to the car that was waiting to take him to Piazza Plebiscito. It was not his destination, but he figured he’d take a walk to the church he had in mind. He was somewhat familiar with the area, but not enough to take himself directly to the church. It was not a problem, though, he knew he’d find it strolling around.

He asked the driver to return in a couple of hours, then walked across the round piazza, onto Via Toledo. Halfway up the climbing street, he felt his body become weaker than his ambition. He forced himself to slow his steps as he continued his climb.

He paused at a shop window and admired the Christmas decorations. Really, he felt his heartbeat racing and needed to catch his breath. He needed to rest. He examined the miniature figurines displayed in a religious scene, finally presented with the miracle baby they had been eagerly awaiting. Ignoring the reflection of his old face staring back at him, he looked away and saw a clearing further ahead.

Deducing it to be another piazza, he would rest at a café and sort out his route to the church. He gathered his strength and continued on. He reached piazza Santa Caritá and looked around for any open café. He felt the space spinning as he turned and turned. His head felt numb, the sounds around him were garbled, as if underwater. He blinked heavily before everything turned to black…

***

Excerpt from The Taste of Datura by Lorenzo Petruzziello. Copyright 2024 by Lorenzo Petruzziello. Reproduced with permission from Lorenzo Petruzziello. All rights reserved.

 

 

Review:

5 stars!

This riveting mystery is reminiscent of vintage film noir with paranormal overtones. 

The Taste of Datura is an intriguing and exciting adventure story with paranormal elements set in a sultry and atmospheric Naples, Italy, featuring a mysterious and forgotten antique bracelet. While set in the present day, its cinematic presentation was strongly reminiscent of a vintage film noir from 1940s Hollywood. 

Nick Tenezi is the everyday Joe main character. He's engaging but a bit of a hound dog. He's in his 40s and somewhat vain about his appearance, worrying about the subtle signs of aging. Initially, I found him difficult to like (which had much to do with his actions with Lavinia), but he eventually grew on me. Later, he is joined by Laura, a PhD student in Naples who has the abilities of a psychic medium who gets involved when she has visions related to Nick and his bracelet's past. I really enjoyed the scenes that played out her visions, especially those with a message from the deceased to the living. 

The plot follows Nick's search for information regarding the bracelet's mysterious origins and why so many people are suddenly looking for it. The tension in the story is present from the start and only grows as events unfold. Neither Nick nor the reader knows who can be trusted, and the twists and turns in the story prove that the answer is "Trust no one." The author's writing style is smooth and engaged me from page one. As mentioned earlier, the vivid descriptions made visualizing the setting and actions easy and filmlike. 

I recommend A TASTE OF DATURA to readers of mysteries and thrillers, especially those who like an international setting and a film noir feel.


Author Bio:

Lorenzo Petruzziello

Lorenzo holds degrees in International Marketing and Economics, with a background in global marketing for the entertainment and life sciences industries. He writes in his spare time, drawing inspiration from his frequent trips to Italy, his first dating back to his childhood. THE TASTE OF DATURA is Lorenzo’s third book.

Catch Up With Lorenzo Petruzziello:
www.magnusmade.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @LorenzoMagnus
Instagram - @lorenzomagnus

 

 

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Friday, April 19, 2024

Release Blitz & Giveaway: Return of the Shadowlord (Orb of Zorn, #2) by John Gorman


Return of the Shadowlord
Orb Of Zorn, Book #2*
by
John Gorman

Fantasy
Publication Date: April 19, 2024
Page count: 309 pages


SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!


SYNOPSIS:

When the Shadowlord steals part of the orb of eternity, his power surges. He has unleashed a mighty host of orcs and trolls and acquires an invaluable new henchman in Borg Bearslayer. Young Elcon goes through a battery of new trials and tribulations and is tested by powers he never imagined. Only by forging an alliance with the gray elf, Rowena Ravenwill, the brash dwarf Brom, and the last of the great swordsmen of the western realms does he stand a chance against the Shadowlord.

In this sequel to The Heir Apparent, a gloomier dawn emerges, and stakes are much higher for the young mage. The boundaries are blurred even further when the Walszman encounters the witch-like Lef Sagori. Will he succumb to the dark side of magic or will Elcon add great new deeds to his Van Zorn legacy?


*See my review of Book One, The Heir Apparent HERE!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Before his words found their way into print, John snapped the Eyesore of the Week for the Queens Ledger. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in over 50 journals worldwide. His newest book Return Of The Shadowlord (Orb Of Zorn #2) is AVAILABLE for PRE-ORDER. John is also the author of the novels, The Heir Apparent (Orb Of Zorn #1), The Acolyte And The Amulet (Nebilon #1), Quest For The Hope Box (Nebilon #2), Beyond The Vicious Vortex, Shades of Luz, Disposable Heroes, and From Here To Burmidia.

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RABT Book Tours & PR

Book Tour & Giveaway: The Other Side of the Mirror (The Mirrored Trilogy, #1) by Dana Evyn

 


The Other Side of the Mirror
The Mirrored Trilogy, #1
by
Dana Evyn

Fantasy Romance / Romantasy
Publisher: City Owl Press
Publication Date: April 9, 2024
Page count: 363 pages

SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

SYNOPSIS:

What if the fairytale was always a lie?

Seven years after her family’s murders, Eva is attacked by a magical creature and abducted to the faerie realm. When a handsome fae saves her, Bash reveals that he must bring Eva to her faerie soulmate to stop a world-ending Curse. She relents, but only for the opportunity to find answers about her parents’ deaths.

As their journey progresses, Eva delves into her previously hidden magic—and grows steadily closer to Bash. But when she meets her prince, she soon learns that all is not what it seems. While mystery and intrigue surround her, Eva takes it into her own hands to uncover the truth. But what she discovers is beyond her imagination, as she unravels the fae’s web of lies.

Don’t miss this romantasy into the fae realm with hidden secrets, steamy romance, and true fantasy adventure.


CLICK TO PURCHASE!

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dana Evyn has been lost in her daydreams for as long as she can remember, though only recently started writing them down. She’s usually lost in a book—especially one with an indominable female lead, a unique magical world, and a dark twist you don’t see coming. She’s a mother of two tiny humans and a large golden retriever, and lives near Seattle, WA.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Tryst List by Kaylene Winter

The Tryst List
Kaylene Winter
Publication date: April 11, 2024
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

When a man, haunted by secrets, reunites with the only woman who’s ever ignited his soul, he’ll do anything to prove he’s more than his mistakes.

From the moment I laid eyes on her in Vegas, I knew tattoo artist Jordan Deveraux was my destiny.

Our chemistry was too fiery to ignore, one night of passion could never be enough.

Walking away was agony.

Easily, the biggest regret of my life.

Years later, I’m successful and rich but still crave my siren of the sea.

Her game of pretend doesn’t mask the heat still smoldering between us.

Little does she know, I have the roadmap to turn her fantasies into reality.

Stranded in my boat, the waves aren’t the only things rocking.

Her ability to resist me sinks faster than a lead anchor.

Here’s the catch—my past isn’t as spotless as the buildings I design.

And my secrets threaten to pull us under.

Can we navigate these turbulent waters to find a future?

Or, will my mistake capsize everything?

The Tryst List is a sizzling, standalone, billionaire, enemies to lovers, forced proximity tale of second chances, where the ink of passion and the scars of the past collide.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


Read an Excerpt from The Tryst List -

The hum of tattoo machines is always music to my ears. It’s the sweet, sweet sound of success.

Something I don't take for granted. Hard work and fortitude is in my blood.

I’ve managed to turn my art degree into a gold mine. I graduated from Cornish College of the Arts many years ago, but it took a while for me to find my way. Did the starving artist thing—tried to sell my paintings while paying the bills as a server and barista. Then came a corporate stint in commercial design, which I absolutely hated. Leaving me with freelancing—a nightmare through and through.

A career in the arts seemed out of reach. Well, maybe for me. I was going nowhere.

On a whim, I sold my belongings and fled to Europe for a year-long backpacking excursion.

Within the first couple of weeks, I met a group of tattoo artists at a collective in Amsterdam. Immersing myself in their world, I changed my plan. Rather than aimlessly traveling, I apprenticed and soaked up the culture.

By the time I returned home to Seattle, I’d developed my own style and had a small following. A few months later, I won a contest in Las Vegas and haven’t looked back since.

Rather than work for someone else, I presented my pops with a business proposal. It worked. He staked me with enough funds to open my shop, The Salty Siren. Jace taught me how to cultivate a social media following. Within a few months, I had a waiting list, paid back Dad's loan and bought a condo.

It blows me away how far my schedule books out in advance.

For the most part I’m happy, but recent life changes have me reconsidering a few things.

“Merc, who’s on the books today? I’m pretty sure it’s a long-ass appointment, if memory serves.” I approach Mercury, my best friend and shop manager. “Let me guess. Someone wants a mermaid sleeve.”

Merc, as everyone calls him, with his silver hair and piercing blue eyes, shoots me a glare. “Careful. You’re not exuding gratitude today. Your mermaids are legendary. People wait for over a year to get inked by you.”

Appropriately put in my place, I flip through my sketchbook past pages of intricate flowing tails and ethereal faces. “Oh, I know, but I like to mix it up. Keep my chops up.”

“Well, today’s your lucky day, babe. New customer. The guy booked over a year ago.” Merc peruses the shop’s master calendar on his tablet.

I’m barely paying attention because my fingers pause on a page in my notebook. Amongst my designs is a list I started after Cameron and I broke up. The “Tryst List” is my secret rebellion against the monotony of my love life. Merc's eyes follow mine, and he raises an eyebrow.

“Oooh. What do we have here?” With a mischievous glint in his eye, Mercury’s hand claps over mine, stopping me from turning the page.

I feel my face redden. “Uhhh…my plan to live a little. Or a lot.” I offer a wry smile. “I'm thinking of making up for lost time, you know, after Cameron.”

“Cameron. Ugh. Your couple vibe was definitely more cookouts and beer than fireworks and passion. Maybe it was his uniform of khakis and button-down shirts.” He rolls his eyes in disgust.

I can’t help but laugh. Of course, Merc would feel this way given our affinity for grommets, leather, and chunky boots.


Author Bio:

When she was only 15, Kaylene Winter wrote her first rocker romance novel starring a fictionalized version of herself, her friends and their gorgeous rocker boyfriends. After living her own rockstar life as a band manager, music promoter and mover and shaker in Seattle during the early 1990’s, Kaylene became a digital media legal strategist helping bring movies, television and music online. Throughout her busy career, Kaylene lost herself in romance novels across all genres inspiring her to realize her life-long dream to be a published author. She lives in Seattle with her amazing husband and dog. She loves to travel, throw lavish dinner parties and support charitable causes supporting arts and animals.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok


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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: One Dead, Two to Go (Eddie Shoes Mysteries, #1) by Elena Hartwell

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One Dead, Two to Go

The Eddie Shoes Mysteries, Book One

by Elena Hartwell

March 18 - April 26, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

 

Synopses:

One Dead, Two to Go

One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book One in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

Two Heads are Deader Than One

Two Heads are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
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Book Two in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.

Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham, in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her.

Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell
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Book Three in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles over a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable object. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Praise for The Eddie Shoes Mysteries:

"ONE DEAD TWO TO GO is a well-written fast-paced story that kept me fully engaged from beginning to end. It’s one of those stories where you get to the end of a chapter and think, “Okay, just a few more pages.” And the next thing you know, you’ve read three more chapters."
~ Mayor Sonni, Readeropolis

"…an engaging mystery that will keep you stumped to the very end."
~ Susan Sewell, Readers’ Favorite

"THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE DEAD gives us another vivid adventure with the quirky, genuine private eye Eddie Shoes. As usual, author Elena Hartwell’s characters are so real you feel like you could run into them at your local dive bar. Three Strikes takes us even deeper into Eddie’s complex family relationships with her charming-but-deadly father Eduardo and hilarious mom Chava, giving us further insight into Eddie’s psyche. The laugh-out-loud moments are many in this vital third installment, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in the world of Eddie Shoes."
~ LS Hawker, USA Today bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Private Eye Mystery
Published by: Open Road Media, March 2024
Series Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go:

CHAPTER ONE

Call me Eddie Shoes.

Not a very feminine moniker, but it suits me. My father’s name was Eduardo Zapata. In a fit of nostalgia, my mother Chava named me Edwina Zapata Schultz, even though by the time I was born she hadn’t seen my father in seven months. Edwina was a mouthful to saddle any child with, so at the ripe old age of six, I announced that I would only answer to Eddie. I didn’t have any nostalgia for a guy I’d never met, so Zapata just seemed like a name no one ever spelled right the first time. Chava wasn’t particularly maternal in any conventional sense, so not a lot of nostalgia for Schultz either. At eighteen I legally changed my name to Eddie Shoes.

It said a lot about my sense of humor.

Chava and I had come to an understanding. She stayed in my life as long as our contact was minimal and primarily over email. It was just enough to allay her guilt and not enough to make me crazy, so it worked for both of us. She’d always been down about my choice of career, but what did she expect from a girl who called herself Eddie Shoes? If I hadn’t become a private investigator, I probably would have been a bookie, so she should have been a little more positive about the whole thing.

My career was the reason I sat hunkered in the car, in the dark, halfway down the block from a tacky hotel, clutching a digital camera and zoom lens, waiting to catch my latest client’s husband with a woman not his wife. I’d already gotten a few choice shots of the guy entering the room, but he’d gone in alone and no one else had arrived. I assumed the other woman was already waiting for him. After tailing the guy for a few days, I had a pretty good guess who the chippie would turn out to be. I didn’t think he’d hired his “office manager” for her filing skills, and sleeping with the married boss was a cliché because it happened all the time. I could already prove the man a liar. He’d told his wife he played poker with the boys on Wednesday nights, and I didn’t think he was shacked up in this dive with three of his closest buddies, unless he was kinkier than I imagined.

But then, people never ceased to amaze me.

December in Bellingham, Washington, often brought cold, clear weather and that night was no exception. Starting the engine to warm up sounded tempting, but I didn’t want anyone to notice me sitting there. Nice it wasn’t raining, but if the thermometer had crept much over twenty, I hadn’t noticed. To make matters worse, I’d scrunched my almost six-foot frame down in the driver’s seat for more than two hours. Even with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I was half frozen, and desperately hoped my mark didn’t have more stamina than I’d pegged him for. All I wanted was to go home and go to bed.

And at some point, I would need to pee.

Up on the second floor, the door of the hotel room I had my eye on finally opened. I brought my camera up, ready for the money shots. My earlier pics proved that the dirty white stucco on the side of the building bounced the pale glow from the minimal exterior lights enough for pictures to be clear without a flash. Even from this distance, there was a nice unobstructed view of the location. The only barrier between someone standing on the narrow walk and my camera lens was a flimsy, rusty-looking, wrought-iron railing. The balusters looked too thin to stop anyone from falling the height of the first floor to the asphalt parking lot below. I doubted anything at the tawdry place passed code.

But what did I care? I wasn’t going to stay there.

The “liar”—I have always been creative with nicknames—stepped out, straightening his tie. I snapped a few pictures and held my breath, hoping the other woman would come out behind him. Even if I took pictures of her exiting a few minutes later, the husband needed to be in the picture with her. A surprising number of wives would argue with me about what actually took place in these various, if interchangeable, hotel rooms. For some reason they would rather believe the info about their husband cheating was fake than admit he strayed, which confused me because I got paid either way. It felt especially crazy when they must already know the truth, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. But I knew better than to look for logic in the ways of the human heart and got the best evidence possible.

The man turned sideways. Light from the room behind him threw his face into silhouette. He had an exceptionally generous head of hair, which made him very recognizable even in bad light. Mid-forties, and mostly in good shape, he appeared athletic as long as he didn’t unbutton his sport coat. I could see why women were attracted to him, though he didn’t do a thing for me. I preferred men a little more honest.

But then, I’d never been married, so what did I know?

A figure moved from behind him into the shadow of the doorway.

“Come on, honey, step out into the light.” I held the camera to my eye. “One more step, so I can see your face.”

The woman obliged by leaning into the cold blue glow cast by the old style, energy inefficient streetlights, her cheeks stained red in the flash of the vacancy sign. I happily clicked away as the “office manager” wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered sweet nothings in his ear. She clearly wore nothing but lingerie. She must assume no one else would be out this late on such a cold weeknight. Or maybe she enjoyed having people see her, a bit of an exhibitionist in the happy homewrecker. Whatever the cause, she had him in the perfect spot for the best pictures.

I loved it when guilty people made my job easy.

My photos might not be art, but they were gold in my book. No way the wife could believe this was anything other than what it looked like.

Several photos later, the husband extricated himself from the mistress and she ducked back into the room and closed the door. He walked briskly toward a shiny red Chevy Camaro. The guy owned a GM dealership and drove a new car every day. He lit a cigarette, which he puffed on for a few drags before he tossed it into the gutter. Not just a cheater, a litterer. The bastard. The cigarette stench backed his poker party story and covered the smell of another woman, killing two birds with one cancer-causing stone.

As soon as he pulled out onto the street, I stretched back up to full height, relieved to still feel my feet. I started up my ancient green Subaru Forrester, cranked my heater, and headed for home, relieved I didn’t have to wait around in the cold for the mistress to reappear. Whatever she did next wasn’t my concern. Having the two of them in the pictures together convinced me my work was done.

The hotel was located downtown—the blue-collar north end, not the high-priced, brick, historical south end, so I dropped down to Lakeway Drive, scooted under the freeway, and wound through the streets that curved around Bayview Cemetery. Traffic at ten o’clock on a midweek winter night was light, and I arrived at my little house by ten-thirty. I downloaded the photos from the hotel onto my computer, wrote up a final bill for my client, and went to bed content.

What could possibly go wrong with such an easy case?

***

Excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell. Copyright 2024 by Elena Hartwell. Reproduced with permission from Elena Hartwell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Review:

5 stars!

The two main characters are dynamite together! 

One Dead, Two to Go is the first book in author Elena Hartwell’s fun and fast-paced Eddie Shoes Mystery series featuring female private investigator Edwina “Eddie” Zapata Schultz and her card-sharp mother, Chava. These two characters are dynamite together, and with its intriguing plot that included a cheating husband, a couple of scam artists, a sudden reconnection with a police detective ex-boyfriend, and a long-lost father, I was just about blown away. 

Edwina, who legally changed her name to Eddie Shoes, is engaging, quick-witted, and skilled at what she does. She is a strong female protagonist with a successful PI business, and she reminded me of a combination of Kinsey Millhone (for her attitude and business acumen) and Stephanie Plum (also for her attitude and delightful narrative). She leads the reader through her investigation step-by-step which is conducted in a logical manner. I got a good feel for her normal business practices, beliefs, and ethics under normal circumstances. She consciously crosses some lines when her mother’s life hangs in the balance. I really enjoyed her newly developing relationship with her mother, who is only sixteen years older than she is and who she’s kept at a distance since leaving home. Chava is a delightfully interesting character, and there’s still much to discover about her in the future. 

The plot unfolds briskly, with the murder occurring early in the story and the police taking an interest in Eddie’s possible involvement. The new detective in town turns out to be Eddie’s former boyfriend from Seattle, and their backstory together has yet to be unveiled. Twists in the story begin immediately, and Eddie finds herself saddled (or gifted?) with a new sidekick: her mother, who proves to be clever, reliable, and just full of surprises. While I never trusted Kendra, the wronged wife, I never guessed the very satisfactory resolution to the case. I’m very definitely looking forward to Book Two, Two Heads Are Deader Than One. 

I recommend ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO to readers who enjoy traditional private-eye mysteries with humor and strong female characters.


Author Bio:

Elena Hartwell

Elena Hartwell spent several years working in theater as a playwright, director, designer, and educator before turning her storytelling skills to fiction. Elena is also a senior editor with Allegory Editing, a developmental editing house, where she works one-on-one with writers to shape and polish manuscripts. If you’d like to work with Elena, visit www.allegoryediting.com.

Her favorite place to be is at Paradise, the property she and her hubby own south of Spokane, Washington. They live with their horses, Jasper, Radar, and Diggy, their dogs Polar and Wyatt, and their cats Coal Train and Cocoa. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

She also writes as Elena Taylor, to learn more visit www.ElenaTaylorAuthor.com

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Facebook - @ElenaTaylorAuthor

 

 

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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Rise to Rebellion (Faith Clarke Mystery, #3) by Julie Bates

Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates Banner

Rise to Rebellion

by Julie Bates

April 8 - May 3, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates

Summer 1776. Different missions call Faith Clarke and Jeremy Butler to Philadelphia, where delegates meet to determine the path of the rebellious American Colonies. Faith has been called back to her childhood home to make peace with her terminally ill mother, while Jeremy has been summoned by General Washington to report to Philadelphia to deal with a crisis impacting the Continental Crisis. Yet nothing is as it seems.

Her mother’s wandering mind reveals a secret that no one wants to discuss, but Faith realizes must come to light. A child, born out of wedlock, haunts her mother’s memories and destroys her peace. No matter to cost, Faith knows this child must be found for her mother to pass in peace, even as her own family tries to stop her. Only her older sister, Hannah is willing to help her find the truth that will allow her mother to die in peace.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Butler hunts for an assassin determined to kill a member of the Congress meeting to draft a proclamation from the American Colonies. All attempts lead back to Benjamin Franklin, who is at the heart of the negotiations to send a united message to the King of England. But who would want to kill Franklin, a man respected by all? Alone in a strange town, Jeremy enlists the help of Faith’s sister Hannah, a formidable widow with a mind of her own. Together, they work to keep Franklin safe while hunting a ruthless killer wandering the streets of Philadelphia.

While Jeremy seeks answers from Franklin’s estranged son, William. Faith and Hannah hunt for their long-lost sister, who they believe may still be living in Philadelphia. Neither of them realizes that in a city rife with rebellion, anyone could be tempted to rise up and revolt against those held responsible for the deepest of betrayals.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 26, 2023
Number of Pages: 318
ISBN: 9781685124670 (ISBN10: 1685124674)
Series: Faith Clarke, #3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Level Best Books

Read an excerpt:

Butler circled the room. Franklin found a comfortable seat where he was soon encircled by a mixed crowd as he exerted his charm. Surrounded by paramount families of Philadelphia, Butler felt certain the old man was safe. A light touch on his arm caught him by surprise.

Lizette Fournier smiled up at him with a guileless expression. “Forgive me, Master Butler, but I appear to be without a partner for this dance. Would you do me the honor?”

He allowed her to take his arm. Butler hoped he didn’t forget the steps. When he had served with Washington as a youth in the French and Indian War, the colonel had seen fit to teach him dancing. The colonel, now general, was both an excellent dancer and teacher. Butler felt a debt of gratitude to him as he led Mistress Fournier into a well-known country dance.

Lizette Fournier was light on her feet. Her delicate blue gown, with its frothy lace, reminded him of seafoam as it moved back and forth. Her eyes watched him as he turned and swayed along with her.

“You are a fine dancer, Master Butler,” she called as they drew closer. “I wonder that I have not seen you at some of our other gatherings.”

Butler waited until they were close again. “Regrettably, I have had little time for entertainment since I entered this fair city.”

“Really, I wonder what sort of business would keep an attractive man away from the very gatherings that allow men to make connections valuable in conducting a successful business.”

Butler nodded as they turned. “I have seen many of Philadelphia’s finest families represented here tonight, but not all business is conducted at a ball. The ladies expect better of us than to take time away from the festivities.”

“It would be a shame,” she agreed. “That’s why so many of our fine men slip away to the card tables so that they can drink and gossip with impunity.”

Butler laughed. “Is that how it is done? I will keep that in mind.” He bowed before her as the dance ended. “Perhaps I had best excuse myself and move to that room.” He moved swiftly before she could compel him to another dance. Fortunately, he had spotted the adjacent room set up for cards as they had moved across the dance floor.

Candelabras surrounded the group of square tables set up in an elegant room papered in blue and white toile print. Dark blue draperies partially drawn across the windows gave the room an intimate look. The windows were open to allow breezes inside and allow smoke from cigars and pipes to drift out into the night.

As he passed by the settee where Franklin was ensconced, he heard a giggle. He had been joined by a pretty young girl in a pale pink dress covered in bows. Butler watched as Franklin leaned over to kiss her cheek and chuckle heartily. Butler briefly wondered if he had been entrusted with the defense of an old lecher, but he saw nothing of concern from either Franklin or the girl as they sat talking. He moved to stand behind a chair close by.

Franklin basked in the attention of the young lady, her mama, and a few others as he shared a story about one of his experiments regarding electricity. “We soon discovered that lightning would strike the highest point in the vicinity in order to reach the ground, and,” he leaned over to whisper conspiratorially, “whatever it struck would explode as if shot from a cannon.” He leaned back and saw Butler. “Master Butler, could you find me some refreshment? Regrettably, my throat has gotten quite dry with the sharing of my scientific work.”

Butler shot Franklin a look. “It would be my pleasure.”

“Thank you, my good man.” He turned to the girl. “Now, my sweet Felicity, where were we?”

“You were about to tell us about attaching a key to your kite,” she replied. Chestnut brown curls were piled artfully on top her head while two or three large sausage-shaped ones drifted over her bare shoulder.

They had moved on to another of Franklin’s experiments by the time he returned. Butler handed him a frothy goblet and passed the other to the girl. Franklin drank deeply, draining the glass before setting it on a nearby table.

Butler smiled over at Franklin. “I believe I read that your son assisted you in many of your experiments.”

“William helped a great deal. He served as my assistant and recorder. He could be very useful when he chose.”

Felicity asked. “Where is your son now, Dr. Franklin?”

Franklin remained silent for several moments, his expression unreadable. “William is far away from me now.”

Butler left to get a drink for himself, pondering how two men once so close could grow so far apart. Avoiding the syllabub, which he found disgusting, Butler acquired a glass of wine and settled along a wall. Before long, he was joined by Frances Fournier, also with a glass of wine.

“It is a fine party, is it not mon ami?” Fournier’s glass was almost buried by the enormous cascade of ruffles flowing out from the cuffs of his jacket. The pale ivory of his waistcoat stood out in contrast to the blue of his suit. All were covered with embroidered roses that must have taken hours to produce. Fournier gazed with pride at the crowd filling his home. “My wife does an excellent job with these things.”

Butler nodded. “She seems very talented. You must be pleased to have such a beautiful and skilled lady at your side.”

Fournier nodded sagely. “She is a remarkable woman, my Lisette, and tolerant of my eccentricities.” He smiled expansively. “She will not notice if I slip away for a few hours with a like-minded friend.”

Butler wondered what Fournier was alluding to. There was very little a wealthy man could not discreetly do. “It is good she is an understanding woman,” he said at last.

“I have not seen you with the ladies, with the exception of my charming wife; perhaps you too prefer the company of men?”

The question was posed delicately.

Butler smiled to show he meant no judgment against his host. “I’m flattered you would ask, but that is not my interest. I lost my wife years ago and have no interest in forming an attachment with anyone.” He stepped back from the wall. “I think it best if I check on my companions before they take in too much of your well-stocked cellars. I wish you a pleasant evening.” He walked slowly into the crush, aware of the older man’s eyes on his back. Butler had no intention of commenting on his interests, although he suspected it was known in society. His mission was to protect Franklin, not judge other men’s choices.

Butler walked outside to clear his head. Strains of music drifted out into the shadowed garden, lit by a few scattered torches. A tall tree’s canopy provided a large dark space where one could shelter and not be disturbed. Butler stood beneath it, taking in the night air.

In the garden, whispers drifted across the ground. Young swains sputtered their affections to young ladies. A few men discussed an upcoming horse race on the edges of town the next day. One apparently was short of funds. Butler paid attention to that. A man desperate for money might be willing to share information for some coins.

A pair of women walked past. Their furtive glances caught his interest. Butler decided to follow. Gravel crunched under their feet as they walked swiftly away from the revealing light of torches that had been placed just outside the house. Butler kept to the shadows surrounding the fruit trees on the edge of the formal beds.

Within the raised beds, pale blossoms of flowers glowed in the shadowed garden. The waxing moon provided ample light to see the path. Butler listened to the hoot of an owl in the distance, warning smaller creatures that it was on the hunt. He watched as the women made for the pergola at the end of the main path. Painted white, it stood out in the darkness.

One of the women stopped as her skirt became caught in the boxwood edging one of the flower beds. As she bent to free it, Lisette Fournier whispered. “Hurry, it won’t be long before we are missed.”

Mistress Cranford rose. “I’m not tearing my skirt. The dressmaker delivered this yesterday.”

Butler lingered outside, concealed by trees and shrubs.

Fournier spoke first. “Has your husband revealed anything about where he stands in this conflict?”

Cranford’s voice sounded exasperated. “We are Quaker. He says we are neutral, but he meets with men like Franklin and George Clymer. He is angry at the threats the British have made. They imply that if he doesn’t support the King, he is a patriot even if he does nothing.”

Fournier nodded. “The British are of like mind. They have no use for pacifists.” She raised her head, looking at the sky. Her face was a pale oval, unreadable in the shadowed structure. “The British will come,” She said. “We need to prepare. Our husbands may choose to blindly ignore the danger, but we cannot. Our children depend on us to provide a future for them.”

“Elizabeth,” Lisette grasped her hand. “I realize this is difficult, but you can do this. Listen when he brings his associates home to dinner. Let me know what you hear; that is all you need to do.”

The other woman shook her head. “James won’t like it if I pry in his business. His family was disappointed he did not marry into a more affluent family. It has been better since Simeon was born. His father dotes on him and his sisters.”

“It is for your children you should do this. When the British come, they will take this town and punish anyone they believe sympathetic to the revolution.” Her voice deepened. “Men pay no attention to us, but we are necessary to their comfort and wellbeing. Therein lays your power. Be the perfect hostess and entertain your husband’s associates with loving kindness. They will speak and never realize you are present.”

Elizabeth Cranford drew in a breath. “This is a patriot stronghold. Do you really believe the British will come?”

“British Troops are gathering in New York, waiting for the right moment. It’s a matter of time before they march south.”

“But Washington,” Elizabeth began.

Lisette shook her head. “He works with militias: men of very little training and short commitment. My friends tell me they are not prepared to meet a professional army.”

Butler wondered who the lovely Lisette shared her information with.

“It’s time for us to return to the ball.” Lisette murmured. “I will call on you tomorrow, and you can let me know if James has expressed any opinions to his clients. I have heard that Master Hancock has met with him.”

Elizabeth nodded. “They have discussed business contracts. Master Hancock wants to expand where his ships go and find a way to avoid the British navy.”

Lisette snorted. “We’re all trying to avoid them, as well as the privateers that seek fat ships to loot.” She looked about before stepping out onto the pearly pale gravel that lined the garden’s walkways. Both women walked swiftly back toward the house, where the strains of a minuet drifted from the open windows. Butler watched them go, pondering what he had heard. Lisette Fournier was far more than a pretty woman. In the right hands, she could influence the course of the conflict here in Philadelphia. The question was, whose side was she really on? It might be possible to sway her to share intelligence in order to garner favor with the prevailing side. Butler recognized she could be a source of tremendous intelligence, but if he wasn’t careful, she could also be his doom.

***

Excerpt from Rise to Rebellion by Julie Bates. Copyright 2024 by Julie Bates. Reproduced with permission from Julie Bates. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Julie Bates enjoys reading and writing in a variety of genres. After spending a few years writing freelance articles, her first novel Cry of the Innocent, premiered in June 2021, followed by A Seed of Betrayal in 2022. The Eight book series follows the timeline of the American Revolutionary War. In addition, she has blogged for Killer Nashville and the educational website Read.Learn.Write. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Triangle Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and The Historical Novel Society. When not busy plotting her next story, she enjoys working in her garden, doing crafts and spending time with her husband and son, as well as a number of dogs and cats who have shown up on her doorstep and never left...

Catch Up With Julie Bates:
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