“Deadly” Reading

Kate Parker continues her pre-WWII series with Deadly Travel. It’s the spring of 1939, and Olivia Denis has been recruited to fill in as a chaperone on a KinderTransport run to Germany and back. Run by local Quakers, the organization rescues German children, mostly Jewish, who are in danger under the Nazis. Olivia’s cover is to write a favorable article which will help raise money for the work, but she’s really going on an errand for spymaster Sir Malcolm Freemantle. The woman she is replacing, Alice Waterson, has been murdered, and Sir Malcolm wants to know who did it. When Olivia arrives in Berlin and checks in with the British Embassy, she’s given another assignment: smuggle the wife and sons of a German dissident and British spy who has been arrested by the Gestapo to safety in England on the KinderTransport.

When another murder occurs, Olivia is certain one of the Quaker chaperones is the killer, but how can that be? These people are Pacifists, after all. Juggling her job, Sir Malcolm’s demands, a seemingly dead end investigation, and her plans to marry Adam Redmond, Olivia has her hands full.

Kate Parker combines the serious, and frequently terrifying, circumstances of the late 1930s, as Olivia and all of England wait on edge for the war they know is coming, with domestic humor and the details of daily life. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels.

Colleen Thompson’s Deadly Texas Summer is a tense and fast-paced tale of romantic suspense. Wildlife biologist Emma Copley is studying the effect of wind turbines on endangered birds, but her project begins to unravel as she gets more and more threatening calls from her unbalanced ex-husband. When her research assistant is killed, Emma is sure her ex is somehow responsible, but the local sheriff pronounces the death an accident.

Beau Kingston, owner of the ranch who’s future may depend on the success of the wind turbines, doesn’t want to believe the researcher was murdered—he has a whole pile of other problems to worry about, including the sheriff, who is his cousin and rival for control of the ranch. But he finds it harder and harder to ignore Emma’s concerns—or Emma herself.

With the sheriff playing them against each other for his own reasons, Emma and Beau don’t know who to trust, but it’s so hard to resist their growing attraction to each other. With suspects mounting amid contradictory alibis, will Emma survive to discover the truth? Well, it’s a romance, folks. You can count on a happy ending. But getting there will be quite a struggle, with layers of suspense and mystery—and two irresistible little boys.

I’ve been missing in action for a couple of months for a number of reasons, not the least of which was WordPress moving to their new block editor. But I’ve finally overcome a couple of problems, and I have a backlog of book reviews to post. I’ll try to catch up by the end of the year. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.

Colleen Thompson: The Off Season

Colleen Thompson’s latest romantic suspense novel, The Off Season, is set in a small Jersey shore community, Seaside Creek, in the winter. The tourists are gone, leaving their summer mansions to sit empty, risking vandalism and worse. Dr. Christina Paxton, recently widowed, has returned to her hometown to work in the emergency room of the local hospital. Thanks to her real estate agent mother, she’s also house sitting, living with her two-year-old daughter, Lilly, and a retired racing greyhound called Max.

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the-off-seasonThen one night Christina hears words no one could expect to hear from a two-year-old child. “Murder me,” Lilly says. “Bad people.” Lilly’s strange words continue with names and references that take Christina back thirty years, to terrifying memories that no one else could possibly share. Strange dreams, voices through Lilly’s baby monitor, and vandalism drive Christina back into contact with Harris Bowers, once her high school classmate and summer fling, now chief of the small Seaside Creek police department, the last person from her cloudy past Christina would choose to depend on.

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Harris has his own set of problems: the physical after effects of an explosion, a recent not-very-amicable divorce (from Christina’s old friend and recent baby sitter), and a spate of crime in Seaside Creek. He would like to mend fences with Christina, but the barriers erected in the past may be insurmountable.

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As the dangers around her multiply, Christina has no idea who she can trust, least of all herself, as she struggles to keep the secrets of her past, even when those secrets may be at the root of all that threatens her, and her child, in the present.

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The Off Season may be Colleen Thompson’s best work to date (and she has written quite a few excellent romantic suspense novels). Not only are there multiple suspects who might be behind the threats to Christina and Lilly, but those possible suspects have motives ranging from the not-quite-buried past to the present. Add to that the growing tension and rebirth of attraction between Christina and Harris, and you have a true up-all-night read.

And Happy New Year

Well, I’ve eaten my New Year’s Eve herring (a family tradition–I don’t think I’ve missed a year since I was a little girl) and I’ve watched the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert (that was a tradition with Jack, and I’ve kept it up).  I’ve started new notebooks and hung new calendars.  I don’t really make resolutions, and I try to keep the goal setting to things I can actually control, but I do find myself thinking over what I’ve accomplished in the last year.

Writing:  In 2013 I’m afraid I did more editing than new writing.  Jinn & Tonic finalled in the Golden Heart contest and I spent some considerable time editing that.  The Golden Heart is quite a rollercoaster ride, but I’m hooked, so in the fall I pulled out Tempting Fate, a story I’ve always loved, rewrote much of the beginning, moved some scene and chapter breaks, and sent that off to the 2014 Golden Heart.  Now I’m finally back on my current project, currently 62 pages long.  I know where my characters are going, but I’m having a little trouble getting them there.

Meanwhile I went to a wonderful regional writers’ conference in Shreveport, put on by the NOLA STARS, the North Louisiana chapter of RWA.  And I flew to Atlanta in July for the RWA National conference, with my friends Cheryl Bolen and Colleen Thompson, and had a great time meeting up with old and new friends.  I also finished my two years as president of the West Houston RWA chapter.  I’m pulling the plug on volunteering, at least for a while.  I need to get back to writing.

Reading:  I continue to buy books faster than I can read them (a life-long habit).  In 2013 I managed to read 38 of them, mostly novels, mostly romances and mysteries.  Between my local writer friends and my Golden Heart sisters, my bookshelves and my Kindle are well stocked.

Work:  In October Jo Anne and I cut our work week back to three days, and we love it.  More time for writing, reading, and sleeping.

Around the house:  Two big projects got done this year.  I had the large dead pine tree in the front yard removed before it could fall on a passing car, along with a couple of smaller ones, and the rest of the trees trimmed.  And I had the swimming pool I’d been ignoring for five years demolished.  Now I’m slowly working on the rest of the yard.  Maybe this year I’ll attack the big indoor projects (the bathrooms need remodeling, and the floors need work), but for the time being I’m picking away at smaller clean-and-toss jobs.  Apparently I am incapable of throwing out pens, address labels, or memo pads, all of which keep turning up in the mail.    I started with my writing nook, but there are plenty of other excavations to look forward to.

Life in general:  I’m catching up on my sleep.  I’ve put on another five pounds or so, a trend I definitely need to reverse.  I admire my friends who go to the gym or their fitness class every morning, but I think I’ll stick with walks around the neighborhood.

Thanks for stopping by now and then.  I hope you enjoy reading these little essays as much as I enjoy writing them.  And I wish you all a wonderful, rewarding, and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2014

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