Sinners' Opera by Linda Nightingale

About the Book

Morgan D'Arcy is an English lord, a classical pianist, and a vampire. He has everything except what he desires most—Isabeau. As the Angel Gabriel he’s steered her life and career choice, preparing her to become Lady D'Arcy. Many forces oppose Morgan's daring plan—not the least of which is Vampyre law. 

Isabeau Gervase is a brilliant geneticist Though she no longer believes in angels, she sees a ticket to a Nobel Prize in Gabriel's secrets—secrets that have led her to a startling conclusion. Gabriel isn't human, and she fully intends to identify the species she named the Angel Genome. Morgan is ready to come back into Isabeau's life, but this time as a man not an angel. Will he outsmart his enemies, protect his beloved and escape death himself? For the first time in eternity, the clock is ticking.

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Since this scene is about midway through a long book, I’d like to introduce the reader to the story. Sinners’ Opera is a study of true love—and obsession.

 I=Morgan D’Arcy, the dark hero, a renowned classical pianist, an English lord, and a vampire.

Isabeau=the heroine, a beautiful but nice brainchild, an up and coming star in the field of genetics, and Morgan’s true/obsessive love.

Avery=Morgan’s long-time manservant and friend.

D’Alembert=one of the villains, a vampire who took the gift of darkness for the sole purpose of exacting revenge on Morgan.

Cheval de Bataille=the Vampyre (race; individual is vampire) police force and enforcer of the few and not very stringent laws.

This scene is set outside Isabeau’s house. The book is set in beautiful Charleston, SC.


As the day lost its hold on the city, I stirred, sleep dropping away, life returning to my limbs.  In a hot shower, images of Isabeau scrolled lazily through my mind. I hummed a tune while I snarled my hair with the electric hairdryer.  When I tried to untangle the mop, I understood perfectly what the dread in dreadlocks meant.

Quarter to seven, Avery hadn’t returned from his watch.  Last night—an eternity ago—I’d suggested he order this evening’s meal from a caterer who served in private residences.  The old man had been most adamant he’d prepare and serve dinner for Lady Isabeau.  I glanced at my watch.  He was cutting it close.  Beef Wellington required a great deal of prep.

At seven, another blasted storm blew in off the Atlantic.  From the tall windows in the parlor, I paced to the doors overlooking the black-and-white tiled veranda, awash with rain.  Another plan spoiled.  I’d imagined us sitting outside, Isabeau sipping mint juleps.

The clock chimed the quarter hour.  I ambled to the music room, impatience dogging my steps.  Avery was to stay with her, secretly escort her here.  Where was he?  Was Isabeau waiting for the storm to abate?  I gripped the pain twisting in my solar plexus.

She’d stood me up, opting for the familiar, the safe and secure.  She’d chosen John.  I’d duped myself into believing that, after thirteen long years, I still owned a place in her heart.  The woman the child had become had forgotten her Gabriel.  I’d forgotten the bitter taste of rejection and how it weakens like the rush of blood from a fatal wound.  I gazed out the window at an endless gray landscape.

Closing my eyes, I summoned Avery mind-to-mind.  A terrible, impossible silence engulfed me.  My old friend was bound to me in the Blood, compelled to answer.  Avery was either unconscious or dead.

Before my heart missed the next beat, I stood in the downpour on the sidewalk in front of Isabeau’s house.  Thoughts, extreme emotions, both human and vampire, struck with the force of a blow.  I sensed d’Alembert the instant he sensed me.  He stopped mid-breath and released her to a deep, unnatural sleep.  Fear iced my spine.  Pulse racing, I scanned her condition.  She was physically unharmed.  My vibration soared, readying for combat.

As d’Alembert attempted another cowardly disappearing act, rage lifted me into the air.  We collided in a crackling clash of psychic energies, animal snarls and gnashing fangs.  Surprise was on my side.  I fired the first shot, a laser blue halo encircling his head.  In a deadly embrace, we struggled.  His talon-like fingernails ripped my shirt.  Blood oozed from the wounds.

I buried my fangs below his ear.  His scream of rage and pain must have rattled windows from Orange Street to White Point Garden.  Vengeance polluted his blood, yet I reveled in the feral taste—and the tang of his fear.  We crashed into the treetops.  Silver and blue sparks ignited along a deadly line in the thick mist and dirty gray moss.  He grabbed for my throat, but I battered his head against an oak.  His essence flowed into me, his struggles weakening.

A pained groan snapped me free of bloodlust.  Avery stumbled around the corner of the house.  In warfare, a second’s lapse of attention can cost your life.

The enemy struck with a silent challenge and ripped free of my kiss.  Kill me or rescue your thrall?  The choice is yours.

If I don’t destroy you, sooner or later, the Cheval de Bataille will. I threatened.

About the Author

After 14 years in Texas, I returned home to my roots. I count seven published novels, four of which are available from in audio. For many years, I bred, trained and showed the magnificent Andalusian horses. I have a poster that says, “This horse will change your life.” It’s true! I’ve seen a lot of this country from the windshield of a truck pulling a horse trailer. I’ve won several writing awards, including the Georgia Romance Writers’ Magnolia Award and the SARA Merritt. I have two wonderful sons.

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Mai Tais & Murder by Lydia Lane

About the Book

Tessa Tidwell knew one thing...
Honeymoons aren't meant to be solo excursions.
Wait, make that two things.
She knew two things.
The second thing?
Honeymoons aren't meant to become murder investigations.
Tessa Tidwell is newly single. And on her honeymoon.
Following a disastrous wedding (disastrous in the sense that it didn’t happen), Tessa jets off to the Golden Hibiscus Resort to lick her wounds among swaying palm trees and a mai tai.
Or two.
It should’ve been a classic rom com story: Brokenhearted woman goes to tropical island, finds herself, meets her One True Love.
Should've been.
But nothing about this trip has gone the way Tessa expected.

~~ Amazon ~~


My plan, which wasn't finely tuned (not unlike my overall theory about Mara, as Ethan couldn’t resist pointing out), was to get to the trailhead Mara had mentioned and wait. I found a bench near the outdoor restrooms and tightened my shoelaces. There were still a few stars visible. The moon, which was almost a perfect semi-circle, was high in the sky.

“Moon ritual, my ass,” I scoffed.

“You know this is nuts, right?” Ethan said, kicking dead leaves with the toe of his sneaker. “What do you think you’re going to find? And what if she really is a psycho? And we’re following her into the woods in the middle of the night?”

“Calm down. We aren’t going to confront her or anything. We just need to prove she isn’t dancing in the moonlight with chickens or whatever.”

Ethan yawned. “If that’s all you’re doing, why couldn’t you get your crazy old friend to come? Or Jack, whoever that is.”

Sibyl hadn't come along because she didn't “do” hikes.

“She isn’t crazy or old,” I said, ignoring his jab about Jack. The last time it had come up, I’d said Jack was just a guy who knew the Wards. Technically not a lie, but Ethan wasn’t entirely satisfied with the answer.

He mumbled something I couldn’t quite make out.

I heard it described once that arguments in long-term relationships are like the steps of a dance. Each partner knows their steps in a beautifully choreographed flow designed to make the other person miserable.

Ethan’s mumble was the equivalent of him extending a hand in an invitation to join him on the floor.

Dance, Step One.

It was my cue to say something like, “What was that? Why are you always such an (insert a crass noun of one’s choice)?”

The sound of tires in the gravel lot startled me before I could take my first step in the dance. I grabbed Ethan’s arm and pulled him with me behind the outdoor restrooms, my heart pounding.

With my back against the building, I chanced a look around the corner. I was banking on it being Mara, but for all I knew, it could have been Roger or any other crazy fitness person wanting to go on a midnight hike while on vacation.

A beam of light bounced across the ground.

Smart. Of course a flashlight would help in this situation, but I hadn't thought to pack one for my solo honeymoon-turned-murder-investigation.

Next time I'd know better.

The person passed me, walking quickly toward the crossroads where the path split. Even in the dark, I could tell it was Mara. She held the flashlight in one hand and a walking stick in the other, a small pack strapped around her waist. I looked down at my own ensemble: a pair of jogging shorts, three-year-old sneakers, and a sweatshirt I'd borrowed from my mom and never bothered returning. Mara looked like she was on a real mission, and I was dressed for a strenuous round of mall-walking.

“Come on,” I whispered to Ethan.

“Tessa, no. You see her—she’s alone. She’s just going for a hike. Let’s get out of here. I’m not doing this.”

I spun to face him.

“Are you serious?”

He was.

“You’re going to leave me here in the middle of the night? You’re going to let me go alone?” I said.

“No, I’m trying to get you to stop being an idiot and come back with me.”

Dance, Step Two.

Step Three should have been me following Ethan back to the parking lot, where I’d say something like: You never support me.

And then he’d say something like: You’re being dramatic.

And then I’d flounce off in a huff.

And then he’d say something like: See?

And then neither of us would speak to the other for twenty-four to thirty-six hours.

So I decided to change the steps of the dance.

“I’m not being an idiot, Ethan,” I said in a quiet voice. “But you can go. I’m doing this.” I pointed down the trail. “Good thing I told you to drive separately,” I said as I walked off.

I listened intently, waiting for the sound of Ethan’s steps to get closer.

They didn’t. They got farther away.

He was leaving me out here.

Maybe the steps of the dance hadn’t changed after all.

My stomach clenched with a wave of serious doubt. What the hell was I doing, trailing Mara and Roger—assumed murderers—into the woods in the middle of the night?

Just stay back and stay quiet. Find out who Roger is and prove she isn’t doing astrological rituals, and then get out. She won’t even know you’re here.

My pep talk didn’t make me much peppier. But I was already here.

Into the woods it was.

About the Author

Lydia Lane lives in the Mountain West and spends significant time thinking about the Universe, energy, Enneagram types, and astrology. When she isn’t pulling tarot cards, you’ll find her lifting heavy weight in the gym and drinking overpriced sparkling waters.

She is the author of the Beach Cocktail Mystery series, a funny mystery series that follows a jilted bride and a gin-soaked divorcée as they encounter various deaths and other crimes at a luxury beach resort.

Lydia is an Enneagram 6, Capricorn sun, Aquarius moon, and Gemini rising. She wrote this about herself in the third person.

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Deadly Traditions: A Cozy Mystery Christmas Anthology

About the Book

Deadly Traditions: A Cozy Mystery Christmas Anthology by Justine Maxwell, Gayle Leeson, Estelle Richards, Erin Scoggins, Sage So, Dianne Ascroft, Ellie Ballard, Melicity Pope, Mollie Cox Bryan, and Sam Cheever

Have yourself a DEADLY little Christmas.

Celebrate the holidays with mistletoe, mayhem, and murder. Join your favorite authors as they cozy up by the fire with twelve festive short mysteries that feature treasured holiday traditions. Serve up a slice of fatal fruitcake and deck the halls with danger, because the holiday season has never been so much fun. 

This original collection is available for a limited time only, so grab your copy today.

A Pickle in a Pear Tree by Erin Scoggins
Mistletoe and Murder by Dianne Ascroft
O Deadly Night by Estelle Richards
Larceny and Gingerbread Lattes by Justine Maxwell
Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas by Gayle Leeson

~~ Amazon ~~

Guest Post by Mollie Cox Bryan

Meet Irene Calhoun

Irene Calhoun here. I own the Mourning Arts shop in Victoria Town, Va,, a place I’m happy to call my home. A well-preserved Victorian Town, we are well known for our architecture and our authentic shops. For example, if you want a fan or a corset, made in an authentic manner, Victoria Town has the shop for you. Of course, one can’t really speak of Victorian culture without looking deeply at their mourning traditions. That’s where I come in. 

My recently departed husband left the shop to me. I must admit this is not the path I cut out for myself as a young woman, but love will find you in odd places. I have found my own way in the shop, now I’m designing mourning clothes, with a bit of a modern twist. I also must admit a fascination with mourning jewelry. We have quite a collection of jet, lover’s eyes, and hair-jewlery. Some modern people think of making jewelry from a deceased person's hair macabre, but the Victorians found it very comforting. 

As a historic town that has reinvented itself into a tourist mecca, we are steeped in tradition and tourist events. One of our busiest times of the year is Christmas, of course. The Sweet Victoria Bed and Breakfast always has a fancy Christmas tea, which is one of my favorite events. Many of the other businesses build their promotions around it. Fans & Feathers offers a special fan one would just use for tea parties, for example. And Cee-Cee’s Chocolate offers Christmas tea-infused chocolates in gorgeous tin containers. 

Our popularity is a mixed blessing. We are well known for our heartfelt hospitality. But at the same time, it can be overwhelming. One of the measures we’ve taken is having some self-care events for ourselves before a big event. One of those events is a card-making party for the local business owners. It’s a way to get creative and have fun, let loose a bit, before the tourist descend on us. This year, I’m hosting at Mourning Arts. It’s my first year and I’m a little nervous about it. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s a crafty party. We’ll have goodies and make cards. What could go wrong?


About the Authors

Gayle Leeson

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. Gayle has also written as Amanda Lee. She is currently writing the Kinsey Falls chick-lit/women's fiction series, the Down South Cafe cozy mystery series, and the Ghostly Fashionista cozy mystery series. Her book KILLER WEDDING CAKE won the Bronze Medal in the 20th Anniversary IPPY Awards. Gayle lives in Southwest Virginia with her family and enjoys hearing from readers.

Mollie Cox Bryan

Mollie Cox Bryan writes cozy mysteries with edge. She's the author of several bestselling mystery series, also writing under the pen name Maggie Blackburn. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman's World. She has also been short-listed for the Virginia Library People's Choice Award. She's also penned a historical fiction: MEMORY OF LIGHT: AN AFTERMATH OF GETTYSBURG. She's the mother of two nearly perfect daughters, each pursuing careers in music.

Erin Scoggins

USA Today Bestselling Author Erin Scoggins is a long-time Southerner with a fondness for offbeat humor and fresh fried chicken. After fifteen years in marketing with a Fortune 500 company, she traded her MBA for fictional crime scenes and feisty small-town families. She writes fun, flirty mysteries that are celebrations of food, family, and the killer South.

Visit her at for book news and shenanigans.

Estelle Richards

Estelle Richards lives in the beautiful American Southwest and writes cozy mysteries. Connect with Estelle at or on Facebook at

Justine Maxwell

Justine Maxwell writes cozy mysteries with brave heroines, strong family bonds, and a touch of romance. She has degrees in psychology from Northern Arizona University and Grand Canyon University. She hopes to one day become a reclusive author in a mountain cabin near Flagstaff, AZ. Until then, she'll be a busy mom of four small children and one (allegedly) hypoallergenic pup, writing in the midst of chaos.

Wendy H. Jones

International Award Winning Author Wendy H. Jones lives in Scotland, and her police procedural series featuring DI Shona McKenzie are set. Wendy has led a varied and adventurous life. Her love for adventure led to her joining the Royal Navy to undertake nurse training. After six years in the Navy, she joined the Army where she served as an Officer for a further 17 years. Killer's Countdown was her first novel and the first book in the Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Killer's Crew won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The seventh book in the series. Killer's Curse will be released early august 2020. The Dagger's Curse, the first book in The Fergus and Flora Mysteries, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award Book of the Year. Turning to humorous crime the Cass Claymore Investigates series was born. She is also a highly successful marketer and is currently in the process of rereleasing her completely updated marketing book Marketing Matters. This will be part of the Writing Matters Series following the release of Motivation Matters. She is also the author of the Bertie the Buffalo picture book and associated soft toy and colouring book. Wendy is delighted to be one of the authors in two anthologies aimed at empowering women - The Power of Why, and Women Win Against All Odds. She is proud to be the President of the Scottish Association of Writers and is the host of The Writing and Marketing Show podcast, a writing and marketing coach. and CEO of Writing Matters online writing school, Authorpreneur Accelerator Academy.

Dianne Ascroft

Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian writer living in Britain. Since moving to Britain in 1990 she has lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Online she can be found at

She writes cozy mystery, historical and contemporary fiction, often with an Irish connection. Her non-fiction articles and short stories have been printed in Canadian and Irish magazines and regional newspapers including the Toronto Star, Ireland's Own, Senior Times, Celtic Connection and Irish Connections Canada.

She was co-editor of The Fermanagh Miscellany, the Fermanagh Authors' Association's yearly anthology for several years and she also contributes material to other local history and writers' anthologies.

Dianne is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Sisters in Crime, Historical Novel Society, Writers Abroad, Fermanagh Authors' Association and Fermanagh Writers.

Dianne started life in a quiet residential neighbourhood in the buzzing city of Toronto and has progressively moved to smaller places through the years. She now lives on a small farm in Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. If she ever decides to write her autobiography the working title will be 'Downsizing'.

Sam Cheever

USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes mystery and suspense, creating stories that draw you in and keep you eagerly turning pages. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 80+ books.

NEWSLETTER: Join Sam's Monthly newsletter and get a FREE book! You can also keep up with her appearances, enjoy special content, and get previews of her upcoming work!

TEXT NEWS ALERTS: Or if you'd rather not receive a monthly newsletter, you can sign up for text alerts and just receive a brief text when Sam's launching a new release or appearing somewhere fun. Just text SAMNEWS to 781-728-9542 to be added!

ONLINE HOT SPOTS: To find out more about Sam and her work, please pay her a visit: Her website:; Her blog:; and Facebook: She looks forward to chatting with you!


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September 20 – Reading Authors Network – SPOTLIGHT
September 20 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
September 20 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
September 21 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT
September 21 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT
September 21 – Christy's Cozy Corners – REVIEW
September 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
September 22 – Baroness Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT
September 23 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
September 23 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
September 23 – fundinmental – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
September 24 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
September 24 – Mystery Review Crew – CHARACTER GUEST POST
September 24 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
September 25 – The Mystery Section – GUEST POST
September 26 – Maureen's Musing – SPOTLIGHT
September 26 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW  
September 26 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
September 27 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
September 27 – Sapphyria's Books – REVIEW
September 27 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
September 28 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT
September 28 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT
September 29 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
September 29 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER GUEST POST  
September 29 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT

On the Beach by Greg Jolley

About the Book

Book Three: The Maison de Danse Quartet


Date Published: 08-01-2022

Publisher: Épouvantail Books 

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Private investigator Joy Nakamura is working the strangest cold case of her career, the 1999 disappearance of the five Sanger children. Working the old files, she tries to make sense of a twisted and clearly delusional interview within the records, the closest thing to a confession or explanation. Fighting her personal demons and ruinous alcoholism, she latches onto a clue and goes on the hunt.

The trail leads Joy to Maison de Danse, a family compound in Ormond Beach. Gaining access, she questions Bo and Jangles Danser, a handsome man with two distinct personalities: one well-mannered and kind; the other vicious and deadly. They are soon entangled in lies and deceits as she presses on with the investigation, determined to find out what happened to the five children.

When she next meets Izzy Danser, her world is turned upside-down as the mystery gets dark and menacing. Caught up in the family’s ménage, she’s drawn into their eccentric lives and secrets, desperate to discover what happened to the Sanger children. As she draws closer to the answer, a long black shadow threatens to consume her.

Risking her life and sanity, Joy will stop at nothing until the killer is made to pay for his crimes.

Amazon ~~ Barnes and Noble


Waking up on the beach just south of a pier, Joy saw she was on St. Augustine Beach, being thrashed and tormented by another vicious blackout hangover. At some point in the night, she had spilled out of her beach chair and lay in the sand, having pawed herself a pillow.

With her stomach a wreck and her nerves rattled, her mind clawed through the few remaining images from the night before, attempting to sort out what all she had done while seriously smashed.

Any regrettable phone calls or texts?

Tell someone what she really thought?

Just because none came to mind didn’t mean they hadn’t happened.

She saw that her surf-fishing pole had been cast and placed in its tube holder, and her tackle box and white bucket were beside it. Her teeth feeling gritty from sand dust, she sat up, seeing her thermos beside the chair, certain it was empty. The sun was brutal, the temperature already in the low eighties and climbing. More than anything, she was embarrassed by this self-inflicted pain.

Standing up, she brushed sand from her face and hair. After reeling in the empty fishing line, she gathered up her chair and fishing supplies. Next up was finding her car, hopefully without damage.

“I want three gallons of ice water,” she spoke her first words of the morning.

Trudging her belongings up the sand to the beach walk, as always, she forced her thoughts to her work, trying to escape the guilt and remorse. The hunt for the Sanger children came to the forefront.

“Too young for whatever happened to you.”

She fished her keys from her pocket.

“I’m going to figure it out. Find whoever snatched you. Disappeared you.”

About the Author

Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.

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Amazon Author Page


RABT Book Tours & PR

The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker

The Counterfeit Wife

by Mally Becker

September 19 - October 14, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Philadelphia, June 1780. George Washington’s two least likely spies return, masquerading as husband and wife as they search for traitors in Philadelphia.

Months have passed since young widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway foiled a plot that threatened the new nation. But independence is still a distant dream, and General Washington can’t afford more unrest, not with food prices rising daily and the value of money falling just as fast.

At the General’s request, Becca and Daniel travel to Philadelphia to track down traitors who are flooding the city with counterfeit money. Searching for clues, Becca befriends the wealthiest women in town, the members of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, while Daniel seeks information from the city’s printers.

But their straightforward mission quickly grows personal and deadly as a half-remembered woman from Becca’s childhood is arrested for murdering one of the suspected counterfeiters.

With time running out – and their faux marriage breaking apart – Becca and Daniel find themselves searching for a hate-driven villain who’s ready to kill again.

Praise for The Counterfeit Wife:

"The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker has it all — adventure, romance and deceit … [w]ith smooth-as-ice prose and pitch-perfect dialogue."

Tina deBellegarde, Agatha- and Derringer-nominated author of the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series

"The Counterfeit Wife is a not-to-be-missed adventure that gives new meaning to rebel and loyalist, spy and spouse."

Lori Robbins, award-winning author of the On Pointe and Masterclass Mystery series

"As the young country struggles for independence, so does Becca, and she will have you turning pages well into the night … I highly recommended The Counterfeit Wife and I’m already anxious for the third of the series."

Eileen Harrison Sanchez, award-winning author of Freedom Lessons—A Novel

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781685121587
Series: A Revolutionary War Mystery
Book Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Heat rose from Rebecca Parcell’s chest, climbed her neck, and stamped a flush on her cheeks. She knew what would happen next. It was time for the toasts.

“Steady now,” Daniel Alloway whispered. They stood alone in a corner of the crowded ballroom. His good hand brushed hers for reassurance. His other hand hung at his side, deadened by the injury he’d incurred escaping from a British prison ship a year ago.

Becca scanned the room to assure herself that no one watched them. Even his light touch was frowned upon by polite society, but it brought her warmth and comfort.

Their host rapped an ornate silver fork against his crystal goblet again and waited for the magpie chatter of gossip to quiet. He stood by the large fireplace, his feet planted wide as if he were standing on the deck of one of his ships. Mr. Thaddeus Barnes was the wealthiest merchant in Philadelphia, which meant, she knew, that he was one of the richest men in all of North America.

Becca had rarely seen luxury like this, not even last winter in New York City. The ceiling dripped curved garlands of flowers carved of plaster. Blue and white vases from China rested on the carved marble mantel. Cherry wood tables hailed from France, and the glass chandelier from Venice.

“I’d be much more comfortable with a bow in my hand,” Becca murmured. “Or a knife. A knife would do.”

“You’d rather hunt in Morristown than here?” Daniel smiled, his green eyes filled with amusement. The gaunt, haunted look he wore when she met him last winter was gone. But his features still seemed to be carved from stone, all hard angles and shadows. Except when he smiled at her like this.

Despite being tall, Becca had to tilt her chin up to see eye-to-eye with Daniel. “Hunting here will do.” she said, sounding more prim than she intended, and Daniel laughed. “Even this type of hunting.”

They were in Philadelphia, searching for the counterfeiters flooding the colony with fake money. They were the obvious, though unconventional, pair for the job, General Washington had said when he assigned them. Daniel because he was a former printer with the skills to evaluate ink and paper and Becca for her talent with numbers, accounts, and codes, which had already served the general well.

The clink-clink of metal on glass rang through the air again, and Mr. Barnes’s guests finally quieted. “A toast,” he called, beginning the first of the three he would raise to Becca and Daniel. It was the same at each of the parties held in their honor these past few weeks. Always three. Becca dreaded the third. “To independence.”

Becca lifted her goblet and sipped to a chorus of “huzzahs.” One, she counted to herself, because counting was soothing but not soothing enough for what was to come.

When the cheers faded, Mr. Barnes raised his glass again. The wine-filled cup glimmered red beneath the crystal candelabras. “To General Washington.”

“Huzzah!” The ballroom cheered again. Two, Becca counted.

She should be grateful to Mr. Barnes, not gritting her teeth over his toasts. He had opened his home to them at the Washingtons’s request, and he was introducing them to the finest families in Philadelphia, who were happy to welcome two friends of General and Lady Washington.

At least that much was true. Since last February, she and Daniel had become regular visitors to the Washingtons’ residence in Morristown after uncovering a plot that threatened the new nation.

Another round of cheers. Some guests made the mistake of lowering their glasses.

“And…” Mr. Barnes crowed.

A man with ginger-colored hair lounging by the doorway sighed loudly, catching her eye.

Becca couldn’t have agreed more.

The stranger gave her a slow, lazy smile. His expression was almost intimate, as if he were trying to draw her in. She turned away quickly.

“Finally…” Mr. Barnes added.

Becca took a deep breath, inhaling the warm scent of beeswax candles.

“…let us wish the newlyweds a joyous and productive marriage.” Mr. Barnes, a long-time widower, winked at Daniel. “May your hearts ever be at each other’s service.”

The cream of Philadelphia society turned in unison to Becca and Daniel.

She dropped her gaze to avoid the stares.

“A delicate flower, you are,” Daniel whispered without moving his lips.

She banged his ribs with her elbow and heard a satisfying oomph.

Anyone watching her redden and look away at the mention of their marriage might indeed take it that she was a shy, delicate flower. This was false.

She was not shy.

She was not delicate.

And, more to the point, she and Daniel were not married.

Mr. Barnes nodded to a double-chinned musician in the corner dressed in maroon breeches and a matching silk coat. At the signal, he tucked his violin into his neck, lifted a bow, and attacked his instrument. Two men laughed at something a third said. A few women formed a group and chatted, and the high-ceilinged room filled again with noise.

Barnes knew the reason they were in Philadelphia. General Washington had trusted him with that information. But their host believed that Becca and Daniel were wed. This way, Mr. Barnes could rightfully claim to be as outraged as everyone else if their deceit came to light.

Memory pulled Becca back to a dinner with the Washingtons in Morristown. “Perhaps this is unwise.” The general voiced a rare doubt after they agreed to come to Philadelphia. “You are unmarried and unchaperoned. It is scandalous. Society will close ranks against you. You’ll learn nothing.”

Lady Washington had taken a small sip of sherry. Her blue eyes lit with humor. “Then they must appear to be married while maintaining all the proprieties.”

The general made a choking sound that Becca and Daniel decided later was laughter. And so they’d agreed to play the part of a newly married couple, with Daniel looking for a new business opportunity in Philadelphia. It was a brazen plan but might just succeed.

Becca startled. The ginger-haired gentleman suddenly stood before her.

He extended a silk-clad leg and bowed, then rose, displaying the same secret smile that made her uncomfortable minutes ago. His nose was straight, his eyelashes pale against close-set blue eyes. Perhaps his chin was a bit heavy, his mouth a bit small. His features were not memorable, but something about him commanded attention.

It wasn’t just his shock of red hair combed back neatly and tied low along the back of his neck, nor the well-made clothes of ivory silk and gold embroidery. Everyone in the room bore similar signs of wealth. It was the confidence with which he moved, the sense that his regard flattered anyone upon whom it was bestowed.

“You’ve kept her from me, Alloway. I thought I knew all the beautiful women in Philadelphia.” His eyes locked on Becca’s.

She stiffened. It took discipline not to raise her hand and double check that the lace covering the top of her breasts was in place. He made her feel naked.

Daniel stiffened, too. “Mrs. Alloway, may I introduce Mr. Edmund Taylor, another merchant here in Philadelphia.”

Taylor’s light eyebrows shot up in mock distress. “Just another merchant? One of the most successful in the colonies, despite the war.” His gaze dropped to Daniel’s injured hand.

“And is your wife here, too?” Daniel bit down on the words, “your wife.”

Irritation crossed Taylor’s face so quickly Becca thought she imagined it. “My dear,” he called loudly.

A woman standing near the fireplace tensed, then moved toward them with the elegance of a swan. Her hair was honey blond, her skin unblemished, and her eyes a liquid blue. She stopped before them, wearing a tentative smile.

“I’m honored to present my wife, Charlotte Taylor.” He completed the introductions.

“It is a pleasure. I hope you enjoy our city.” Her voice was breathy and slow. There was a stillness about her, as if she had her own secrets to guard.

“I am enjoying it.” From downstairs, Becca heard the butler’s placating voice, then a woman’s shrill, demanding response.

Moments later, Mr. Barnes’s butler, Eli, slipped into the room.

Heads turned to the butler with a mixture of curiosity and mild surprise.

He whispered to Mr. Barnes, who nodded.

Then Eli strode toward them. He cupped his hand over his mouth and leaned toward Mr. Taylor.

“Begging your pardon, sir. There’s a woman at the front door. She says she’s yours, and that she must see you now.”

Becca couldn’t help but overhear. She says she’s yours. The woman at the door must be enslaved. Neither her dead husband nor father had owned slaves. But even she knew that enslaved people did not enter by the front door.

Color leeched from Taylor’s face.

“I will see her.” Mrs. Taylor swept from the room without waiting for her husband’s response.

“How do you find Philadelphia, Mrs. Alloway? Your husband says that this is your first visit,” another guest, who had turned to them at the servant’s approach, asked to mask the embarrassment of the moment.

When Becca didn’t answer, Daniel elbowed her gently. “Yes, Mrs. Alloway. How do you find Philadelphia?”

She really must do a better job responding to her married name. “People have been kind here. I hardly expected it.”

Mr. Barnes joined them, interrupting, “How goes your business, Taylor?”

“We don’t want to bore the ladies.” Taylor glanced at Becca.

“Please, don’t stop on my account. I comprehend so little, but hearing you speak of business never bores me.” Becca would have fluttered her eyelashes if she were the sort of woman who could manage it without appearing to have caught a speck of dirt in her eye.

She pasted a pleasant far-away expression on her face. Men spoke of business and politics as if she couldn’t understand a word, as if she didn’t listen and pass anything of interest back to General Washington. She took a small sip of the straw-colored dry sherry.

“Are you paying your investors in silver or paper these days?” Barnes asked.

Becca admired his playacting. Daniel and their host had rehearsed their lines. They asked the same questions at each party.

Taylor glared. “Sterling, of course. What are you accusing me of?”

Becca slowly lowered her glass. Taylor was the first to interpret the query as an accusation. An accusation of what? Having less silver than a man of his stature should? Or of passing along fake dollar notes?

Barnes nodded to Taylor. “No offense intended. I started seeing badly printed dollar notes again this spring. Merely asking whether you’re being cautious about paper dollars these days, given the situation.”

Taylor nodded curtly.

By now, five men had formed a tight ring as if warming themselves round a campfire. Becca stood just outside their circle.

Another of the merchants stepped up. “I thought I was the only one who noticed the forgeries.”

Daniel feigned surprise. “Has that been a problem here?”

“The British—damn them. They’re printing false money and spreading it as fast as they can,” one of the men said.

“There are worse problems, surely,” Daniel said.

“Ah, a young man who believes war is only about battles,” another guest drawled with feigned pity.

The others chuckled.

“If not winning battles, then what?” Daniel smiled, but the skin around his eyes tightened. He’s offended by the condescending tone, Becca thought.

“The counterfeits will set this country ablaze.” Barnes sputtered. “There have been food riots already. The poor are starving, and they can’t afford bread. How soon until people seek another king, another tyrant who swears that only he can save them?”

“When no one can tell whether money is real, the price of bread goes up, and everyone—everyone—turns against the government,” another man added. He looked to the group for support.

Becca studied them, shaken. She had thought of this trip as a lark, a way to spend more time with Daniel while unraveling a simple puzzle for General Washington.

Daniel bowed to Mr. Barnes. “It does sound terrible. My apologies.” He turned to Taylor. “And what do you think of all this, sir?”

Taylor shrugged. “Mr. Barnes is right. The economy is undone. I’d look to the traitors’ wives first. I wouldn’t put counterfeiting past them.”

“Who are the traitors’ wives?” Becca asked, catching Taylor’s attempt at redirection.

The men turned to her in surprise.

Oh bullocks. “Traitors? I don’t see any traitors at this party. Mr. Barnes wouldn’t allow it.” There. That sounded more like the simple, oblivious young woman they expected her to be.

Taylor and the others chuckled indulgently. “Nothing for you to worry about, Mrs. Alloway. Our apologies.”

“Do you know something specifically about these women, or are you trading in rumors?” Daniel’s voice was soft, but the challenge was clear. Neither he nor Becca cared for baseless rumors, not after gossip had almost ruined her life last winter.

“My husband’s passions sometimes lead him astray.” Charlotte Taylor had returned. “There are times that he causes harm when it is least intended.”

The husband and wife stared at each other from across the small circle of guests. He looked away first.


Excerpt from The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker. Copyright 2022 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.

Guest Post:

 I hope there’s someone in your life who has your back during good times and bad, and someone up for sharing a good laugh with you or commiserating at the end of a tough day.

In my view, if you have even a handful of friends like that, you’re truly blessed.

Becca Parcell, the 18TH century protagonist in my new mystery, THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE, finds one of those true friends in Philadelphia while searching for traitors in Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia.

So let me introduce you to Sarah – her friends called her Sally – Franklin Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s real-life daughter.

I’ve fictionalized the real Sally in my historical mystery, but I’ve tried to do her justice based on the drawings of her left behind and the research I’ve done.

There’s a wonderful portrait of the real Sally Franklin Bache that suggests she resembled her famous father. She has his round face and his solid build. But the artist also captured qualities that must have belonged just to Sally, a small, secret smile, a look in her eyes that suggests she’s comfortable in her own skin. She wears her confidence lightly.

I have to confess, though. I’ve added bits and pieces of my own true friends to the mix the way a good cook adds an extra pinch of this or that to bring a recipe to life.

Sally’s portrait reminded me of one friend who, without fanfare, organizes a week’s delivery of dinner casseroles when tragedy strikes. She’s also the one who laughs so loudly at a good joke – after a glass or two of wine – that she’ll snort and then laugh at herself.

Who doesn’t need a Sally in their life?

The historical record suggests that Sally adored her uber-famous father. He spent a good part of her life in England and then Paris, while she lived in Philadelphia. In THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE, Sally quotes her father’s famous sayings often enough to be teased about it. I found it poignant that the real Sally idolized a dad who was, most often, not there for her.

My heroine Becca meets Sally at a meeting of the wealthiest women in Philadelphia. Becca is undercover, so to speak, looking for traitors while disguised as a newlywed whose husband is seeking new business opportunities in the city. The two women hit it off immediately.

I’ve been lucky enough to have that experience, to meet someone new and find a kindred spirit. Sally and Becca experience that almost-magical spark of friendship. Generous and relaxed soul that she is, Sally takes Becca under her wing then and there.

In fact, Sally was a founding member of this actual group of wealthy women. Known as the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, they knocked on every door in Philadelphia – from the wealthiest to the humblest – to raise money for the all-but-bankrupt Continental Army.

Sally invites Becca to come along on one of those knocking-on-doors fundraising trips. In one neighborhood, Becca comes face-to-face with someone from her past. The confrontation forces her to reevaluate everything she thinks she knows about her past and sets a big part of my book’s plot in motion.  

There are other female characters I admire in THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE, including Martha Washington and Esther Reed (who wrote that American women were “born for liberty”).  But if I had to share an office, have a neighbor, or, better yet, make a friend, Sally Bache Franklin’s who I’d pick. If you read THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE, I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. 

Author Bio:

Mally Becker

Mally Becker combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. She is the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow, which Kirkus Reviews called, "A compelling tale... with charming main characters.” Her first novel was also named a Silver Falchion finalist and a CIBA “Mystery & Mayhem” finalist.

A member of the board of MWA-NY, Mally was an attorney until becoming a full-time writer and an instructor at The Writers Circle Workshops. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. Mally and her husband live in New Jersey, where they raised their wonderful son and spend as much time as they can hiking and kayaking.

Catch Up With Mally Becker:
BookBub - @mallybecker
Instagram - @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter - @mally_becker
Facebook - @mallybeckerauthor


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Buttercream Betrayal (Cupcake Catering Mystery Series) by Kim Davis

About the Book

Intent on getting their two mischievous dogs under control, Emory Martinez and her half sister, Vannie, join a group dog training program led by Shawn Parker. With a graduation certificate just within grasp and a party to celebrate their hard-won achievements, what could go wrong? For starters, their two dogs have decided to wreak havoc during the party and tempers flare. It turns out not everyone is pleased with the dog trainer and his mother, the condo association president. Whispers of the mother and son’s misbehavior, or worse, fly amongst the barks, whines, and growls of the canines.

~~ Amazon ~~

About the Author

Kim Davis lives in Southern California with her husband. When she's not chasing her puppy or spending time with her granddaughters she can be found either writing stories or working on her blog, Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder or in the kitchen baking up yummy treats.  She has published the suspense novel, A GAME OF DECEIT, the Cupcake Catering Mystery series, and the Aromatherapy Mystery series. She also has had several children’s articles published in Cricket, Nature Friend, Skipping Stones, and the Seed of Truth magazines. Kim Davis is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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Guilty as Framed (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery) by Lois Winston

About the Book

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He refuses to believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

Crafts projects included.

Amazon ~~ Nook ~~ Kobo ~~ iBookstore 

About the Author

USA Today and Amazon bestselling author Lois Winston began her award-winning writing career with Talk Gertie to Me, a humorous fish-out-of-water novel about a small-town girl going off to the big city and the mother who had other ideas. That was followed by the romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception.

Then Lois’s writing segued unexpectantly into the world of humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, thanks to a conversation her agent had with an editor looking for craft-themed mysteries. In her day job Lois was an award-winning craft and needlework designer, and although she’d never written a mystery—or had even thought about writing a mystery—her agent decided she was the perfect person to pen a series for this editor. Thus, was born the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, which Kirkus Reviews dubbed “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series now includes eleven novels and three novellas. Lois also writes the Empty Nest Mysteries, currently at two novels, and one book so far in her Mom Squad Capers series.

To date, Lois has published twenty novels, five novellas, several short stories, one children’s chapter book, and one nonfiction book on writing, inspired by her twelve years working as an associate at a literary agency.

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