To any authors/publishers/ tour companies that are looking for the reviews that I signed up for please know this is very hard to do. I will be stopping reviews temporarily. My husband passed away February 1st and my new normal is a bit scary right now and I am unable to concentrate on a book to do justice to the book and authors. I will still do spotlight posts if you wish it is just the reviews at this time. I apologize for this, but it isn't fair to you if I signed up to do a review and haven't been able to because I can't concentrate on any books. Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time. I appreciate all of you. Kathleen Kelly April 2nd 2024

24 November 2023

Spiked Punch (Maddie Sparks Mystery Series) by Lesley A Diehl Virtual Book Tour!


About Spiked Punch


Spiked Punch (Maddie Sparks Mystery Series) 

Cozy Mystery 1st in Series 

Setting - Upstate New York 

Camel Press (November 14, 2023) 

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages 

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1684921252

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1684921256 

Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C6NR8C3G

On the other side of seventy, Maddie Sparks decides to spice up her life by changing her writing interests from cozy mysteries to romance. She also determines her appearance should reflect this transformation in her writing career. A sassy new haircut and more fashionable clothes complete the newer Maddie Sparks. Before she can begin this new chapter in her life, a stabbing death in the quiet country village she has made her home shocks the town's residents.

When her son is accused of the murder, Maddie and the acting county sheriff come together to find the real killer. Their relationship soon blooms into more than one of shared determination to solve the murder. As they enjoy a hike in a nearby park, someone shoots the sheriff, barely missing Maddie. Another killer could be loose in the area, and the person may be closer to Maddie than she realizes. Maddie discovers parts of herself she didn't know existed: real life romance with the sheriff, a talent for sleuthing and room in her life for a fuzzy, orange cat named "Spike." This recent lease on life may be more exciting and more dangerous than Maddie expects.

Excerpt from Spiked Punch

Chapter 1

I hadn’t heard the doorbell ring, nor anyone enter the house, but when I went into my office, I found him standing over the desk reading the screen on my computer. He must have come in the front door while I was upstairs in my bedroom. I read shock along with disappointment on his face.

“What is this? For God’s sake, Mom. What is wrong with you?” Without letting me reply, he held up a pudgy hand and paced back and forth in front of the desk in my tiny office off the living room. “Oh, I know, I know. You’re getting older and you have too much time on your hands. You’re bored. But can’t you find something different to read?”

“It’s not a book, at least not yet.” I reached out, hit a key, and made the screen go blank.

“You mean you wrote this?” His mouth dropped open in astonishment.

I nodded. I hadn’t intended for him to see what I was working on because I knew my son wouldn’t approve. Geoffrey, my oldest, was a lovely man, kind, generous, and he put his family first, the kind of son a mother would be proud of. And I was. But he was a private person when it came to his personal life. He didn’t like off-color jokes, and I’d never heard him say the word “sex” or allude to anything sexual, not that I expected my children to engage in conversations with me about “bedroom activities,” Geoffrey’s words, when referring to intimate relationships. 

“Well, this certainly isn’t one of the usual cozy mysteries you’ve been churning out for the past decade. These people are …. This is….” He sputtered and couldn’t seem to find the words. I decided I’d help him.

“Love? Excitement. Passion? Romance?” Now why did I use those words? I was working on a romance novel which explained some of his reactions.

 “No, no, no. Not from a woman of your age. You’re a lovely older woman, so sweet and elegant with your silver hair pulled back in a simple bun. You look your age, not all made up and wearing tight jeans and low-cut blouses. I can’t believe this is something that interests you.”

That was part of Geoffrey’s issue with my writing about romance that included sex. He didn’t think of women my age as interested in anything but crocheting and daytime soap operas on TV, gliding quietly into life beyond this one. I have, without meaning to, cultivated an image of a woman working by spending my time writing. My social life consisted of little other than having lunch with a few women friends. I had led such a quiet existence. I was changing, and I promised myself my newest writing interest was just the beginning of a more active, outgoing lifestyle.

“Really, Geoffrey? Here. Read it again. It’s about love.” With a keystroke I opened the page again. 

“I don’t want to see that. Delete it.” He turned his back on the computer.

“No. I am not deleting this work. I think it’s rather good. A man and a woman expressing their love for each other. It’s contemporary romantic suspense.”

“I’m not familiar with romance novels at all, but this is something better kept private, not spread all over the page.”

“Yes, well. Don’t you think what I do or write in my own house is private?”

He looked down at his feet and muttered something.

“What did you say?”

“As long as you have no intention of continuing this or of ever publishing it.”

I knew what was at the root of Geoffrey’s uptight attitude toward overt expressions of emotion whether it is physical intimacy and love, real or written. It had to do with his father, my ex-husband. Don’t get me wrong. Geoffrey adores his father. What he didn’t adore was his understanding of what his father was: a philanderer, a man who cheated on me throughout our marriage. In Geoffrey’s mind there was a clear separation between his father as father and his father as unfaithful husband.

I laughed. “I’d have to find a new agent. Mine doesn’t represent this genre. She prefers stories set in small towns, no sex, no violence.” 

I really wanted a change in my writing career. Once I retired as a librarian for the library in our village, I began writing cozy mysteries. I had published over fifteen books, all set in a charming upstate New York village similar to the one I lived in. The stories featured my bright, funny and plucky protagonist and her gentlemanly fiancĂ©e who tripped over conveniently located bodies and quickly found the killer. Of late my writing was not as fulfilling or exciting as when I first started writing cozy mysteries. In years I was a senior, but thoughts of love and the physical expression of love filled my head. My bed was empty, and I felt the same. I wanted to try something new and see what I could do now with my writing life. Maybe it wouldn’t work, maybe I was too old to be conjuring up scenes of love, but I was determined to let my imagination fly where it wanted and see what happened. 

I reached out and touched Geoffrey’s arm. “I’m still the same mother you’ve always known. I’m just expressing another side of myself. I love you, Geoffrey, and that will never change. You know that, don’t you?”

“Sure, Mom. You’re my rock and always have been.”

“Right back at ya, my dear.”

“The family likes the mysteries you write. I’m sure they and others would prefer you continue to write them.”

I wasn’t certain any of my family had read my work, but I appreciated his attempt to compliment me on my mystery writing, aware that he was trying to encourage me to return to it, something with which he was familiar and comfortable. “I’m glad.” 

When this work was published, if it was published, it would be under another name, not under Maddie Sparks, my name in real life and the one I used for my cozy mysteries. The people in the Upstate New York village of Butternut Falls where I had lived most of my adult life, knew me as the woman who wrote those funny cozy mysteries. It was a reputation I enjoyed. Our town of less than two thousand people was small enough that everyone knew everyone else and knew about everyone else. This new identity was one I intended to keep to myself. 

The scene I’d created was passionate. It gave me goosebumps of desire writing it, and rereading it sent warm tinglies up and down my body. It was a lovingly crafted scene of desire, the kind I knew appealed to women readers. It certainly appealed to me. Reading romances was something women of various ages in my village did. What they read they kept mostly to themselves and told only their closest friends. 

“So let’s not tell anyone about this right now. If this got around town, who knows what people would think,” Geoffrey said. 

I put my fingers to my mouth and moved them across my lips as if I was zipping my mouth closed.

A look of relief crossed Geoffrey’s face. “Good. That’s settled.”

He meant, “Good, then you’re done with this kind of writing.” I wasn’t but now was not the time for me to contradict him.

“Let’s have a nice cup of tea and you can tell me what you stopped by for.” I steered Geoffrey out of my office into the kitchen, filled the kettle with water and flipped it on.

“Oh, nothing much. Checking on you.”

He never checked on me. Something was up. I rummaged around in my pantry and located the package of cookies I’d bought a while back. The “best by” date had long passed. Stale, but they were all I had. I’d been so wrapped up in my writing I’d not gone to the supermarket for at least a week. I had to set up a better schedule for writing, not simply one where I wrote nonstop for hours and fell into bed exhausted with no time for shopping or feeding myself in a healthy manner. And I had been neglecting my friends and family as well as trips to the fitness center.

Geoffrey pulled out a chair and dropped himself onto the seat with a groan. He’d added weight to his large over six-foot frame. The chair squeaked as he sat. He also looked a little ragged to me, his brown hair longer than usual and his tie crooked. His mussed appearance gave me pause. Something was on his mind. He reached for a cookie and popped it whole into his mouth.

“Love your cookies, Mom.” The man was buttering me up for something.

I made a dismissive “pssst.” “What do you want?”

“Why do I have to want something? Can’t I stop by and see my old mom for a chat?”

“No, you cannot. You ignore me most of the time probably because I don’t cause you any trouble. When you do turn up, I know you have something on your mind.” 

He reached for another cookie. I slapped his hand. No son of mine is too old to have his hand slapped.

“No more cookies until you get on with it. Besides, you’re putting on weight. I think I should have a talk with Abigail. Have her put you on a diet.”

“You do that, and I’ll tell the family what you’re up to.” He nodded his head toward my office. “The turn your writing has taken.”

“It’s not a ‘turn.’ It’s another genre.”

“Why can’t you go back to your little mysteries?”

“They are not ‘little’ mysteries. They are cozy mysteries, and, for a time, they sold well.”

“So there, then. You’re making money from them. Why change?”

“Cozy mysteries make money, not necessarily my cozy mysteries like they used to. Besides, I’m bored and ready for a change.”

“Well, join a knitting club or something.”

“I said I’m bored, not boring.”

“Mom, these little, sorry, I mean these clubs are what all women your age do. Why not you?”

I gave him one of my “are you daft” looks. “It’s as if you don’t know a thing about me. When have I ever knitted?”

“Well, whatever women your age do then.”

“I have no idea what women my age do. I only know what I do.” And what I surmised women liked to do regardless of age: read about a man yearning for them.

“But I’ll bet you’re happy to be settled into a life free from the hassles of work and family responsibilities, dabbling away at your writing.”

Sometimes I worried Geoffrey was the dimmest wick in the candle factory. Didn’t he know that no matter how old one is, there are always family responsibilities? I didn’t expect him to understand how a person could age and not feel old. That I’d let him learn on his own. But family? Family was forever. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or God’s way of reminding us we could never just coast into old age.

“What did you say you stopped by for? And don’t tell me for my cookies.”

He looked up from the table and gave me one of his disingenuous smiles.

“I came to offer you a job.”

“I’m a terrible keyboardist, I’m not personable when I answer the phone, and I never took a bookkeeping course. Sitting at a desk for hours will make my back stiffen up. There’s no way I could be of use to you in your business.”

Geoffrey and his wife Abigail ran a local business, Sparks Real Estate and Property Management. I understood the real estate part of the business but didn’t get the property management bit. Were people now incapable of taking care of their own properties and had to hire someone to oversee their houses, garages, and lawns? It sounded boring, so I kept my nose out of it. They were self-supporting, so that was a good thing. Actually, the business seemed to be doing well.

“We have all the office help we need. We lost one of the people who we used to keep an eye on houses for people who are on vacation, and we need someone to replace him.”

“’Lost’ as in you can’t locate him?”

Geoffrey shot me an annoyed look. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mom. David Gardner is out on sick leave. He fell down the basement steps of a house he was looking after and broke his leg. He’ll be back to work in a month or so, but until then, we could use someone to take his place.”

“Me? You think I can do the job?” Well, I could, of course, but why would I want to? I glanced toward my office and thought of the half-finished scene on my computer. “I don’t have time.”

Geoffrey caught my look. “Now I thought we finished that. I think you’ll find this fun. And it’s easy. You pick up the keys to the residence from our office, read the specs for the job and then stop by the house. It takes little time to do a walkthrough, checking each room and the basement, sometimes the garage and any outbuildings.”

“Dogs. What about dogs?”

“Homeowners don’t contract with us to care for their dogs while they’re gone. They take them along or board them at a boarding facility.”

“You’re certain of that because I don’t fancy being bitten by a dog or chased around the property by one.”

Geoffrey clapped his hands together in happiness. “So, you’ll do it then?”

“No way. I’ve got a lot on my plate like writing a novel, a house to keep up and neighbors to look in on. I’m a busy woman. Why don’t you hire someone for a few weeks to replace Mr. Gardner?”

“That would be you.”


“I thought you’d do it as a favor to Abigail and me.”

Ah, ha. Now I got it. “You think you can get me for free, no pay for roaming through other people’s property and snooping around their houses.”

“It’s not snooping. It’s professional residential management work.”

“Well, it’s settled then.” I took my final sip of tea and set the cup in the sink.

“You’ll do it?” Geoffrey looked ecstatic enough to have won the lottery.

“I’ll do it for a week.”

“I need you for more time than that.”

“A week, Geoffrey, until you find someone else to do the work.” I grabbed his cup and the cookies from the table, signaling our conversation was over.

“You’ll have to stop by the office tomorrow for training.”

I pushed him toward the front door. “How much training does it take to insert a key in a lock, peek into a few rooms and then lock up?”

“A few hours and then you’ll be on your way. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we were sending people into the field with no training.” Geoffrey gave me a smile, walked down the front steps and got into his car.

Training? A few hours? What was I letting myself in for?

I removed our teacups from the table and found room for them on the top rack of the dishwasher which I hadn’t run for days. Too busy writing. I leaned against the counter and my gaze travelled around the kitchen and adjoining living room. I needed to vacuum as well as dust, but all I could think about was my manuscript. Besides, who ever saw my house? Before I retired as a librarian in our local library and reinvented myself as a mystery writer, friends and I got together for dinners or on the weekends for card games, but few of my old crowd remained in the area. Many had moved closer to children who had relocated, or they chose Arizona or Florida for a milder climate. 

As harsh as the winters were in this river valley at the edge of the Adirondacks, I had no interest in moving anywhere else. I’d saved my money to buy this little house fronting a small trout stream in the village I’d raised my sons in. The downstairs fitted my needs perfectly—a kitchen open to the living area. I’d enlarged a closet off the living room and created an office large enough to fit in a desk and bookcase. Upstairs were three bedrooms, a master with attached bath and two other bedrooms with a bath in between. The master bedroom overlooked the backyard and into a giant spruce tree at the edge of the stream. Back downstairs the kitchen door opened onto a deck where I often sat to have my morning coffee.

I turned to gaze out the back window over the sink. It was raining. Again. And more rain forecasted for the rest of the week. The potatoes I’d planted in my garden were probably rotting from all the moisture. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to run out there in this downpour to see how the vegetables were faring. Again I considered the house. I should clean. But I couldn’t work up the interest. Instead the siren song of my writing drew me back to the computer and I again took up writing my contemporary romance about Katherine Modley and the man she loved. I had decided on a title for my work, one I was certain would grab the attention of readers. I wanted to call it Love Again, the story of two people separated for decades by family conflicts.

Outside the summer storm intensified and the tap tap of my fingers on the keyboard added to the sound of raindrops on the roof and against the windows creating a rhythm that drove my story forward. Now this was fun and satisfying. An hour later, a smile on my face and a martini in my hand, I settled onto the couch to watch the six o’clock news. Not a bad ending to a dreary Monday. Life was good especially since I had an appointment tomorrow to have my hair dyed and styled. Afterall, I was no longer the woman who wrote cozy murder mysteries. I thought champagne blonde would be a good color for me. And I should include a makeup consultation as well as purchase some more fashionable and youthful clothing. Besides drafting a different story, I was also going to change my outward appearance with new hairdo and clothes.

The phone rang. It was Abigail.

“I’m so delighted you’re willing to pitch in for us. You have no idea how much this means. Stop by the office tomorrow at nine and we’ll begin your training.”

“Can’t. I’m busy.”

“Doing what? Geoffrey said you’ve finished your mystery series.”

“What else did he say?”

“Oh, nothing much, that you’re playing around with a new writing project. You must be so bored.”

“I am. That’s why I’m busy tomorrow.”

There was a moment’s silence on the other end of the line. “You’re not making any sense. Geoffrey said he was worried about you.”

“I’ve got a hair appointment.”

“But I thought you did your own hair and besides, what is there to do? You wash it, dry it, and pin it back in a bun. You’ve worn it that way for as long as I’ve known you.”

“Not any more I don’t.”

“What then?”

“I’m going to try something different.”

“A shorter cut?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, after your hair appointment then.”

“I’m going into the city.”


“Just up to Utica, to get my hair done but also to shop in the malls there.”

"By yourself?”

“Yes, by myself.”

I hung up before she could react. Utica was only thirty miles north of here, but I was going to make a day of it. I’d lied to her about going alone. I was asking Buff my personal trainer from the local fitness club to come with me for my hair appointment and shopping for clothes. I’d also asked his girlfriend to accompany us. Both were tan, blonde and fit, and dressed well. I’d seen them at the toney Billinghouse Restaurant in nearby Stone Side, a town of over 15,000 people, only ten miles away from Butternut Falls. Buff and his friend could give me a few pointers on clothing. What better way to spend the day than in the company of two attractive people who could help me find a fresh look for myself. The woman whose taste had always been impeccable although a bit dated was going for a make-over. The feeling was almost as good as making love with a handsome man. I said almost as good. Nothing could compare to the feeling of muscular arms around…. Inspired, I went back to my writing

About Lesley A. Diehl

Cows, Lesley learned growing up on a farm, have a twisted sense of humor. They chased her when she went to the field to herd them in for milking, and one ate the lovely red mitten her grandmother knitted for her. Determining that agriculture wasn’t a good career choice, instead she uses her country roots and her training as a psychologist to concoct stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. “A good chuckle,” says Lesley,” keeps us emotionally well-oiled long into our old age.” She is the author of the Eve Appel mysteries from Camel Press as well as several cozy mystery series and numerous short stories. Go to her webpage to find out more:

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November 15 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT

November 15 – Cozy, Suspenseful, and Sweet – SPOTLIGHT

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November 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Two paperback books from the Eve Appel mysteries The Readers’ Favorite winners seal, five star reviews: Mud Bog Murder A Sporting Murder Old Bones Never Die Killer Tied. U.S. ONLY

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1 comment:

  1. I hope I can find a copy of the book in my local library system. My book budget for 2023 has dried up.



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