25 March 2023

Friends without Benefits by Evelyn Fenn New Release Blitz! @ninestarpress @indigomarketingdesign #LGBTQIA+

 #contemporary #booklover #bookblogger #bookaddict #romancereadersofinstagram #booknerd #bookworm

Title:  Friends without Benefits

Author: Evelyn Fenn

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/21/2023

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 93300

Genre: Contemporary, ace, aro, non-binary, coming out, in the closet, over 40

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Academic Clare is in a rut. She is in her forties, her job is stressful, and she feels worn down by the personalities and politics in the university department where she works. She has also just broken up with her latest boyfriend.

During one of their regular get-togethers, Clare’s oldest friend shows Clare a newspaper article, pushing her into an exploration of what it means to be asexual.

As Clare figures things out, she meets homoromantic couple, Tristan and Matt, nonbinary Ollie, student Jack, aromantic Janice, and Matt’s cousin, Natalia.

Follow Clare and her new friends through a series of misadventures as they road trip, take part in Pride, suffer a series of misunderstandings, and forge new relationships

Friends without Benefits
Evelyn Fenn © 2023
All Rights Reserved

I bagged a table. U get the drinks LOL!!!!

Clare keyed a quick ok, pressed Send, and dropped her phone into her bag. No matter how much she liked Louisa and how much she usually enjoyed their Tuesday evening get-togethers, Clare wasn’t looking forward to tonight. Only three days before, Clare had broken up with her long-term, long-distance boyfriend, and Louisa was sure to want details.

Clare took a fortifying breath and jogged up the steps that led to the pub’s front door.

The Quill and Scholar, a favourite hangout of postgraduates and lecturers, buzzed with the after-work crowd. Although the pub appeared older than the university, it had opened less than thirty years before when it had capitalised on a fashion for bottled lagers. Since then, the Quill had moved with the times, catering for fashions for real ales and craft beers and, most recently, craft gins.

When she had been a student, Clare had eschewed the Quill’s designer labels in favour of happy hours, Boddington’s, and flavoured schnapps served in test tubes by the chain pubs a couple of hundred yards down the road. Although Clare had never developed a taste for bottled beer and she hated gin, she liked the Quill’s ambience and décor. Plus, nobody could go wrong with the house Chardonnay. Besides, these days, the kinds of places marketed to undergraduates made her feel old.

Clare loosened her scarf, shoved her hat and wrist warmers into her jacket’s pockets, and fought her way through the crowd towards the bar. The room was full of people, many of whom she knew by sight and some by name.

Mikey, an astrophysics postgraduate who moonlighted as a barman, greeted Clare, and said, “The usual?”


He sighed theatrically. “One of these days I’ll get you to branch out. Some of our botanicals are amazing.”

Clare nodded and, not meaning it, said, “One day. Not today.”

While she waited for her drinks, she waved at Sam, an occasional drinking buddy, who was in the throes of writing up her doctoral thesis.

Clare exchanged notes for drinks and change, and then, holding her glasses aloft, she set out to find Louisa.

Clare and Louisa had nothing in common beyond a host of shared memories from their undergraduate days and a friendship that had endured across the years. Clare’s dad had once described Louisa as having more neck than a giraffe. On another occasion, he’d said, “That lass has got more front than the esplanade at Blackpool!” Given that Louisa had, when eight and a half months pregnant, worn a white dress as she headed down the aisle for her second marriage, seeking a blessing in the church of a god she didn’t believe in, Clare supposed Dad might have had a point.

Clare had taken an excessively long time to realise that Dad had a crush on her best friend. Mum thought it was hilarious. She had tried to explain it more than once, but Clare still didn’t get it.

Even though he’d only met her a dozen times over the years, Dad often asked after Louisa. Clare would say that she was fine, and Mum would laugh, kiss the top of Dad’s balding head, and say, “You can dream so long as you don’t trade me in for a younger model or buy a motorcycle!” Then Dad would colour slightly and answer that he was only being polite and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the mother of his children.

Clare slalomed her way through the crowd and up the wide, wooden staircase that led to the first floor, where the rooms of the converted Victorian villa were smaller, quieter, and cosier. Her favourite, a former bedroom with a large bay window that offered good views along the busy street and thus afforded great opportunities for people watching, was at the front of the building.

Today, Louisa hadn’t been able to bag seats at the window and, instead, had parked herself at a table pressed against a wall, where she was now frantically working the screen of her smartphone.

In her business suit and heavy bling, her overcoat and accessories neatly arranged on a neighbouring chair, Louisa stuck out like a gemstone among pebbles. She had allowed her knee-length skirt to ride up slightly, thus emphasising her long, slender legs, and revealing kneecaps along with a hint of thigh. Thanks to genetics, a lot of self-discipline, soft lighting, and hair dye, Louisa passed for a good decade younger than her forty-and-a-few years. Louisa also dyed her eyebrows and eyelashes; Clare hadn’t known people did such things until they’d shared a flat in their second year at uni.

Even this late in the day, Louisa’s makeup appeared flawless. She wore matching vermillion lipstick and nail polish, the latter almost certainly the result of a mani-pedi, and her eye shadow and eyeliner looked as though they had been applied by a draughtsman.

Clare slid Louisa’s usual in front of her. Louisa glanced up and gave her the barest of acknowledgements as she continued working her phone.

The immaculate nail polish glittered with reflected light as she finished typing and sent a message. “There. Done. I’m all yours.”

“Everything okay?”

“Oh, yes.” Louisa brushed Clare’s concern away. “Just a teensy crisis at work. All sorted now.”

Knowing Louisa and the general nature of her job, Clare was certain that, whatever the crisis had been, there would have been nothing teensy about it. Only major crises got escalated as far as Louisa, who had always been able to make light of the most catastrophic emergencies. Clare envied her insouciant self-confidence.

There was a pattern to their evenings together. Glass one would carry them through an exchange of war stories and a sympathetic hearing of each other’s colleague-related character assassinations. Sometime during drink two, having got all their work angst out of their systems, they would move onto subjects of greater mutual interest. Glass three was when they got to the difficult topics, the ones that laid souls bare. Today was going to be at least a three-glass evening. They wouldn’t get to—let alone through—the interrogation otherwise.

Sure enough, when there was barely an eighth of an inch of liquid at the bottom of Clare’s second glass, and Clare’s perception was blurring around the edges, Louisa asked, “How were the in-laws?”


“You know. Gavin’s parents. The people you went to visit at the weekend? The parents of your SO?”

SO. Significant other.

“My insignificant other, you mean,” said Clare, doing her best to copy Louisa’s style of banter. “We split up.”


There was something in the way Louisa said, “Oh,” that made Clare bristle. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well. You and Gavin. You’ve always struck me as a couple more in word than deed.” Clare tried to hide her shock at Louisa’s astute observation by gulping the dregs of her drink. “Did you even do it with Gavin? Ever?”

Clare’s silence spoke volumes.

“What was wrong with him?”

“With…him?” Clare asked. “You tell me. You set us up.”

“I don’t know him that well. So, tell me. What’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing, as far as I know. We went out a few times. We didn’t click.” She stood up. “I’ll get the next round.” If they were going to have this conversation, she was going to need that third glass, and maybe another after that.

NineStar Press | Books2Read

I lived in five different cities, spanning two continents, before leaving crowds and commuting behind and settling somewhere that official statistics describe as “Very Remote Rural”.

I have made up stories for as long as I can remember, and I have been writing them down for almost as long. I cut my creative writing teeth on fan fiction in the days of paper fanzines and, later, online. I had fun but eventually grew tired of playing in other people’s sandpits. Turns out, it’s more fun to create sandpits of my own.

I have worked in the public, private, and voluntary sectors, with roles ranging from number crunching and lecturing to mucking out cowsheds and toilet cleaning. I currently hold down a day job while daydreaming of writing full time.  Find Evelyn on Twitter.


One lucky winner will receive a $50.00 NineStar Press Gift Code! 

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24 March 2023

The Last Ride by @anyasummersauthor Reveal! #amreading #TheLastRide #AnyaSummers #XpressoTours @XpressoTours

  #oneclick #romance #contemporaryromance #romanceaddict #bookishnews

The Last Ride
Anya Summers

(SEALs on Wheels, #1)
Publication date: May 9th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

I hate her.
I can’t forgive what she did.
But she’s the first one on the list.

One final ride with my crew.
One last chance to fulfill an oath sworn in blood.

Yet I don’t expect the chemistry between us to knock me on my ass.
And I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings, my need for her.
It goes against every vow I swore.

But I can’t stay away.
She needs me. My body. My soul. My protection.
With danger stalking her, I’ll use every trick I learned as a SEAL to defend her.

Because nobody messes with what belongs to me.

Grab this steamy, enemies to lovers, stand-alone where a Navy SEAL clashes with a stripper, as they grapple with an attraction they cannot deny.

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Anya is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance under the name Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Amazon / Bookbub / Newsletter

Rohan and Nyra and the Big Sister's Bet by Anthony C. Delauney Book Review!


Rohan can’t wait for his big sister Nyra to come home, but when she does, she has a surprise in store for him.

What starts off as a fun game of playing catch soon turns into a powerful, loving lesson on gambling and greed that Rohan will never forget. Discover what awaits in Big Sister’s Bet!

Rohan and Nyra and Big Sister’s Bet is the third book in the Owning the Dash Kids’ Book series from Anthony C. Delauney, award-winning author and founder of Owning the Dash, LLC, an organization dedicated to helping educate and inspire families as they work to achieve their financial goals.


Published March 7, 2023

Anthony Delauney is a Certified Financial Planner Practitioner, author and “financial dadvisor”. He created Owning the Dash, LLC to promote childhood financial literacy and to guide families on their journey to financial freedom.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anthony-C-Dela...
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OwningtheDash/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anthony.del...
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/owningthedash/
My Thoughts
Rohan and Nyra and the Big Sister's Bet is about two siblings, Nyra older and in a wheelchair make a bet with Rohan in a game involving playing catch with a football. She bets a dollar for every catch that Rohan makes with the stipulation that if he drops the ball he loses all his money. 
They start playing and Rohan catches up to 25 times, earning him $25. He then gets a bit greedy and thinks that he can keep playing and catching. He learns that that is not always true, he fumbles a catch and loses all his earnings. The lesson he learned was that life is full of choices and you need to remember what is at stake because if you make the wrong choice it can cost you. 
This short book, the right size for a child is well written and the pictures are very colorful and pretty. I think that this is the perfect book for a child, it not only is a cute story it teaches a valuable lesson as well.
I give it 5 stars!

Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery) by Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell Virtual Book Tour!

Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery) by Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell


Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery)

Cozy Mystery 1st in Series Setting – Wyatt, Arizona 

Independently Published (March 7, 2023) 

Print length ‏ : ‎ 266 pages

Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BN96RS4G

It’s a birthday weekend with the gift of murder. 

Recently widowed, Emma Banefield looks forward to a getaway birthday weekend with her free-wheeling sister, Nicole Earp, sipping chocolate martinis at the peaceful, historic Dulce Inn. When a rude stranger, a nasty food critic, and a madhouse of temperamental artists greet them, all hope for a tranquil weekend evaporates faster than dew on a hot desert morning.

Overlooking the riotous atmosphere is doubly hard after Em discovers the body of a hotel guest, and a second murder affects Nic personally. Now, entrenched in a caper that pits them against a surly detective, they cozy up to a hotel staff hiding dangerous secrets to uncover clues to the killer.

Using their smarts and love of all-things mystery, will the Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime ahead of the obstinate Chief Detective or find themselves trapped in the middle of a third murder?

About the Authors

Joyce Proell is the award-winning author of Amaryllis, Eliza and the Cady Delafield mysteries: A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth. Along with her husband and little dog, Nellie, she lives in Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. She loves to hear from readers. 

  Visit her 
   website at: www.joyceproell.com 
  Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6545483.Joyce_Proell

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.

Visit Brenda's 
  She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/ 
  Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8 

  Join her Newsletter Group here: 

  Purchase Link - Amazon


March 15 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

March 16 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read  – REVIEW

March 16 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 17 – I’m Into Books – AUTHOR GUEST POST

March 18 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT

March 20 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW

March 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT


March 22 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 22 – Literary Gold – REVIEW

March 23 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT


March 24 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT

March 25 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

March 26 – The Mystery Section – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT

March 27 – Baroness Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

March 28 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, AUTHOR GUEST POST

(1) $20 Amazon gift card

Have you signed up to be a Tour Host? 


Timeless: Zane & Fiona by Kaylene Winter! #XpressoTours⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ @XpressoTours


Timeless: Zane & Fiona
Kaylene Winter

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance


A Steamy, Coming-of-Age, Friends-To-Lovers, Rockstar Romance

“I vowed nothing would keep us apart…”
Fiona Reynolds is my other half.
It’s been that way from the day I was born.
I’ve dedicated my life to keep my promise.
Fate just laughs in our face.
She’s always out of reach, this time for good.
I’ll do anything to prove she’s my destiny –
if only she’d trust me one more time.

“After what I’ve done, how can I deserve him?”
Zane Rocks is my everything.
There’s no one I love or trust more than him.
It wasn’t his fault when he left me.
I always knew he’d find his way back.
Fear overwhelmed me, and I broke his heart.
Will the most celebrated musician on the planet,
really give me another chance?

When a rash decision changes their lives forever, hope for their future is all but shattered.
Stakes are high.

But Zane’s determined to prove a love this pure is TIMELESS.


A steamy, childhood-friends-to-lovers romance between a sexy billionaire rockstar and his plus-size soulmate

“Restraint is not my strong suit.”

I’m finally reunited with the woman I’ve loved since birth.
Why do I feel so untethered?
Fiona’s living her dream and I’m doing my best to support her.
But, with so many dark secrets revealed, my very foundation is rocked to the core.
Will we ever outrun our past to have the life we deserve?

“My lifelong dream blew up in spectacular fashion”

Zane and I overcame many obstacles to achieve our destiny.
We’re best friends and soulmates—with a love life other couples only dream of.
Anxiety and self-doubt still threaten my confidence.
When neither of us have reconciled our past,
Can we find the courage to embrace our future?

Happily ever after can mean so many things.
Life happens.
Faith is tested.

Will Zane and Fiona overcome decades of deception?
Is true love really TIMELESS?

TIMELESS ENCORE is Book 8 in the Less Than Zero Rockstar Romance Series, and is the sequel to TIMELESS

It is strongly recommended you read Books 1-4 before reading any of the “ENCORE” sequels, otherwise you’ll be spoiled!

It’s kind of like being suspended in time when you drown.

Slowly you slip down, sinking farther and farther into a vast, aqua-blue ocean. At first, the sun flitters at the surface, making the sea look like glittery, blue diamonds. It’s like heaven. Dreamlike. Floaty. Beautiful.

Once the light begins to dissipate, suddenly your surroundings feel ominous. The water feels heavy, not light. Stifling. Claustrophobic. The sea turns midnight blue. Then it is so dark you can’t even see your hand inches from your face.

That’s when survival instinct kicks in. Arms sluice upward. Your legs scissor and kick in attempt to reach the surface. All you want is to find the light again. Just one more time.

All of this happens in a minute, though it feels like hours. Days. Weeks. Years.

But it’s too late. Your lungs fill. When you try to breathe, all you do is suck water into your windpipe. You panic. Flail. Gasp. Scream. Fight with everything you have, because if you don’t reach the surface… 

I shoot up in bed, clutching my chest. Gulping in air. Tears stream down my face. I can’t catch my breath. My heart pounds.


This sucks so bad. I can’t keep having these drowning dreams. They’re freaking me the fuck out.

I’m pulled from behind into a full-body hug.

“Your doctor said this would pass in another week or two. Stick with it, Fee. Subconsciously you know I’d never let you drown.” He nuzzles my neck with his scruffy face, tickling me a bit.

I lean back against Zane. My best friend. My lover. My everything from the day I was born. “I know you wouldn’t. It’s just a lot freakier than they said it would be. If I’d known it was this hard to wean myself off Xanax, I’d never have started taking it in the first place.”

”You’ve been under tremendous amounts of stress with Mia’s custody stuff for so long, babe.” Zane eases me down so he’s spooning me. “It was either that or not sleeping. Now that Corey-fucking-Johnson is firmly in the rearview mirror, you just need a little recoup time and you’ll be as good as new. The world is ours for the taking. At-fucking-last.”

My entire body relaxes against him. “Yeah, I knew I had to stop when I realized I was taking double my dose. There’s no way I’m going down that path. Obviously.”

Addiction has taken so much away from my man, there’s no way I’d ever do that to him. Not after we’ve overcome so much to have our happily ever after.

                                                            Goodreads / Amazon

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


A signed copy of Timeless: Encore

a Rafflecopter giveaway

23 March 2023

Thorns at Sunrise by @janeen_ippolito Book Blitz! #janeenippolito #ThornsatSunrise #XpressoTours⁣⁣⁣⁣ @XpressoTours⁣

 #coverreveal #comingsoon #YALit #YoungAdult #YA #YARomance #bookstagrammer #booksbooksbooks

Thorns at Sunrise

(Janeen Ippolito)

Publication date: March 23rd 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

A young queen. Her imaginary friend. A kingdom on the verge of death.

She believes she’s crazy.

Queen Usilea has a secret–and he lives in her mind. Ever since she was six years old, her imaginary friend has been her closest companion, and her arranged marriage has been a great dread. When she learns her betrothed and the royal family have suddenly died, she feels obligated to attend the funeral in the foreign land of Absteph–and perhaps learn more behind their mysterious passing.

He only wants the truth.

Petar endures great pain to protect those he does not remember. His only solace is a shadowy woman who he loves–even though she denies that he exists. When a terrible tragedy occurs in his kingdom, that mysterious woman is his only hope of bringing justice to light. For the cage that imprisons him grows harsher every day, and he is losing the fight.

But there are thorns at sunrise.

Brought together on the barest thread of reality, Usilea and Petar must discover what really happened to the royal family. But Petar’s time is running out. Soon not even a Mender like Usilea will be able to save him.

This YA romance features a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty in an original fantasy world on the brink of doom.

Goodreads / Amazon

Her imaginary friend was playing a new trick on her. This time, she would discern his meaning.

Usilea set down the quill on the paper, frowning at the words mocking her from the page. She pressed her lips together in thought. Thorns at sunrise? What could it mean? What was her mind trying to tell her?

“What do you think of my riddle?

As usual, the voice didn’t come from within her mind directly, but somewhere outside. Yet were she to glance around, all she would perceive is the vaguest sensation of shadow and soul in the periphery of her vision.

And so, she refrained from looking. Instead, she focused on the words she had written, words he had spoken into her mind at some point in the night.

I think … you’re afraid.

“And what am I afraid of, goldenbird?” Amusement teased the edges of his words. She had known her friend was a male since the first time they had met, whenever that had been. Sometime after her sixth year. “Tell me, you who know me so well.”

I know you as well as I might any figment of my imagination.

“Likewise. That is not the answer to the riddle.”

A sigh escaped her. Usilea leaned back in her cushioned chair and rubbed the tense area around her eyes. You are afraid of being lost. You are afraid of being found. You are afraid of darkness, and you are afraid of light.

No answer came from the voice in her mind. A faint smile curved her lips. He only withdrew like that when she was right and he was bewildered. She had learned that pattern over the years as they had conversed. He liked keeping his mysteries, while he equally delighted in unveiling the mysteries of others. A curious behavior for her imaginary friend.

A strange, stabbing sensation pierced through her musing.

What did it imply about her that her closest friend wasn’t real?

Janeen Ippolito writes about misfits who defy expectations, whether in fairy tale, steampunk fantasy, urban fantasy, humorous paranormal romance, or poetry. She also spreads wordtastic joy in her work as a fearless book strategist, nonfiction author, and coach. In her spare time, she swordfights and posts cute animal memes.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


Paperback copy Thorns at Sunrise

Hardback copy of Thorns at Sunrise

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Flicker of a Doubt (A Fairy Garden Mystery) by Daryl Wood Gerber Book Tour!


About A Flicker of a Doubt

A Flicker of a Doubt (A Fairy Garden Mystery) 

Cozy Mystery 4th in Series Setting – California 

Kensington Cozies (March 28, 2023) 

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages 

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1496741277 

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1496741271 

Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B6DBQ5CM

Fairies are trending hard, especially when it comes to fairy garden décor in Walmart and Target and on Amazon. The latest installment in the nationally bestselling Daryl Wood Gerber's Fairy Garden mysteries is a perfect read for Laura Childs readers and all fans of whimsy and charm.

  With a theater foundation tea and an art show planned at Violet Vickers’s estate, Courtney is hired to create charming fairy gardens for the event. It’s not so charming, however, when her best friend Meaghan’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be Violet’s latest artistic protégé. Even worse, not long after Meaghan locks horns with him, his body is found in her yard, bludgeoned with an objet d’murder.
There’s a gallery of suspects, from an unstable former flame to an arts and crafts teacher with a sketchy past. But when the cops focus on Meaghan’s business partner, who’s like a protective older brother to her, and discover he also has a secret financial motive, Courtney decides to draw her own conclusions. Fearing they’re missing the forest for the trees, and with some help from Fiona the sleuthing fairy, she hopes to make them see the light . . .


Down by the spring one morning 

Where the shadows still lay deep, 

I found in the heart of a flower 

A tiny fairy asleep. 

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Fairy Dew Drop” 

Slam! Slam-slam-slam! Slam! 

My insides did a jig. I dashed down the hall to the back of Open Your Imagination,  dusting my hands off on my denim overalls while wondering what in the world was going on.  Fiona, the teensy righteous fairy that appeared to me the day I opened my fairy garden shop,  fluttered to my shoulder. Her limbs and gossamer wings were trembling. 

“What’s happening, Courtney?” she managed to squeak out. She hated loud noises. Hated  surprises. I didn’t like them, either. 

Pixie, my Ragdoll cat, trailed us. She mewed. 

“Don’t worry, you two,” I said. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” 

I drew to a halt outside the storage room. The door opened and slammed. 

When it opened again, I pressed a hand against it. “Hey! Stop! Meaghan, c’mon.” The door opened wide, and Meaghan Brownie gawked at me. Her face was red, her eyes  were ablaze with fury, and her curly hair was writhing like wild snakes.  

“What the heck has you so angry?” I asked. I’d sent her to fetch a box of gemstones. I  had plenty, so coming up empty wasn’t what was upsetting her. 

“Nicolas!” She huffed. “He texted me. And . . . And . . .” She waggled her cell phone.  “Oo-oh!”  

Nicolas was her ex-boyfriend, a temperamental artist. A few months back, she’d asked him to move out while her mother had needed comforting. He’d never returned.

“Oo-oh,” she repeated, before grabbing one of the Tupperware boxes filled with  gemstones and skirting past me. She stalked toward the main showroom. 

Pixie and I followed. Fiona flew above my pal, sprinkling her with a calming silver dust.  Fairies couldn’t change human behavior, but they could offer potions that might help the human  solve problems. In this case, to find peace.  

“He’s so . . . so . . . ”  

Meaghan was not using her inside voice, but I wasn’t worried about her upsetting our  customers. It was early. Nobody was in the shop yet. Not even Joss Timberlake, my right-hand  helper. She’d asked for the morning off, so I’d invited Meaghan to help me prepare some items.  Why did I need help? Because yesterday Violet Vickers, a wealthy widow who donated to  numerous worthy causes, had ordered an additional dozen fairy gardens to be used as  centerpieces for the theater foundation tea she was serving on Mother’s Day. Why additional?  Because she’d already commissioned me to make a dozen very large, elaborate fairy gardens to  be installed when Kelly Landscaping, my father’s company, completed the total redo of her  backyard.  

It was May first. I wasn’t hyperventilating. Yet. But I also wasn’t sleeping much. “Let’s go to the patio,” I said. “I’ll bring some tea.” 

“I don’t want tea,” Meaghan groused as she breezed out the French doors to the patio, the  folds of her white lace skirt wafting behind her. 

The shop’s telephone jangled. I decided not to answer. Whoever was calling would call  back. Meaghan, my best friend who I’d met a little over ten years ago when we were sophomores  in college, needed me more. I followed her, glancing at Fiona wondering why the calming potion  wasn’t working. Fiona, intuiting my question, shook her head.

“Isn’t it a beautiful morning, Meaghan?” I took the box from her and set it on the  workstation table in the learning-the-craft area at the far end of the patio. “Gorgeous, in fact.”  The fountain was burbling. Sunshine was streaming through the tempered-glass,  pyramid-shaped roof. The leaves of the Ficus trees were clean and shiny. I’d already wiped down  the wrought-iron tables and chairs and organized all the verdigris baker’s racks of fairy figurines.  Plus I’d removed dead leaves from the various decorative fairy gardens. Presentation mattered to  me and to my customers.  

Meaghan muttered, “Ugh.” 

“Start at the beginning,” I said. “Nicolas texted you.” 

“Yes.” She plopped onto a bench and rested her elbows on the table. 

“What did he write?” I asked. 

“He wants me back.” 

I opened the box of colorful gemstones and ran my hands through them: hematite,  labradorite, amethyst, obsidian, and more.  

“But I don’t want him back,” Meaghan said. 

Fiona landed on the rim of the box. Her eyes widened. “Are they for the fairy doors,  Courtney?” 


“They’re pretty.”  

Not only was I making the gardens for Violet, but I had three upcoming fairy garden door  classes scheduled. Fairy doors were miniature doors, usually set at the base of a tree, behind  which might be a small space where people left notes or wishes for fairies. They could also be  installed into a fairy garden pot. 

“I mean, I used to,” Meaghan went on. “But I don’t anymore. We have nothing in  common.” Idly, she drew circles on the tabletop with her fingertip. “I did the right thing, don’t  you think? I did, didn’t I?” 

Over the course of our friendship, I’d kept my mouth shut. Nicolas and Meaghan had  never made sense. She was outgoing and personable; he was quiet, to the point of being morose.  Granted, he was a talented artist, and she, as a premier art gallery owner, appreciated his gift, but  that was not enough to sustain a healthy relationship. Not in my book, anyway. “Did he text anything else?” I asked, not answering her question. 

“No . . . Yes. That he loved me.” She flopped forward on her arms dramatically. Pixie pounced onto the bench and nudged Meaghan’s hip with her nose.  

Meaghan sat up, drew the cat into her lap, and petted her. “You should have seen Ziggy  the last time Nicolas contacted me.” Ziggy Foxx, an eccentric gay man in his forties, was  Meaghan’s business partner at Flair Gallery. 

Cypress and Ivy Courtyard, where Open Your Imagination was located, boasted a high end jewelry store, collectibles shop, pet-grooming enterprise, my favorite bakery Sweet Treats,  and Flair, Meaghan’s gallery. 

“Ziggy was finalizing a sale of one of Hunter Hock’s items, and when he heard me say  Nicolas’s name, he nearly threw Hunter’s art across the room. Hunter was there at the time.”  Hunter Hock, an in-demand artist in his thirties, was known for small pieces of art. Not as  tiny as paintings on almonds or bottle caps or even the insides of lockets. More like three-inch square petite canvases. Many featured landscapes of Carmel-by-the-Sea, my home town and one  of the most incredible places on earth.

“Oh, man, if Hunter could have leaped through the phone receiver”—Meaghan snorted  out a laugh—“he would have strangled Nicolas. You know how he likes to protect me.” Every man who’d ever met Meaghan had wanted to protect her. Not that she needed it.  She was a force to be reckoned with. But there was something about her femininity that brought  out the he-man in men. Me? Most men wanted to be my friend. Period. I was the girl-next-door  type. Short blond hair, athletic figure. Meaghan towered above me and had curves. I said, “I’d bet Hunter also didn’t like seeing Ziggy lose his temper.” 

“Destroy a piece of his art? Oh, the insanity!” Her laugh turned into giggles. Fits of  giggles. And then tears. 

I hurried to her and threw my arm around her. “Hey, c’mon. Deep breaths. You’re  beyond Nicolas. You have Ziggy.” 

She arched her eyebrow.  

“Okay, you have Hunter,” I joked. 

She sobered. “I don’t have Hunter. He’s a friend.” 

I twirled a finger. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you.” 

“Like this?” She made a googly-eyed face. 

“That’s the spirit!” Fiona spiraled to the roof, did a loop the loop, and returned to  Meaghan’s shoulder. “No more crying. What’s done is done.” She caressed my friend’s hair.  “Thank you, Fiona.” Not everyone could see fairies, and Meaghan had struggled at first,  but now, she was quite in tune with them.  

“We move onward and upward,” Fiona added. My intrepid fairy knew what she was  talking about. She’d messed up in fairy school, so the queen fairy had booted her from the fairy  realm and subjected her to probation. But she was making the most of it. By helping humans 

solve problems, she would earn her way back into the queen fairy’s good graces—the queen  fairy who, until a few months ago, I hadn’t realized was Aurora, the first fairy I’d ever seen; the  fairy who had disappeared from my memory when my mother died.  

“When you’re done with your pity party, Meaghan,” I said, “help me sort these stones  before we open up.” 

“And then I need to go to Flair.” 

I turned on soothing instrumental music that piped through speakers on the patio, and we  worked in companionable silence for an hour, organizing and preparing.  

When Meaghan was ready to leave, she gave me a hug. “Thank you for talking me down  from the ledge.” 

“No thanks required. Nicolas wants you, but you don’t want him. All you have to say is  no.” 

“No.” Meaghan shook her head from side to side. “No, no, no.” 

“See?” I grinned. “That isn’t too hard.” 

“Until he comes near me and my knees turn to jelly.” 

“You won’t turn to jelly. You’ll be strong. Stalwart. You’ve been seeing the therapist.  She’s given you mantras. Repeat those. Over and over.” 

Fiona said, “And if those don’t work, squeeze your eyes shut”—she demonstrated—"and  picture what you want out of life.” She popped her eyes open. “What do you want?”  “A man who thinks I’m wonderful,” Meaghan replied. “A man who doesn’t tear me  down. A man who truly loves me for me.” 

I hugged her. “That’s my girl.”  

She bounded to her feet. “Want me to unlatch the Dutch door on my way out?”

“I’ll do it.” It was time to open. 

I followed her through the showroom. In addition to fairy garden items, we sold a variety  of specialty pieces, including tea sets, gardening tools, books about fairies, and windchimes;  fairies enjoyed tinkling sounds. I weaved between display tables to the entrance and swung open  the door. I stepped outside and drew in a deep, cleansing breath. “Remember, Meaghan, I’m here  if you need me.” 

She jogged up the stairs of the split-level courtyard. “Don’t forget I brought you double chocolate caramel brownies,” she yelled as she disappeared from view. 

Given her last name, she’d been a brownie maker since she’d learned how to bake. I was  lucky enough to reap the rewards. 

I turned to go back inside. 

“Courtney!” a woman called. Violet Vickers exited the silver Rolls Royce coupe she’d  parked on the street. 

Inwardly, I moaned. I adored Violet, but what did she need now? I didn’t have more  hours in the day.  

“I’m so glad you’re here.” She triggered the car alarm and strode across the sidewalk  toward me while smoothing the shawl collar of her lavender jacquard suit. “I tried phoning, but  you didn’t answer.” 

“Hi, Violet.” I beckoned her into the shop. “What’s up?” I asked, closing the Dutch door  behind us, but opening the top half to let in the fresh air. “I’m getting ready to put the fairy  garden centerpieces together this morning. Your big pots are done and all set for delivery.” I’d made the larger-sized pots in my backyard using items in my greenhouse. “Lovely,” she said, as she was wont to do. “Has your father seen the big ones?”

My father, a pragmatist in every sense of the word, didn’t believe in fairies. Opening my fairy garden shop had been a bone of contention between us. But at least he was coming around  to acknowledging that I and others did see them. And he’d accepted that Violet expected twelve custom-made pots in her garden. No ifs, ands, or buts. Somehow he, as her landscaper, would  

make them work with his design. 

“Not yet,” I said, “but he has approved of the plant selections and color of the pottery.” “Excellent. What are the themes of the gardens, if I dare ask?”  

“Love, love, love,” I chimed. “As ordered.” 

Though she was pushing seventy, Violet applauded like a jubilant schoolgirl. She’d asked  that the fairy gardens reflect love in all its glory. How could I refuse? Fiona, who was turning out  to be quite the reader, had advised me from the get-go to focus on the greatest love stories of all  time: Romeo and Juliet; Wuthering Heights; Dr. Zhivago; Casablanca. Creating Rick’s Café  with its Moroccan décor for the Casablanca-themed garden had been a challenge.  Violet tapped her chin. “Now then, the reason I needed to see you—” 

Tires screeched outside. A door slammed.  

Fiona flew to my shoulder. “What now?” she asked, quivering with newfound fear. The Dutch door burst open, and Nicolas Buley charged in, his dark hair askew, apparent  shaving mishaps checked by tissue, and his paint-splattered shirt untucked from his jeans.  “Where is she?”

Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Fairy Garden Mysteries, Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she penned the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. In addition, Daryl writes the Aspen Adams Novels of Suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Daryl loves to cook, fairy garden, and read. She has a frisky Goldendoodle who keeps her in line. And she has been known to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and hitch-hike around Ireland alone. 

You can learn more on her website: httsp://darylwoodgerber.com

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