Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Guest Post: Elena Taylor - ALL WE BURIED



Good day, book people. We've made it to the end of another month and the beginning of another seasonal change. Yay us! I often wonder what authors do all day long. Do they have outside jobs? Do they have a strict writing schedule? Do they spend hours reading and performing research? Is everything they encounter in their daily lives fodder for their books? What exactly happens on the average day in an author's life? Realistically, authors' daily routines probably differ as much as my daily routine differs from yours. However, I'm pleased to welcome editor, reviewer, blogger, Elena Taylor — author of All We Buried and she has graciously agreed to provide us with a glimpse into her daily routine. Thank you, Ms. Taylor (no relation), for stopping by today and sharing with us.


A Day in The Life of Author Elena Taylor

Polar and CoalTrain take a Break

My dog Polar is a very smart dog. He understands that Dad is up very early, and Mom is up very late. He gets Dad up with the sun for a walk, then he crawls back in bed with me for a little cuddle and a snooze until a reasonable hour.

Once I can open my eyes without a struggle, I like to sit up in bed and read for about an hour. Most of the time it's a mystery that I'm to review—either as a blogger or for the New York Journal of Books—if it's not for a review, it's usually either nonfiction about crime, as research for my next book, or I'm reading for pure fun. 

My reading time is one of the best parts of the day. Outside the window, there's nothing to see but trees. And the only sound is that of the river running through my backyard. Polar likes to lie against my leg and I'm often visited by a cat or two. I have a cup of coffee and get myself fully awake to face my writer's day.

Then I wander down the hall, usually followed by the dog and a cat or two (if you're sensing a theme here, you're right!). I get another cup of coffee and head into my office. My office is a small room at the back of the house. I have a window looking out over the river, and an L-shaped desk that I built for the space. Polar fits underneath it perfectly.

The first thing I like to do is work on my own writing. If it's the first draft, like I'm writing now, I shoot for a certain word count. With my current project that's 1000 words a day. According to the post-it on my computer, my word count today is 27,968, so in about fifty days I'll have a full draft of roughly 80,000 words. 

My goal is to finish in the beginning of November.

If I'm working on rewrites, I do a certain number of pages a day. 

That may sound weirdly arbitrary, and it probably is, but for some reason, I have to break my work down like that. I think it has to do with the fact that the industry goes by word count, whereas readers go by pages. For a first draft, I think like the industry and for rewrites, I think like a reader.

After I finish my word or page count, I take a break, have something to eat—by the river if it's not raining—then I come back to my computer and work on client projects. I often find a cat under my desk waiting for my return.

One of the other hats I wear is that of a developmental editor, I look at big picture stuff on works-in-progress. Everything from story structure to pace to dialogue to character development as well as specific quirks every writer has. As I work, I often see kayakers float past the house and a lot of squirrels run around in the trees. It's pretty exciting out here in Snoqualmie Valley.

Throughout the day I take mini breaks for coffee and catch up on social media. I respond to emails and generate content for my newsletter. And play with the cats and the dog. The dog is good about sleeping next to me, the cats like to climb around on my desk and require more attention, but they are so cute I get sucked in every time. 

Then comes my favorite part of the daily routine. In the afternoon I head over to the stables where we board our horses. It's a bit of a drive, but the location is totally worth it. I catch up on the day's news with NPR on the radio and let myself shift from fiction to the real world.

I spend an hour or two (or three) getting the horses out. In warm weather there are baths, in cold weather, I hang out with them in their shed to stay out of the rain. Living in Western Washington, "Mud" is considered a season. 

My two geldings are hilarious, Radar, the youngest, likes to play with traffic cones and will grab one in his mouth and run around with it. Our older horse Jasper is a regal Palomino Paint who rules the pasture like a benign dictator. He loves to graze and never misses a chance for snacks—a characteristic he and I have in common.

Back home my day varies depending on deadlines and how much I accomplished in the morning. Sometimes I work later into the evening, sometimes I only work another hour or so. Mostly I do the business side of writing. I write blog posts and book reviews. I put together mailings for reviewers or do other things related to promotions. 

In the winter it will already be dark, making me want to eat soup and join the entire family, four-legged and two, in bed. In the summertime, our beautiful northern latitude keeps it light until ten o'clock, and I feel a little guilty if I don't work later. 

In the evenings, I have to admit, I love to watch television. I'm a sucker for TV mysteries. Grantchester, Frankie Drake, and Endeavor are some of my recent indulgences. I also finally watched Downton Abbey. I was late to the party, but I'm glad I waited. I absolutely loved it and binging it took my mind off our current situation.

Oh, and I bake too much. Nothing smells better than fresh bread and I have finally discovered the world's greatest Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Though just to be sure, I should probably bake another batch or two to make confirm they really are that good.

A friend recently asked me how I come up with the stuff in my novels. The adventures of my characters look nothing like my daily life. I suppose my imagination and my daily life are the yin and yang of my personality. I love adventure with my fiction and peace and quiet in the real world. Other than the occasional attack of my toes by a cat, peace and quiet is exactly how I get to live.

Thanks for hanging out with me today! Now I've got to run. The horses are waiting.
Elena 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Showcase: CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 by Lisa Unger



Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger
ISBN: 9780778310150 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488069079 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210273 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799935414 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B087QM8SRM   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082Q4Q1MZ   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020



From master of suspense Lisa Unger comes a riveting thriller about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies and deceit.

Everyone has a secret… Now she knows yours.

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she's been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena's station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena's nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she'll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives. 





Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Apple Books  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Nook Book  |  B&N Audiobook on CD  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  Google Play  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook  |  Target  |  Walmart



Read an Excerpt **Mild Profanity Alert**


Chapter Two
Anne

It had been a mistake from the beginning and Anne certainly knew that. You don't sleep with your boss. It's really one of the things mothers should teach their daughters. Chew your food carefully. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don't fuck your direct supervisor no matter how hot, rich, or charming he may happen to be. Not that Anne's mother had taught her a single useful thing.

Anyway, here she was. Again. Taking it from behind, over the couch in her boss's corner office with those expansive city views. The world was a field of lights spread wide around them. She tried to enjoy it. But, as was often the case, she just kind of floated above herself. She made all the right noises, though. She knew how to fake it.

"Oh my god, Anne. You're so hot."

He pressed himself in deep, moaning.

When he'd first come on to her, she thought he was kidding – or not thinking clearly. They'd flown together to DC to take an important client who was considering leaving the investment firm out to dinner.  In the cab on the way back to the hotel -- while Hugh was on the phone with his wife, he put his hand on Anne's leg. He wasn't even looking at Anne when he did it, so for a moment she wondered if it was just absent-mindedness. He was like that sometimes, a little loopy. Overly affectionate, familiar. Forgetful.

His hand moved up her thigh. Anne sat very still. Like a prey animal. Hugh ended the call and she expected him to jerk his hand back. 

Oh! I'm so sorry, Anne, she thought he'd say, aghast at his careless behavior.

But no. His hand moved higher.

 "Am I misreading signals?" he said, voice low.  

Stop. What most people would be thinking: Poor Anne! Afraid for her job, she submits to this predator.

What Anne was thinking: How can I use this to my advantage? She really had been just trying to do her job well, sort of. But it seemed that Pop was right, as he had been about so many things. If you weren't running a game, someone was running one on you.

Had she subconsciously been putting out signals? Possibly. Yes. Maybe Pop was right about that, too. You don't get to stop being what you are, even when you try.

They made out like prom dates in the cab, comported themselves appropriately as they walked through the lobby of the Ritz. He pressed against her at the door to her hotel room. She was glad she was wearing sexy underwear, had shaved her legs. 

She'd given Hugh – with his salt and pepper hair, sinewy muscles, flat abs -- the ride of his life that night.  And many nights since. He liked her on top. He was a considerate lover, always asking: Is this good? Are you okay? Confessional: Kate and I – we've been married a long time. We both have – appetites. She couldn't care less about his marriage.

Anne didn't actually believe in the things other people seemed to value so highly. Fidelity – really? Were you supposed to just want one person your whole life? Marriage. Was there ever anything more set up to fail, to disappoint, to erode? Come on. They were animals. Every last one of them rutting, feral beasts. Men. Women. All of society was held together by gossamer thin, totally arbitrary laws and mores that were always shifting and changing no matter how people clung. They were all just barely in line.

Anne neither expected nor encouraged Hugh to fall in love. In fact, she spoke very little. She listened, made all the right affirming noises. If he noticed that she had told him almost nothing about herself, it didn't come up. But fall in love with Anne he did. And things were getting complicated.

Now, finished and holding her around the waist, Hugh was crying a little. His body weight was pinning her down. He often got emotional after they made love. She didn't mind him most of the time. But the whole crying thing -- it was such a turn off. She pushed against him and he let her up. She tugged down her skirt, and he pulled her into an embrace. 

She held him for a while, then wiped his eyes, kissed his tears away. Because she knew that's what he wanted. She had a special gift for that, knowing what people wanted -- really wanted deep down – and giving them that thing for a while. And that was why Hugh – why anyone – fell in love. Because he loved getting the thing he wanted, even if he didn't know what that was.

When he moved away finally, she stared at her ghostly reflection in the dark window, wiped at her smeared lipstick.

"I'm going to leave her," Hugh said. He flung himself on one of the plush sofas. He was long and elegant; his clothes impeccable, bespoke, made from the finest fabrics. Tonight, his silk tie was loose, pressed cotton shirt was wilted, black wool suit pants still looking crisp. Garments, all garments – even just his tennis whites -- hung beautifully on his fit body.

She smiled, moved to sit beside him. He kissed her, salty and sweet. 

"It's time. I can't do this anymore," he went on.

This wasn't the first time he'd said this. Last time, when she'd tried to discourage him, he'd held her wrists too hard when she tried to leave. There had been something bright and hard in his eyes – desperation. She didn't want him to get clingy tonight. Emotional.

"Okay," she said, running her fingers through his hair. "Yeah."

Because that's what he wanted to hear, needed to hear. If you didn't give people what they wanted, they became angry. Or they pulled away. And then the game was harder or lost altogether.

"We'll go away," he said, tracing a finger along her jaw. Because of course they'd both lose their jobs. Hugh's wife Kate owned and ran the investment firm, had inherited the company from her legendary father. Her brothers were on the board. They'd never liked Hugh (this was one of his favorite pillow talk tirades, how Kate's brothers didn't respect him). "We'll take a long trip abroad and figure out what comes next. Clean slate for both of us. Would you like that?"

"Of course," she said. "That would be wonderful."

Anne liked her job; when she'd applied and interviewed, she honestly wanted to work at the firm. Numbers made a kind of sense to her, investment a kind of union of logic and magic. Client work was a bit of a game, wasn't it – convincing people to part with their cash on the promise that you could make them more? She also respected and admired her boss – her lover's wife -- Kate. A powerful, intelligent woman. 

Maybe Anne should have thought about all of that before she submitted to Hugh's advances. He wasn't the power player; she'd miscalculated, or not run the numbers at all. She made mistakes like that sometimes, let the game run her. Pop thought it was a form of self-sabotage. Sometimes, sweetie, I think your heart's not quite in it. Maybe he was right.

"Ugh," said Hugh, pulling away, glancing at his watch. "I'm late. I have to change and meet Kate at the fundraiser."

She rose and walked the expanse of his office, got his tux from the closet, and lay it across the back of the couch. Another stunning item, heavy and silken. She ran her fingers lovingly along the lapel. He rose, and she helped him dress, hanging his other clothes, putting them back in the closet. She did his tie. In his heart, he was a little boy. He wanted to be attended to, cared for. Maybe everyone wanted that.

"You look wonderful," she said, kissing him. "Have fun tonight."

He looked at her long, eyes filling again.

"Soon," he said. "This charade can end."

She put a gentle hand to his cheek, smiled as sweetly as she could muster and started to move from the room.

"Anne," he said, grabbing for her hand. "I love you."

She'd never said it back. She'd said things like "me, too" or she'd send him the heart-eyed emoji in response to a text, sometimes she just blew him a kiss. He hadn't seemed to notice, or his pride was too enormous to ask her why she never said it, or if she loved him. But mainly, she thought it was because Hugh only saw and heard what he wanted to.

She unlaced her fingers and blew him a kiss. "Goodnight, Hugh."

His phone rang, and he watched her as he answered. 

"I'm coming, darling," he said, averting his eyes, moving away. "Just had to finish up with a client."

She left him, his voice following her down the hall.

In her office, she gathered her things, a strange knot in the pit of her stomach. She sensed that her luck was about to run out here. She couldn't say why. Just a feeling that things were unsustainable – that it wasn't going to be as easy to leave Kate as he thought, that on some level he didn't really want to, that once things reached critical mass, she'd be out of a job. Of course, it wouldn't be a total loss. She'd make sure of that.  

There was a loneliness, a hollow feeling that took hold at the end. She wished she could call Pop, that he could talk her through. Instead her phone pinged. The message there annoyed her.

This is wrong, it said. I don't want to do this anymore.

Just stay the course, she wrote back. It's too late to back out now.

Funny how that worked. At the critical moment, she had to give the advice she needed herself. The student becomes the teacher. No doubt, Pop would be pleased.

Anne glanced at the phone. The little dots pulsed, then disappeared. The girl, younger, greener, would do what she was told. She always had. So far.

Anne looked at her watch, imbued with a bit of energy. If she hustled, she could just make it. 

Excerpt from Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger. 
Copyright © 2020 by Lisa Unger. Published by Park Row Books. 
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.




Meet The Author


Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including Confessions on the 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted "Best of the Year" or top picks by the Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, IndieBound, and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.


Connect to the author via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter.



This excerpt brought to you by Park Row Books

Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 Book 356: AND NOW SHE'S GONE by Rachel Howzell Hall

And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall 
ISBN: 9781250753175 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250753168 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250772671 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08C7YBLRY    (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082RSNH44   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 22, 2020 
Publisher: Forge Books


Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It's up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray's search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman's secrets and the truth she's hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She's Gone explores the nature of secrets  and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive. 




Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Apple Books  |  Audible  |  Audiobooks  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Nook Book  |  BookDepository  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo eBook   |   Kobo Audiobook  |  Powell's  |  Target  |  Walmart


Read an excerpt here.



Grayson Sykes is a female private detective on her first case with Rader Consulting in Los Angeles. The case is to locate a missing person, Isabel Lincoln, on behalf of her boyfriend, a local cardiologist. Initially, it appears that Isabel may have left her boyfriend because of an abusive relationship. But Grayson knows firsthand what an abusive relationship is like and she's convinced that all is not what it appears. Although she doesn't like the arrogant Dr. Ian O'Donnell, she begins to realize that he may be guilty of many things, but the charge of physical abuse isn't one of them. She talks Dr. O'Donnell into allowing her to stay on the case to track down Isabel and is quickly led down a proverbial rabbit hole as she uncovers secret after secret in Isabel's life.

Now, I could go on and reveal the secrets of this book, and there are quite a few. What I will tell you is that And Now She's Gone is a smart, well-written, psychological mystery with layer after layer of twists and turns that kept this reader engaged until the very last page. There are bad guys — come on people it's a mystery so of course there are bad guys  and horrible guys. The entire story is told as two stories, one as a flashback and the other as a more contemporary storyline. The flashback reveals the story of Natalie K. Grayson Dixon. She's married to a Vegas big shot and is slowly isolated from her friends and family as well as constantly abused. She was raised in foster care until the age of 15 when she was adopted by Faye and Victor Grayson, both now deceased. Faye was a school teacher and Victor was an FBI agent who worked with Dominick Rader, former FBI agent and currently the CEO of Rader Consulting. For those of you that are sensitive to stories that include physical, mental, and emotional abuse themes, you may want to give this book a pass. However, for those of you that enjoy reading a taut and twisted psychological thriller with truly warped characters, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall to read. Personally, I'll be adding quite a few of Ms. Hall's previous titles to my TBR list and possibly re-reading And Now She's Gone over the next few weeks or months. I know, there are other books I should be reading, but I so enjoyed this one. There are many bad things I could say about 2020, but it has been great as the year of procrastireading (reading instead of doing anything else). One of the many great things about 2020 is that I've had the opportunity to read some wonderful books including And Now She's Gone. I look forward to reading more by Rachel Howzell Hall in the future.

Happy Reading y'all! 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Book Showcase: TORTURED WITH LOVE by JT Hunter





Tortured With Love

The True Crime Romance of the Lonely Hearts Killers

by JT Hunter

on Tour August 1 - September 30, 2020



Tortured With Love by JT Hunter


Synopsis:



What is the price of passion? What is the power of love?

Meet Martha Beck, a young nurse dedicated to healing others, until her own hurting heart lured her down a darker path. Loneliness led her to Raymond Fernandez, but love led her all the way to the electric chair.

This is the tragic story of the Lonely Heart Killers.




Book Details:


Genre: True Crime
Published by: JT Hunter
Publication Date: May 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 9798646112720
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads




Read an excerpt:





ONE

On an otherwise mundane March day, a peculiar piece of paper arrived in Martha Beck's office mailbox. It came with the usual medical correspondence and junk mail, giving no indication of its importance. Yet, this one particular envelope would change Martha's life forever.

The envelope arrived on a cool afternoon, the temperature hovering just below 60, the highest it had climbed all day in the Pensacola area of the Florida Panhandle. But Martha was not in the mood to enjoy the weather. She was still down in the dumps about her recently finalized divorce from Alfred Beck, a Pensacola bus driver who had married her when she was six months pregnant with another man's child. Although she had been separated from Alfred since May 1945, nearly two years earlier, the formal entry of their divorce had the nearly 27-year-old Martha feeling like an old maid doomed to live out the rest of her life alone.

Martha was not unique in that respect in post-World War II America. With well over a million more women than men, the United States population of the mid and late 1940's left many lonely women in its wake.

A visit from Elizabeth Swanson, one of the nurses she supervised at the Crippled Children's Home, temporarily distracted Martha from feeling sorry for herself. She considered Elizabeth her closest friend. When Elizabeth knocked on her office door, Martha had just started going through the mail. As the two engaged in the latest gossip and friendly chit-chat, Martha resumed sorting through the assortment of envelopes. The first was an advertisement from a Jacksonville company selling medical equipment. She quickly flipped past it as well as a few other pieces of junk mail until a mysterious envelope caught her eye. It was made of thin, pale-brown paper with the name, Mrs. Martha Jule Beck, typed prominently on the front.

"What's this?" she asked, the question directed more to herself than her friend.

"What is what?" Elizabeth replied, sipping from a mug of coffee.

"This . . . this odd envelope," Martha said, holding it up to show her.

"Beat's me," Elizabeth remarked coyly. "I wonder who sent you that."

"I'm sure I don't know," Martha remarked, her curiosity now piqued. She turned the envelope over to inspect it further, and seeing nothing hinting at its contents, opened it to find a thin, paper pamphlet inside. It was a promotional mailing and application for the Standard Correspondence Club, one of many "lonely hearts clubs" operating across the country. The return address gave Standard's location as Grave Lake, Illinois.

LONELY?, the pamphlet asked in large, bold letters, Let us help you find that certain someone. Join old reliable Club, 50 years of dependable, confidential service. Correspondents most everywhere seeking congenial mates, proven results. Interesting photos, descriptions FREE. There were several pictures of women spaced throughout the page, each next to a testimonial about a happy marriage brought about by contacts made through the club.

"Now why on earth would they send this to me?" Martha wondered aloud, taking a little offense that such a "lovelorn club" would be contacting her.

Elizabeth's coyness now morphed into a broad grin that spread across her face.

"Now why on earth would they send this to me?" Martha wondered aloud, "I have a confession to make," Elizabeth said as she started giggling. "I wrote the club and asked them to send you information and an application."

Martha studied her friend's face, deciding whether she was serious.

"Whatever for?" she asked in a tone matching the astonishment in her eyes.

Still giggling, Elizabeth moved to a chair closer to Martha and sat down beside her.

"I originally did it as a joke," she explained, "but the more I thought about it,  the more I decided that you should give it a try. Three of my daughters are writing to me that they have met men through this correspondence club, and this is the very same club that I met my husband through thirty years ago. And after all, what do you have to lose?"

Martha rolled her eyes.

"I may be a little lonely," she acknowledged, "but I'm not THAT desperate."

She glared with some annoyance at Elizabeth. "I swear, sometimes I really wonder what's going on in that head of yours."

Martha tossed the pamphlet onto a pile of papers stacked on the side of her desk and made no more mention of it for the rest of their time together. But the seeds of intrigue had already been planted in her mind.

Later, after Elizabeth had left, Martha retrieved the discarded pamphlet and read it more closely. Part of the pamphlet contained a form asking her to fill out information about herself and write a letter detailing what kind of men she would like to meet. Sitting down at her desk, she carefully completed the form and took her time crafting the letter, being sure to mention how people often commented that she was witty, vivacious, and oozed personality. She also emphasized that she was a trained nurse with her own pleasant apartment. When she was satisfied with what she had written, Martha carefully folded the papers, enclosed $5.00 for the required membership fee, and licked the envelope to seal it. That evening, she dropped it in a mailbox on her way home from work.

*****

Years later, when asked whether she had experienced any misgivings about joining a lonely hearts club, Martha candidly replied, "Yes, as soon as I'd put the letter in the mailbox, I began thinking I'd made a mistake."

Questioned about what kind of man she hoped to meet through the club, Martha took a little more time before answering.

"Well, I don't know," she confessed. "I guess I hadn't thought about it much.

But I sure didn't think I'd ever meet anyone like Ray."

***


Excerpt from Tortured With Love by J.T. Hunter. Copyright © 2020 by J.T. Hunter. Reproduced with permission from J.T. Hunter. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:


J.T. Hunter
JT Hunter is a true crime writer with over fifteen years of experience as a lawyer, including criminal law and appeals. He also has significant training in criminal investigation techniques. He enjoys being a college professor teaching fiction and nonfiction to his creative writing students.

Catch Up With J.T. Hunter:
JTHunter.org, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!



Tour Participants:


Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!







Enter The Giveaway!:


This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for JT Hunter. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020, and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Guest Post: Colleen Coble - TWO REASONS TO RUN

Two Reasons to Run

by Colleen Coble

on Tour September 21 - October 23, 2020



Good day, book people. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to participate with some lovely blog tour companies as I get to meet some wonderful authors and other bookish people. If you've been following me for a while, you've probably noticed that I have a varied and eclectic reading style. I enjoy mysteries, thrillers, suspense, romance, YA, literary fiction, ChickLit, nonfiction, and more. If it's well-written then there's a pretty good chance I'm going to enjoy it. One author that I discovered through these blog tours is Colleen Coble. Needless to say, I jumped for joy (figuratively not literally), when offered the opportunity to host her on my blog for her latest book Two Reasons to Run. Without further adieu, I now turn my blog over to the USA Today best selling author, Colleen Coble. Thank you, Ms. Coble, for taking the time to stop by today and sharing some thoughts on what almost made you quit writing. May I say, I am so glad you didn't quit and that I look forward to reading more of your writings in the future.

What made you almost quit?

It's always been difficult to get published, and back in the 90s it was the same way. I'd sent off countless query letters with the first three chapters of Where Leads the Heart attached. And I got back rejection after rejection. Then finally a small publisher called Here's Life wanted to publish it. Hooray!

But the next paragraph burst my happy bubble. The editor said the company was being acquired by Thomas Nelson, and the proposal would have to go before their pub board. I was hopeful and haunted by my mailbox for weeks. It didn't pass pub board, and when that rejection came, I nearly gave up. My family encouraged me to keep going, and a sweet letter from the editor, Dan Benson, came at the right time. He told me he'd found real merit in the story and that I should keep submitting. His words were the impetus I needed, and I sent it out shortly after that to Barbour Publishing. An acceptance letter followed a few weeks later, and after revisions, I was off and running.

But it could have turned out so differently if I'd let that discouragement keep me from sending the proposal out again. I was blessed to get to work with Becky Germany at Barbour who let me really hone my voice without following the usual romance rules. I'll always be grateful to her for giving me my start.

The really fun thing about that story is that when I wanted to switch to writing romantic mysteries, my agent sold Without a Trace to Thomas Nelson, the company that had rejected Where Leads the Heart, in 2002 and I've been there ever since. I've gotten the chance to learn from amazing editors and to work with a dream team that is second to none. Who would have thought it would come full circle? 


Synopsis:


Two Reasons to Run by Colleen Coble


Gripping romantic suspense from USA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble.



A lie changed her world.



Police Chief Jane Hardy is still reeling from the scandal that rocked her small-town department just as she took over for her retired father—the man who wrecked her life with one little lie. Now she's finally been reunited with her presumed-dead fifteen-year-old son, Will, and his father, documentarian Reid Bechtol.

A crisis looms.



When a murder aboard the oil platform Zeus exposes an environmental terrorist's plot to flood Mobile Bay with crude oil, Jane and Reid must put their feelings for each other behind them and work together to prevent the rig from being sabotaged.

A killer targets her son.



Then the terrorist puts her son Will’s life on the line. Protecting him could be the common ground they need . . . but then ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Jane and Reid for good.

She's got plenty of reasons to run. But what if she stays?


Book Details:


Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785228489 (ISBN13: 9780785228486)
Series: Pelican Harbor #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads


Author Bio:


Colleen Coble


Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.


Catch Up With Colleen Coble:


ColleenCoble.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!


Tour Participants:


Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!





Giveway!!



This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Colleen Coble. There will be 3 winners, each winning One Little Lie by Colleen Coble (Print). The giveaway begins on September 21, 2020, and runs through October 25, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Book Showcase: THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION by Gary McAvoy




The Magdalene Deception

by Gary McAvoy

on Tour August 1 - September 30, 2020



Synopsis:




For two thousand years, believers have relied on Christ's Resurrection as the bedrock of Christian faith. But what if the Vatican had been blackmailed into suppressing a first-century manuscript revealing a very different story about what happened after Christ's death—and that long-hidden document suddenly reappears?

Michael Dominic, a young Jesuit priest expert in the study of ancient writings, is assigned to the Vatican as an archivist in the Church's legendary Secret Archives. Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper whose privileged family owns a prominent Swiss bank, is chasing a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II—millions of dollars in bullion that ended up in the vaults of the Vatican Bank.

When Dominic discovers a long-hidden papyrus written by Mary Magdalene—one that threatens the very foundations of Christianity—he and Hana, aided by brave Swiss Guards, try to prevent sinister forces from obtaining the manuscript, among them the feared Ustasha underground fascist movement, Interpol, and shadowy figures at the highest levels of the Vatican itself.

Based on illuminating historical facts—including the intriguing true story of Bérenger Saunière, the mysterious abbé in the French village of Rennes-le-Château; and the Cathars, fabled keepers of the Holy Grail—"The Magdalene Deception" will take readers on a gripping journey through one of the world's most secretive institutions and the sensitive, often explosive manuscripts found in its vaults.


Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: July 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0990837653 (ISBN-13: 978-0990837657)
Series: The Magdalene Chronicles (Book 1)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

The Magdalene Deception Trailer:





Read an excerpt:


1
Southern France – March 1244
The relentless siege of the last surviving Cathar fortress, perched strategically on the majestic peak of Montségur in the French Pyrenees, entered its tenth month.
The massive army of crusaders dispatched from Rome, thirty thousand strong, were garbed in distinctive white tunics, their mantles emblazoned with the scarlet Latin cross. Knight commanders led hordes of common foot soldiers, some seeking personal salvation, others simply out for adventure and the promise of plunder. They had already devastated most of the Languedoc region of southern France in the years preceding. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children had been slain, regardless of age, sex, or religious belief.
Entire villages were burned, rich crops destroyed, and the fertile land which yielded them was poisoned, in a cruel, single-minded quest to root out and extinguish a small and peaceful, yet influential mystic order known as the Cathars.
The defeat of the impregnable Montségur remained the ultimate prize for the Church's troops. Rumors of a vast treasure had reached the ears of every soldier, stirring up the passion with which these feared European mercenaries carried out their holy mission. As was the customary practice during a crusade, whatever pillage remained after the plundering—spolia opima, the richest spoils for supreme achievement—could be claimed by the victor. That temptation, bonded by the personal assurance of the pope that all sins would be forgiven and their paths to heaven assured, was enough to seduce anyone, nobleman or peasant, to take up cudgel, pike, or arrow in the name of God.
In 1209 Pope Innocent III had ordered a Holy Crusade to crush the spirit, and if necessary, the life of each and every dissident in the Languedoc region bordering France and Spain.
This independent principality had distinguished itself by fostering an artistic and intellectual populace well beyond that of most northern European societies at the time. The people of the Languedoc practiced a religious tolerance that encouraged spiritual and secular diversity. Schools teaching Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic languages and the customs which accompanied them flourished, as did those espousing the Cabala, an occult form of Judaism that dated from the second century.
Most settlers in the Languedoc viewed Christianity with the utmost repugnance; at the very least its practices were perceived as being more materialistic than godly in nature. The irreligious of the region passed over Christianity in large part due to the scandalous corruption exhibited by its local priests and bishops who, unable to influence the heathens within their provinces, came to prefer the rewards of commerce and land ownership over the tending of a meager flock.
Consequently, the authorities in Rome felt compelled to deal with this unforgivable heresy once and for all, in towns such as Toulouse and Albi within the Languedoc area.
Consigning his troops to their commanders, Pope Innocent III invoked a special benediction to all, lauding the divinity of their mission. Asked how they might distinguish their Christian brethren from the heretics, however, the crusaders were simply told, "Kill them all. God will spare His own."
And so the Albigensian Crusade began.
The new moon cast no light over Montségur as night fell on the first day of March 1244, obscuring not only the hastened activities of its occupants, but the lingering threat conspiring outside its walls. A dense alpine fog had settled over the mountain, and the castle that straddled its inaccessible peak had withstood nearly a year of unceasing battle.
Weakened by the tenacity of their predators and yielding to the hopelessness of their situation, Raymond de Péreille, Lord of Château du Montségur and leader of the remaining four hundred defenders, commanded his troops to lay down their arms, and descended the mountain to negotiate terms of their capitulation.
Though offered lenient conditions in return for their surrender, de Péreille requested a fourteen-day truce, ostensibly to consider the terms, and handed over hostages as an assurance of good faith. Knowing there was no alternative for their captives—nearly half of whom were priest-knights, or parfaits, sworn to do God's work—the commanders of the pope's regiment agreed to the truce.
Over the next two weeks, reprieved from the constant threat of attack they had been enduring for months, the inhabitants of Montségur resolved to fulfill their own destiny before relinquishing their fortress—and their lives—to the Inquisition.
On the last day of the truce, as if guided collectively by a single will on a predestined course, the surviving members of the last Cathar settlement made special preparations for their departure.
Four of the strongest and most loyal of the parfaits were led by Bishop Bertrand Marty, the senior abbé of the fortress, as they descended deep within the mountain down a long, stepped passageway carved into alternating layers of earth and limestone. The end of the passage appeared to be just that, as if the original tunnelers had simply stopped work and retreated without finishing the job. But, while the others held torches, Abbé Marty withdrew a large rusted key-like wedge from beneath his cassock, thrusting it into a hidden cavity near the low ceiling.
The abbé manipulated the key for a few moments. A muffled sound of grating metal from beyond the stone wall echoed through the tunnel, and the seemingly impenetrable granite slid inward slightly, revealing a door.
Aided by the parfaits, the door swung open into a small dank chamber filled with an enormous cache of riches—gold and silver in varied forms, gilded chalices and bejeweled crosses, an abundance of gems and precious stones, sagging bags of coins from many lands.
And, in a far corner removed from the bulk of the treasure itself, stood a wide granite pedestal on which rested an ornately carved wooden reliquary, crafted to hold the most holy of relics, next to which sat a large book wrapped in brown sackcloth.
Standing before the legendary treasure of the Cathars—glittering and hypnotic in the dim torchlight—would prove seductive for most men.
But the Albigensians held little regard for earthly goods, other than as a useful political means to achieve their spiritual destiny. Ignoring the abundant wealth spread before them, the abbé fetched the sackcloth while the other four parfaits hoisted the ancient reliquary to their shoulders, then they left the room and solemnly proceeded back up the granite stairway. In the thousand-year history of the Cathars, these would be the last of the order ever to see the treasure.
But the most sacred relic of the Christian world would never, they vowed, fall into the unholy hands of the Inquisition.
Emerging from the stone passage, Abbé Marty led the parfaits and their venerable cargo through the hundreds of waiting Cathars who had assembled outside, forming a candlelit gauntlet leading to the sanctuary. All were dressed in traditional black tunics, all wearing shoulder length hair covered by round taqiyah caps as was the custom of the sect.
Once inside, the parfaits lowered the reliquary onto the stone altar. The abbé removed the ancient book from the sackcloth and began the sacred Consolamentum, a ritual of consecration, while the four appointed guardians prepared themselves for their special mission.
Armed with short blades and truncheons, the parfaits carefully secured the reliquary in the safety of a rope sling, then fastened taut harnesses around themselves.
"Go with God, my sons," Abbé Marty intoned as he gave them his blessing, "and in His name ensure this sacred reliquary be protected for generations to come."
The four men climbed over the precipice and, assisted by their brothers gripping the ropes tied to their harnesses, gently and silently rappelled hundreds of meters down the escarpment. Sympathizers waiting at the base of the mountain assisted the parfaits in liberating their holy treasure, guiding them away from the danger of other troops and hiding them and the reliquary deep in one of many nearby caves.
Throughout the night, those remaining at Montségur celebrated their brotherhood, their holy calling, and their last hours alive. Descending the mountain the next morning, in a state of pure spiritual release from the material world, Abbé Marty led the last of the Cathars as they willingly marched into the blazing pyres awaiting them, martyrs to their cause.
The holy reliquary of the Cathars has never since been found.
2
Present Day
Rounding the northern wall of the Colosseum with a measured stride, a tall young man with longish black hair glanced at the Tag Heuer chronometer strapped to his left wrist. Noting the elapsed time of his eighth mile, he wiped away the sweat that was now stinging his eyes.
Damn this Roman heat. Not even sunrise, and it's already a scorcher.
Approaching the wide crosswalks flanking the west side of the immense Colosseum, he wondered if this was the morning he would meet God. Dodging the murderous, unrestrained traffic circling the stadium became a daily act of supreme faith, as the blur of steel sub-compacts, one after another, careened around the massive structure on their way, no doubt, to some less hostile place. Since his arrival here he had discovered that this was the way with Italian motorists in general, though Roman drivers excelled at the sport. Veteran observers could always tell the difference between natives and visitors: a local would cross the road seemingly ambivalent to the rush of oncoming traffic. Non-Romans, who could as likely be from Milan as from Boston or Paris, approached the threat of each curb-to-curb confrontation with a trepidation bordering on mortal terror.
Crossing the broad Via dei Fori Imperiali, his route took him through the Suburra, the most ancient inhabited area of Rome and off the beaten path of most tourists. As a newcomer to a city whose normal pulse was barely evident beneath the confusing ambiguities of new and old, the runner felt most comfortable here in the Suburra, a semi-industrial working-class neighborhood, much like the one he only recently left in New York. In the summer, people got up early to tend their gardens before the real heat forced them indoors. The early morning air was thick with alternating scents of Chilean jasmine, honeysuckle, and petrol fumes.
He ran another five miles, long blooms of sweat accentuating a lean, muscular frame beneath a gauzy white t-shirt as he burst into a sprint up the final few blocks, past the empty trattorias and shuttered shops whose merchants were just beginning their morning rituals.
Slowing to a cool down pace as he crossed the Sant'Angelo bridge spanning the Tiber River, he turned left up Via della Conciliazione as the massive dome of Saint Peter's Basilica loomed suddenly ahead. Though it could be seen from almost anywhere in Rome, this approach always gave him the impression that the dome seemed to tip backwards, being swallowed up by the grand facade of the church the closer he got to it.
"Buongiorno, padre." Several female voices, almost in unison, broke the cobblestone pattern of his reverie.
Father Michael Dominic looked up and smiled politely, lifting his hand in a slight wave as he swiftly passed a small cluster of nuns, some of whom he recognized as Vatican employees. The younger girls blushed, leaning their hooded heads toward each other in hushed gossip as their eyes followed the handsome priest; the older women simply bobbed a chilly nod to the young cleric, dutifully herding their novitiates into obedient silence on their way to morning Mass.
Though he had only been in Rome a couple of weeks, Michael Dominic's youthful exuberance and keen intellect had become known quickly throughout the cloistered population of Vatican City, setting him apart from the more monastic attitudes prevalent since the Middle Ages.
But despite the fusty parochialism and an atmosphere of suspended time he found within its walls, Dominic still felt the intoxication of privilege at having been assigned to Rome so early in his religious career. It had not been even two years since he lay prostrate at the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, ordained by his family friend and mentor Cardinal Enrico Petrini.
It was no secret to Vatican insiders that the eminent cardinal's influence was chiefly responsible for Dominic's swift rise to the marbled corridors of ecclesiastic power now surrounding him. The young priest's scholarly achievements as a classical medievalist were essential to the work being done in the Vatican Library. But the progressive cardinal was also grateful for the vitality Dominic brought to his vocation, not to mention the charismatic ways in which he could get things accomplished in an otherwise plodding bureaucracy. Though Dominic could not account for his mentor's vigorous inducement that he come to Rome—and knowing this particular prince of the Church so well, it was surely more than a familial gesture—he had trusted Enrico Petrini completely, and simply accepted the fact that this powerful man had believed in him strongly enough to give him an opportunity which he most certainly would not have had otherwise.
Pacing slower now, Dominic drew in rhythmic gulps of searing air as he neared the Vatican. A block or so before reaching the gate, he stepped inside the Pergamino Caffè on the Piazza del Risorgimento. Later in the day the cramped room would be filled with tourists seeking postcards and gelato, but mornings found it crowded with locals, most nibbling on small, sticky cakes washed down with a demitasse of thick, sweet coffee.
Across the room Dominic spotted Signora Palazzolo, the ample wife of the proprietor, whose wisps of white hair were already damp with perspiration. Seeing the priest approach, the older woman's face broke into a broad, gap-toothed smile as she reached beneath the counter and withdrew a neatly folded black cassock Dominic had dropped off earlier, which she handed to him with deliberate satisfaction.
"Buongiorno, padre," she said. "And will you take caffè this morning?"
"Molto grazie, signora," Dominic said, accepting the cassock graciously. "Not today. I'm already late as it is."
"Okay this time," she said with a gently scolding tone, "but it is not healthy for a strong young man to skip his breakfast, especially after making his heart work so hard in this unforgiving heat." Her hand reached up to wipe away the dampness as she spoke, coifing what little hair she had left in a vain attempt to make herself more attractive.
Heading toward the back of the shop, Dominic slipped into the restroom, quickly washed his face and raked his hair into some semblance of order, then drew the cassock over his head and buttoned it to the starched white collar now encircling his neck. Emerging from the restroom minutes later and making for the door, he glanced back to see the signora waving to him, now with a different look on her face—one beaming with respect for the clergyman he had suddenly become, as if she herself had had a role in the transformation.
Of the three official entrances to the Vatican, Porta Sant'Anna, or Saint Anne's Gate, is the one generally used by employees, visitors, and tradesmen, situated on the east side of the frontier just north of Saint Peter's Square. Although duties of security come first, guards at all gates are also responsible for monitoring the encroachment of dishabille into the city. Dominic learned from an earlier orientation that casual attire of any sort worn by employees or official visitors was not permitted past the border. Jeans and t-shirts were barely tolerated on tourists, but the careless informality of shorts, sweatpants, or other lounging attire on anyone was strictly forbidden. An atmosphere of respect and reverence was to be observed at all times.
Vatican City maintains an actual live-in population of less than a thousand souls, but each workday nearly five thousand people report for duty within the diminutive confines of its imposing walls—walls originally built to defend against the invading Saracens a thousand years before—and the Swiss Guards at each gate either recognize or authenticate every person coming or going by face and by name.
One of the Guards whom Dominic had recognized from previous occasions, dressed in the less formal blue and black doublet and beret of the corps, waved him through with a courteous smile as he reached for his ID card.
"It is no longer necessary to present your credentials now that you are recognized at this gate, Father Dominic," the solidly built young guard said in English. "But it is a good idea to keep it with you just in case."
"Grazie," Dominic responded, continuing in Italian, "but it would be helpful to me if we could speak the local language. I haven't used it fluently since I was younger, and I am outnumbered here by those who have an obvious preference. You know, ‘When in Rome….'"
The guard's smile faded instantly, replaced by a slight but obvious discomfort as he attempted to translate, then respond to Dominic's rapid Italian.
"Yes, it would be pleasure for me, padre," the young soldier said in halting Italian, "but only if we speak slowly. German is native tongue of my own home, Zurich, and though I speak good English, my Italian learning have only just started; but I understand much more than I speak."
Dominic smiled at the younger man's well-intended phrasing. "It's a deal then. I'm Michael Dominic," he said formally, offering a sweaty palm.
"It is an honor meeting you, Father Michael. I am Corporal Dengler. Karl Dengler." Dengler's face brightened at the unusual respect he was accorded, extending his own white-gloved hand in a firm grip.
Recently recruited into the prestigious Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, the elite corps of papal security forces more commonly known as the Swiss Guard, Dengler had found that most people in the Vatican—indeed, most Romans—were inclined to keep to themselves. It was never this difficult to make friends in Switzerland, and he welcomed the opportunity to meet new people. He also knew, as did everyone by now, that this particular priest had a powerful ally close to the Holy Father.
"An honor for me as well, Corporal," Dominic said a bit more slowly, yet not enough to cause the young man further embarrassment. "And my apologies for soiling your glove."
"No problem," Dengler said as he smiled. "With this heat it will be dry in no time. And if you ever want a running partner, let me know."
"I'll take you up on that!" Michael said with a wave as he passed through the gate.
Already the Vatican grounds were bustling with activity. Throngs of workers, shopkeepers, and official visitors with global diversities of purpose made their way along the Via di Belvedere to the myriad offices, shops, and museums—any indoor or shaded haven, in fact, that might offer escape from the heat of the rising sun.
Another Swiss Guard stood commandingly in the center of the street—looking remarkably dry and cool, Dominic thought, despite the obvious burden of his red-plumed steel helmet and the traditional billowy gala uniform of orange, red, and blue stripes—directing foot and vehicular traffic while smartly saluting the occasional dignitaries passing by.
To any observer, Vatican City appears to be in a state of perpetual reconstruction. Comprising little more than a hundred acres, the ancient city state is in constant need of repair and maintenance.
Architectural face-lifts, general structural reinforcement, and contained expansion take place at most any time and in various stages, manifested in the skeletal maze of scaffolding surrounding portions of the basilica and adjoining buildings. Sampietrini, the uniquely skilled maintenance workers responsible for the upkeep of Saint Peter's, are ever-present throughout the grottoes, corridors, and courtyards as they practice time-honored skills of the artisans who have gone before them, traditionally their fathers and their fathers' fathers. It was quite probable, in fact, that a given sampietrino working on, say, a crumbling cornerstone of the basilica itself, could very well be shoring up work that was originally performed by his great-great-grandfather more than a century before him.
Dominic walked to the end of the Belvedere, then turned right up the Stradone dei Giardini and alongside the buildings housing the Vatican Museums, until he reached the northern wall of the city.
A priest learns early that his life will suffer many rituals, and in at least one secular aspect, Michael Dominic's was no different. Every day he ended his morning run with a meditative walk along the inner walls surrounding the immaculately maintained papal gardens. The fact that many of the same trees which lined the paths have been rooted here for centuries—serving the contemplative needs of whichever pope might be ruling at the time—gave Dominic a more natural feeling of historical connectedness, in subtle contrast to other abundant yet more imposing reminders of where he now happened to be living and working.
"Ah! Good morning, Miguel." It was a gentle breeze of a voice, yet Dominic recognized it clearly in the early warm quiescence of the Vatican gardens.
"Buongiorno, Cal!" Dominic said brightly. Brother Calvino Mendoza, prefect of the Vatican Archives and Dominic's superior, was approaching the entrance to the building. Clad in the characteristic brown robe and leather sandals of his Franciscan order, Mendoza was a round, timorous man in his seventies—quite pleasant to work with, Dominic thought, if a little indiscreet in his obvious affection for men.
"You are up early today," Mendoza said in heavily accented English, furtively appraising Dominic's form beneath the cassock. "But then, defying the wicked heat and traffic of Rome is best done before sunrise, no?"
"It is, yes," Dominic laughed easily, his damp hair glistening in the sun as he shook his head in amusement, "but in another hour or so I expect the pavement to start buckling."
Dominic had come to enjoy Mendoza's fey demeanor and playful flirting. Nearly everyone he had met here seemed overly stern and impassive to be really likable, and Dominic was naturally drawn to people he found more hospitable anyway. This gentle man had a quick mind for humor and was never, Dominic found, lacking for a proverb appropriate to the moment. It was also common for Mendoza to call many on his staff by the Portuguese equivalent of their name, maintaining an affectionate cultural touchstone to his native home of Brazil. As for the subtle intimations, Mendoza grasped early on that Dominic's vow of chastity was not likely to be compromised, and particularly not by another man.
"You'll get used to it," Mendoza nodded, smiling. "It is worse in the mornings, to be sure, but come late afternoon we are blessed by the ponentino, a cool wind off the Tyrrhenian Sea.
"And besides," he quipped, "'To slip upon a pavement is better than to slip with the tongue—so the fall of the wicked shall come speedily.'" He finished by glancing around the garden with mock suspicion, as if every word were prey to overcurious but unseen ears.
"‘Ecclesiastes,'" Dominic responded. "And thanks for the admonition."
Pleased that the young priest indulged his occasional whimsy, Mendoza shuffled up the few steps of the entrance to the Archives.
"Now come, Miguel, your days of orientation are over. Let's get on with the real work," he said dramatically, his arms nearly flapping as his large body moved up the steps into the Archives. "Today is a very special day."
"I'll catch up with you shortly, Cal. I've got to take a quick shower first. But why is today so special?"
From the top of the steps, Mendoza turned around to face Dominic and, like a child with a tantalizing secret, whispered with barely contained excitement, "The treasures we are about to exhume have not been seen by any living soul for several hundred years."
Clearly a man who enjoyed his work, Calvino Mendoza's eyes gleamed with anticipation as he lifted one heavy eyebrow in an arch, then spun as quickly as his heavy frame would allow and disappeared through the heavy wooden door.
As Dominic walked back to his apartment at the Domus Santa Marta, the resident guesthouse just south of Saint Peter's Basilica, two men in a golf cart were heading in his direction, both dressed in the familiar black and red garb of cardinals. The cart stopped directly in his path, and one of the men stepped out, approaching him.
"Father Dominic, I presume?" The heavyset man had a thick Balkan accent, with an intelligent face bearing an inscrutable mask of expression.
"Yes, how can I help you?" Dominic said.
"I am Cardinal Sokolov, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I simply wanted to extend a hand of welcome on behalf of those of us who have been expecting you."
Dominic recognized the cardinal's department, better known as the infamous Office of the Holy Inquisition before someone came up with a less intrusive name.
"Good to meet you, Your Eminence," he said, surprised by the comment. "I didn't realize anyone was actually expecting me, though."
"Oh, yes," Sokolov said, holding Dominic's hand in an uncomfortably firm grip as they shook. "Having Cardinal Petrini's endorsement carries a great deal of influence here. But it also comes with certain expectations. First and foremost, keep to yourself. Do not expect to make many friends here. One is surrounded by vipers masquerading as pious souls.
"Secondly, know that you are being watched at all times. Conduct yourself appropriately and you may survive your time here. There are many who were vying for your job as scrittore in the Secret Archives, and they will seek any opportunity to displace you.
"Lastly," the cardinal said scowling, his eyebrows a black bar across his fleshy face, "come to me directly if you witness or suspect anyone of illicit or unbecoming activities. Such careful scrutiny will be viewed with admiration by His Holiness, for whom I speak in this regard."
Dominic was dumbfounded by the man's audacity, hardly the kind of welcome he would have imagined, one that shed a darker light on his exhilaration at now working and living in the Vatican.
"I will keep all that in mind, Eminence," he said, forcibly pulling back his hand from the cardinal's cloying grasp.
Sokolov stood a moment longer appraising Dominic's face, then turned and shuffled himself back into the golf cart, which pulled away with a mounting whine as it headed into the papal gardens.
Troubled by the encounter, Dominic returned to his apartment, the fresh burdens expected of him weighing on his mind. What have I gotten myself into, he thought, stepping into the shower.
***

Excerpt from The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy.  Copyright © 2020 by Gary McAvoy. Reproduced with permission from Gary McAvoy. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:



Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and author of And Every Word Is True, a sequel to Truman Capote's landmark book In Cold Blood. The Magdalene Deception is his fiction debut and is the first in a series called The Magdalene Chronicles.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
GaryMcAvoy.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Click here to view The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy Participants

Giveaway!!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gary McAvoy. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020, and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours