Thursday, April 27, 2017

So Many, Many, Many, Ways to Die (during National Poetry Month)

April is National Poetry Month. In honor of the occasion is my contribution below. (Note this is National Poetry Month, not National Good Poetry Month.)

So Many, Many, Many Ways to Die
by L. A. Kelley

Will I drown you in the tub?
Beat your brains out with a club?
Swap your packs of Sweet’N Low for cyanide?
Once you’re sound asleep in bed
Voila! A bullet through the head.
So many, many, many ways to die.

If I laced your diet cola
With a tincture of ebola
You’d hardly have the time to wave goodbye.
A well-delivered slice
With a chain saw should suffice.
So many, many, many ways to die.

You wouldn't have a fun day
If you’re flattened by my Hyundai.
Crushed organs leave a person less than spry.
A Hefty bag’s facilitation
Simplifies asphyxiation.
So many, many, many ways to die.

C4’s pronounced kaboom
Would precipitate your doom.
You’d be teensy bits before I blink an eye.
One quick shove into the freezer?
A deveining with a tweezer?
So many, many, many ways to die

Since I caught you in the act
With your mistress in the sack
Your cheating heart I can no more deny.
For me, the best solution
Is a simple execution.
So many, many, many, ways to die.

I won’t ruin the surprise
With the date of your demise
Just know I have the perfect alibi.
So when next we meet, my dear,
You’ll be on the funeral bier
For I’ve decided on the way for you to die.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Haiku to Honor Peeps

In honor of National Poetry Month, here's a Easter haiku. What is haiku? It's a three stanza poem of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables.

 Peeps Haiku

Jump in little Peep!
Hot tub fun waiting for you.

Sad eyes see the truth.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown

There’s something so down-to-earth entertaining about shared stories. Back in the 1990s a man named George Dawes Green and his friends sponsored storytelling events, sharing life experience on stage throughout the New York area. The group had no set venue and fluttered from place to place, so the event was referred to as The Moth. It since evolved into a radio/blog show. Performances of the storytellers along with tips for your own storytelling are now available on The Moth website

The logo of The Moth is True stories told live. The mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience. We’re not all that different and the founders of the The Moth believe the best connections are forged when people tell true stories about what transpired in a person’s life to define an individual, shake up a life, or change a view.

All These Wonders is a compilation of these stories. They are short and easy to read, with nearly fifty in the book. A life changing experience doesn’t take a lot of time to explain in the hands of a good storyteller. The authors range in age from teenagers to senior citizen. A lot of the stories have a bit of wistfulness, even when the people become better for their experiences in the end. After all, life is hard and full of bumps in the road, and many of the stories reflect that. The topics are eclectic; from David Bowie’s hairdresser to a Jewish Orthodox boy’s illicit taste of nonkosher pizza. Some stories are better than others and a few are downright whiny in the oh-poor-me category. My favorite is from Cathy Olkin, a planetary scientist, about a mission to Pluto. Although, I didn’t find all the stories inspiring, they were at least interesting.

If you rather hear instead of read stories, check out The Moth website at

I received this book from Blogging for Book in exchange for a review.

Monday, March 27, 2017

My Boss Makes a Great Serial Killer: Write Real People into your Novel Without Getting Sued

(Blogging today at Paranormal Romantics. Here's the post.)

Standard writing advice is to write what you know, but the new novel in your head screams out for an arrogant protagonist; a self-absorbed manscaper with a short temper and a roving eye. The perfect model just so happens to walk, talk, and look like your boss. Can you kill him with literary abandon? If you do, will you get sued? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t? When diving through murky legal waters, the first things you need to know are the definition of defamation and invasion of privacy.

Defamation of Character
Defamation means you gave someone’s character a severe black eye. Calling a person a butthead in print isn’t enough for defamation. It’s merely an insult, and, well, sticks and stones can’t break bones or get you sued. Any accusations must be blatantly untrue and the writer must act with obvious malice. An important point to note is a defamatory statement contains specific details. The person in question must be easily identifiable so that a reasonable individual can draw a connection between the literary creation and the real thing.  Inventing a character with the same personality as your boss is fine. Giving him the same physical appearance, quirks, nickname, weird birthmark, shoe size, home address, and then calling him a probable serial killer, possible arsonist, and likely body snatcher is a no-no. The court may take a dim view even if you make it clear this is only your impression. It’s like yelling  “Fire!” in a crowded theater.  If people get trampled in the stampede for the exit you can’t shrug it off and say, “The fire was only my opinion.”

Invasion of Privacy
Invasion of privacy makes a writer sound like a Peeping Tom, but all it means is that facts have been revealed that are “not related to public concern.” In this day of show-all/tell-all this one rarely makes it to the courts, and most legal cases are in connection with memoirs or biographies. Interestingly enough, the courts generally accept a legitimate public interest exists simply because a publisher elected to publish a book. If Simon and Shuster says it’s in the public interest to read this thing, then dang it, it is. Spilling the beans in your biography that Aunt Maude ran a Ponzi scheme will more likely net a public service award than a summons. Telling everyone how your cousin, Henry, started life as Henrietta might get you booted from family reunions, but not sued. (And wouldn’t it make a dandy Lifetime movie.) However, revealing the local high school principal has sealed juvenile arrests for prostitution and drug convictions is another matter. The information has nothing to do with the stellar law-abiding citizen she is today and could irreparably harm her career and ability to earn a living.  

How often do authors get sued? Not much, and most cases law involves writers who aren’t self-published. The legal precedent on self-publishing is murky since no independent third party publishing house designated your book as a legitimate public interest prior to publication. Therefore, public interest may be more difficult to prove in an invasion of privacy lawsuit. On the plus side, most self-published authors aren’t famous. The odds are your boss will never draw the connection.

Until the courts come down one way or the other, here’s a few tips to keep out of the big house and that tacky orange jumpsuit.
  • Disguise characters. Changing physical descriptions isn’t enough if the person’s identity it still blatantly obvious to everyone in the community. Show, don’t tell.

  • Use parody and satire. No one ever sued Saturday Night Live, and have you seen what’s on the internet? They even use real names. Insult is not legal grounds for a lawsuit.

  • Get signed releases.  This includes business owners if their companies feature prominently in your story. This is surprisingly easy as most people are thrilled to be in a book. I had several elderly church-going relatives vigorously campaign to have me use their name for a dead prostitute. Auntie Loretta won.

  • If you’re writing a memoir or autobiography don’t forget people remember things differently. A few kind words at the beginning of a book about how this is your impression of events might do a lot to assuage hurt feelings and keep legal trouble at bay.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Spotlight: Lapses of Memory by M. S. Spencer

“I know, every night in the shower for the rest of my life, wondering where he was and what he was doing. But that was you, not me. I know what I’m doing.”

Thank you so much for having me at your wonderful site, Linda. I’d like to talk about my new romantic suspense Lapses of Memory, in which two romances intertwine as a mother recounts her life-long love affair while her daughter juggles two lovers. The setting is Old Town Alexandria, one of my home towns, where both Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, and The Mason's Mark: Love and Death in the Tower take place as well.

In the frame story of Lapses of Memory, Sydney Bellek is narrating her life to her daughter Olivia.  While Olivia labors to get her mother to cooperate, she has little time to concentrate on her own dilemma—how to choose between the rich and dashing Rémy de Beaumec, who wants to fly her around the world, and the steady, quiet, American-to-the-core, Benjamin Knox, who only wants to make her happy.

Wild Rose Press, 3/15/2017, Imprint: Champagne Rose
Contemporary romantic suspense/Action Adventure; M/F; 2 flames
Ebook (70,560); Print: 296 pp.

Old Town Alexandria
It is spring in Old Town Alexandria, and Sydney Bellek is dictating her memoir to her daughter Olivia. Every few years from the age of five she meets her true love Elian Davies, but while he remembers her, she doesn’t recognize him. Only after surviving wars, revolutions, and years of separation will she realize they are meant to be, but this time it is Elian who has lost his memory of her. Will he remember her before she loses heart or will their new love be enough to replace the old one?

Meanwhile, her daughter Olivia has her own dilemma—how to choose between the rich and dashing Rémy de Beaumec, who wants to take her around the world, and the steady, quiet, American-to-the-core, Benjamin Knox, who only wants to make her happy.

Buy Links

“Welcome, stranger.” Sydney offered her cheek. The chiseled features of the man at the door inclined toward her with polished grace. One perfect ringlet of ebony hair sidled down his temple. He kissed her and drew back, his black eyes sparkling.
“You grow more beautiful every year, Madame Davies.”
“I see you still have that silver tongue.” His hostess gave a gentle laugh to soften the criticism. “Olivia, why don’t we go into the drawing room? Would you like a cocktail, Rémy? Or champagne?”
Sydney kept the conversation light, dwelling on politics and religion rather than the weather. The tense muscles in Rémy’s shoulders gradually relaxed as the evening wore on and the wine flowed. He even began glancing at Olivia now and then, something he had studiously avoided at first. He hasn’t forgotten about Benjamin. That’s good. Sydney watched her daughter. She sensed Olivia had been opposed to this dinner—whether out of shame or apprehension Sydney wasn’t sure. Even now her face remained inscrutable, annoying her mother. Just like Elian.
“No, thank you.”
“Coffee then?”
“Yes, please.”
When they were served, Sydney rose. “Why don’t you two take your cups to the living room? I have some things to do to prepare for my trip. I shall return in a few minutes.” She let them go, waiting for a sign. Sure enough, as they passed out the door, their hands found one another and squeezed. She sighed and headed upstairs.
“Must you go so soon? The evening is still young.”
“Yes, madame.” Rémy’s hooded eyes kept her from deciphering his state of mind.
“We’ll see you again before you return to France?”
He twisted to look at Olivia. The pause lengthened. Olivia stared into his eyes, silent. “I hope so.”
When he’d gone, Sydney indicated a chair to her daughter. “Tell me what happened.”
As if she knew there was no escape, Olivia sat and squared her shoulders. “He asked me to go back to France with him.”
“I…I said I’d think about it.”
Olivia stood and started to pace. “I wish…”
“You wish Benjamin would show up out of the blue, sweep you off your feet, and carry you off to…er…”
Her daughter halted. “I do?”
Sydney shrugged. “If you up and took off with Rémy, would you ever know what you’d do if he did?”
Jaw slack, Olivia stared at her mother. “Say that again?”

About the Author
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. 

Ms. Spencer has published ten romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

Linked in

M. S. Spencer's Calendar of Events

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Spotlight: Second Chance in Laguna

Second Chance in Laguna
by Claire Marti

When Sophie Barnes’s fiancé jilts her at the altar, her carefully planned life implodes. Considering her ex’s betrayal to be a rude wake-up call, she leaves everything she knows in San Diego and flees to Laguna Beach. She vows to transform her life by avoiding men for a year and by fulfilling her dream of writing a wildly successful novel. 

Sophie’s new landlord, Nicholas Morgan, is a gorgeous, successful architect with a player reputation. He makes it tough for Sophie to remember that she’s sworn to be single. Nick’s avoided the intimacy of a long-term relationship--until Sophie’s independence, courage, and beauty touch his guarded heart. Both Sophie and Nick are terrified of being hurt again, but can they resist the pull of true love?

Nick arrived right on time, looking gorgeous in faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt. How did he always manage to start the butterflies fluttering in her stomach? Just by standing there with the setting sun framing him? She was in trouble.

“Hi beautiful, ready to go?” He clasped her face in his hands and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

Returning his kiss, Sophie wound her arms around his neck and deepened it. She couldn’t resist. His strong arms wrapped around her waist, hugging her close to his broad chest.

“Mmmm, feel free to greet me like that every time I come over,” he said, lips curved up into a sweet smile.

Heat washed her cheeks and she returned his smile. “Let’s go. Prepare to be blown away by the movie snack of the century.”

Determined to keep things light and enjoy the movie before “the talk,” Sophie thrust down the lick of panic bubbling in her gut. She’d accomplished next to nothing all afternoon, instead wrestling with whether she needed to tell him about Doug.

The angel on her shoulder whispered to tell him because if they were going to have any kind of relationship, even a friends-with-benefits one, honesty and trust were vital.

The devil urged her to zip it. They’d only known each other a few weeks. What if he lived up to his “Player of Laguna” reputation and expected only a fun fling? Even though he seemed deeper than that. What if she scared him off with a premature talk?

BUY LINKS for March 31
·  Amazon 
·  Kobo  

Claire Marti started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress. 

Finally, Claire followed her heart and now focuses on two of her true passions: writing romance and teaching yoga. Her debut releases from The Wild Rose Press on March 31, 2017 and is the first in the Finding Forever in Laguna series.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The best wartime stories don’t necessarily take place on the battlefield.  The home front can weave a rich tapestry, especially in the competent hands of author Jennifer Ryan. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the charming tale of what happens to the women in the fictional village of Chilbury, England, in early WWII after most of the men leave for war. The story takes place from March to September 1940; the action precipitated by a notice from the vicar on the church door. Since all the male singers are gone, he disbanded the choir. After all, who wants to listen to a group composed of only women? It just isn’t done.

The vicar’s action triggers unexpected uproar in the members, as if the sudden decision ripped the last shred of normalcy from their lives. The battle in Europe isn’t going well; the fate of loved ones overseas is unknown. Under the prodding of the choir mistress and music teacher, the women decide the choir must not only continue, but also serve as a morale booster to those left behind, a distraction from the horrors of war. So they change their name to The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and gamely carry on. This simple act of defiance from women used to toeing the line causes a ripple of unexpected consequences. War doesn’t only leave a mark on soldiers. It can also change their families and, in the case of this novel, for the better.

Ryan created an engaging cast of characters. The book is a first person account, but not from the same person. The story progresses using a compilation of notes, letters, journal entries, and assorted postings from choir members and a few others. Each writer sees the action from a different viewpoint, but this is entertaining rather than confusing. While the story isn’t a heavy handed drama, there is spectacle galore; deaths, births, kidnapping, falling in and out of love, not to mention a little wartime intrigue. It’s all done with charm, cheek, and gentle good humor. Each character speaks with an engaging voice; not an easy task when an author is working with a range of ages from 13 to about 60.

The change in a few of the characters is a bit of stretch, but that’s a minor quibble and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I highly recommend The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. If I have one complaint it’s that the story ends after a few months. Within that short period of time everyone gets their just reward (or due comeuppance). I enjoyed my visit to Chilbury and hated to leave the villagers behind. Although Ryan doesn’t say, I like to think they came safely through the war and both happy days and the choir lasted ever after.

I received this book from Blogging for Book in exchange for a review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Lt. Girl, Report to the Bridge. We're out of Coffee." The Sometimes Strange world of Female Characters in Science Fiction. (Plus a free ebook for you!)

Blogging today at Paranormal Romantics on women in science fiction. Here's the link:

A Special Free Offer for You!
To celebrate the release of book 3 in my YA space opera, book 1, Rimrider, is free on Amazon. The series has smart females of all ages, and the heroine, Jane Benedict, is brainy rather than brawny. Hurry, offer ends February 28.

Orphan, pirate, spy.

Teenager Jane Benedict is awakened by her father and ordered to memorize a mysterious code. Hours later, Mathias Benedict is dead and Jane and her brother, Will, are wards of United Earth Corporation. To evade the company's murderous clutches and uncover the meaning of her father’s last message, Jane leads Will on a desperate escape across the galaxy aboard the Freetrader smuggler ship, Solar Vortex. Tangled in the crew’s fight against UEC, Jane saves the life of young smuggler Mac Sawyer and learns her father’s code identifies a secret cargo shipment that can spell doom for the entire Freetrader cause and the extinction of an alien race.

Piracy, intrigue, romance, and a daring rebellion from Earth wait on the planet Rimrock. Will Jane answer the call to adventure and find new purpose on the galactic rim or will death for high treason be her fate?

L. A. Kelley writes scify/fantasy adventure books with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She’s never picked a bar fight, but could if she wanted.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Audiobook Review: The French Chef in America by Alex Prud’homme

Once upon a time in America, ‘furrin’ food had a different definition. Boundaries were built by immigrants settling an area. You couldn’t get a decent enchilada in Vermont. Ask for a bagel in New Mexico and they’d scratch their heads. Certain types of cuisine though seemed to bypass borders, particularly French. It had the reputation for being exotic and a little mysterious, certainly something you didn’t prepare at home. Then came this mountain of a woman (all 6’2” of her) with a distinctive warble and boundless enthusiasm. Julia Child led us from the culinary wasteland to a world of international flavors and encouraged us all to be courageous cooks. So we were.

Although she made her first mark as coauthor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that was only Julia’s first incarnation. The French Chef in America is the story of her later years when she went on to host a succession of TV shows for public television, specials, and collaborate on other cookbooks. After 17 years and 250 shows for public television she switched to commercial TV doing spots at Good Morning America. It’s a tribute to her remarkable abilities as a culinary educator that her career didn’t begin until she was nearly 50 and didn’t stop until her death at 92.

Alex Prud’homme, who is also Julia’s nephew, writes with affection. He details Julia’s long friendship with Simone Beck, her loving marriage with Paul, and the successful collaboration with Jacques Pepin on television. Readers may be surprised to learn about her bawdy sense of humor when she’d try to crack him up on camera. “There’s a nice piece of tail for you,” she’d say offering Jacques a lobster tail. Or she’d peer into the camera with a chicken and a straight face. “Jacques is a great boner.”

The book covers a lot of ground from her relationship with PBS, the upstarts of Novelle Cuisine, her support of new chefs across all culinary boundaries, to her disgust with the food police and fear of fat. “The only time to eat diet food is when you’re waiting for a steak to cook.” Common sense was always her guide. She was against cultism and felt much of the organic movement was built on balderdash, dousing the public with misinformation and fear. She was all for hard scientific facts before passing judgment.

This review is from the audiobook and, unfortunately, the weakest part is Alex Prud’homme, who also chose to narrate. He’s not awful. He doesn’t mispronounce words or stammer, but a narrator should impart something extra other than a flat reading. He’s obviously not a voice actor and the narration is more like a college lecture series than something to enjoy on a road trip. The text is well-written so my recommendation is buy the print or e-version, but skip the audiobook.

I received this audiobook from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Trio of Spicy 99 Cent Sales

by Laura Strickland

Clara Allen needs a husband in order to keep a roof over the heads of her assorted dependents, a roof her nasty grandfather will re-appropriate unless she is married by her 21st birthday, only a few days away. Strong-minded, unwilling to take orders from any man, she decides to solve her problem by raising a murdered prisoner from the dead and marrying him. She expects an empty-headed puppet; she certainly never dreams he’ll be so devastatingly handsome.

Liam McMahon doesn’t recall much about his life before his hanging in the prison yard, other than being Irish. He does remember the kiss Clara bestowed as she brought him back to life. Every time he looks at her, his desire gets out of hand. But his former life is chasing him down like a steam engine, and when a couple of mad geniuses decide he’d make a fine experiment, he wonders if he’ll live long enough to claim Clara’s heart or if he’ll die all over again.
The room needed to be warm—she had learned that during past experiments. It helped if the subject awakened in an environment that was moist and heated, akin to the womb. And the breath of life was more easily received by warmed flesh.
Georgina walked to the corner and switched on the generator, which came awake with a rumble as the boiler lit. Immediately the familiar clatter started, the gurgle as water began drawing through the system. Once it got going, the system thudded like a heartbeat. Appropriate somehow—that would be the first thing her subject heard when he awoke. If he awoke.
Still obviously uneasy, Georgina rejoined Clara at the table. “You know you’re going to have to touch him.”
“I’ve already touched him. Ruella and I stripped and washed him down.”
“You’re going to have to kiss him.”
“It isn’t a kiss. It’s a resurrection.”
“You’re mad, Miss Clara. Stark raving.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Wasn’t it why she could allow no one—other than these lost waifs and misfits who already surrounded her—into her life? How could she expect an ordinary, sane man to accept the woman she was? Either she created her own husband, or she took none at all.
The room had warmed quickly. Now clouds of steam billowed and surrounded the table, lending an unreality to this thing she undertook. It blurred the edges of her vision and her reason.
Did she do the right thing?
She did the only possible thing.

by Mary Morgan
Crusader, Adam MacFhearguis is on one last quest to the standing stones in Scotland where he seeks to bury the past. However, a silent prayer sends him to an unknown future and to his beloved Meggie. When he uncovers a shocking revelation, Adam questions everything about the woman he thought he knew and loved. He may have traveled the veil of ages, but time is now his enemy. 

Margaret MacKay lives a life in the future without the memories of her past—her death. When Adam arrives at her door confessing he knows her, she is confused and wary. With each passing day, she yearns to learn more from this stranger. Yet, when a truth is revealed, can she trust the man to unlock the chains from her mind and heart?

Will love free the bonds to unite the two lovers who were doomed centuries ago? Or will evil finally claim victory over the Dragon Knights? 
Meggie brushed her fingers over the leather pouch. “It feels empty.”
“Are you not tempted to take a wee look inside?”
She snatched her hand back. “I’m not peering inside the man’s belongings. As soon as he wakes, he and his horse can leave.” Giving the horse a firm pat, Meggie walked out of the stall and away from her smirking cousin—only to run smack into her other cousin, Lena.
“Blast,” snapped Meggie, grabbing her cousin by the arm to help steady them both. “Sorry, didn’t see ye.” Seeing the excitement in Lena’s eyes, she stepped back. “What?”
“I hear you have a Highlander in the guest room,” she replied, giving Meggie a wink. “Are you going to share?”
Meggie placed her hands on her hips. “He’s not my Highlander. Feel free to have him, though as soon as he wakes he’s gone from here.”
Lucas strode out of the stables, wiping his hand on a cloth. “I think I’ll go introduce myself, since I think this man bothers you. You keep stating he must leave as soon as he wakes.”
Lena pushed her cousin aside. “No, Lucas. I will go check on him.”
“Ye are both crazy,” protested Meggie. “He’s just a man.” Stepping past them both, she marched away from the stables.
Approaching the entrance of the castle, her nerves tingled and the air cooled. Halting on the gravel courtyard, she slowly glanced up at the guest bedroom window. Gazing down at her was the dark Highlander. His hands were braced on either side of the glass, and Meggie could swear for an instant, she recognized him from somewhere. A dream, perhaps? The look he gave her pierced her soul, and she shivered.
“Impossible,” she muttered. “I don’t dream. And ye are leaving now.”
Breaking from his stare, Meggie entered the castle, almost running up the stairs. By the time she reached the guest room, her hands were shaking. Not even bothering to knock, she pushed open the door and stormed inside.
Her mouth became dry, unable to form the words to order this giant out of her home. His bulk blocked the light from the window as he leaned against the ledge staring at her. She was not one prone to swoon at men—any man, but this one made her a jumbled mess. Moving to the table, she picked up his sword and took it over to him. His eyes widened when she approached, and she fell into their dark blue depths.
“I…um…” she stammered before continuing. “Ye should leave.” There, she’d gotten the words out.
Instead of reaching for his sword, the man lifted two fingers and caressed her cheek. She gasped, the touch searing her skin, and she took a step back. She could see the look of shock pass over his features, as if he felt the same reaction.
Meggie shoved the sword into his arms and ran for the door. Yet, when her hand touched the handle, she heard him speak.
“Dinnae leave me again, Meggie.”

by Rachael Richey
While her husband Gideon is recording a new album with his band NightHawk, Abi Hawk is busy getting her own career as a portrait painter back on track. 

Following the death of her father, which coincides with the opening night of her first exhibition in London, Abi and her daughter come across an old painting in his attic that sets them on a journey of discovery to Paris.  They uncover an astonishing and unexpected love story, one that has repercussions to the present day.

Meanwhile Gideon, in America to promote the new album, ignores Abi’s warnings and manages to put himself in a vulnerable situation that threatens to rock the stability of their marriage. Separated from Abi by nearly five thousand miles, and unable to speak to her, will he be able to resolve the situation before any real damage is done?
After a moment Abi heard a sharp intake of breath. “What is it, Tash? What have you found?”
Natasha wriggled back out holding a canvas pressed against her chest. Her eyes were wide. “Mum? Is this you?” she asked, her tone strangled. Slowly she turned the painting around and presented it to her mother.
Abi crawled forward and stared at the large dark, dusty canvas. She caught her breath. It showed a girl of about seventeen or eighteen, her back turned to the artist. She was looking over her shoulder and her very long auburn hair hung around her otherwise naked body. Her bright blue eyes shone out from the canvas with a bold expression, and a small smile played about her lips.
“Mum,” repeated Natasha, “Is it you?”
Abi shook her head violently. “Of course it’s not me!” she exclaimed indignantly. “I’ve never been that fat, and anyway it’s quite obviously far too old a painting to be me. Just because she has auburn hair… Honestly, Tash!”
“Oh, right, so you’re annoyed I thought it was you because she’s too fat, not because she’s naked? Really, Mother, I despair of you sometimes.” Natasha shook her head. “So, if it’s not you, then who is it? She looks a lot like you. You must be related.” She peered more closely at the painting. “D’you think it’s Joan or Pauline?”
Abi shook her head. “No…apart from the fact that I think we pretty much know their story now, this is even older than that. They didn’t have red hair, anyway. Let’s see… Does it have a date, or a signature anywhere?” She reached forward, gently took the large canvas out of her daughter’s hands, and carried it over to the single light bulb, suspended from a beam in the centre of the attic. Carefully brushing off the thick layer of dust that covered the painting, Abi searched the lower half of the work for any sign of a signature. She frowned and rubbed gently at the bottom right-hand corner.
“What is it? Have you found something?” Natasha leaned over Abi’s shoulder, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Is it valuable?”
“You really have to stop thinking of things in monetary terms,” Abi murmured, “but in this case you may be right.” She moved the painting even nearer to the inadequate light and sucked in her breath. She glanced over her shoulder at Natasha. “Look, see here?” She pointed to a barely discernable squiggle in the bottom corner. “That’s a signature. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s the signature of Andrew Devereaux, which means, yes, it certainly is valuable.”
Natasha scrambled round and peered closely at the painting. “Wow,” she said. “So who’s this Andrew…thingywhatsit, then? And why is one of his paintings in your parents’ attic? And who’s the girl?”
Gently Abi laid the painting down. “Andrew Devereaux was probably the most brilliant portrait artist around in the twentieth century. He was American, but he did his most famous work in Paris. He was part of the artistic community at Montparnasse in the years between the wars.” She smiled at Natasha, “He would have known Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and…ooh, loads of people you won’t even have heard of! It would have been the most exciting time to live in Paris. We learnt all about him in art college, and to be honest, Andrew Devereaux was my biggest influence.”