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New release by Susanne Matthews: Murder and Mistletoe

Happy Friday everyone! Not only are we happy because we can practically smell the weekend, but I have a great new release to announce from one of my favorite authors, Susanne Matthews. Murder and Mistletoe is a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting, and I had the privilege of creating this beautiful cover for it (when the book is inspiring, an artist can’t go wrong). Check out the blurb!

Murder&Mistletoe

Going home for Christmas can be deadly.
Candy Kayne agrees to go to Black Oaks, the Georgia plantation her ancestor reluctantly left after the Civil War, to meet the family she’s never known and help Steve set a trap for his wife’s killer. Even the wildest tales have a kernel of truth in them and as she learns more about the family’s history, she realizes that coming here may have been the biggest mistake of her life.
Losing Amy almost destroyed Steve Anderson, but when Candy steps into his life, her sweetness chases the dark gloom away. But when he realizes the man who murdered his wife may have set his sights on Candy, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to keep her safe.

Murder and Mistletoe is available for preorder on Amazon and it will be released on November 21st. Until then, here’s an excerpt the author has generously agreed to share with us.

EXCERPT

The oak floor creaked and Luke raised his head once more, sorrow etched on his face. “I’m sorry. At moments like this, I question the wisdom of the Almighty, but I have to believe there’s a purpose to everything He does. That may be cold comfort right now, but in time … You buried your wife this morning. You can’t crawl into that grave with her ashes. You have to live, not just survive as I did. Lord knows it won’t be easy, but you have to start this very minute.”

If only he didn’t feel so lost and empty. Steve huffed out a breath. “Scotty needs me. I know that, but there’s his huge hole inside of me, and my life is bleeding out through it. I don’t have the will to go on without her even though I know I need to.”

Luke reached for the glass of water on the side table and sipped. “You need a new purpose, something that will give you a reason to carry on and be the man and father you need to be for your son. I may have one for you, but this must stay between us and Richard for now.” He set down the glass, his face grim. “The main reason I wanted to restore Black Oaks was to see if I could uncover its secrets.”

Steve frowned. He’d always suspected the decision concerning the mansion was more complex than Uncle Luke had let on. What mysteries had he expected to solve? Other than the tragic accident thirty years ago, no one had paid much attention to the place for almost a century. If anything, he’d expected to be asked to demolish it.

Over the years, the symbols of slavery on the plantation had been eradicated. The remains of the slave pens had long since been taken down and the land repurposed, the slave graveyard fenced off as a historical site, the graves marked where they could be, and the cotton and sugar mills replaced with modern facilities. But the house itself, its basement sealed, stood sentinel-like at the end of its shadowed drive, watching and waiting, a living monument to the atrocities committed there.

“What secrets do you mean? Your parents were the ones who abandoned the house in the first place because they claimed it was haunted. If you were expecting us to find proof of your ghosts, we didn’t. The main structure was in better shape than the additions, but all we found was mold and dry rot, not a bone or chain to rattle anywhere. What had you expected us to find?”

“What’s in this box for one thing,” Luke admitted, holding it up.

Steve moved closer to the wheelchair, his gaze fixed on the blackened chest. “Where did you get that? We removed all the things we could find from the shelves and cupboards.” His brow furrowed deeper, the twinges of a headache dancing in his temples. “Was it yours? Did you leave it there as a kid?”

“No.” Luke cradled the box. “Had I known it was there, I would’ve retrieved it years ago, and if I had … The firemen found it a few days after the fire when they were checking for structural integrity. It was between the floor boards in the bedroom above the library next to the vent they’d cut for the fire. They turned it over to the investigators. Special Agent Winston brought it over to me thinking it had nothing to do with the arson. He couldn’t be more wrong. That house still harbors secrets.” He looked up, his gaze freezing Steve in place. “And I’m not the only one who knows it. Someone murdered Amy because of it.”

Steve’s blood pooled in his feet, leaving him cold. He hadn’t told anyone about what Harvey had said, and he doubted the agent would’ve offered that information to his uncle. How did he know she’d been murdered?

Moving over to the bar, he splashed scotch into a glass, drained it, letting its heat burn away the ice surrounding his heart. He poured an inch of the amber liquor into the crystal tumbler and carried it to the chair next to the old man, dropping into it when his legs wouldn’t hold him up any longer.

“Go on,” he growled, fighting to keep his pain and anger hidden. “I don’t know how you know my wife was murdered, but if you know who killed her, why haven’t you told Winston?” If he held the glass any tighter, it would shatter.

“It’s not that simple,” the old man admitted, his eyes downcast. “I don’t know exactly who killed her, but I know why she was killed. The person who did it was looking for this among other things.” Luke rubbed his hand along the top of the box, residual soot staining his fingers. “I’ve learned over the years that even the most farfetched stories have a kernel of truth in them.” He raised his head and held the box out to him. “Leon had to break the lock. Have a look inside.”

Curious, Steve placed his glass on the table and opened the chest, revealing not the shiny rocks and antique toys he’d expected but a black velvet bag and two small books. From the size of them, they were diaries. He opened the bag first. Inside was a double strand of diamonds separated by a row of pearls with a tear-shaped emerald at the clasp. He gasped.

“Where do these come from? They can’t be real.”

Preoder from Amazon!

ABOUT THE AUTHORsue

Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, where she lives with her husband. As a retired educator, she took her love for reading and parried it into a productive writing career with more than twenty novels available, all of which have a happily ever after, no matter what agony her characters endure. Susanne’s novels include contemporary romance, holiday romance, historical romance, mild paranormal romances, and of course, romantic thrillers. She loves following her characters through their sometimes perilous journeys until they reach the satisfying endings they crave.

When she isn’t writing, Susanne reads and loves to travel, and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She’s a fan of cruising.

If you would like to contact Susanne , you can through her  Website    Blog    Facebook page    Twitter @jandsmatt  Amazon author page and Goodreads author page.

Happy reading! ❤

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Review of Special Agent Charli by Mimi Barbour

After a mad yet exciting race to finish my novella for the Love, Christmas 2 box set where I’m teaming up with 25 awesome bestselling authors, this was the first almost-free weekend I’ve had in a couple of months. What better way to spend it than reading a great book? My TBR pile is – well – piling up, but I’ve been sitting on this book for a while and craving the time to read it. I’m talking about Special Agent Charli, book #6 in the Undercover FBI series by Mimi Barbour.51tIADJ9SLL

This was the first book I’ve read from this author, and I confess I am hooked. I was reluctant to start a book in a series I knew nothing about, but I discovered the stories can be read and enjoyed as stand-alones, and one does not have to read other books in the series unless they want to – trust me, you will! Why? Find out from the 5* review I gave to this novel:

Burned out and craving a wonderful vacation with her beloved Gramps, special FBI agent Carolina “Charli” Madison is not too pleased when forced to change her plans, in order to protect Alicia, a troubled teenage girl who witnessed a murder. Since the killer is a notorious slippery gun for hire the bureau had their sights on for years, she accepts to protect the girl by pretending to be her step sister. Assigned to asist her is Major Blake Sebastian, who’s supposed to play the role of her ex-fiance. Her sexy fellow cop likes women a lot, but in his mid thirties he doesn’t enjoy his wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am lifestyle as much as he used to. While stuck under the same roof with Charli and Alicia, he begins to appreciate the rewards of settling down. And as the thriller/crime side of the story unfolds, Charli and Blake make a great team against a worthy adversary. All in all, a great read that has a bit of everything, and made me wistfully wish I had a Poppa John in my life, with all his kindness, quirkiness and ageless, non-judgmental humor. It was my first book by, Mimi Barbour, and I have discovered a new favorite author!

The Undercover FBI Series Books:

Special Agent Francesca – Undercover FBI Series Book #1
Special Agent Finnegan – Undercover FBI Series Book #2
Special Agent Maximilian – Undercover FBI Book #3
Special Agent Kandice – Undercover FBI Book 4
Special Agent Booker – Undercover FBI Book #5

BUY IT TODAY FROM Amazon !

Monday Teaser: THE DIARY

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Hello, friends and fellow book lovers! I hope your week started as well as mine, because today I finally began writing again, after a pause of several months. The novel I’m working on is a complex thriller, probably the first in a series. And speaking of series, I have taken another important decision, based on the wonderful reviews and emails I have received from readers regarding my novel, THE DIARY: I have decided to continue Hunter and Serena’s adventures, and write an entire series featuring these amazing characters! I’m not revealing more at the moment, but I promise 2018 will be a year full of surprises. 😉

For those of you who haven’t already read THE DIARY, this is the blurb:

In the legendary Transylvania, a castle belonging to Countess Erzsébet Báthory is discovered. Cameraman Hunter Cole and broadcast journalist Serena Scott arrive to make a documentary about the discovery, and the sinister Hungarian noblewoman, known as the most prolific female serial killer in history. 
The two Americans could cope with roughing it in a fifteenth-century castle, with no modern amenities. They can even cope with each other, despite their initial mutual dislike for one another, which gradually turns into a mind-blowing attraction. The Diary Cover
But when two girls are tortured and killed in Báthory copycat style, the nearby village is shaken to the core. In terror, they wonder who will be next…

Author’s Note

Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1614) is a known historical figure and was a Hungarian countess, also known as Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. She has been labeled the most prolific serial killer in history, being responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The exact number of her victims is unknown, but is estimated at six hundred and fifty. It is speculated that she kept a diary with the names of all her victims, but if such a document exists, it has never been made public.
*This work is entirely fiction.

EXCERPT from THE DIARY

There are certain dreams where one knows that one’s dreaming. Those dreams where one can even choose and control what happens in the dream—the chances of actually fulfilling some of the fantasies each of us have.
Then there are the true nightmares, which seem more real than any reality one has ever known. The kind of dreams that swallow you whole, consume you, enslave your mind and bend it to their own illusory will.
The girl lay on the table in the torture room, her cuffed hands and feet struggling weakly, rattling the rusted chains. Her body was a mass of wounds, cuts and burns. Blood had clotted in rivulets all over her flesh. She didn’t have the strength to scream anymore, just whimpered pitifully from time to time. I stood helpless in the doorway, unable to move or to utter a sound, feeling trapped in my own terrified body.
The Countess stood looking down at Romelia, eyes glinting with cold-blooded madness, just like the knife she used to caress the girl’s naked body. Her splendid silk gown was the same color as the blood staining the blade. Her hair was piled up high, exposing the milky white, graceful curve of her neck. Her beauty was staggering, but poisonous—the beauty a demon is gifted to lure the innocent to their destruction.
Her red lips stretched into a wicked smile as she ran her finger over one of the girl’s wounds and lifted it to her mouth. When her eyes met mine, I looked into the abyss of evil, as paralyzed as the victim of a snake that mesmerizes its pray.
“It’s not only their blood I need,” she said in a low, sultry voice that chilled my bones to the depths. “I need their fear, their cries. I want to test their pain endurance. It’s fascinating how long they last, some of them. Others are a disappointment.” She shrugged her elegant shoulders. “Their minds just shut down. Their eyes become dull, even duller than they usually are.”
She grabbed the girl’s hair and lifted her head, putting her face close to the young woman’s.
“Wake up!” she shouted, but then let the head drop in disgust when she got no reaction. She sighed.
“This one is gone. Better end it. It’s no fun anymore.”
So saying, she put the knife to the girl’s throat and pressed the sharp edge into the soft flesh, bit by bit, as though cutting into a loaf of bread. When the girl’s body began to convulse and her blood gushed, my own scream seemed to tear me apart from the inside.

“Serena, wake up!”
“No, please, don’t! I beg you, don’t do this!”
“Baby, it was just a dream. Wake up now!”
My eyes were open, but I couldn’t see anything. I only heard Hunter’s voice through the ragged sound of my breathing. He was shaking me, murmuring words I could barely understand over the mad thumping of my heart.
“You were only dreaming,” he said again, taking my face between his hands and staring into my eyes. “It was just a nightmare. It’s gone now, do you understand? Look at me.”
Gradually, I brought his face into focus, concentrating on taking slow, deep breaths that cleared my head. When I nodded, he lowered his forehead over mine for a long moment.
“You know, being awakened by your screams in the middle of the night is going to make my hair gray prematurely.”
Though he tried to sound amused, I could hear the worry in his voice. I stifled a sob.
“I’m sorry, Hunter, I couldn’t help it. It was awful, the dream…”
I closed my eyes, unable to fight the shudder that shook me. He noticed and, drawing the sheet aside, pulled me onto his lap, rocking me gently like a child as he held me tight in his arms.
“I know, baby, I know. I was just kidding. What did you dream about?”
I burrowed my face into his shoulder, trying to get as close as possible to his warmth. I felt so safe and protected by the solid shield of his chest that my terror started to fade, even as I recalled the horrible dream.
“I dreamed of The Countess killing Romelia. She… She had tortured her, and then she started cutting her throat, slowly, agonizingly. She spoke to me. She said it wasn’t only their blood she needed, but their fear and their cries. She wanted to see how long they lasted.”
He stroked my hair as I spoke, keeping my face hidden into his shoulder. I dimly noticed that he had turned on the bedside lamp, which bathed the room in a soft, golden glow.
“It’s normal for you to have such dreams after all that’s happened,” he said, angling my head back with two fingers on my chin, to look down at my face. “You’ve taken this documentary too seriously. That alone was bound to give you nightmares, but Romelia’s murder is far worse than that. It triggered something dark in your subconscious.”
“Hunter, to me it’s obvious there’s a connection here. Don’t you agree?” I asked, staring earnestly up at him.
He nodded grimly.
“Of course there’s a connection. When a castle of The Blood Countess is discovered, a girl is tortured and killed in the same manner The Countess used on her victims. A blind man could see a connection, but what is it?”
I tucked my head under his chin again, unable to find a reply that would ease the frustration in his voice.
“I don’t know.” I sighed. “All I know is that I want to get the hell out of here as soon as possible. I know I’ll never forget this, but at least I want to be far away from this place.”
We sat in silence for a while. Finally, I raised my head again to look at him. The low light cast deep shadows over his face and under his eyes. His skin was pale under the two-day stubble.
“I’m sorry I woke you up. I know you need the rest as much as I do. But I really appreciate you coming to my rescue. Thank you,” I added, smiling faintly.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, his voice deep and husky.
At that moment, I discovered he was naked, except for a pair of black boxers. I had been sitting on his lap for at least a quarter of an hour, crawling all over him, but barely now the realization struck me. The smooth skin of his bare chest looked well tanned. His nipples were taut, dark against the dusting of golden hair sprinkled over his magnificent pectorals. It arrowed down over the length of his sinuous, muscled abdomen to disappear under the waistline of his underwear.
I swallowed hard, unable to keep my eyes off his body, so well sculptured it simply defined pure, raw masculinity. My gaze meandered up again and I noticed the tattoo on his left shoulder. It was a dark-gray snake curled around his rounded biceps. Its snarling head with demonic red eyes and bared fangs covered a good portion of the muscled shoulder. A triangle darted through the beast’s mouth, its top corner spearing its head.
“Any special significance?” I asked, indicating the tattoo with a motion of my chin.
“Just a little souvenir I brought from Saudi Arabia.” When I kept staring at him, he elaborated, “A cobra snuck up on me during my last mission in the Force. I was crawling on my belly during a hostage rescue mission, and the son of a bitch jumped right out of the sand. See? The eyes are drawn right where the fang marks were.” He put his fingers on the tattoo, where I could see two small, faint scars beyond the snake’s eyes.
“You were in the Army?”
He nodded shortly.
“Yeah, for ten years or so. But it wasn’t the life I wanted.”
I looked again at the tattoo. Then the light dawned on me. The triangle was in fact the Greek letter Delta.
“Delta Forces?”
He seemed surprised by my perceptiveness, but he nodded again.
I lifted my fingers to trace the marks on his flesh, invaded by an overwhelming feeling of tenderness. My heart melted as I thought of the pain and agony he must have experienced. He had been a soldier. A tough life, for tough men…
“You could have been killed,” I whispered, still touching him gingerly. Absurdly enough, I felt tears sting my eyes for the man who seemed to have such little happiness in his life. I wanted to cradle his head to my chest and comfort him like a child, to stroke his hair and show him the beauties of the world.
“I wasn’t,” he said gently.
He bent his head, lifting my hand to his mouth. His lips were incredibly soft on my palm, his hot breath sending shivers of arousal through my body. Our fingers interlaced and he looked up again. The intensity of his gaze was almost tangible, making my pulse accelerate as desire sizzled between us.

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