by Emelle Gamble
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
Set in New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island in 1990, meet Claire Kennedy, successful mystery book editor at Cauldron Press. Her most famous client, the reclusive Sarah Winesong, has written her first new novel in five years, and Claire is ready to break out the champagne!
And then, in walks Tony Nichols. He’s gorgeous, angry and full of accusations that start with “Cauldron Press stole my book” and end with “Sarah Winesong is a fraud”.
This contemporary cozy mystery has a stellar cast of would-be villains and one real one who will stop at nothing to eliminate his nefarious scheme from coming to light, including stalk and try to kill Claire and Tony!
Tony had not shown up to get her at the inn, nor had he called with a message. She had checked the inn not more than a half hour ago. Was his lack of punctuality further proof of his criminal makeup, she wondered?
Her determination not to be manipulated propelled her up the stairway to the second floor. The lighted hallway was empty of any security guards, secretaries or students to direct her. Turning away from the stairs, Claire walked toward a closed office with English Department stenciled on the frosted glass and knocked.
There was no answer. A lectern stood next to the door, and .the black notebook on it listed the instructor’s office hours. Turning hastily to the Ns, Claire found the entry.
Nichols, A.A. (Tony), Assoc Prof, Creative Writing #319.
The space for appointments was crossed through with a large black X.
She ought to just go see Sarah Winesong, Claire thought as she hurried down the hall. If Mr. Harrison and Tillie had not babied the author all these years, Cauldron Press might not have been in this predicament. And she would not be chasing around after Tony Nichols.
Claire took the stairs up to the third floor, pausing out of breath on the landing. A black arrow with the numbers 311-321 led her to the left.
That hall was dark, the only illumination coming from the gray sky visible through a single window at the far end of the corridor. All the offices appeared locked and unoccupied.
There was no lettering on the frosted glass of room 319 other than its number, and the small metal nameplate holder above it was empty. Claire’s stomach churned. She rapped loudly and waited.
Nothing. “Tony? Are you in there? It’s Claire.”
Her inquiry was met with silence. Rubbing one hand with the other, Claire looked around. Though everything was silent, she had the feeling that someone was nearby. Gingerly she put her hand on the brass doorknob and turned it. It opened easily, into almost complete darkness.
The instant she spoke his name, the shrill cry of the telephone rang out like a startled sentry’s gun. Clutching her chest, Claire gasped and stepped back.
With a sigh of exasperation, she decided to answer it and groped for the light switch. As she did so, she noticed the room was dense with the odor of Tony’s tobacco. Inhaling, she tried to ignore the vivid pictures that rose to mind. She found the switch and flicked it and the room lit up.
The first thing Claire saw was the blood pooled on the dingy carpet just inside the office door.
She froze. Dully she realized the phone had stopped ringing. Then her ears picked up a new sound. In the hallway she had just vacated, she heard the creaking of a door hinge followed by footsteps.
Footsteps that were coming closer.
Frantic, Claire snapped off the light and moved deeper into the small office. Her hands groped in the dark for a weapon. Heavy, leather bound books were everywhere. Gripping the smooth surface of a large, anonymous text, Claire raised it above her head and waited.
A bulky silhouette filled the doorway as the hallway light tumbled into the room. Though Claire had made no sound, it was clear she had been spotted. Without a word, the figure lunged across the small office at her. She brought the book down squarely on the intruder’s face and the corner of it stabbed into his cheek.
She was tackled and thrown against the edge of the desk while her attacker howled a curse at her blow. Claire struck him repeatedly with the book.
As they both crashed to the floor, Claire beat him with every bit of adrenaline pumping into her body. Then, quite suddenly, she knew who it was cursing her in the dark. She recognized the strong hands that hugged her waist, the wavy hair brushing against the tender skin on her arm.
Her body identified her captor even when her terrified mind had not. “Let go of me, Tony. You’re hurting my arms.”
He was straddling her hips. She could now clearly see his eyes in the dim light from the hall.
“Claire, what are you trying to do, kill me?”
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Emelle Gamble became a writer at an early age. At six years old, she was bursting with the requisite childhood stories of introspection, and this itch to tell tales evolved into bad teen poetry and tortured short works that, thankfully, never saw the light of day, or an editor’s red pen.
She took her first stab at writing a novel in an adult education class in Mobile, Alabama when her kids were in bed for the night. As ‘M.L. Gamble,’ she published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin Intrigue. She now publishes novels of Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Situations with SoulMate Publishing and Posh Publishing …works ranging from women’s fiction to thrillers and romantic suspense.
Always intrigued by the words ‘what if’, Gamble’s books feature an ordinary woman confronted with an extraordinary situation. Emelle celebrates the adventurous spirit of readers, and hopes each will enjoy the exciting and surprising journeys her characters take.
Emelle lives in suburban Washington D.C. with her hero of thirty years, Philip, and two orange cats, Lucy and Bella. Like all good villains, the cats claim to have their reasons for misbehaving. Her children are happily launched on their own and are both contributing great things to society, their mother’s fondest wish.
Emelle welcomes any reader interested in emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopes they will visit her website, or her Author Emelle Gamble FaceBook page.
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3.75 out of 5 stars
Stranger Than Fiction by Emelle Gamble is a mystery set during the relatively recent past, i.e. a bit more than two decades ago, in a society less enslaved to electronic devices. Allegations about a soon-to-be published novel that has a definite chance of being the answer to a struggling publisher’s prayers starts a domino effect that may not end just the company, but also put a number of lives at risk, both figuratively and literally. It is up to editor Claire Elizabeth Kennedy to refute Professor Tony Nichols’ claims of plagiarism of his promising young student’s manuscript, but their relationship gets entangled by their mutual attraction and a network of lies and secrecy. Danger looms, and it is possible that neither one of them will escape unscathed.
This story provides a startling reminder of how much things have changed in less than a quarter of a century, and how much more quickly things move now that there are electronic transmissions of manuscripts and devices such as cellphones and text messages facilitate communication.
The mystery itself unfolds with ever-increasing levels of violence even as an attraction tries to build between the two main characters. I felt that their connection was a little forced at first, and the horrific events that unfold make me feel very sorry for any innocent bystanders when this couple is around, because there is definitely the possibility for collateral damage. It was particularly fascinating (not to mention potentially horrifying) to see the machinations behind the scenes in the publishing world and there are some lovely twists and turns to the mystery, which keep one guessing. I wasn’t quite convinced that all of the actions and reactions were reasonable progressions, but there definitely are plenty of tension-filled challenges that ratchet up the tension until the exciting climax to the story. Those who are disturbed by rapidly changing points of view or who are extremely squeamish may not appreciate this story but overall this is an entertaining mystery with a nice dash of romance.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review