Monday, August 31, 2020

The Murderous Macaron by Ana T. Drew (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

 Ana T. Drew


GENRE: Cozy mystery



Julie has her freedom, a dream job as a pastry chef, and a corpse growing cold on her floor...

Welcome to Beldoc, a small town in the heart of Provence, imbued with lavender and fresh baked bread! You can idle around, or you can puzzle out a murder mystery.

When a man dies on her watch in her pâtisserie, newly divorced chef Julie Cavallo is dismayed. It isn’t that she’s a suspect. The local gendarmerie captain signs off the death as a natural event. A heart attack. But for a reason she won’t discuss, Julie suspects Maurice Sauve was poisoned. What’s a girl to do? She’ll ignore the risk and seek justice for Maurice on her own!

Well, not quite on her own. Julie’s eccentric grandmother, her snarky sister and her geeky sous chef are keen to help. The team’s amateurism is a challenge. But there’s also the pesky matter of no evidence, no clues, and soon, no body. The murder—if it was a murder—was planned and executed flawlessly.

Can a small-town baker solve the perfect crime?

The Murderous Macaron is a twisty whodunnit mystery perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich, Alexander McCall Smith, Jana DeLeon and Lilian Jackson Braun.



I sit down across a round table from the gendarme, Capitaine Adinian, and begin my sad tale of yesterday’s macaron-making workshop that didn’t go as planned.

He listens, barely taking any notes.

When I get to the part where I asked my students to mix the ingredients I’d prepared for them, Capitaine Adinian leans forward. “Who prepared and laid out the ingredients?”

“I did.”


“Shortly before the class began.”

“Did you leave the shop, even for a brief time, after you had everything ready for the class?” he asks.


He scribbles something in his little notebook. “Please continue.”

“Most participants struggled to get their batter to stiffen,” I say. “Some gave up, claiming it was impossible without an electric mixer.”

“Did Maurice Sauve give up?”

“Quite the contrary. He whisked unrelentingly, switching hands but never pausing. He was the first to complete the task.”

Capitaine Adinian writes that down.

“I gave him one of these.” I show Adinian the remaining badges that Flo had made for the workshop.

“Great Baking Potential,” he reads aloud.

“Then I went around with his bowl and had everyone admire the perfect consistency of the batter.”

“Did anything stand out or seem unusual at that point?”

I gaze up at the ceiling, picturing the scene of me praising Maurice Sauve’s firm, satiny batter, students giving him their thumbs-up, and him smiling, visibly stoked. But he isn’t just smiling, he’s also… Panic squeezing my throat, I zero in on his face. He’s panting.

Oh. My. God.

I clap my hand over my mouth. “What if he’d whisked too hard? What if that exertion caused his heart attack?”

“An intense workout, especially at freezing temperatures, can trigger a heart attack,” Adinian says.

“He whisked intensely.”

“Madame Cavallo, I’ve never heard of anyone whisking themselves to an early grave.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Ana T. Drew is the evil mastermind behind the recent series of murders in the fictional French town of Beldoc. When she is not writing cozy mysteries or doing mom-and-wife things, she can be found watching “The Rookie” to help her get over “Castle”. She lives in Paris but her heart is in Provence.

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The tour dates can be found here


My review: 

3.75 out of 5 stars

The Murderous Macaron by Ana T. Drew stars Julie Cavallo, whose gluten-free bakery has been the site of a death. Julie’s sense that there is more to it than meets the eye puts her at odds with Capitaine Gabriel Adinian, who wants to get this cut-and-dried case off of his plate.

This cozy mystery with paranormal elements is part of the ‘Provence Cozy Mysteries’ series, and has the typical kooky cast of colorful characters, including a grandmother who teaches doga (doggy yoga), and a smart-mouthed and sometimes wise younger sister (I love her advice that…. “if you keep mentally photoshopping the ugly truth out of people, you’ll surround yourself with friends you can always rely on to backstab you.”)

The special talent that Julie evidently shares with her estranged twin was unexpected and added an odd element to the story, which already has its share of twists and turns. I enjoyed following the investigation and the red herrings as well as the opportunity to armchair travel to a small town in France, plus who could resist the sexy capitaine? Julie will undoubtedly have more adventures to come, and I look forward to reading about more of her madcap adventures and their alliterative titles.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Love in the Balance (The Peachtree Series Book 2) by Brigham Vaughn ADULT title GBP

Love in the Balance
 The Peachtree Series Book 2
ADULT title

Brigham Vaughn

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Cover Artist: Brigham Vaughn

Release Date: August 24, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: May/December, age gap, hurt comfort, rich man poor man, workplace romance

Themes: Marriage equality, family acceptance/homophobia, exploring light kink, friends and chosen family, emotional baggage.

Heat Rating: 4 flames 

Length: 92 658 words/ 364 pages


Love isn’t always enough.


Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker are in love. They’ve settled into their relationship and are both happy. But Russ wants more than what they have now, he wants forever.

To him that means marriage, but for Stephen that has never been an option. Marriage equality still isn't recognized in Georgia so why want what he can't have?

When Stephen’s ex re-appears, they’ll have to decide once and for all if they’re ready to commit to a lifetime together.



He reached out and squeezed his thigh. “Speaking of commitment, I know we’ve talked about this before, but I’d like to make an appointment with a lawyer to draw up all the power of attorney and living will paperwork soon. If something happened to you … Well, I don’t want to find myself in the position I was in with Jeremy. Alan is wonderful, so I know he wouldn’t keep me away, but we might as well have all of the legal protection in place.”

Russ nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. We should do that soon.”

They had essentially already made the commitment to each other, so why not formalize it? Even if Stephen lost every penny or became sick or injured, Russ wasn’t going anywhere, and he knew Stephen felt the same. There was no question in his mind that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Stephen. And after meeting his mom, he no longer had the smallest doubt that he was capable of serious commitment. He wasn’t her, and he never had been. He was in this relationship for the long haul with Stephen, and the law should recognize that.

It seemed so cold and soulless to go to a lawyer’s office to draw up paperwork though. It felt like too big a moment to treat that way. He knew some couples had parties after, to celebrate, but that didn’t seem right. No, what he wanted was to publicly declare his feelings for his partner and show the rest of the world how much Stephen mattered to him.

He didn’t want to sign a few sheets of paper and pretend as if it weren’t one of the biggest moments in his life. He wanted more than that. He wanted … Russ stilled as it hit him what he truly desired. He wanted marriage. He blinked, trying to absorb the enormity of that realization. For a guy who’d struggled with the idea of long-term commitment, he knew he had come a long way. Maybe it was time he showed Stephen how serious he was about their relationship. Hell, he wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen had wanted it for a while and had been hesitating because he was worried Russ wasn’t ready.

He glanced over at Stephen and pictured standing in front of an officiant, their friends, and family and telling all of them that he wanted to spend the rest of his life making Stephen happy. He could picture it so clearly, and it felt right.

Maybe Georgia was light-years behind other states when it came to marriage equality and all it would legally recognize was signatures on a power of attorney form. But there was no reason they couldn’t go out of state to get married. And someday, when Georgia finally recognized it, they’d be married there too.

Husband. Russ tested the word out in his head, and something about it felt so right. He felt a surge of giddy elation as he imagined sliding a ring onto Stephen’s finger as they promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

He was going to do this. He was going to ask Stephen to marry him.


Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited 


About the Author 

Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time author. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn't let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can't wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

Her books range from short stories to novellas to novels. They explore gay, bisexual, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.

Author Links



My review:

3.75 stars

Love in the Balance by Brighan Vaughn continues where “Off-Balance” left off and depicts the evolving relationship between Stephen and Russ. Each man has found that the other is exactly what he needs, but there are still elements that need to be worked out, including guilt over the past, pain from family issues, and how each sees the future.

This adult contemporary gay romance continues ‘The Peachtree’ series, and it is recommended that the first book be read in order to orient oneself in the guys’ lives. It is lovely to see the evolution as these two men get more comfortable in their relationship and they start to expand their sexual boundaries. Although I appreciate seeing them work through the emotional landmines and some of the dysfunction that has haunted them, the story moved a little slowly for me, and I thought the conflict over the marriage proposal was a bit contrived. It was nice to see the setup for a couple of the secondary characters, and I look forward to reading their love story.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Friday, August 28, 2020

Huntsman by Morgan Brice (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GBP ADULT title

Fox Hollow Zodiac Book 1
ADULT title

 Morgan Brice

Cover Artist: Adrijus Guscia and Melissa Gilbert

Release Date: July 20, 2020

Genre/s: Urban fantasy MM paranormal romance

Trope/s: sexy shifters, hurt/comfort, second chance love, sincere psychics, hot first responders, found family, and fated mates

Themes: learning to trust again, taking a chance on love, leaving the past behind, moving past grief and loss, starting over, embracing your whole self
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 60 000 words/205 pages

It is the first book in the series

A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. 

Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.


A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.

Fox shifter Liam Reynard is running from a killer. He uproots his life to find sanctuary in Fox Hollow, deep in the Adirondack Forest in New York.

When his car breaks down, sexy wolf shifter Russ Lowe comes to the rescue, and one touch makes it clear they’re fated mates. Neither man was looking for love, and both are still mending from past heartbreak. When mysterious fires and disappearances threaten Fox Hollow, Liam fears the killer is hot on his trail. Can he protect the town and his fated mate from the evil hunting him, or will an ex-lover’s betrayal cost Liam everything he loves?

Huntsman is full of sexy shifters, hurt/comfort, second chance love, sincere psychics, hot first responders, found family, and fated mates. Intended for readers 18 years of age or older.


Chapter One

Flashing lights broke Liam out of his gloomy thoughts. The tow truck headed toward him, then did a U-turn and pulled in front of Liam’s car, backing up until it was close enough to hook up the Honda.

The truck driver got out and walked toward Liam, who reluctantly got out of the car. Even though he had called for assistance and it was clear the stranger was a legitimate responder, Liam couldn’t help feeling jittery, with his hands sweating, and heart thumping.

Those reactions doubled when he got a good look at the driver.

Oh, just shoot me now. Fuck my life. Why did he have to be so fine?

In the glare of the truck’s spotlights, Liam made out all the important details. The man had broad shoulders, strong arms, powerful legs, and a solid chest, standing a good five inches or more over Liam’s five-foot-seven frame. Liam had thought he might be saved if the driver was ugly as sin, but he was out of luck. His face was as utterly lickable as the rest of him.

“You called for a tow? Mr. Reynard?”

Liam nodded.

“I’m Russell Lowe—everyone calls me Russ. I own Lowe’s Auto Shop in Fox Hollow, and tonight I’m your personal tow truck driver,” he said with a broad smile and dimples. The man’s sharp cheekbones, full lips, and strong chin were highlighted by dark brown scruff. Liam’s gaze traveled upward, surprised at gray hair flecked with brown framing a face that couldn’t be older than thirty-five. Green eyes made Liam wonder what kind of shifter Russ might be.

He swallowed hard and might have blushed when he realized Russ seemed to be checking him out too. No matter how attractive his roadside savior might be, Liam’d had enough man trouble to last an eternity, and he sure didn’t need more in a new town.

“Yes, I’m Liam Reynard. Just Liam,” he said, wishing he could conjure up the natural charm that had always served him well in community theater performances. His fox could be quite dramatic. But now, on the run, scared for his life, and in the dark with a stranger in the middle of nowhere, he couldn’t muster his usual flair.

“The engine started making strange noises, and I pulled off. I didn’t want to break anything.” Liam cringed because heknew next to nothing about cars. Admitting that takes points off my “man score,” doesn’t it? Then again, so does being a sports-hating, gay fox shifter twink. 

Well, at thirty, I’d thought my twink days were behind me. But when he compared his own shorter, lithe, dancer build to the solid man-mountain in front of him? Yeah, twink still fits.

“I’m glad you stopped the car without waiting for the car to stop you.” Russ finally shifted his attention away from Liam and focused on the Civic. “Let’s get the tow set up, and then you can ride in the cab with me to Fox Hollow.”

Buy Links 

Available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and paperback


About the Author 

Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Characters from her Gail books make frequent appearances in secondary roles in her Morgan books, and vice versa.

On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.

Series include Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow. Watch for more in these series, plus new series coming soon!


Author Links



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My review:

4 stars

Huntsman by Morgan Brice is the first book in the ‘Fox Hollow Zodiac’ series and features Liam Reynard, a fox shifter, who flees for his life to a unique hamlet called Fox Hollow and meets Russell Lowe, a wolf shifter who isn’t sure he can believe that he’s met his fated mate. Unfortunately, danger has come to Fox Hollow, and these two are in the eye of the storm.

This adult paranormal gay romance introduces a shifter society that has formed an enclave that is a sanctuary. Liam arrives there under less than auspicious circumstances and is reluctant to trust, so it’s heartwarming to watch his gradual acceptance into the close-knit society. Russell’s tragic backstory and caring interactions with the others in his live made him such an attractive character and I enjoyed the interactions between these two. I always like learning something new, and a skulk of foxes has now been added to my mental files, and I will have to look into key-finders, since I tend to lose several items regularly, lol.

It was fun watching each man argue with his respective animal, especially Liam’s “divafox” persona. I thought this was an entertaining introduction to a new series and I look forward to seeing some of the characters from this author’s other series make cameos in future stories.

As is always the case with this author’s works, this story is a lovely blend of fantasy, suspense, and romance, and I can’t wait to read more in this series.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hidden by Laura Griffin (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY)

The Texas Murder Files, Book 1
Laura Griffin


An ambitious female reporter tracks a deadly threat in Austin, Texas, in the newest riveting thriller by New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin.
When a woman is found brutally murdered on Austin’s lakeside hike-and-bike trail, investigative reporter Bailey Rhoads turns up on the scene demanding access and answers. She tries to pry information out of the lead detective, Jacob Merritt. But this case is unlike any he’s ever seen, and nothing adds up. With the pressure building, Jacob knows the last thing he needs is a romantic entanglement, but he can’t convince himself to stay away from Bailey.

Bailey has a hunch that the victim wasn’t who she claimed to be and believes this mugging-turned-murder could have been a targeted hit. When she digs deeper, the trail leads her to a high-tech fortress on the outskirts of Austin, where researchers are pushing the boundaries of a cutting-edge technology that could be deadly in the wrong hands.

As a ruthless hit man’s mission becomes clear, Bailey and Jacob join together in a desperate search to locate the next target before the clock ticks down in this lethal game of hide-and-seek.



Chapter One
            Dana was in love with a complete stranger. She could admit it. Or she could have admitted it, if she’d had anyone to admit it to.
            She eyed him in the parking lot as she leaned against the lamppost and stretched her quads. Tall, wide shoulders, strong runner’s legs. He had shaggy brown hair that Dana would have once considered sloppy, but now seemed sexy beyond belief. She imagined combing her fingers through it, imaged it would feel thick and silky.
The main attraction wasn’t his looks, though. It was his commitment. He was here every day at six a.m. sharp. You could set a watch by it.
            He closed the door of his dusty black Jeep—one of the old ones that clearly had lots of miles on it. Not a fancy car, and he probably didn’t have a fancy job, either, but Dana didn’t care about that. She’d dated men with money before. They’d burned her life beyond recognition, and she’d made a vow to herself: never again.
            It was one of the many vows she’d made over the last year.
            He set off on the hike-and-bike trail, and Dana waited a moment to give him a head start. She zipped her phone into the pouch clipped around her waist and then stepped onto the path, taking a deep breath as the soles of her shoes hit gravel. Setting a brisk pace, she felt her muscles start to loosen and warm.
She looked ahead at Blue. That was the name she’d given him the day he glanced up from the drinking fountain and his turquoise eyes hit her like a sucker punch. She’d been so mesmerized she’d hardly noticed the water’s rusty taste as she gulped down a sip and watched him walk away.
Blue was way ahead of her now, and he would stay way ahead of her for the entire six-mile loop. If she was lucky, she’d pass him beside the fountains, and they’d trade nods before she set off on the rest of her morning.
Or maybe not. Maybe this would be the day she summoned the courage to strike up a conversation.
            The morning air was already thick with humidity as the sky went from indigo to lavender over the treetops. The trail was almost empty, which was how she liked it. Just the die-hard runners and some power walkers. Dana settled into her rhythm as she passed the boat docks where long red kayaks still were racked and chained. She smelled fresh dew on the reeds by the lake, along with the faint scent of rotting vegetation, which would grow more pungent as the sun climbed higher in the sky. It would hit triple digits today. Again. Dana still wasn’t accustomed to the Texas heat or the way the weather here could turn on a dime.
            “On your left,” a voice growled.
            Dana’s heart lurched as a cyclist whisked past her. She muttered a curse at him. The guy swerved, barely missing a jogging stroller coming around the bend, pushed by a flushed-cheeked woman in yoga pants.
            Of everyone on the trail, the manic stroller moms bugged Dana the most, especially at this hour. She couldn’t imagine rousting a child from sleep and driving to the lakefront, then shoving a sippy cup into pudgy little hands to serve as a distraction while Mom squeezed in a workout. Passing the stroller, Dana caught a glimpse of a cherubic toddler with brown curls, not much older than Jillian. 
Just thinking of Jillian made Dana’s heart swell. It was something she’d never expected when she’d first taken the nanny job. How could you truly love someone else’s kid? But it turned out, you could. Dana would have jumped in front of a bus for that child. Maybe it was human instinct. Protect the innocent. Or maybe it was something else, some deep-rooted impulse that hinted at future motherhood. When Dana had first identified the feeling, she’d felt relieved. It told her she was okay. Mostly. It told her that despite the ugly things she’d seen and done, her moral compass was still intact.
            The trail narrowed and wended through the cypress trees. Most people hung a left onto the pedestrian bridge at this point, but not Blue. He did the full loop and crossed the lake at the dam, predictable as clockwork. At first when Dana began shadowing him it had been a struggle, and she’d ended each workout feeling dizzy and depleted. But now she was stronger. Her thighs still ached, and her lungs still burned, but she pushed through, and the heady rush at the end of each run was her reward.
            The trail narrowed again, and the woods became thicker. Dana heard the faint crunch of gravel. Her senses perked up, and she glanced over her shoulder.
            Her blood chilled.
A man jogged behind her, maybe twenty yards back, and she’d seen him before. Dana focused on the path ahead, listening to the rhythm of his footsteps. Her pulse started to thrum. Where had she seen him? Her brain kicked into gear, retracing her steps over the past twenty-four hours. She’d been to work, the grocery store, home. She tried to recall the faces in the checkout line, or anyone she’d passed in the lobby of her apartment building. She pictured the man without looking back: tall, buzz cut, heavy eyebrows. Where had she seen him before?
            You’re being paranoid.
            You’re being paranoid.
            You’re being paranoid.
            The words echoed through her mind as she pounded down the trail. She peered ahead, searching for Blue on the path, but she couldn’t see him anymore, couldn’t see anyone. This section was practically deserted.
            The footfalls came faster, and panic spurted through her. Why had he changed his pace?
            Dana changed hers, too, trying to catch up to Blue—or anyone, at this point. The slap of shoes behind her sounded closer now.
            Sweat streamed down her back. She visualized where she was on the trail. About a quarter mile ahead was a nature center. To her right, through a patch of trees and bushes, was a parking lot. Would someone be there now? It wasn’t even six thirty.
Dana’s breath grew ragged. Her skin prickled, and her blood turned icy. With every footfall she knew that the years and the miles and the lies had finally caught up to her. There would be no more running.
And there would be no mercy.
With a trembling hand, she unzipped her pouch and took out her phone. She thumbed in the passcode. Should she really do this? Maybe she was overreacting.
            But no. She wasn’t.
            She darted another glance over her shoulder.
            Eye contact. And Dana knew.
            She bolted into the woods, plowing through bushes and darting around trees. Behind her, she heard the distant but unmistakable swish-swish of her pursuer moving through the brush. Dana’s heart thundered as she pressed the contact number. Every swish-swish ratcheted up her terror. Finally, the call connected.
            “Tabby, it’s me. It’s happening!” Just saying the words made her stomach clench. “It’s happening!
            Dana hurled the phone into the bushes and cast a frantic glance behind her. She couldn’t see him anymore, but she knew he was back there, felt it in her core. Every nerve ending burned with the certainty of being chased.
Where was the damn parking lot? Through the trees, she glimpsed a patch of asphalt and the red hood of a car. She ran faster, swiping at the branches. Thorns snagged her clothes and sliced her arms, but she clawed through the bushes as fast as she could, sprinting for the red.
            A tall figure stepped into her path. Dana gave a squeak and stopped short.
            The man moved closer. His eyes bored into hers, and she knew she’d been right. Not paranoid at all, but right.
            He took another step forward, and Dana’s gaze landed on the knife in his hand. A silent weapon. Of course.
            Terror pierced her heart as he stepped nearer. Tears stung her eyes.
            “Please,” she rasped. “I’ll do anything.”
            Another step, and she could smell the sweat on his skin now. He was that close. Her heart jackhammered and she knew this was it. Fight-or-flight time.
            She let the tears leak out. Let him think he’d won.
            The man smiled slightly.
Dana turned and ran.

Bailey Rhoads watched the parking lot through the veil of rain. It poured off the overhang, splashing the sidewalk in front of her and soaking the cuffs of her jeans. She pressed her phone to her ear as a police car pulled into the lot and slid into the handicapped space beside the door.
“Metro desk.”
“Hey, it’s me,” Bailey said as the officer got out. Skip Shepherd. That figured. He pretended not to see her as he ducked through the sheet of water and jerked open the door to the convenience store, letting out a waft of cold air.
“Tell me something good, Rhoads.”
“Sorry, can’t do it.”
“This is a bust,” she said. “A couple teens boosted some beer from the stock room, ran out the back. Clerk chased them and a patrol car pulled up.”
Her editor muttered something either to himself or someone else in the newsroom.
“I’ll write up a brief, but I’d give it two grafs, max,” she said.
“They minors?”
“Then don’t bother. Listen, where are you?”
“In my car,” Bailey said, pulling the hood of her sweatshirt over her head before ducking through the water. She jogged across the lot to her white Toyota that had been in desperate need of a bath until this afternoon. “Why? What’s up?”
“I don’t know.”
But something in Max’s voice made her pulse quicken. She slid into her car, dripping water all over the seats as she kicked off her flip flops.
“Some chatter on the scanner,” Max said. “Lance heard something about a code thirty-seven.”
“What’s Lance doing in on a Saturday?”
“Some drama with one of the councilmen. Long story. Listen, you know what a thirty-seven is?”
“A shooting,” she said, starting up her car. “Where is this?”
“The lake, I think.”
“Lady Bird Lake?”
“Yeah. But this could be nothing. Scanner’s been quiet since.”
“I’ll check it out.”
“Text me if it’s anything,” Max said. “And do it soon. I’m trying to get out of here.”
“Got it.”
She dropped her phone onto the seat beside her, along with the damp spiral notebook where she’d jotted the details of the convenience store holdup that wasn’t. Would this be another dud? Probably, given her pattern lately. For the last three weeks she’d been chasing down court filings and scanner chatter and only netted a few short briefs.
Saturday traffic was light, but the afternoon downpour had thrown everyone for a loop, and she passed two fender-benders before reaching Barton Springs Road, which took her straight into Austin’s biggest park. On a typical sunny weekend, the place was busy. Several weeks a year it wasn’t just busy, but packed, with traffic choking the streets and the soccer fields crammed with festivalgoers. Today, the fields were empty except for a few clusters of people sheltering from the drizzle under sprawling oak trees. Bailey parked in the lot near the pedestrian bridge, noting the conspicuous lack of police vehicles. This was probably another non-event.
It was time for Bailey to get creative. It had been a slow month, and rumor had it the newsroom was in for another round of layoffs. She should spend her Sunday brainstorming feature ideas. Something about local law enforcement that wouldn’t be interchangeable with a story pulled off the wire. Maybe an innovative new forensic technique. Or budget overruns. Or official corruption. She had to dig up something. For months she’d been hanging onto this job by her fingernails. Her industry was shrinking, and she was in a constant battle to prove her worth relative to more seasoned reporters who fed at a bottomless trough of news tips.
Bailey shed her wet hoodie and grabbed a blue zip-up jacket from the back seat. She stuffed her notebook into the pocket and looked around. It was unusually empty for a Saturday evening—just a few wet dog-walkers and a guy strapping a paddleboard to the roof of his Volkswagen. She zipped her jacket and ran her fingers through her wet brown curls. With this weather, she probably looked like Medusa, but it was pointless to fight her hair. It did what it wanted.
Bailey hurried across the parking lot, hopscotching around potholes as she made her way to the pedestrian bridge. The six-lane highway overhead provided cover, along with a roar of traffic noise as she crossed the lake, which was narrow here.
She reached the trail marker on the opposite side and glanced around. Normally, this area was bustling with cyclists and pedestrians, but this evening it was empty except for a pair of shirtless runners in burnt-orange shorts. UT track and field, if she had to guess. They didn’t spare her a glance as they blew past her.
Looking up the trail, Bailey noticed the orange barricade positioned in the center of the path, along with a sign: CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE. Bailey had been here three mornings this week and that sign was new. She walked up the path, skirting around the barrier. The trail curved into some leafy trees, and Bailey’s pulse picked up as she noticed the swag of yellow crime scene tape.
“Area’s closed, ma’am.”
She turned around to see a bulky young cop striding toward her. He had ruddy cheeks and acne, and Bailey didn’t recognize him.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Trail’s closed off.” He stopped beside her and wiped his brow with the back of his arm. His dark uniform was soaked from what looked like a combination of rain and sweat.
“I’m with the Herald.” She unzipped her jacket and held up the press pass on a lanyard around her neck. “We got word about a possible shooting here?”
He frowned and shook his head. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
He gestured toward the sign. “This is a restricted area. You’re going to have to step back.”
“Step back, ma’am.”
“Okay, but do you know what this is about?” She took her time moving toward the barricade.
“No, ma’am.”
What a liar. “Can you confirm it was a shooting?” she asked.
“You’ll need to talk to our public information officer.”
He corralled her toward the barrier. She sidestepped it and turned around, and the cop was watching her suspiciously, as though she might sprint right past him if he turned his back.
            At last, he did. He proceeded up the trail, tapping the radio attached to his shoulder and murmuring something as he went. Probably giving people a heads up that the media had arrived on the scene—whatever the scene was.
            The cop reached the yellow swag of tape blocking the path. He walked around a tree and darted a look of warning at her before disappearing into the woods.
            Bailey dialed her editor. Max picked up on the first ring.
            “I’m here at the hike-and-bike trail,” she told him. “Something’s definitely up.”
            “Who’s there?”
            “I’ve only seen one cop, but they’ve got the trail barricaded, and there’s a scene taped off.”
            One cop?” Max sounded skeptical.
            “So far, yeah.” Bailey walked away from the barrier, looking for any other sign of law enforcement. The nearest parking lot on this side of the lake would be behind the juice bar. Maybe the cops had parked there.
            “What about a crime scene unit?” Max asked. “Or the ME’s van?”
            “Haven’t seen either,” she said, scanning the area as she walked. She spied several cars parked along the street, but no police vehicles.
            “Keep asking around,” Max said. “The scanner’s been quiet, so maybe this isn’t out yet.”
            Bailey would definitely ask around, but she didn’t see anyone to ask.
            “Where are you exactly?”
            “The trailhead near the nature center,” she said, “but it’s pretty deserted.”
The rain started again. It streamed down her neck and into her shirt, and Bailey moved faster. Up the street that paralleled the lake was Jay’s Juice Bar. She spotted a patrol car in the parking lot. Bingo.
As she hurried closer, she saw not just one but four police cars in the lot behind the place, along with an unmarked unit with a spotlight mounted on the windshield—probably a detective’s car. How had this stayed off the scanner? Someone must be trying to keep a lid on the story.
            Bailey surveyed the juice bar. Typically, Jay’s had a line of sweaty customers at the window waiting to order smoothies. But today the window was closed. A guy in a green apron stood beside the door, talking to a tall man with a badge clipped to his belt.
            “Rhoads? You there?”
            “I see a detective,” she told Max. “Let me go talk to him.”
            “Who is it?”
            “I don’t know. I’ll call you back.”
            “Do it soon. I need to know if this is going to blow up the front page.”
            Bailey tucked her phone into her pocket and watched the detective interview the juice bar guy, who clearly was agitated. He kept wiping his brow with his hand and gesturing toward the trail. Was the man a witness? Had he heard the gunshot? The detective towered over him, watching intently as the man talked and shook his head.
            Bailey started to pull out her notebook, but then thought better of it. The detective dug a business card from his pocket and handed it to the man. Perfect timing. They were wrapping up the interview.
            Bailey crossed the street, and the detective glanced at her. His gaze narrowed when he spotted the press pass around her neck. Bailey felt his guard go up as she strode toward him. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders.
She was about to get stonewalled.

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Author's bio and links

Laura Griffin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five books and novellas. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages. Laura is a two-time RITA® Award winner (for Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Her book Desperate Girls was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by Publishers Weekly. Laura lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.




 Laura Griffin is giving away a print copy of Hidden to one lucky person in the United States.

Please leave a comment (please don't forget your e-address) about what intrigues you most about romantic suspense and whether you have read other books by this prolific and talented author?

A winner will be randomly chosen after September 4, 2020.


My review: 

4 stars

Hidden by Laura Griffin is the first book in the ‘Texas Murder Files’ series and features reporter Bailey Rhoads, whose investigation into a woman’s murder pits her against the detective assigned to the case, Jacob Merritt. Their uneasy alliance puts them in a race against time to prevent the murderer from striking again, but Bailey’s research may put her right in the crosshairs.

This suspenseful and romantic thriller features a determined and tenacious heroine, characteristic of this talented author’s stories. I love heroines who are resourceful and intelligent, and it was great to watch the women in this story demonstrate ingenuity and an ability to think on their feet. It was a little disconcerting to shift to a new point of view later in the book, but understandable.

The tension ramps up and the clues are sprinkled in with unexpected twists and turns as the mystery gets more and more intense. Some of the developments are chilling, especially to a paranoid person like me, and very pertinent to today’s society. This was a wonderful introduction to a new series, and I can’t wait to read more of these stories!