My Books!

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Case of the Missing Botticelli


The Case of the Missing Botticelli

by Marilyn Baron




GENRE:   Cozy Mystery/Contemporary/Suspense






In this cozy mystery, American art history major Hadley Evans joins an art detective agency in Florence, Italy, working for Massimo Domingo, once a major player, now the Inspector Clouseau of the art world.

Determined to save the flailing agency and prove her worth, Hadley and her sexy carabiniere boyfriend, Luca Ferrari, take on a mysterious client behind her boss's back. While hot on the trail of a missing masterpiece, they discover a hidden cache of stolen Nazi art in a Venetian villa and encounter a dangerous enemy with a link to an evil past.






Hadley wrote down the phone number, and her jaw went slack when she heard and inscribed the rest of the message. 


“Tell him it’s about a missing Botticelli. It’s urgent.” A shot of adrenalin coursed through Hadley’s veins. Sandro Botticelli. Her favorite artist in the whole world. Creator of the Italian masterpiece, Nascita di Venere, The Birth of Venus, the ancient Goddess of Love, dated circa 1484. She wasn’t aware a Botticelli painting was missing. “Is there any additional information you can give me? The name of the painting? The provenance? Capito. I understand the need for utmost secrecy. We can set up a meeting, and I’ll make sure Signore Domingo will be there.” She jotted down some more notes. “Piazzale Michelangelo? At sunset?” 


Hadley tilted her head and chewed on her bottom lip. That was a strange destination for a business meeting. Although it offered the most scenic view of the city, perched atop a hillside overlooking Florence, meeting at a park after dark was reminiscent of a murder scene in a film noir. Where the heroine, Hadley, would later be found, dead, her virtue compromised and her throat slit. She would have to get Luca to drive her up on his motorcycle and stay out of sight while she conducted her business. Was the female caller from a museum? A high-end gallery? An auction house? Was she an art or antiquities dealer, or a wealthy private individual, or was she representing a government agency? And, if so, which government? Enemy or ally? She would soon find out.

My Review:

I enjoyed reading this story. Hadley, the heroine, is determined and resourceful, but she did have the good sense to call in help when she needed it. Her boyfriend who is a policeman seemed devoted to her even though I did question some of his actions. 

I liked the connection to World War II and the way that the past and present were so intertwined. I also liked that at least one of the characters wasn't exactly who he/she seemed.  Hadley showed great resourcefulness in tracking down a missing masterpiece and proved herself to everyone, especially her boss. 

The book was very well written with no obvious mistakes to mar the story. It was a cozy mystery, but the book had elements of suspense as well. All in all it was a nice way to spend a few hours. 






AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres from women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. She was also The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA) in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones, and The Finalist for the 2018 GAYA Awards in the Romance category for her novel, The Alibi. Her latest novel, The Case of the Missing Botticelli: A Massimo Domingo Mystery, released January 24, 2022, is her 28th work of fiction. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, Marilyn is past chair of Roswell Reads and serves on the Atlanta Authors Series Committee. To find out more about what Marilyn writes, visit her website at:


Marilyn Baron Social Media Links:



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Instagram: Marilyn Baron (@marilyn.baron.5) 

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Marilyn Baron will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.



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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Weekend Writing Warriors

Saturday Sample and Weekend Writing Warriors

 Today I'm continuing with my current WIP. There's nothing much to tell you about the book yet because you've already heard most of what I have written so far. On Sunday when you finish here, you can go to www.wewriwa.blogspot to find more excerpts from a talented group of authors.

Last week:

She folded her arms across her middle and stared out the window where the spring flowers she’d lovingly planted glowed in shades of red, yellow, and pink. “It was only one night,” he said. “I was in Washington, and I was so damn lonesome for you I couldn’t stand it. I met her at a party given by Senator Ryan. She…she looked a lot like you. At the end of the evening she was going to call a cab, but I offered her a ride home, and …”

“Please stop now.” Her voice was quiet, polite, remote. 

“I can’t, Alex. You have to know.”

“I believe I’ve gotten the picture.” 

“I doubt it.”

What was that expression on her face? Disdain? Fear? 

She licked her lips and said, “I thought you spent too much time in Washington, and now I know why. You’re visiting your mistress and your son.” 

Was she kidding? “I go to Washington because I’m in the senate. You know that. I told you we were only together one time.  I had no idea she got pregnant. I didn’t know about the boy until a week ago.”

She was shaking now, her face paper-white. “Excuse me,” she whispered and stumbled toward the door, but she couldn’t leave yet. Not until she heard it all. “There’s more.”

This week's excerpt:

She froze and looked so stiff he feared she’d shatter if he touched her. “The woman died of cancer three weeks ago. Her parents are too old to keep the boy, so they called me to see if I wanted him.” 

Horror washed over her face. She knew what he was going to say. 

He drew a deep breath and said it. “I can’t let my son be adopted by strangers. I’m going back to Washington on Thursday to pick him up. “

Nodding, she tripped over her own feet in her hurry to get away from him. “Wait,” he begged. He wasn’t a man who begged, but he’d do it now and be happy for the chance. “I’m sorry. So sorry. I’ve never done a thing like that before or since, and if there was any way to undo it I would. I love you more than my own life, and I betrayed you. That hurts me almost as much as it’s hurt you. You’re my whole world, and I’ve torn your heart out.” His hands fisted. “But even for you I can’t give him up.”

Friday, January 21, 2022

In Plain Sight

 In Plain Sight

by Alison Packard




GENRE:   Contemporary Romance






Romance writer Maya Lange is stuck in the small town of Two Forks, Wyoming. It’s not the happily ever after she wanted for herself, but neither was dating a man who runs a criminal enterprise or witnessing a murder. Now she’s in witness protection, with a new name she hates and a permanent mistrust of men. That doesn’t keep the sparks from flying with her neighbor, Josh Madsen, though she suspects he’s hiding secrets of his own. She’s right to be wary. Josh is actually Jace Reed, a former undercover NYPD officer hiding from the mob. Jace knows his beautiful and mysterious new neighbor isn’t who she seems. Is she there to spy on him or to kill him? All he knows for sure is that she’s tempting him to do things he hasn’t thought about in years. How can either of them learn to trust when surrounded by so many secrets?
Former bull rider Ryan McCallister has returned to Two Forks with one goal in mind: to win back his childhood sweetheart, local bakery owner Katie Crawford. Ryan left eight years earlier for all the right reasons, but Katie doesn’t know that. All she knows is that he broke her heart. Can she trust him enough to take a second chance on love?  

As Katie befriends Maya, and Jace works with Ryan on his ranch, their lives become entwined in ways none of them ever expected. Will their shattered pasts destroy the hopes any of them might have for a happy future? The truth is hiding in plain sight.






“You just move in?” he called out, lowering the drill to his side. The move made him look like a gunslinger, albeit a modern-day one without a shirt. 


“Yes,” she said, her mouth dry for no good reason. Okay, maybe the reason was the way his broad chest tapered down like a vee to lean waist. His jeans were faded, and rode low on his hips. Yeah, that was probably why her mouth was dry, and another part of her anatomy wouldn’t be if she stared at him for much longer.


“You need any help?” 


“No. I’m good.” She wished she could see his face more clearly. If his face was half as impressive as his body, she might need to jump into the lake to cool off. “But thanks for asking.”


“You’re welcome. If you need anything, let me know.”


“I will,” she said. “What’s your name?”


He wiped his brow. “Josh.”


“I’m Sara.” She wished the feds had given her any other name besides the name of her high school nemesis. The horrible girl made her life miserable for four straight years, and while it wasn’t rational, she’d hated the name ever since. “How long have you lived here?”


“About six months.”


“And you’re still here?” she asked. Why would a gorgeous specimen live in such isolation? Unless he wasn’t alone. A man that hot most likely had someone in his life.


“It’s not so bad,” he said after a few seconds. He lifted the drill. “I’d better get back to this before the sun goes down. Let me know if you need anything.” He turned back to the railing and powered on the drill. 


A bit disappointed their conversation was over, Maya’s gaze lingered on his muscular back. Maybe Two Forks might not be as dull as she’d initially thought. But then, a man was the reason she was living smack dab in the middle of the country, in a town with only one main street and no Starbucks. She turned on her heel, walked back to the deck and into the house. It would be a cold day in hell before she ever trusted another man. No matter how damn hot he was.





AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Alison now lives in the Southwest with her adorable rescue dog, Bailey. She writes heartwarming contemporary romance with a dash of spice and loves chocolate, reading, and taking Bailey for walks at their favorite park. 

For more information on Alison’s upcoming releases, you can sign up for her newsletter at; follow her on Twitter: @alleyfics, and Facebook:



Buy Links:




Barnes and Noble:











Alison Packard will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Flower Girl

                                                                     Flower Girl

by Merida Johns




GENRE: Women's Fiction, Family Life Fiction, Women's Domestic Life Fiction, Psychological Fiction





Everyone wants to believe they can hold on to their anchor, the light of their North Star, and live their truth . . . Suzanna Jordan did too until she fell for a man with a movie-star presence and a dark alter ego. Losing hope of salvaging her life and gaining her freedom, an unlikely source serves up a platter of just desserts that even Suzanna’s treacherous abuser might not evade.








It’s five o’clock in the morning. A waterfall of worries washes over me, but one remains, one I cannot ignore, one that means my life or death—do I have the courage to stop this nightmare?


I hear muffled voices and hasty footsteps fading away in the distance. My crisis, already old news to them, cataloged on a forgotten document. They have abandoned me and left me alone with my fear.


Rolling to my side, my legs dangle off the bed, and gravity pulls my five-foot-five, slender body toward the floor. My feet rebel. They scream and cramp in pain as they hit the cold cement. My insides shake, and my body wobbles. My eyes blur, and my hands reach out to find the bed. I steady myself and count under my breath, “One, two, three . . .” The agonizing muscle spasms in my feet start to unwind.


 My world plays in slow motion. My eyes drift across the brackish-beige walls, swamp-green curtain, stainless steel instruments, and electronic gadgets—my stomach knots, my heart falls, my mouth goes dry. Helplessness hits me like an animal in a snare.


I spot my possessions, swathed in clear plastic, in the chair’s seat in the corner of the room. I hobble over and open the bag and poke through it—a Victoria’s Secret midnight-blue lace bra, an OSU red T-shirt, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt denim pants, a Coach purse, and white Reeboks. I loosen the ties of the rumpled steel-gray gown; it slips off and falls to the floor. Dressing in fancy lingerie is absurd, so I toss it on the chair and throw on the shirt and jeans.


I look down at my sneakers and stop. In my mind, I see my husband’s squinting eyes and hear his haunting disapproval. Quit wiggling your feet over the counters of your damn shoes, Suzanna. You’ll ruin them! I shake my head, clench my jaw, and disobey.


I have no strength to bend over and tie the shoelaces. Jonathan would have a nasty comment about this, too. I ignore him. My eyes close in victory. “Cherish every step. Each is a grand slam toward deliverance.”


My fingers run through my disheveled hair, soaked with sweat—my muscles loosen, my brain fog lifts, and the ache behind my forehead fades.


I pull back the curtain circling the bed and grimace—the overhead lights jar me. I pump myself up—One, two, three, go. I take off.


I shuffle through the corridor between the beds bordering the room and reach the doorway to the waiting area. If people are here, I do not notice them. My eyes fix on the escape at the end of the room—the pulsating red exit sign. The floor-to-ceiling doors open, allowing my aching body to limp toward daybreak. The heavy morning breeze hits my face, and the sickening, sterile scent covering me blows away. I clutch my heart and silently sob, Thank God I’m alive.


But the joy vaporizes into the humid air. The war has only begun. Clutching for courage, I console myself. You’ve gotten this far. You can make it! You can live your truth.


I look up above the horizon, and I see it! There’s my North Star, its five points shimmering in the dawn and guiding me toward my purpose—But before I can help others be their best, I must help myself be my best.


Outside the sterile walls of a hospital emergency room, I hold my own. I put a stake in the ground. I swear that the fight to flee my abuser’s snare, save my life, and follow the guidance of my North Star is worth it.




AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Merida Johns writes about the human experience—that often is messy—and how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through sorrow and betrayal, struggle with doubt, but despite this, gather the strength to act on their aspirations and achieve flourishing lives.


“My insight into the power of fiction came during a conference call in late 2017 with a group of fellow life coaches when I asked, ‘What would it be like to help people achieve a flourishing life through storytelling instead of another self-help book?’ 


After that phone call, I got started answering that question. Almost three years later, the result was my debut novel Blackhorse Road, a heartfelt story of womanhood and the power of choice, gratitude, and forgiveness that was published July 21, 2020, by Coffee Cup Press. Now, I’m thrilled about the upcoming release Flower Girl—a story of a woman who must make sweeping changes in her life to live her truth.


Before writing fiction, I was a professor and author of health informatics and leadership textbooks. Later, I put my experience to use as a leadership coach, focusing on helping women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. 



My husband and I reside in the beautiful Midwest countryside. This is where I find the serenity and space for bringing to life the stories about everyday people who face and overcome extraordinary challenges by finding and following their North Star.

Twitter:  @MLJohnsAuthor








Merida Johns will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.




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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Light in the Darkness: Musings on Living With Cancer


The Light in the Darkness: 

Musings on Living With Cancer

by Jo St Leon




GENRE:   BODY, MIND & SPIRIT / Inspiration & Personal Growth






The Light in the Darkness is a must-have companion for anyone living with a serious illness, or caring for a loved one with such an illness.

With this collection of reflections and personal essays, Jo St Leon shares her experiences, her darkest moments and her greatest joys. She tells of the journey from fear and denial to acceptance and a determination to live her best life. She shares her deepest thoughts and feelings, always with her characteristic blend of wry humour and wisdom.

The Light in the Darkness is the book Jo wishes she could have found when she first received her cancer diagnosis.




EXCERPTS (Please choose only ONE to use with your post):


Excerpt One:


I was diagnosed with Sézary syndrome (a rare blood cancer) in 2016. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and at that point I estimated that I had had it for about 11 years. At least, that was when the itch began.


I was living in London and had a touring job: as principal viola with English National Ballet I spent four or five months each year on the road. I imagined little piles of skin and blood on bedlinen all over the country as I manically scratched night after night with no idea what ailed me. Once, the itch gave me two days respite, and I spent hours wondering what could have changed and how I could repeat that blissful itchless experience. I experimented with everything, but, of course, nothing worked. You cannot cure cancer by changing your washing powder.


I left London late in 2006 and returned to Australia to live in Hobart. Eventually, I took my itch to the doctor. She told me to take antihistamines. When I went back to tell her they didn’t work, she advised me to take more. I finally begged her for a referral to a dermatologist. Reluctantly, she agreed. I think her private opinion was that I was making a fuss about nothing, but she couldn’t say so. The dermatologist was not much more helpful, so I just carried on scratching.


Eventually, my feet and ankles became twice their rightful size and were covered in unsightly sores. Unable to wear shoes and desperate for answers, I changed my GP. He ordered blood tests for everything, and eventually Sézary was diagnosed. I didn’t much like the diagnosis, but it was good to know what it was.


It was also good to finally be taken seriously and not treated as an irritating hypochondriac who was taking valuable treatment time away from people who were actually sick. I now had a whole team of doctors who treated my comfort as a priority. They even respected me for managing to carry on working with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) despite a constant itch that seemed to go right through to the bone. Respect—imagine!


A Word With the Author

Did you always want to be an author?


Yes and no. As a child I used to dream that I would one day write a book, and I used to absolutely believe that would happen. But my family—particularly my father—thought otherwise. He was determined that I should become a musician. Not just any musician, of course—he was obsessed with fame, and being the best. As he hadn’t achieved either of those things, it became my job; he intended to achieve vicarious fame through his daughter.


Surprise! He didn’t. But after a brief period of soul-searching, when I toyed with the idea of journalism and a literary life, I headed to London and for 30 years lived the frenetic life of an orchestral musician. It was what was expected of me, and on the whole I’m glad I did it. There was a lot of fun and some unforgettable peak experiences.


Now, I am one of those rare and privileged people who gets to live out their alternative life. After 45 years, I’m going back to that fork in the road and taking the other path.


Tell us about the publication of your first book.


I’m a very impatient person, so I didn’t want to spend months, or even years, schlepping my book around to traditional publishers. I also was not into endless online research trying to separate the truth from the lies and the genuine from the fake. Luckily, I had a friend who had done all that research before me. I listened to his advice and then ignored it. Well, not all of it—he had some great pointers about what to look for. In the end, I went with my gut. I chose Tellwell because I liked my first point of contact there. He listened to me, always rang when he said he would, and built a real relationship with me, after only a couple of phone calls.


I was thrilled with the whole process. I was consulted every step of the way, their responses were speedy and it was a speedy and un-stressful process. Most importantly—I love the quality of the finished product. I will definitely go with Tellwell again for my next book.


Besides yourself, who is your favourite author in the genre you write for?


There are a few answers to that. Virginia Woolf—her essays, not her fiction—for her voice. She beguiles, she bewitches, with such unmistakable individuality. I love the endless creativity she can bring to nonfiction, and the sheer beauty of her prose. Roxanne Gay, for her courage, her honesty, and her ability to write for change. Closer to home, Helen Garner, for her view of the world and her ability to tread that elusive fine line that is the border between fact and fiction.


Is it a coincidence that these three authors are women? Probably not. They are my role models. However much I may admire men who write creative nonfiction—and I do—I can’t emulate them. My voice, and the way I use words, is profoundly feminine. As is my experience of the world.


What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?


I love being able to work in my pajamas till lunchtime. And that feeling when the first copies arrive at my front door. Mostly, though, I just love the process of writing. It’s transformative in so many ways. I find I never actually know what I think about something until I’ve written about it.


There isn’t much that I don’t like about my writing life, but I guess the worst thing for me is the fear that people might think I’ve written a load of rubbish. There’s a lot of self-disclosure in my work, so a dislike of my writing feels very much like a rejection of my self. That fear of not being good enough, or likeable enough, is never far away.


What are you working on now?


My next book is completely different. It’s working title is Conversations with Robin Wilson. Robin is one of Australia’s foremost violin pedagogues, and he has an astonishing number of truly outstanding students. I was rehearsing with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra one day as one of his students played the Sibelius Violin Concerto. How does he (Robin) do it? I wondered. Somebody should write a book about him. Oh! Maybe I should do that…

I’m loving the whole process—the conversations themselves have to be mostly on Zoom at the moment, because of Covid, but they’re endlessly fascinating. I also enjoy the transcribing, having Robin in my living room for hours at a time. Then there’s quite a bit of to and fro—we’ve got it down to a fine art. I’m serialising some of it in an online Classical Music mag called CutCommon, so I’m getting some great editing and feedback from readers along the way. It’s an absorbing project, and good to get out of my own head for a bit.





AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Jo St Leon is a musician and writer living in Hobart, Tasmania. Receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2016 prompted her to transition from being a full-time musician who loved to write to being a full-time writer who loves to sometimes play the viola. She shares her house with two very pampered felines. She loves reading, cooking, swimming and yoga.


Connect with Jo St. Leon










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Jo St Leon will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.



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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Beyond the Book: A Mother for Christmas


Decker Davenport is on a deadline. He has thirty days — Christmas Eve, to be exact — to remodel a St. Augustine Victorian house or the owner will put it back on the market. Not a good time for Decker’s decorator to take off on a honeymoon, leaving him with Annalise Owens, a stand-in with a malaise he isn’t privy to. 

But as he watches Annalise work miracles on the house and his daughter, he realizes the two of them have bonded in some ethereal way, as if they’ve always known each other.

As Christmas Eve approaches, Decker still sees the curious malaise in Annalise’s eyes. A haunting that even his kiss can’t take away. What secret does the new woman in his house possess? And will learning Annalise’s secret bring him and his daughter joy, or tear their world apart?


I found this story to be very charming and heartwarming. I did find some mechanical errors, but they didn’t ruin the story for me. Annalise Owens got a raw deal out of her former relationship with a wealthy mama’s boy. When she had a baby girl, the child had a heart problem and needed major surgery to live. She signed papers giving her boyfriend’s mother authority to put the child on her insurance so she can get the help she needs. At least that’s what she thought she signed. She had been tricked into giving custody of her child to the woman. Annalise showed up at the hospital to visit her child and found that the baby was gone. She had been given up for adoption. 

She took the boyfriend’s mother to court multiple times, but since she had signed that paper she never got anywhere. 

Annalise loves her job as a decorator, and it’s satisfying to her professionally, but she really bonds with her employer’s child. The little girl is eight years old and very precocious. Annalise is also attracted to the father, a widower who’s also attracted to her.

I guessed almost immediately where the story was going, but it was satisfying to see how the author got us there. If you’re looking for a feel good read this is a good choice.