Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: Address To Die For by: Mary Feliz


Title: Address To Die For
Author: Mary Feliz
Publisher: Lyrical Underground
Series: A Maggie McDonald Mystery #1
Pages: 320
Format: e-book
Source: GEBT & NetGalley

Description:


For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list . . . 
 
Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the hundred-year-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she has every expectation for their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. What a mess! While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up . . . 

My Thoughts: 

In this series we follow Maggie McDonald and her family as they move to Max's aunts old house he inherited from his aunt, unfortunately they didn't quite expect the disaster the house would be in.  Add that to finding a dead body well that doesn't help matters either and from Max and Maggie can figure out the caretaker was calling in police reports in the beginning but that ended up stopping as someone was adamant to destroy the house.  Will Maggie sniff out the killer in time?

This was a great cozy mysteries and fans of many other cozy series will find themselves enjoying this series as well.  I enjoyed reading about Maggie and her family as they move into the new house to them, and try to figure out who was killed in the house and why?  Definitely a fabulous addition to the cozy series!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Short & Tale Tales: Moose County Legends by: Lilian Jackson Braun

Title: Short & Tale Tales: Moose County Legends
Author: Lilian Jackson Braun
Publisher: Putnam
Series: The Cat Who Series
Format: Hardcover
Source: Private Purchase

Description:

"Good news for fans of the best-selling Cat who... mysteries--fictional columnist James Qwilleran has finally finished his book showcasing the colorful stories related to him by residents of Moose County, that famous region four hundred miles north of everywhere."

My Thoughts: 

I recently picked up a copy of this book and found it to be just what I expected, although I have found others anticipated a mystery book it's anything but mystery it's chock full of little stories people have told James Qwilleran when they ran in to him in Moose County.  I found them delightful and love how people came up to him on the street or at his residence with another story from long ago.  I think people need to remember that James always said one day he'd write a book about all these little stories that have been sent his way over time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the stories definitely some quarky ones to say the least.

I have been a fan of Lilian Jackson Braun since I was a teenager and my aunt handed me one of her books to try out and see if I would like it which I did so during my summers she would get me caught up on the recent cat who books, such a joy to read and go back to that time when I didn't even know what a cozy was much less had a genre for it.  It all started with the cat who saw red and the rest they say is history!

For those who love the Cat who books which ones is your favorite?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: Murder on the Mother Road by: Glenn Nilson


Title: Murder on the Mother Road
Author: Glenn Nilson
Publisher: Creekside Publishing
Pages: 318
Format: e-book
Source: GEBT

Description:

Bobby Navarro rides his Harley into another adventure when he discovers the body of a young woman in the trunk of a parked car in Williams, Arizona, on old Route 66. Who would leave a car, with a body in it, parked on the main street of town? And, who told the police Bobby had been the driver of the car, because they soon take him to the police station to conduct an "interview." Then, to make matters worse, Bobby realizes one of the police officers is a woman he had a crush on in high school. And, that's just his first night in town. Next morning, Bobby has breakfast at a local diner, where everyone is talking about the murder and the arrest of one of the diner's cooks. The staff don't think the suspect is guilty of the crime, and one of the locals, Daryl King, lets slip to Bobby that he knows who the guilty party really is. Trouble is, Daryl won't tell the police whatever it is he knows. In fact, Daryl has trouble talking with anyone. The fact that he made an exception in Bobby's case, leads to Bobby agreeing to work with the police to find out if Daryl does know who the killer is. Bobby's part in the investigation takes him to the Holiness Pentecostal Church of the Brethren, a church run by an ex-biker and two of his former gang members. There, he discovers a host of suspects, leaving Bobby to wonder whether he will have to "get religion" in order to help solve this Murder on the Mother Road. 

My Review:

This book follows Bobby Navarro who travels around on his motorcycle and helps out when he can, when he witnesses a hit and run and tries to do the right thing he finds himself knee deep in a murder investigation when a young girl is found dead in a car at a local hotel.  Who the girl is and what she is doing dead in the car is anyone guess?  Bobby finds himself helping the police trying to find out what happened.  It also leads Bobby to meet with a man Daryl who claims to know who did it in the girl, which leads to a local church and some biker gang members.  How far will Bobby to go to assist the police?


This was a great cozy mysteries that is very different from the typical ones you read, in this one we have a biker riding around trying to solve a murder which is very different then the typical ones you read.  Bobby seems like a likable character who wants to help where he can.  I definitely loved being on route 66 that was great and brought a lot of great characters with it.  Definitely a series I could read again.  Can't wait to see what is next for this series!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Thread and Gone by: Lea Wait

Title: Thread and Gone
Author: Lea Wait
Publisher: Kensington
Series: Mainely Needlepoint #3
Pages: 290
Format: Kindle e-book
Source: Personal Purchase

Description:

When a priceless antique is stolen, murder unravels the peaceful seaside town of Haven Harbor, Maine. . .Angie Curtis and her fellow Mainely Needlepointers know how to enjoy their holidays. But nothing grabs their attention like tying up loose threads. So when Mary Clough drops in on the group's Fourth of July supper with a question about an antique needlepoint she's discovered in her family attic, Angie and her ravelers are happy to look into the matter.

Angie's best guess is that the mystery piece may have been stitched by Mary, Queen of Scots, famous not just for losing her head, but also for her needlepointing. If Angie's right, the piece would be extremely valuable. For safekeeping, Angie turns the piece over to her family lawyer, who places it in a safe in her office. But when the lawyer is found dead with the safe open and ransacked, the real mystery begins. . .


My Thoughts:

This book follows Angie Curtis and the Mainely Needlepointers as they are set to discover the history of a young Mary Clough who brings to them an antique needlepoint wondering it's value and mystery behind she has been cleaning up her house after her parents died and is deciding what to sell and what not to sell.  Along with the needlepoint is a letter written in French.

Angie and fellow Needlepointers set out to research the antique but Angie decides for safe keeping to leave the needlepoint with a local lawyer for safe keeping when  the lawyer winds up dead, and the needlepoint goes missing along with Lenore's jewelery it's up to Angie to find out what happened and try to reclaim the needlepoint for Mary.

From there the group finds out that it could be attached to Mary Queen of Scots, and multiple other Mary's.  The bigger question though is who killed the lawyer and what happened to the needlepoint?

I enjoyed this book but I get people complaining because of the lack of needlepoint being done but I definitely can see alot of people enjoying the aspect of history especially Marie Antoinette and Mary Queen of Scots.  I can't wait to see what is next with the Mainely Needlepoints!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: The Diva Serves High Tea by: Krista Davis

Title: The Diva Serves High Tea
Author: Krista Davis
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Series: Domestic Diva #10
Pages: 304
Format: Nook e-book
Source: Purchase

Description:


The New York Times bestselling author of The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss serves up a new mystery steeped in murder…


When The Parlour opens up in town, domestic diva Sophie Winston finally has a place to satisfy her cravings for all things tea and crumpet related. And the shop serves as the perfect place for the ladies of the town to gather and gossip, especially since it’s conveniently located right across the street from the new antique store run by the handsome and charming Robert Johnson.
But speculation around Robert really boils over when he’s found dead—a victim of poisoning after attending a literacy fundraiser at The Parlour the night before. What Sophie learns about the man leaves a bitter taste in her mouth, and she’ll have to strain out a killer from a strange brew of suspects…

My Thoughts: 

In this book we find the usual gang going to a local and new tea parlor where Natasha is hosting an auction.  There you meet all sorts of new people.  First we find Sophie saving Natasha from an intruder when Natasha is attacked.  

Then things move to all things tea related with the new tea shop called The Parlour in town the auction is being held by Robert Johnson, who owns the antique store and is auctioning off things for kids literacy.  There Sophie sees her boyfriend Alex with a woman who seems to act like Alex is her property even though he's dating Sophie of course Alex seems oblivious to this.

Sophie finds herself having a new kid show up at her house repeatedly when his mother is off shoomazing with Alex.  And of course with all things Sophie related she finds a dead body it's Robert Johnson with his last words being 'Rosie' what it means no one knows and Sophie vows to stay out of it but with all things relating to Domestic Diva books Sophie gets multiple requests to get involved.  Who killed Robert Johnson and why?  What does the word 'Rosie' have to do with any of it?

I love this series it was my first adult reading series of cozy books as an adult.  I got drawn in and have named my laptop hard drive Domestic Diva I think everyone has a little Diva in them.  I love how we got to see more about the characters relationships and such it wasn't just about the mystery which was great a mystery with alot of history behind it.  I love those types of mysteries where you learn history on the people like when Sophie discovered Wolf's wife and that whole mystery.  Ms. Davis really knows how to turn out a fabulous mystery that keeps you entertained for a long time after the book is done.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Spotlight: Murder Under The Covered Bridge by: Elizabeth Perona


murder under covered bridge large banner 640Murder Under The Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona

Murder Under the Covered Bridge (A Bucket List Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Midnight Ink (July 8, 2016)
ISBN-13: 978-0738748054
E-Book ASIN: B01A5OGTUK
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murder under the covered bridge

Synopsis: 

Working on a television taping to promote the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, the ladies decide to use their access to the Roseville Bridge to cross an item off Charlotte's bucket list: #39) Be a Sexy Calendar Girl. But the photo shoot is interrupted by gunshots and Francine's cousin William stumbling down the riverbank followed by a man with a gun. William sustains life-threatening injuries, but is it homicide?
Francine and Charlotte go into detective mode to uncover the secret William knew about the shooter. Their success, however, depends on surviving two arson events, a séance, a shortage of Mary Ruth's wildly popular corn fritter donuts, memory-challenged nursing home residents, and a killer who refuses to go up in flames.
Tony & Liz



About The Authors:  

Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Liz Dombrosky. Tony is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy (with Paul Skorich), and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be Murder and Hoosier Hoops & Hijinks. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters-in-Crime.
Liz Dombrosky graduated from Ball State University in the Honors College with a degree in teaching. She is currently a stay-at-home mom. Murder on the Bucket List was her first novel.

Author Links:
 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: Bring Your Own Baker by: D.E. Haggerty


Title: Bring Your Own Baker
Author: D.E. Haggerty
Publisher: Kindle
Series: Death by Cupcake #2
Format: e-book
Source: GEBT

Description:


Anna just wants to earn enough money on the side to buy into the bakery, Callie’s Cakes, where she works together with her best nerd pal Callie. The last thing she expects to see when she walks into Arthur’s apartment to do some moonlighting is a blood bath. Callie’s ready to jump into the investigation into Arthur’s murder, and she’s bringing another bakery worker, Kristie, into their hijinks whether Kristie wants to or not. But things aren’t as they seem. There are gang affiliations, illegal gambling dens, and ladies of the night to wade through. Will Anna and Callie discover who murdered Arthur or will Callie’s detective boyfriend and Anna’s self-appointed protector put a stop to such aspirations? 

Come join us at Callie’s Cakes, where murder investigations are on the menu, but make sure to bring your own baker, because Anna’s a bit preoccupied at the moment. 

My Thoughts: 

This book brings us back to Callie's Cakes and this time Anna Callie's baker is in trouble after finding her friend Arthur killed and Anna at the scene of the crime.  Now it's up to Anna to find out what really happened?  This book goes down so many dark paths between rival gangs, pimps and bookies oh my what Anna learns really puts a spin on Arthur and how much Anna really knew about him!

This book was everything you expect when reading Callie's Cakes love and mystery and adventure!  I love seeing what the girls are up to in this book and the lengths the guys in this book will go to to protect their women.  Such a pleasure of a read.  Definitely not your Grandma's cozy mystery!

Book Blast: Bring Your Own Baker by: D.E. Haggerty

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BRING YOUR OWN BAKER book blast large banner 640





Bring Your Own Baker by D.E. Haggerty

BYOBCV


Cozy Mystery Self Published
Print Length: 166 pages 
Publication Date: June 20, 2016 
ASIN: B01FJVGWXI
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Synopsis

Anna just wants to earn enough money on the side to buy into the bakery, Callie’s Cakes, where she works together with her best nerd pal, Callie. The last thing she expects to see when she walks into Arthur’s apartment to do some moonlighting is a blood bath. Callie’s ready to jump into the investigation of Arthur’s murder, and she’s bringing another bakery worker, Kristie, into their hijinks whether Kristie wants to or not. But things aren’t as they seem. There are gang affiliations, illegal gambling dens, and ladies of the night to wade through. Will Anna and Callie discover who murdered Arthur, or will Callie’s detective boyfriend and Anna’s self-appointed protector put a stop to such aspirations?
Come join us at Callie’s Cakes, where murder investigations are on the menu, but make sure to bring your own baker, because Anna’s a bit preoccupied at the moment.
Warning: This is NOT your mom’s cozy mystery. Bring Your Own Baker may be a ‘clean’ read, but if gangs, illegal gambling, and pimps make you turn your nose up at your e-reader, you might want to skip this one. Although you’ll be missing some sizzling chemistry between Anna and her protector. Not to mention a whole bunch of witty dialogue.

Author Bio:


I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on from my mom's Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew to Little Women. When I wasn't flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although I did manage every once in a while to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. Another job change, this time from lawyer to B&B owner and I was again fed up and ready to scream I quit, which is incredibly difficult when you own the business. Thus, I shut the B&B during the week and in the off-season and started writing. Several books later I find myself in Istanbul writing full-time.

Author Links:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy links: 
Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

July 5

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Friday, July 1, 2016

BOTM: Grilled For Murder by: Maddie Day & GIVEAWAY

Title: Grilled For Murder
Author: Maddie Day
Publisher: Kensington
Series: Country Store Mysteries #2

Purchase Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:


Robbie Jordan may have had reservations about the murder victim, but she still needs to turn up the heat on a killer if she wants to keep her new restaurant open for business…


In the charming small town of South Lick, Indiana, Robbie has transformed a rundown country store into the runaway hit Pans 'N Pancakes. But the most popular destination for miles around can also invite trouble. Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer's brother, but she doesn't appear to be in mourning. At a homecoming party held in Robbie's store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious--even batting her eyelashes at Jim. When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie's friend Phil, who closed up after the party. To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order…

Maddie Day is offering a giveaway to one luck winner a physical copy of Grilled For Murder.  Good Luck!

This contest is open to USA residents:

please include your email in your response who is your favorite cozy character? (like Robbie Jordan, Hannah Swensen, etc)

This contest will end on July 7th!

Review: Yarned and Dangerous by: Sadie Hartwell


Title: Yarned and Dangerous
Author: Sadie Hartwell
Publisher: Kensington
Series:  A Tangled Web Mystery #1
Pages: 250
Format: Paperback ARC
Source: author

Description:


Time has not been kind to sleepy Dorset Falls, Connecticut, where an erstwhile resident is hoping to bring a tattered yarn shop back to life—but with a murderer on the loose, the whole town is in knots…

Josie Blair left Dorset Falls twelve years ago in hopes of making it big in New York City. But after earning an overpriced master’s degree and getting fired by a temperamental designer, she finds herself heading back to her hometown. Her great-uncle was injured in a car accident, and newly unemployed Josie is the only person available to take care of him. Uncle Eb’s wife didn’t survive the crash, so Josie is also tasked with selling the contents of her Aunt Cora’s yarn shop. But the needling ladies of the Charity Knitters Association pose a far bigger challenge than a shop full of scattered skeins…
Miss Marple Knits is one of the few businesses still open in the dreary downtown. Josie can’t imagine how it stayed open for so long, yet something about the cozy, resilient little shop appeals to her. But when one of the town’s most persnickety knitters turns up dead in a pile of cashmere yarn, Josie realizes there’s something truly twisted lurking beneath the town’s decaying façade…

My Thoughts: 

This book follows Josie Blair who has returned to Dorset Falls after leaving twelve years ago, she is there to help her Uncle.  After lossing her job when her boss makes advances towards her she goes home to help her Uncle Eb whose broken his leg and lost his wife due to a car accident?  But was it really an accident when her car was checked the day before?  Who had the most to gain from Cora's death?

There a no shortage of possibilities was it someone in the knitting circle that did or someone else have something to gain?  There are some residents who wish Josie would just go back to where she was and leave Dorset Falls forever.  Unfortunately Josie wants answers to what happened to Cora and why the big rush to sell the store?

I really loved this book it was definitely a great small town mystery with adventure and mystery.  Can't wait to see what is next for this quiet town of Dorset Falls and their various residents! 

Interview with Nancy Hersage author of Follow The Dotted Line

What Genre do you write? 

I began as a playwright. My most successful play is a drama, which was done by the Kennedy Center. And I wrote both historical dramas and a thriller for TV. But I have also written dozens of comedy musicals for the stage, a genre in which I love working. My mystery novel, Follow the Dotted Line, in a quirky comedy in the tradition of Stephanie Plum, only the heroine is over 50 and has four grown chlldren.

What brought you to writing cozy mysteries? 

I love mysteries. I wanted to write an autobiography to tell some of the outrageous stories in my family. I didn’t know that genre, but I found a way to write a really quirky, satirical mystery story using a great amount of true-life material.

Who is your favorite character when you write a book? 

In this book, I love to hate the teenager, Harley Davidson. He’s outrageously naïve, ignorant and full of hubris. The central character, his aunt, can’t stand him. She’s the book’s quasi-heroine, but in many ways she’s just as self-centered and self-absorbed. They are mirror images of one another, standing on opposite ends of the political and social spectrum. This makes for a very make a dynamic duo.

Who inspires your books? (Dead or Alive?)


 Any good story inspires me to write. Any well-written good story still awes me. I love Denise Mina’s writing; great plots and terrific writing. I love the musical Once On This Island. Incredible music, wonderful writing, large and moving themes. This is exceptional writing that makes me want to scream with the pure joy of it’s artistry.


What do you do when you’re not writing? 

I have made my living writing for the last forty years. I don’t know how to do anything else but golf (I’m pretty good at that) and hang out with my grown kids and not-so-grown grandkids. (I have seven.) I’m also into listening to books on tape. Again, there is nothing more sublime than a well-written story well read.

Tell us three things people may not know about you?

I wrote the stage adaptations of both Ordinary People and A Separate Peace.
I sold a movie treatment to Tom Cruise.
I’m sort of an expert on Nicola Tesla.

If you were stuck on a deserted island (like Giligan’s Island) name three things you would take with you?

A set of Pings. A life-time supply of bean burritos. A cell phone, so I could argue politics, art and business with my three kids.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Wedding Cake Murder by: Joanne Fluke

Title: Wedding Cake Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke
Publisher: Kensington
Series: Hannah Swensen #19
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley

Description:

Everyone in Lake Eden, Minnesota, may have had their doubts, but at long last, Hannah Swensen is getting married! 

Hannah is thrilled to be marrying Ross Barton, her college crush. And her excitement only grows when she learns he’ll be able to join her on her trip to New York City for the Food Channel’s dessert chef contest. She’s especially nervous about facing Alain Duquesne, a celebrity chef with a nasty reputation. But before he can tear into Hannah’s layer cake, she finds him stabbed to death on the show’s kitchen set. Out of the oven, as the saying goes, and into the bright lights of Broadway, as Hannah tries to solve a mystery with more layers than a five-tiered wedding cake…

My Thoughts:

In this book we find Hannah is getting married to Ross Barton a crush she had in college who she reconnected with in the previous book.  After some urging from Grandma Knudson Hannah has realized eloping aka shotgun wedding won't work in Eden Lake.  The rumors are flying that Hannah must have a nine month surprise which isn't the case.

Hannah also finds out she is in a cooking contests thanks to Michelle sending the entry in for Hannah, which brings Hannah to New York for the first part of the contest where after consulting with her Cookie Jar buddies has her making specific desserts which brings them all back to Eden Lake.

Not long after the second competition the girls find a dead body of non other than the head Judge Alain Duquesne, who has been a pain in everyone's side it seems which brings Hannah wanting to find out what happened to the head judge?  How will his death impact the Food Channel's competition or Hannah for that sake since her last dessert was based on something Chef Duquesne liked in school?

While I'm glad Hannah's getting married I still feel like there is something more to Ross than the readers know, he kind of came out of nowhere so to speak.  Hannah hardly mentioned him until recently and then tossed her previous beau's aside for Ross we didn't even see the whole explain to Norman or Mike about Ross how they really handled it made Mike and Norman seem transparent because apparently they were ok with it even happy for it, while they both warn her in the beginning that seems to be about it.  Love isn't that easy no matter who the couple is.

That said this book is like all the others great cookies and other treats and mystery mixed in.  Can't wait to see what happens next and who winds up dead next?

Review: The Body in The Wardrobe by: Katherine Hall Page

Title: The Body in The Wardrobe
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Publisher: William Morrow
Series: Faith Fairchild #23
Pages: 237
Format: Hardcover ARC
Source: Publisher Request

Description:


Minster’s wife, caterer, and part-time sleuth Faith Fairchild pairs up with Sophie Maxwell, last seen in Body in the Birches and now a newlywed living in historic Savannah, Georgia, where Sophie crosses paths with murder. Another delightful entry in the beloved mystery series, complete with delectable recipes.


Attorney Sophie Maxwell has come to Savannah to be with her new husband, Will. But nothing throws cold water on a hot relationship faster than a dead body. Worse for Sophie, no one believes the body she knows she saw is real. Will is spending an awful lot of time in Atlanta on a case he claims is urgent, and she’s been tasked with house hunting for them with his former sweetheart, who Sophie can’t help but suspect wishes Sophie would return to her Yankee roots!



Fortunately, Sophie has a good friend in Faith Fairchild. With teenage Amy being bullied by mean girls and husband Tom contemplating a major life change that will affect all the Fairchilds, Faith is eager for distraction in the form of some sleuthing. In between discussions of newlywed agita, surprising Savannah customs and, of course, fabulous low country food, Faith and Sophie will pair up to unmask a killer!

My Thoughts:

This is the 23rd book in the Faith Fairchild series and this one brings two stories together we follow Sophie Maxwell who has recently gotten married to Will Maxwell and are living their new life in Savannah, which is alot of new things for Sophie, parties, and meeting new people and new family members while some love her some seem to wish the Yankee would go away.  There Sophie also ends up befriending her secretary Ruth.  What Sophie can't figure out is who has it out for her, is it Will's ex-girlfriend Laura who was supposed to be his wife?  Or Will's Step-sister Patty Sue who doesn't seem fond of Sohpie or someone else?

We also see what Faith has been up to, with her daughter recently being switched schooling and having trouble making friends, and her son Ben working up to save money for a trip to France as part of school.  Ben ends up helping a friend of the families who has become very secretive all of the sudden?  When times get hard for Sophie in Savannah Faith lends a hand to help her.  Will the mystery be solved or will Sophie get herself in too deep?

I enjoyed this story with the back and forth between Faith's family and friends and Sophie learning about Savannah and all it's secrets.  Definitely was a great treat to learn so much and see how Sophie deals with everything going on especially when her husband keeps travelling to Atlanta on business leaving Sophie to deal with alot of this on her own.

Chapter Reveal: Follow The Dotted Line by: Nancy Hersage

Follow the Dotted Line



Introducing the Andrea Bravos Mysteries



By Nancy Gilsenan Hersage

Published by Kindle Press 2016





This is book is for:
My jet packing children, Tom, Molly, and Shannon
My sibs, great and gracious, Norma and Russ
My wonderful mom, Elnor, and my enigmatic dad, Walt
My friend and partner in screenwriting, Shirley
And the Lorna of my life, Barbara

A special thanks to my college roommates—
Sandy, who helped so much by proofing the manuscript and by sharing my ridiculous worldview, and Cathy, who helped me remember it’s never too late to get that story down on paper.



Prologue
Phone Tree
Mitch Kornacky stared, more than a little appalled, at the human ashes in the Styrofoam burger container. The young entrepreneur could not take his eyes off the box that his assistant had just brought into his office, set on his desk, and opened gingerly.
“Not the sandwich you were expecting. Right, boss?” asked Billy, the bearer of both the box and the bad news.
Mitch nodded in the affirmative, as the assistant then handed him a small, handwritten card that had arrived in the same package as the box of ashes.
The underling was feeling a touch squeamish. “I think I’m done opening your mail.”
“Thanks for your undying devotion, Billy,” hissed Mitch, still reeling from the delivery. “How did it come?”
“Regular mail.”
“God, she didn’t even have enough respect to send my poor father FedEx,” Mitch snorted, as he read the accompanying card.
“Your father’s wife? She sent this?” the assistant asked, feeling his duty now included closing the squeaky yellow box with as much reverence as possible.
“His fourth,” Mitch pointed out. “They’ve been married less than a year. Never met her.”
Mitch’s eyes wandered to the north-facing office window with a view of the Getty Center on the hills above. His father had never actually seen Mitch’s company in the fashionable Santa Monica office tower or met any of his nearly 50 employees.
“Did you get an eyeful of that note . . . accompanying the . . . remains?” Billy prompted.
Mitch looked down at the desk and read it for a second time.
Dear Mitchell,
Your father died recently. I had him cremated, so I could send him to you. So there’s no need for any more annoying phone calls about your new house or your business. Just leave me alone or I’ll put a hex on you.
Sincerely yours,
Tilda Trivette Kornacky
“My old man sure could pick ‘em, couldn’t he?” mused Mitch.
“How old was he?”
“Almost 60. She’s, like, 32.”
“Whoa. Is she serious about the hex thing?”
“He met her at a palm reading. That pretty much says it all,” Mitch announced. “You wanna put him someplace? I gotta make a call.”
“What place?” the assistant asked, warily.
“Ah, how ’bout the fridge?”
“Really?”
“Why not? In the freezer compartment. Just be sure to mark the container.”
The underling mulled over the request for a moment.
“How do you want me . . .”
“Shit, Billy, I have no idea,” Mitch said, with more emotion than he intended, probably because he was feeling more than he expected. “This is the part where you show me some initiative, okay?”
“Okay.”
Billy walked solemnly out of the office, hoping to impress his superior, then glanced quickly from side to side, desperate to attract an audience with questions about what he was carrying; he was going to dine out on this one for a long time.
Mitch picked up his cell and dialed.
“Hey, Mitch. What’s shakin’ on the Left Coast?”
“Hey, Ian. Glad I caught you. I’ve got some sad news.”
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Dad’s dead.”
Ian missed a beat. In fact, he missed about four quarter notes, which was considerable for a man who made his living playing music. Then he said, “Dad? Our dad?”
“Um hum.”
“The one in Texas?”
“You got another one?”
“Jeez, I’d forgotten he was alive.”
“That’s mean, Ian.”
“I’m being serious. I literally haven’t talked to him in ten years. What happened?”
“No clue. His latest life partner just sent me his ashes in the snail mail. With a little sidebar saying: ‘Don’t call me or I’ll put a hex on you.’”
“Is this the palm reader?” Ian asked.
“And woman-of-curses, apparently. Dad was always into exotica.”
“Double jeez!”
“God, Ian, you’re starting to sound like a girl. You’ve got to find a different band.”
“Not a chance. Making too much money, bro. Girl bands are very big in Nashville these days. Doing the Tonight Show next week and opening for the Chili Peppers in Atlanta the week after.”
“Well, double jeez yourself, old buddy!”
“Thank you, thank you,” Ian said and then realized this was probably not the time to brag about his career. He sucked in a deep breath and released a sigh of heavy responsibility. “Who’s telling Mom?”
“Not me,” Mitch said. “In fact, why don’t you call Sam later tonight and then have her call Lilly in the morning. Let them figure it out.”
“Good solution. What should I tell them?”
“Just say he arrived in a fast-food container this morning, and I’m doing everything I can.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m keeping him on ice.”
“Really? Why do you have him on ice?”
“I’m not sure. It just seemed appropriate.”
Ian nodded and thought for a moment about what, exactly, was appropriate at a time like this.
 “Are you, you know, upset, Mitch? That he’s dead, I mean,” Ian asked.
“Too early to tell, I guess,” replied his brother.
“Yeah,” Ian sighed again. “What about a funeral?”
“No need to rush. Let’s talk to the girls, and we can decide later. We can have it at my new house.”
“Cool. I saw the pictures online. It’s beautiful, Mitch.”
“Thanks.”
“Right. Sounds like a plan. Sad day, buddy.”
“Sad day. Later, bro.”
“Later.”

Samantha Kornacky Bravos, who had changed her last name to satisfy her mother’s political agenda and now kept it to satisfy her own, heard her cell ringing but was too out of breath to answer right away. She had just conquered the bridge spanning the Firth of Forth in a pair of truly outstanding cross trainers. Her watch announced it was a new personal best, which would put her among the top 115 women finishing this year’s Scottish Bridge 10K.
“Yo,” she wheezed, “Ian! I can’t believe you called. What time is it there?”
“About 2:30 in the morning. I just finished a show,” her younger brother said.
“I didn’t think you even knew about today. And if you did, I didn’t think you’d have the social skills to remember.”
“Remember?” he said without thinking—and confirming that he didn’t actually have the social skills to remember.
“My race,” she prompted.
“Oh, yeah, your race,” he said weakly, once again making it abundantly clear he had no idea what race she was talking about.
 Okay, Sam thought, this phone call is evidently not about me. “Right,” she said. “Just give me your congratulations, Ian, and we’ll move on.”
“Congratulations,” Ian repeated, sounding as inept as he felt.
“Thanks,” she answered. She was determined to be pleased with her running accomplishment, even if no one else noticed. “And congratulations to you and the Girls with Grits. I hear you’re going to be on the Tonight Show.”
Sam, he knew, had enough social skills for the both of them. While he paid no attention to her career teaching history at the University of Edinburgh, she remained one of his biggest fans. Samantha did everything well, including being a big sister. Still, this conversation would not go well, that was a given, even before he picked up the phone.
“I’ve got some news, Sam,” he said. “About Dad.”
She didn’t respond, but he could feel the heat in her cheeks all the way across the Atlantic.
“Mitch got a letter from his latest wife. Tilda. He’s dead.”
“Oh.” The word popped out involuntarily, and they both waited for the emotion to follow. Nothing came.
“Sam?”
“He didn’t come to my wedding,” she said, evenly.
“I know.”
“Or do one thing to acknowledge the birth of Ella and Jake.”
“I know.”
“I haven’t heard from him in 12 years.”
“He was an alcoholic,” Ian reminded her, trying not to sound too sympathetic.
“He was a narcissist,” she spat, and now he could visualize the small puffs of steam accompanying her words.
“He did his best, Sam.”
“I don’t think so,” she retorted, her voice cracking with bitterness. “He was a son of a bitch!”
 “Okay,” Ian agreed, hoping the worst was over. “That’s a big ten-four. I haven’t talked to him in a decade myself. But I thought I should call to let you know.”
With that, his big sister retreated.
“Sorry, Ian,” she said, mollified by the fact that he, too, hadn’t stayed in contact with their old man. “Sorry about my attitude. And I certainly never wished him dead. So what happened?”
He filled her in on the burger box and ashes. Then he told her about the hex.
“She’s the palm reader, right?”
“Mitch said Dad liked to call her a spiritualist.”
“Yes, well, Dad was always one for inflating job titles, wasn’t he?” She let her mind wander to the obvious thought. “Has anyone told Mom?”
“Not yet. I was hoping you’d call Lilly, and then maybe she could call Mom, . . . and then, also, maybe you two could kick around some funeral ideas  . . .”
Sam took a moment to process everything he had packed into this last sentence. “I’m sensing a major burden shift here, Ian. From the boys to the girls.”
“No. Not fair,” he said, firmly. “Mitch has volunteered to work on the funeral or memorial service or whatever. He likes, you know, hosting and wants to have it at his new house. I think he just wants some input from you two.”
“And you’d just like to run away and tune your guitar?”
He felt that familiar, toxic mix of shame and lame invading his guilt stream. “You know me, Sam. That’s what I do.”
“I know,” she said. “Thank god you’re one of four children, Ian. You would have made a very disappointing only child. Still, for all your social shortcomings, little brother, you do tune—and play—the guitar beautifully. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” he said, feeling the warmth of her forgiveness.
And they both hung up.

By the time the phone tree reached Meridian, Idaho, a sweet little suburb of Boise, Lilly Kornacky Bravos (who shared both the political views and last name of her mother and younger sister) was lying on the sofa nearly comatose. The four preschool boys she had been shepherding since 5:30 a.m. were at a two-hour baby gym class, and her husband was pouring sugarless mochas, while telling her about the fluctuating price of the rhinestones he had just ordered from Korea.
Lil and her husband, Joey, were living the American Dream. Not the current one, the one from the 1950s. They had left Silicon Valley—with its genuinely insane real estate prices, rotten traffic, and high-paying, high-tech jobs—for the new California suburbs, which were located anywhere between Sacramento and the Canadian border. Boise was full of expats, the houses were really affordable, and the public schools still worked. Joey had gone from life as an Internet traffic guru in Menlo Park to manufacturing rhinestone t-shirts out of his four-car garage in the potato state. And with the surprising success of sales to old ladies in Bunco clubs and teenage girls on cheerleading squads, along with the low cost of living, he was killing it. Dad, Mom, and their four little towheads were living like the Cleavers of Beaver fame in a house only a venture capitalist could afford in the Bay Area. And Lil was sublimely happy and painfully exhausted each and every day.
“Hi, Sam” Lil said, picking up the phone, as Joey handed her one of the early morning calorie-free caffeine cocktails.
“It finally happened.”
“What happened?”
“Dad’s dead.”
Lil shot up straight to a sitting position. “What?!” she said, as her drink collided with a hand grenade her four-year-old had created out of oversized Legos and left perched on the arm of the sofa. The whipped cream atop the coffee cascaded onto the carpet.
“Mitch got a letter today from Tilda the Magnificent.”
“Oh, god,” Lil gasped. “That’s terrible.”
“Spare me.”
“Come on, Sam. The man is—was our father.” Lil did not adore Mark Kornacky. Or even like him all that much. But she had a sentimental attachment to the institution of parenthood and kept in contact. It was pretty much a one-way thoroughfare; she sent emails and photos and birthday cards, while he generally responded with indifference. In all honesty, she felt, indifference was his biggest failing. He was never a mean man or abusive. He was just, well, self-absorbed. And more than a little irresponsible about meeting his financial obligations. Still the four of them were his offspring. A platitude she now repeated for Sam’s benefit.
“Whatever he was, he was our father, Sam.”
“Yes, yes,” Sam replied quickly, not wanting to argue the point. “I’m working on facing up to that issue. Sorry. Anyway, Mitch called Ian. Ian called me. I’m calling you. And you’re calling—”
“—Mom,” Lil pronounced, finishing her sister’s sentence.
“You got it.”
“Yes, I apparently have. Nice handoff. Thank you very much.” She inhaled, as if she’d just received a felony conviction, and went on. “So what’s the story?”
“The story is that Tilda sent Mitch a carton of ashes.”
“Ashes? Ashes? That’s creepy.”
“And a note saying she’ll put a hex on anyone who doesn’t leave her alone.”
“Even creepier. I wonder what that’s about?”
“Jealousy is my guess,” Sam ventured. “LOL because he never actually paid us any attention.”
“Hmm,” Lil reflected. “He told me she was a stunner.”
“No surprise. The man had his priorities. What else do you know about her?”
“Not much. Brunette clairvoyant with a birth date in the neighborhood of mine.”
“Now that’s creepy.”
“I think they were both Captain Morgan fans; he told me that’s the reason they were paired on Match.com. I’ve only received one communiqué from him since they got married. A newspaper clipping of their nuptials, along with a free coupon on the same page for twenty percent off at Red Lobster. Don’t know if that was an accident or some kind of gesture.”
“Always the gentlemen,” Sam said. “Mitch wants us to come up with some ideas for a memorial service. He wants to have it at his new house, and he’ll be the emcee”
“And D.J., no doubt. Can’t wait to get a look at his Dearly Departed mix.”
“He does have great taste in music, Lil. So you got any ideas?”
“No. It will take all my creative energy to find a way to get Joey and the four boys in the car for the drive to California. How are Ella and Jake?”
“She has pinkeye from the nursery, and he’s excitedly awaiting his turn.”
“You’re still coming to UCLA for the World War II Underground lecture series?” Lil asked, anxiously.
“Of course. And you’re still coming to see me while I’m in LA?”
“Forty-eight hours is as long as I can get away from the boys,” sighed Lil. “That’s with three shifts of babysitters and their first overnight at the in-laws. I’m still working out the last ten hours of day care.”
“God, Lilly, what’s Joey going to be doing all that time?”
“An order of rhinestone embossed sweatpants and jackets for the University of Alabama gymnastics team.”
“You have chosen such a life of your own free will, you realize this?” said Sam.
Lil could feel her sister shaking her head in dismay. She rose to her own defense. “Well, at least I’m not married to a one-eyed golfer whose only claim to fame is a tie for third at the Scottish Open.”
“He’s not actually blind in that eye, Lilly; it’s a misshapen cornea. And he hits a helluva fade!”
“Oh, my goodness,” said Lil, in a voice filled with mock triumph. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you defend your husband so vehemently, Samantha.”
“I’m hanging up now, Lil, with the satisfaction of knowing that you are the one calling Mom. Cheers.”
“Cheers.”




Chapter 1
Loss of Gravity
At 57, Andrea Bader Bravos felt herself slipping. Slowly, to be sure, but still slipping. She lived in a spacious but dated townhouse in Valencia, California. It was perched just 1000 feet above the San Fernando Valley—and about fifteen miles north of Hollywood, where she had once worked but didn’t work very much anymore. She had spent most of her career writing treatments and, occasionally, scripts for mediocre TV movies-of-the-week. That business began imploding with the arrival of reality television; along with it had gone Andy’s center of gravity.
Andy’s four children had noticed her fumbling around for meaning the last few years, but they didn’t really understand it. Even if they did, they were too busy to offer any solutions. Mostly, they kept suggesting she retire, as if that were a choice. People in Andy’s business didn’t retire, they were retired by the forces that eventually swept everyone in the entertainment business out to sea: an inability to keep up with the breathtaking speed of pop culture—and aging skin.
At several points in her life, Andy had considered herself an unusually relevant person, both a rebel and a crusader for justice. As a 16-year-old feminist pioneer, she was the first girl to work the cash register at the new McDonald’s in Glendale, California. She had helped integrate the marching band at her small liberal arts college. And when she divorced 22 years ago, she had dropped the name Kornacky, as a sign she was no longer beholden to the patriarchy. Now Andy wondered about the value of those accomplishments. Especially the name change. She chose Bravos—telling her four children that it symbolized courage—and asked them to join her in making a political statement. Unfortunately, they were all under twelve at the time and had no idea what she was talking about. In the end, the kids split into their usual teams: girls on one side, boys on the other. Looking back, she thought her activism might have done more harm than good. After all, most of McDonald’s underpaid employees were now women, not men. Her liberal arts college had gone belly up. And her four adult children never missed an opportunity to rehash the name change episode every time they managed to gather for a holiday meal.
So it was that Andy Bravos, aging activist and unemployed writer, stood watering the drooping daisies on her patio that June day—feeling slightly irrelevant—when the call came about the death of her ex-husband.
“This is tragic! Just tragic,” Andy pronounced.
“Don’t sound so indignant, Mom. Or surprised,” said Lil, trying to keep things on an even keel. “He drank enough to inebriate a rugby team. And he never exercised.”
“But he wasn’t that old, for god’s sake! Sixty.”
“Lots of people die at 60, Mom. And since you are fueled almost exclusively by bean burritos and hominy grits and you walk four miles a day, you will probably not be one of them. Whether you like it or not, you’ll live until you’re 90.”
“This is not about me, Lil.”
“Yes, it is. We all know you are in the middle of a mortality crisis—”
“Midlife crisis—”
Mortality crisis. As a consequence, Dad’s death comes at a bad time for you.”
“You make me sound pathetic, Lil.”
“That’s beside the point. The point is, given his lifestyle, this was bound to happen sooner rather than later.”
Andy shut up and thought about that. “Okay,” she admitted. “I guess that’s true.”
Lil had a rather painful knack for cutting to the chase in most things. Over the past few years, Andy had suckered her elder daughter into writing several spec movie scripts with her. Lil’s facility with words and instincts for a good story were remarkable. But with all those preschool boys around the house now, Lil didn’t have time anymore. Lately, it seemed her daughter was reduced to using her verbal karate skills on the phone with her mother.
“Okay,” Andy repeated in a calmer voice. “So how did he die?”
“I don’t know. Tilda didn’t say.”
“I mean, in the gutter? In his sleep? Watching the 49ers? Was there no color coverage at all?”
“Just the note about a hex if anybody bothered her.”
Andy paced the patio, cell in hand. “How does she get away with that? Not even telling us the cause of death?”
“He’s not your husband anymore, so what does it matter?”
“But he’s your father. Don’t you want to know? You deserve to.”
Lil counted silently to three, then responded. “Let’s try not to make a big deal out of this. All right? There is no principle at stake here. “
“You are his children. You have a right to know!”
“It’s not that important. Really.”
“She should have told us. Someone should ask her.”
“Oh no, no, no!” Lil said, emphatically. “That’s exactly what we are not going to do, Mom. Dad had a thing for crazy women.” Lil heard the hiss on the other end of the line. “Present company excepted.”
“Thank you.”
“The older he got, the more he drank and the loopier his wives. Let’s just keep our distance and get on with things. If you’re really that concerned, why don’t you get a copy of his death certificate?”
When Andy said nothing, Lil got a little worried. “Mom?”
“I am stunned by your good sense.”
“What?”
“I’m going to do that.”
“Okay,” Lil said, skeptically. “Without actually making any contact with the grieving widow, right?”
“Right.”
“That’s good, Mom.”
“Yes, it is.” Andy replied, suddenly feeling herself become, well, a little more relevant. “I can’t do anything about your dad’s death. But I can at least find out what caused it. I’m sure, as his children, you’ll all feel better knowing.”
Lil decided it was easier to agree than to point out that the only person who seemed to want that piece of information was Andy. “Yes, I’m sure we will all feel better if you take on that little crusade.”
“You’re mocking me, Lil.”
“I do it with love, Mother.”
“I’m going to get that certificate anyway.”
“I’m sure you will.”
That settled, Andy moved on. “What about a funeral?” she asked.
“Mitch is taking charge of that.”
“Oh, god, not another one of his music mixes,” Andy said, thinking out loud. “Still, I suppose we all grieve in our own way.”
Sensing her mother’s mind wandering, Lil saw an opportunity to change the subject and jumped at it. “How’s cousin Harley?” she asked.
Andy snapped to attention again. “He’s driving me nuts. My sister sold me a real bill of goods when she sent him out here to stay this year.”
“What do you mean? I thought he was going to school somewhere in Valencia.”
“So did I. I figured it was either CalArts, up the road, or the local junior college across the street. But it’s not.”
“What else is there?”
“Something called Our Savior’s Tabernacle University in Lancaster.”
“What the hell is a Tabernacle University?”
“An oxymoron. And so is this kid. I had to buy him a car just so he could get there, for crying out loud. And he’s so far behind academically that they made him come out for summer school before they’ll let him start as a freshman in the fall.”
 “Can’t you send him back to Nebraska?”
“Apparently not. My sister has gotten herself into a job training program and can’t be distracted,” Andy said.
“Aunt Pam is in a job training program? But she’s older than you are!”
“She has no pension, so she’s starting a new career. In the bakery industry. With a concentration in cake decoration. In the meantime, I am babysitting her son.”
“Well, at least you have someone to keep you company. Right?”
“Harley is not company, Lil. He is an annoyance. And there is a real possibility I will kill him shortly.”
Lil knew immediately where this was going and tried to head it off. “I hear the sound of peeing, Mom, and it’s not in the toilet.”
Andy charged ahead, as if she hadn’t heard what Lil said. “Let’s do another script together, Lilly. We’ll have a great time. We can do it over the phone. On Skype. I’ll do all the typing.”
“Really. Mom. I don’t have the time.”
“I know I could get my mojo back if we just worked together—”
“Oh, there goes another jet stream. The boys have developed a herding instinct lately. I think I see the twins with diapers down behind the couch . . .”
“Lilly, I need—”
“Oops! Gotta run. Love you.”
Lil hung up, and Andy felt another little slap of futility hit her in the face. Her career really was over. Now her ex was dead and gone. And her leech of a nephew was upstairs in the guest bedroom glued to a novel about the End of Days.



Chapter 2
Israelites in LA
If Andy had been insensitive about giving her kids a new last name, her sister had been downright idiotic about giving hers a first one. After only one date with a long-distance truck driver named Phil Davidson, Pam announced she had found the love of her life and was going to marry him. By the third date, she felt they were destined to have a son, and he would be called—Harley. And so it came to pass, both the wedding and the birth. All this might have seemed a little less laughable had Harley been big and beefy and liked motorcycles. But he wasn’t and he didn’t. The Harley Davidson now sharing her domicile was short and doughy. In addition, he appeared to be as dumb as a two-by-four. Even more disturbing was his ambition to become a preacher and establish his own Christian denomination.
Andy knocked on the door of her former guestroom where the future Reverend Harley Davidson currently resided.
“Come on in,” Harley said. He laid the paperback across his chest and smiled up at his aunt.
“How’s the book?” she asked.
“Just tremendous!” he said. “It’s the third one in the Left Behind series. I love it.”
She looked down at the dramatic lettering on the cover of the book, The Rise of Antichrist and instantly felt an affinity with the title character. “Shouldn’t you be reading the Bible or something?”
“This is better.”
“No doubt.”
“I mean, it’s fiction, so they make it very exciting,” he explained. “The real stuff, you know, like Exodus and Deuteronomy, is kind of boring.”
“I see.”
“In comparison, I mean.”
Andy pondered this and thought it her duty to encourage him to pay more attention to his studies.
“Well, I can’t imagine the Bible’s that boring,” she offered. “I’ve worked with a lot of Israelites in the film business, and they’re generally pretty good storytellers.”
“No kidding? You know some real Israelites here in LA?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
He looked at her in amazement. “We don’t have that many back in Omaha,” he said.
“I suppose you’d have to go looking. But I’m sure they’re there. Anyway, you want some lunch?”
He hesitated, scrunching up his chubby cheeks.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m kinda tired of burritos.”
“Okay. Why don’t I take you to In ‘n Out Burger?”
“Gosh, I love that place, Aunt Andy.”
“I do, too,” she said. “And I need to get out of the house. Put your cowboy boots on and meet me in the car.”
Valencia was built as a New Town in the 1960s, completely planned to accommodate a Southern California suburban lifestyle. It was one of the few places in Los Angeles County with actual bike lanes and where you could still get a parking spot at the mall. Andy discovered the little gem of a community when she decided to take up golf ten years ago. The public course was cheap and seldom crowded, plus people rarely scoffed if you shanked your tee shot on the first hole. The town had been annexed a few years back and was now part of the City of Santa Clarita, famous for almost nothing except the Six Flags theme park on Magic Mountain Parkway.
Harley and Andy sat outside at a round table with a red and white striped umbrella, eating their animal-style Double Doubles. As the adult in the unlikely pairing, Andy made a feeble attempt to bond.
“You like it here?” Andy asked.
“It’s only been three weeks,” Harley said. “But, yeah, I think so.”
“You miss your family?”
“Not really,” he answered. “Not as much as you miss yours.”
Andy looked at him suspiciously. “What are you talking about?”
“You call your kids all the time.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. And if you don’t call them, they call you. You people never leave each other alone.”
This kid was a master at pushing her into a defensive position. “I guess we’re big talkers,” she said, begrudgingly.
“Tell me about it,” said Harley. “It’s like everything you’re thinking comes right out your mouth.”
“Really!” Andy snorted, nearly choking on her grilled onion. She tried to glare at him, but she couldn’t get a bead on her target because he was slouched over a pool of ketchup, dipping his fries. “We’re all extroverts,” she finally said, by way of explanation. “Except Ian. He’s more of an introvert.”
“The guitar player in Nashville?”
“It’s a steel pedal, “Andy instructed him.
“He’s coming to LA this weekend, right? I mean his band is.”
“They’re playing at the Wiltern.”
“And he’s getting us tickets?”
“Right. For you, me, and Mitch and his girlfriend.”
The pudgy head bobbed up and down with approval. Then he observed solemnly, “I guess you can’t talk all that much if you’re supposed to be playing a guitar and singing. So maybe that’s a good job for him. I don’t think your other kids could, you know, restrain themselves that much.”
Andy tried the glare again, but he was either naturally adept at avoiding eye contact or self-taught. Whichever the case, she’d had about as much conversation as she could stomach. She started to gather up the leftover napkins.
“So who died?” he asked.
She stopped short, crumpled the napkins with a vehemence she generally reserved for representatives of her current cable company and sat back down. “Have you been eavesdropping on my phone conversations, Harley?”
“Nobody has to eavesdrop, Aunt Andy. You get so worked up I can hear you in Dolby Stereo.”
It was not difficult to understand why her sister had exiled the boy to California; the family gene pool had finally produced an unbearable combination of its worst two alleles—cluelessness and cheek. “I’m sorry if my voice bothers you, Harley,” she said, diplomatically. “It is my house, however.”
“I get that,” he said, oblivious to her irritation. “No problem. I just wondered who died.”
“My ex-husband. Mark. You wouldn’t remember him. We were divorced before you were born.”
“Oh, yeah. He’s the dad, right? For all your kids?”
“Yes.”
He tilted his round face slightly to the left and opened his eyes so that she really saw them for the first time. Blue. Creamy blue. His best feature by a mile, she mused.
Now Harley rolled his thin lips inward, as if he were contemplating something. “That’s gotta hurt a little, huh? I mean, you probably loved him once.”
“What?” she asked.
“I said you must feel pretty bad.”
It was an uncomfortably perceptive statement from a kid Andy judged to be psychologically below grade level. Because the truth was, she did feel bad. After all, she had been married to Mark Kornacky for 14 years, and they weren’t all miserable. Many of them were damned exciting. He was a man with a big personality who loved to be the center of attention. A guy with good friends and better stories. He could cook. He could sing. He could drink. He could whip up a party on a moment’s notice. People loved him. She loved him. For a while, anyway.
The two had met when he was starting his own production company in Studio City. He was filming a series of exotic-animal cooking shows, a repulsive—but highly popular—niche concept. She was a struggling writer, and he underpaid her for helping with the scripts. They shared the same middle class upbringing, had similar politics, and fit together in a quirky sort of way, like Sonny and Cher or Bert and Ernie. She could never quite find the right simile for their marriage, and maybe that was the problem.
Whatever the attraction, the partnership worked. Until they had children. That Mark Kornacky would be such a spectacular failure as a parent never occurred to her. That it would take child number three for her to begin to notice was her own spectacular failure. By the time baby number four was born, Andy knew it was time to stop. Sadly for everyone concerned, it would take another seven years of his drinking, cheating, and self-indulgent spending for her to take the kids and get out. After that, her ex-husband was rarely seen in the vicinity of his offspring, and they began referring to him as their ‘ex-father.’
“I do feel bad,” Andy finally confessed to the corn-fed minister-in-waiting.
“And your kids must feel bad, too, right?” Harley suggested.
“I’m sure they do. But their dad was more of a myth than an actual presence, so it’s always been hard to know how to feel about him.”
Harley nodded, seeming a little less clueless than he usually looked. “Well, maybe they’ll get a better feel for that when they see his will,” he said.
“Huh?” Andy grunted, dimly.
“You know, his last will and testament. Often absent parents make up for their emotional negligence through their estate.”
Emotional negligence? Where on earth did a mind like Harley Davidson’s have to go to find that many syllables? She was tempted to ask to meet his ventriloquist but was afraid he wouldn’t get the joke—and then was terrified he might.
“Aunt Andy?” he prompted.
“I’m thinking,” she finally said.
“About what?”
“About why nobody thought to mention a will, especially Tilda.”
I thought to mention it,” Harley pointed out.
“Yes, that’s the other thing I’m thinking,” she said, standing up and pulling the keys out of her purse. “Harley, I don’t get you. I don’t get you at all.”



Chapter 3
Elvis Impersonators
Located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, the Wiltern Theater passes for what is an historic building in the City of Angels. That is, it was built in the 1930s. Originally home to vaudeville acts, the Art Deco structure is named for what was once the busiest intersection in the world, just the kind of thing Angelinos would find it necessary to brag about. It seats nearly 2000 people, and Harley Davidson had never seen or imagined anything like it.
“Whoa,” he murmured, prayer-like, as Andy, Mitch, and his girlfriend, Melissa—the family called her ‘The Impresario’—all took their seats. “I guess Ian’s pretty famous. I mean, if he plays here.”
“The band’s pretty famous,” Andy told him. “Ian is just one of the musicians and back-up singers.”
“You know it’s a girl band,” added The Impresario, who was dressed in elegant black spiderweb tights, a leather skirt, and cowboy boots. Harley knew cowboy boots, and he’d never seen a pair like hers in Omaha. “The critics are calling them the pioneers of a new genre.”
“What’s a genre?’ Harley asked.
“A style. Or category,” said Andy.
Harley gnawed on this for a moment. “Oh. You mean the ‘Girls with Grits’ style?”
“No, that’s the name of the band,” The Impresario corrected. “Their record label calls their style Country Candy.”
“Oh,” repeated Harley, very slowly. “I get it.”
Mitch looked at his junior cousin and smirked. “No, you don’t, Harley.”
Harley looked back at the older man quizzically and opened his creamy blue eyes so they were fully visible. “Yes, I do. It’s country music, only it’s sweet, right?” Harley observed.
“Exactly,” pronounced The Impresario. “Pay no attention to the jackass seated next to you.” She elbowed Mitch, who winced.
“Okay, I’ll behave, I promise,” Mitch said, a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Harley. Melissa’s right, I shouldn’t have said that.”
This wasn’t the first time Andy had witnessed Melissa discipline the incredibly successful knucklehead into which her oldest child had grown. She liked this woman, despite the startling streak of white that ran through her jet-black hair and the studded, fingerless gloves that were, evidently, her signature apparel. The girl was gorgeous, Andy had to give her that. And she was accomplished, in a La-La Land sort of way. She was a talent agent for aspiring comics and, in her free time, she manufactured monogrammed leather steering wheel covers for the Aston Martin dealership in Beverly Hills. On any given day, Melissa de Toro was hustling enough money to afford a two-bedroom apartment near the beach in Santa Monica. For the majority of people in Los Angeles, it didn’t get any better than that.
The house lights in the expansive theater dimmed, and the crowd quieted. After the perfect dramatic pause, stage lights electrified, and the band swarmed out from stage left and stage right, taking their places. There was Ian, the shortest and undoubtedly the sweetest of Andy’s brood, wearing a western hat and tight jeans, seating himself at his pedal steel guitar and beaming, as if he had reached nirvana.
In the privacy of the theater’s darkness, Andy smiled to herself. Her son looked so happy. In fact, both of her sons looked happy tonight, she thought. It occurred to her that all four of her children were currently happier than she had any right to expect, given their unsteady upbringing. She had done so much wrong, and yet they’d each turned out so right—so right for themselves and, therefore, so right for her. God, I wonder what I could do to mess up all this bliss, she thought with the predictable panic that always showed up when things were going too smoothly between herself and her children. Then she metaphorically gave herself a sharp slap to obliterate her stinking thinking and willed herself to slide gratefully into the warm, soapy music.
It was an “epic” concert, according to Harley, as the applause finally flamed out and the audience made its way out of the theater, elbow to elbow.
“Where are we meeting Ian?” Andy asked.
“The Tofu Cafe on Western,” Mitch told her.
Harley looked up at his aunt.
“It’s Korean food,” she said.
His lingering excitement seemed to drain away suddenly. “What’s tofu?” he wanted to know.
Andy and Mitch both turned to Melissa to handle this one.
“Anything you want it to be,” she said, putting her hand on Harley’s shoulder. “Kind of like polenta or bean curd.”
Harley’s eyebrows shot skyward.
“You’re only feeding his anxiety,” Mitch pointed out.
“Oh, don’t be scared,” she said, taking the teenager’s hand and smiling seductively. “Stick with me,” Melissa whispered. “I shall lead you to a garden of earthly delights.” His spongy fingers melted into her touch.
“Oh, my god,” quipped Mitch, turning to his mother. “Look at the poor kid’s face.”
“I think he’s just discovered a whole new meaning for the ‘rapture’,” Andy suggested.
They watched the boy walk off with The Impresario, hand-in-hand.
Mitch wrinkled his brow, admiring the awesome power of the woman he was dating. “Uh huh, and she’s probably just committed some kind of statutory offence in the process.”
Besides the exotic Asian food, Harley was treated to one of Koreatown’s finest traditions: Elvis impersonators. Throughout the meal, four different men, three Koreans, and some Anglo in a wig, jumped on stage and did their best to imitate The King, accompanied by a karaoke machine. Andy noticed that her nephew was so absorbed in the entertainment that he plowed through the food without once asking her to identify any of the ingredients.
Andy assumed the conversation between her sons would inevitably turn to the passing of their father, but Ian spent most of the meal filling his older brother in on some financial hiccup the band was experiencing.
“Avocados,” explained Ian, so distraught that he didn’t seem to care his mother could hear every word. “Somewhere out of the country. Puerto Rico, maybe, I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“And who recommended these avocado orchards?” Mitch asked.
“I don’t know. Some investment guy our manager knows. All I know is that avocados were supposed to be very big.”
“Really, Ian? Really?” Mitch said, with an edge of skepticism that clearly cut through Ian’s thin skin.
Melissa was on it like a hawk. “We’re not all CEOs, Mitch,” she shot back. “And you’ve made a few mistakes of your own with the IRS.”
“Honest mistakes,” Mitch said, defensively.
“This was an honest mistake!” Ian nearly shouted. “We were all told it was a legitimate tax shelter.”
Andy could tell her youngest child was dazed and confused by how to handle the situation and would like nothing better than go in his room, close the door and practice, over and over, the fingering to ‘Black Bird.’ But the days of running away from the chaos surrounding him had long passed. She began to mull over what she might say to comfort Ian, but what the hell did she know about avocados?
Then Mitch, who was never one to mull over anything, said something that amazed even his mother. “Well, congratulations, bro. You’ve made it!”
Everyone, including Harley, looked at her eldest, who had finished his dinner and was rolling an unlit cigar in his fingers.
“What do you mean, I’ve made it?” Ian asked, perturbed.
“Unless you’re a poor starving artist or a drug dealer, being audited is part of the American experience,” Mitch pointed out. “You’re grown up now, Ian. Even Uncle Sam thinks you’re important. It’s part of life. Part of a successful business life. Be proud of yourself.”
Ian considered this, as Mitch continued to roll his cigar. “It’s only money, little bro,” Mitch concluded. “I doubt they’ll put you in jail.”
Melissa, whose hand had been resting on Mitch’s arm, dug her black enameled nails into his skin. “No one is going to jail, Mitchell!” she hissed. “It’s an IRS audit, for god’s sake.”
The waiter arrived unannounced with the bill and glanced subtly around the table. “That goes to him,” the Impresario instructed, taking the bill and handing it to Mitch. “Because paying the bill means never having to say you’re sorry.”


Respect The Arc