Date Published: May 12, 2020
Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.
To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…
Abby L. Vandiver, also writing as Abby Collette, is a hybrid author who has penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. She has hit both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list. Her latest cozy series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery, published by Penguin Berkley, is out now, with the second book, A Game of Thrones, coming in March 2021.
Flashing red and blue lights lit up the dark, dreary corner where North Main and Bell streets met. Yellow crime scene tape draped around trees cordoned off the perimeter of the wooden overlook. Floodlights invaded the stillness that surround the falls and voices bombarded my eardrums. I was numb, but not from the cold.
I had panicked once I realized I’d tripped over a body. Not a panic borne from fear, it was because I didn’t know how I could help. What to do. Blowing out a breath, I had to calm myself so I could figure it out.
It was dark and I hadn’t been able to see clearly enough to make a decision. Had the person still been alive? Should I try to start some life saving measures?
Not that I knew any . . .
Should I go get help?
The body hadn’t moved, even after me falling over it.
Not a grunt. Not a moan. Not a whimper.
Feeling with my hands in the dark, I found a face. I leaned in, my face close, to see if I could feel a breath.
I laid my head on its chest to listen for a heartbeat.
I should call for help.
Crap. I’d left my cellphone in my knapsack, sitting on the prep table in the ice cream shop. All I had was my aluminum bowl and scoop, so I started banging them together.
“Help!” I yelled out and hit the scoop on the side of the bowl. “Hey! I need help! Anybody! Somebody help me!”
But all my noise making hadn’t gotten one response. I looked down at the silhouette of Dead Guy and back up to the street. No lights from passing cars. No footsteps crunching in the snow.
I needed to get up the hill to get help.
But the snow was thick and cumbersome, I trudged up at a slow crawl. My foot sinking into the snow with each step forward, my gloves wet and covered with the powder. It seemed to be deeper and heavier the more I tried to get up to the sidewalk. Bent over, hands clawing in the snow up the incline, I was out of breath with heavy legs by the time I made it to the top. Once my feet were planted on the sidewalk, I had to place my hands on my knees to catch my breath and slow my heart before I could go any further.
With what I knew lay at the bottom of the falls, it made the night more ominous. The streets more deserted. The lights more dim.
I looked one way down Bell Street then the other. Not quite sure where I should go to get help. I just knew that I wanted to tell what I knew. Get someone else there with me. Then my eye caught sight of the woven scarf I’d seen on the kid who’d been down the hill with me. With Dead Guy.
I started to grab the scarf but thought better of it. People always come back to where they’d lost their things to find them. The little boy might return. Maybe I’d report the lost item to the police.
The police . . .
I had to call the police. Or an ambulance.
I scurried around the block, past the front of the ice cream shop to the side door and unlocked it. I hastily dumped the contents of my knapsack and had to catch Grandma Kay’s tin recipe box as it tumbled out before it dropped onto the floor. Hands slightly shaky, still breathing hard, I found my phone and pushed in the three numbers.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
I had to make a restroom pit stop to try to collect myself.
I shook my head. There hadn’t been anything I could have done. He hadn’t moved. He hadn’t made a sound. He wasn’t breathing and I didn’t know how long it would be before someone came along to help.
I ran warm water over my hands at the sink, dried them off and started to head back into the kitchen to get my knapsack, and ran right into Felice.
“Hello there, Muffintop, I said and stooped down, running my fingers through her white coat. “How did you get down here?” She looked up at me, fluffed out the end of her tail, then eyes half-closed, she blinked slowly. I picked her up. “You want some kisses, Sweetie?” I said knowing it was me that needed comforting. She rubbed her cheek up against mine. “Thank you.”
Holding her, I walked around to the back area where the stairs led to Rivkah’s apartment, and called up. No answer. “She must still be at the restaurant.” I looked at Felice. “Did you just come down for me? To make me feel better?”
“Mrra,” she said.
I met her forehead with mine, but only for a moment, she didn’t have to be gracious. She jumped out of arms and ran up the steps. I watched as she strutted up, I didn’t know how she’d gotten out. Rivkah never left the door unlocked.
Tonight I was glad she had.
I went over to the prep table and stuffed everything back into my bag, grabbed the bowl and scooper and headed back outside. By the time I got out there, a police cruiser was pulling up in front of the store. The officer got out of the car and walked over to me.
“Are you the person who called 911?” he asked.
“I am,” I said.
“What’s going on?”
I pointed toward the falls. “There’s a guy down there. I think he’s dead.”
Date Published: November 2020
Publisher: Raven South Publishing
To avenge the past, one must first unearth its secrets.
Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.
Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.
Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.
Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)
No Second Chances (2017)
Deadly Odds (2018)
And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)
When Dawn Never Comes (2018)
Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.
Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.
Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.
Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.
She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.
Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.
She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
KANE, LOUISIANA, 1859
EMMANUEL SINCLAIR STOOD BACK and surveyed the sprawling plantation that had encompassed his life for the past two years. He nodded with pleasure as if someone were there awaiting his approval. Placed perfectly amidst rows of river oaks, magnolias, and sycamores, the estate was breathtakingly beautiful. The well-designed landscape surrounding the home contrasted sharply with the bald cypress and coastal willows rising prominently from the waters in the bayou.
Emmanuel had no doubt, Lucretia, his soon-to-be bride, would be delighted with her stately new home. Within the next twenty-four hours, she was scheduled to go by train from Baltimore to the Ohio River.
Lucretia would then travel by steamboat via the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans, where Emmanuel would be waiting for her. Lucretia’s trip would be grueling, but she’d experienced many challenges over her eighteen years. Her grandparents had been part of the Expulsion of 1755 when the British ejected all French-Acadians refusing to pledge allegiance to the King of England. Originally settling in Maine, her family relocated to New York before putting down permanent stakes in Baltimore.
Young Lucretia longed for consistency, and it had been Emmanuel’s stability that’d won her over. By the age of thirty-five, he’d already made his fortune in the cotton business. His father had died seven years earlier, leaving Emmanuel a sizeable concession of land and a fledgling cotton crop, which, at best, kept the plantation self-sufficient. But it was the combination of Emmanuel’s business savvy, the increase of cotton production, and Louisiana’s strategic ports that’d quickly increased his wealth.
AS EMMANUEL HAD BEEN STEADILY BUILDING a prosperous empire, Thaddeus Jackson had been constructing a flourishing kingdom of his own, on an equally expansive plantation a few miles away. Thaddeus had his father, Mathias, to thank for being born a free man of color. He had caught Andrew Jackson’s eye as a standout on the battlefield during the War of 1812. His grueling work ethic and leadership skills played pivotal in constructing breastworks, later referred to as Line Jackson.
Thaddeus had quickly tired of the story, even as a young boy, and considered his father nothing more than a yes-man who’d covered cotton bales with logs and mud to protect the white army. However, Andrew Jackson had been quite impressed— enough so, in fact, that he’d facilitated Mathias’s freedom. Not one to take any blessing for granted, Mathias had chosen to acquire Jackson’s surname out of gratitude.
Thaddeus had found much to dislike about his father, but he’d inherited many of his most admirable traits. He was a powerful leader and quick learner with a sense of adventure. These characteristics had led to his success as a Mississippi River privateer. His tall frame and good looks didn’t hinder him either. Both his appearance and self-confidence had also captured Fatima Lambert’s attention.
Fatima came with quite the story of her own. With a shortage of white women in the state of Louisiana and laws forbidding interracial marriage, the institution of plaçage enabled her to be a mistress to the very wealthy, and incredibly old, William Lambert. She’d been merely a teenager when he’d spotted her working his fields and had quickly arranged for her to be a kept woman.
Accustomed to hard labor and the unrelenting heat, she hadn’t objected to being at his beck and call and his bed when he’d insisted. Fortunately for Fatima, she’d only had to suffer through a few sessions of his sexual desires before he’d dropped dead of a heart attack at the ripe age of seventy-eight.
With William being a childless widower and having no other heirs with whom to split his fortune, Fatima had become the proud owner of not only his cotton plantation but his slaves as well. It wasn’t her attractiveness as a mulatto that’d lured Thaddeus to pursue Fatima; it’d been her property and the glorious cotton fields that promised a lifetime of financial security. Once he’d set his sights on her, there was little Fatima could do but concede to his advances. After all, who wouldn’t want a bright, handsome husband to take care of things?
A RABBIT SCURRIED beneath some underbrush, drawing Emmanuel’s attention to the cool, damp breeze and dark clouds promising an impending storm. He walked to the front porch, paused long enough to grab his oil lamp, and made his way inside. Emmanuel hesitated briefly to take in the magnificence of the grand staircase winding its way, like an ornate ribbon, up to the second and third floors. One of his slaves, who’d been trained as a blacksmith, had spent the past few months creating it, and he hadn’t disappointed.
It would surely take Lucretia’s breath away. Aside from a bed and some office necessities, the remaining furnishings would be left to Lucretia’s desires. Yet another of Emmanuel’s wedding gifts to her. Although it was midday, and the many windows gave way to ample light, thunder clouds had begun to darken the home’s interior. Emmanuel made his way up the stairs, down the corridor leading to the west wing, and entered his office. He slid the mantel a smidgen to the left.
This released the mechanism holding the entire faux fireplace intact, enabling him to unlock the steel door leading to an array of complex tunnels, and ultimately, his concealed vault. THIS WAS where the lives of two greedy and shrewd businessmen merged.
This was the beginning of a tale older than time, filled with greed, lust, superstition, and murderous secrets they’d both take to their graves.
It was a story meant to be locked away forever…
Paranormal Ghost and Love Story
Historical Paranormal Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Literary Fiction
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Serving House Books
A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.
PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne–wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right–haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne’s work from obscurity. A ghost story, a love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.
Loving Modigliani is a genre-bending novel, blending elements of fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery, and suspense.
Praise for Loving Modigliani:
“LOVING MODIGLIANI is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning pages late into the night” –Gigi Pandian, author of The Alchemist’s Illusion
“Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning the pages long into the night.” – Best-selling mystery novelist Gigi Pandian
About The Author
Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.
Saint-Michel- en-Grève, July 19, 1914
I like to sit here on this rock and look out over the ocean as I scribble in my notebook. I could spend hours, gazing at those inky clouds, drinking in the colors with my eyes and my skin. I love the ocean in all weathers, even like today when the wind is raw and the salt stings in my throat and the mud from the field clings in globs to my shoes and dirties the hem of my cape.
I’ve always been attracted to storms. When I was still very small and we were on holiday in Finistère, I’d slip outside and ramble over towards the headland whenever I heard the wind rising. As soon as Maman saw I was missing, she would send my brother André out to find me. He always knew where to look: perched as close to the edge as I could get. Shouting my name into the wind, he’d run to me through the scrabbly heather.
“Come away from there, Nenette, you’ll fall!” Gently, he’d draw me away from the precipice. But I knew how to keep myself steady: I’d just look down at my shoes on the salt-frosted furze and feel my feet in the earth. Hand in hand, we’d squint out at the waves of steely water. I kept hoping we’d see something burst up from the foam. A whale or a seal. A sunken ship up from the deep, dripping seaweed and barnacles from its sides, a skeleton at the helm!
I can’t explain why I keep watching the horizon, but I feel that my real life is waiting for me out there somewhere across the water. Who am I? Who will I become? Maman says I am going to be beautiful–but that my hips are too round, my face too full, and when I am older, I will have a double chin, like hers. But my eyes are the color of southern seas in summer, changing from green to gold to turquoise. I have seen those waters in the pictures of Gauguin, who is my favorite painter.
I am J.H. and I am sixteen. Everyone has an idea about who I am and what I shall be. For Papa, I will marry an engineer, or perhaps a doctor, like Rodolphe, the young country doctor who treated his grippe last winter, and become a proper wife and mother, accomplished in music, bookkeeping, and domestic skills, like turning tough chunks of old beef into edible stews.
Maman would rather I marry Charles, the son of the neighborhood apothecary, Thibideau, in Rue Mouffetard. He is a friend of André’s and when he comes to visit, he always brings Maman licorice or lavender pastilles, but he is not beautiful like André and doesn’t know anything about art or poetry. He spends hours in the laboratory helping his father make pills and suppositories, and his clothes and hair smell of ether, valerian, and cod liver oil. Maman opens all the windows after he leaves. I cannot imagine living with such a presence, much less being touched by those fingers.
Sometimes after dinner, when André has gone out with his friends, Maman and Papa discuss the merits of both, debating which one would suit me better as a husband. I sit there smiling as I listen, sketching or sewing a hem.
“A doctor is a fine addition to any family,” says Papa.
“But an apothecary will do just as well and if he owns his own shop, why he’ll be richer than a doctor,” says Maman.
They are both so absurd–they never ask me what I think. How can they imagine I’d ever be caught dead with someone like Rodolphe or Charles? The man I marry will be someone special. An artist or a poet. And he must be as beautiful as a god.
Papa thinks women should not work outside the home unless economic circumstances require it. Maman says that teaching is a respectable profession for a young woman if she wants to do something useful in society. She thinks I could be a teacher–of English, perhaps, so she is always making me study English grammar. But I find it hard to concentrate on English verbs. I’d much rather learn Russian. But what I love to do most is paint. It is a passion I share with my brother.
André is studying at the Académie Ranson in Rue Joseph-Bara in Montparnasse, where the Maître, Serusier, says he is very gifted. Over the bed in my room back in Paris, I have hung a painting he made of a poplar tree which he copied from a postcard when he was only sixteen. There is life in that tree, you can feel the leaves flutter as the summer wind shatters the heat and makes shivers run up your arms. When a painting makes you feel, hear, smell and taste, the artist has talent, or so Serusier says.
On every excursion to country fairs or old churches here in Brittany, I buy more postcards for André to copy so he can develop his talent. André plans to become a professional artist — though it’s a secret between us! Papa and Maman don’t know yet that what they believe is merely a hobby will be his career.
André thinks I have talent too. After every lesson at the Académie, he teaches me something new, and this week it’s been about landscapes, but I’d rather paint people than cornfields. In any case, the human body is a sort of landscape. I like to study how our bodies are made, the waves of muscles and hair and the textures and colors of skin. The dimples in elbows and knees fascinate me, like the labyrinths in ear whorls and fingernails. I also like the way clothes fit on bodies and the crisp turnings of caps and collars like the Breton women wear and soft draperies in long clean lines and a bit of fur on a jacket cuff.
André says I should become a clothes and costume designer because I have a way with fabrics. And I love making clothes for myself, though Papa and Maman think my turbans and ponchos are too fanciful. This dress I am wearing I designed and sewed myself, inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Sometimes I wear my hair in two long braids all the way down to my hips, with a beaded bandeau around my forehead, just like an Indian princess. Other times, when I want to look older, I let it flow loose, under a black velvet cap. I made a promise never to cut it and when I am old enough to have a lover, I will wrap him in my hair and keep him safe.
July 22, 1914
Here in Saint-Michel, every day André and I go out painting morning and afternoon. But if it is raining, he stays home and reads or sketches, but I get restless and have to go walking for an hour or so along the beach, and up to a spot on a cliff where an old paysan keeps his goats. I watch the goats for awhile, then traipse home through the sand and mud, clean my boots, hang my cape in the doorway, and shake the rain from my hair. Tomorrow Papa goes back to Paris and we will follow a few days later. Although I love it here, I admit, I am starting to miss Paris too!
I go straight to the kitchen where fresh sole are sizzling in melted butter and thyme in a skillet on the stove. Maman is grating celery root into a big blue enamel bowl and Celine, the girl who helps in the kitchen, is whipping up crème fraiche and mustard in an old stone crock. The leather-bound volume of Pascal lies closed on the sideboard. Papa has stopped reading aloud for the edification of the ladies and is now absorbed in his newspaper, but I can see the news is upsetting: His pink mouth scowls above his gray goatee. André sits on the edge of a chair, long legs crossed, puffing his new pipe by the open window, reading a book of poems.
“War is coming,” Papa says, rustling his newspaper. “André will have to go.”
“I am not afraid,” André says. His voice, so determined and grown-up, makes me feel proud and scared.
“But I am,” says Maman, “I don’t want my son to go to war. Against the Germans.”
She grates the root vigorously. Flakes fall like snow into the bowl.
“I won’t wait to be conscripted, I will sign up and defend my country,” says André.
Papa stares at him, proud and apprehensive, then folds the newspaper and puts it aside.
“And you, Achille?” my mother asks.
“All able-bodied men will be mobilized,” my father replies.
Mama puts down the celery root. I can feel she is sick with fear. We always have similar reactions. Our minds work the same. I go over to her and take her hand. Her fingers are cold and damp from the celery root; her wrists are threaded with fine lavender veins. I cannot believe that both my father and brother will be sent to war, though I know all over France, men will be leaving their families. I squeeze her hand to give us both courage.
We eat our lunch in silent dread. The food tastes like ashes in our mouths.
July 23, 1914
Why am I a person of such extremes? When I am here in Brittany walking in the wind, I am happy for an hour or two, but then I feel gloomy and begin to miss the little alleys around Rue Mouffetard, the noise and turbulence, the bookstalls, street vendors, and cafes. But once I am back there again, soon enough I feel I can’t breathe, even the Luxembourg Gardens seem like a prison to me, and I long to escape to the seaside. It’s always back and forth with me, I never can decide which place makes me happier. But now that we know that André and Papa will have to go war, I don’t want to go back to Paris at all. Why does André have to enlist in the army? I asked him this afternoon while we stood on the rocks above Ploumanach where we had come to spend the day painting the pink cliffs.
“A man has his duties, Jeanne. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be a man. Making a choice and sticking with it is what gives a shape to our life.” He was painting a brooding seascape in bold lines of cobalt, with a fine thread of yellow foam scribbled across the sand.
I added the last strokes to my watercolor. “I know I change my mind too often.”
“That is because you are only sixteen-years-old, Jeanne, and you don’t know yet what you want out of life.”
“And you, aged philosopher? Do you know what you want out of life?”
“Yes, I want to paint! Doesn’t matter where. Here in Brittany, in Paris, maybe when the war is over I will go to Morocco or Egypt…”
“To paint blazing deserts, camels, exotic women in yellow silk veils?”
He laughed. “You would look charming in a yellow silk veil. But show me what you have done today.”
I step back from my easel to let him have a look at my work, holding my breath as I watch his face. I can guess his reaction by the way his mouth tightens at the corner and his eyes squint. He is never very generous with praise. But today he says —
“Not bad, for a girl of your age. You have captured the lay of the shore in that sweeping line quite admirably. Your brushwork in the clouds here is a bit clumsy, but the colors are subtle. This violet, tangerine, and gray truly give the sense of an impending storm.” He holds up the picture to study it closer, then nods. “There is feeling and emotion in it.”
The ocean wind scrambles a loose strand of my hair, blowing it into my mouth and eyes. “Passion.” I suggest, brushing the hair from my face. “Violet and tangerine are the colors of passion.”
André rolls his eyes. “Peut-être. But why not red, scarlet, orange, fuchsia? Besides what would you know about passion?”
I shake my head and do not answer, kicking at a stone with the scuffed toe of my shoe.
Finally, I say, “Who will teach me to paint if you go off to war?” But what I mean is, “How can we possibly live without you?”
“I know you are sad that I have to go. All of you.” He blinks and turns away so I won’t see his face. “They say a war can’t last long. I will probably be home again in a matter of weeks.”
We are silent for awhile, looking out at the ocean. Far below the pinkish cliffs, we can hear the waves pounding the shore. Along the yellow beach, a little boy in a red jacket runs along the sand with a prancing dog. It must be the lighthouse keeper’s son and I wonder if the keeper will have to go to war, like André and Papa, and if the lighthouse will be left deserted.
I swirl my brush in black and purple and daub some more paint in my clouds. “Perhaps I could enroll in a school to study painting while you are gone.” I say this partly to change the subject, but also because it is something I have been thinking about.
André looks at me, surprised. Clearly, it never crossed his mind that I might want to go to art school. Now he ponders the idea and says at last, “Why not? Many girls enroll in the School of Decorative Arts, these days. There are courses for decorators at the academy of Montparnasse in Rue de la Grande Chaumière. You might learn a skill you could practice at home.”
“But I want to paint portraits and nudes.” He raises his eyebrow at that. “I want to make art! Not decorate teapots with rosebuds. I want to be a painter! A real painter.”
“Being a painter is a very hard life even for a man.”
“But Marie Laurencin and Susan Valadon, they are successful women painters.”
“Yes, but for a woman to be a painter, she must be rich and have an independent income! Or she must be the lover of a very important painter herself, and being a painter’s mistress or lawful wife is almost worse for a woman than being a painter. I don’t say this to discourage you from painting. But it cannot become your profession. Maman and Papa would never want you to lead such a life.”
“But you will lead an artist’s life,” I object.
“Girls don’t become painters for the same reason they don’t become soldiers, or chefs or the President of the Republic.”
“And why is that?”
André sucks in his cheeks and doesn’t answer straightaway. The granite cliffs seem to take on animal shapes as the violet dusk deepens around us. Overhead, screeching gulls reel back to their high nests. My brother puts away his paints and folds up his easel. It is almost time to go home.
“If you don’t know the answer to that question, it means you haven’t grown up enough.”
Why must he always treat me like a child? I turn on my heels and stalk off towards the old lighthouse, leaving my easel and paint box behind, forgetting, just like the child he accused me of being, that this might be our last lesson for a long time to come. I glance back to see him packing up my things, then gazing out at the ocean. He looks so miserable and lonely that I run back up to him and throw my arms around him.
“Let’s never argue my little Nenette!” he says, “You will be what you wish! The gods will decide.” He kisses the top of my head.
Today we have a guest post from Rachel Hailey. Rachel was born and raised in the South. She’s all about that nerd life and in between writing she’s dedicated herself to raising the next generation of nerds. If she’s not online or staring at a book she can usually be found at the local game store rolling dice, shuffling cards, or planning her next cosplay.
Her childhood was most prominently shaped by the works of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Anne Rice and the Brothers Grimm.
I’ve been in love with monsters since I was a little and got angry when Belle turned the Beast into a boring old prince. As I grew older and more obsessed with fairy tales, I found two genres that truly spoke to my black heart. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.
These powerhouses rose to popularity fast during the late ’90s, and early 2000s. Those years exploded with amazing stories of dazzling monsters. Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton were among the first and are still synonymous with Urban Fantasy. But around the time Anita was toying with the notion of staking Jean-Claude, Sherrilyn McQueen (Kenyon) introduced us to Acheron and his band of tortured but scorching hot daimon slayers. While Harry rides an undead dino, J.R. Ward first showed us the wicked streets of Caldwell where the Black Dagger Brotherhood protects their race against the Lessening Society.
Anyone who has read a good Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy will agree that there is magic in the ink. But what is the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy? Both include the same elements: mystery, action, adventure, supernatural, and yes, sexy times.
So what are the differences?
All four of these series feature creatures that don’t just lurk in the shadows – they’re at home in the dark. The stories bleed tension, and the only thing higher than the number of pages are the body counts.
With so many similarities, it’s the technical details that define which side of the aisle a book gets shelved.
One of the easiest difference to spot is Point of View. Black Dagger Brotherhood and other Paranormal Romance stories are usually told in third-person, giving readers the full experience by switching perspectives among many characters. Urban Fantasy authors, such as Hamilton and Butcher, rely on first-person, fully immersing readers in the heads and hearts of their protagonists.
As Paranormal Romance series unfolds, they often maintain this same energy with each book centering on a new couple, while in Urban Fantasy a single protagonist continues to shine center stage, no matter how many books follow.
The next difference can be a little tricky to identify. Paranormal Romance are more character-driven. It’s the emotions, the development of the characters, and their relationships that keep us turning pages. The relationships are the main focus. The tension comes from the need to see a couple (or more!) handle their issues and find their happily ever after.
Urban Fantasy, on the other hand, are plot-driven. Investigating the murder, solving the case, saving the world are the defining moments for these tales. That’s not to say relationships aren’t important in Urban Fantasy. Usually, they provide much-needed motivation for the protagonist to get off their ass and do their job or save the world, pushing them to be better, stronger, harder.
This brings us to my next point. Sex. The pages of Paranormal Romance blister fingers and leave readers dry-mouthed, but so too can Urban Fantasy. Usually, the scenes are shorter, less descriptive. The relationships form slowly over books and culminate in a scene that begins scorching and ends with a closed door. (Damn you doors.)
But these rules are often shattered with impunity which continues to leave readers a little confused. Anita arguably has more sex in one book than the entire cast of the Dark Hunter universe, and it’s twice as graphic. There’s also the matter of POV. Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series is told in first person and focuses on the same characters through all seven (wonderful) books. The Night Huntress series is also heavily plot-centric but undeniably falls into the realm of Paranormal Romance.
So what is the difference?
I’ve heard Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy referred to as cousins, but I disagree. I think they’re much closer than that, and deciding where they are listed comes down to opinion.
There’s an ugly side to this – The great disdain the Romance genres garner even within the publishing community. (Which makes no sense as it is the highest-grossing genre. Don’t believe me? Google is free.) Often this contempt leaves agents and authors slapping Fantasy on a book instead of Romance to appeal to a wider audience.
It starts with the cover. They replace the image of the muscled hero with a detailed, gritty image of the heroine holding a blade as she scowls fiercely into the night. I was told recently this was because Urban Fantasy readers are so much choosier about art. But are they really, or is this just another stereotype rooted in the belief that romance readers and authors are somehow less than?
In the end, it doesn’t matter where a book is shelved, or whether the cover has a half-naked man. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance stories speak to some of the darkest corners of the human soul. Whether you read for the action or the action, remember, genres are labels, and like all labels, they can help or hinder. Don’t be afraid to cross the aisle and reach for a new author. What you find may surprise you.
Dark Paranormal Romance
Date Published: January 18, 2021
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing
The Sunfire Queen, Sierra, has waited for her chance to rule, thinking life would be better with her mother dead. She was wrong. The Court of Light is in Shambles. Her people are terrified and despise her. She has no friends, no love, and no hope. When a new war hovers on the horizon, Sierra must find the lost beastkyn Mikhail or her court will perish, and she’ll lose her shot at redemption.
Quick to grin and quicker to kill, Mikhail has made his share of mistakes–being imprisoned has given him time to ponder each poor decision. But when Sierra frees him, he earns the opportunity to make some more. She’s gorgeous and despite her fiery nature, as cold as the snow-capped mountains of Russia. He can’t wait to see how fast he can make her melt.
About The Author
Rachel Hailey was born and raised in the South. She’s all about that nerd life and in between writing she’s dedicated herself to raising the next generation of nerds. If she’s not online or staring at a book she can usually be found at the local game store rolling dice, shuffling cards, or planning her next cosplay.
Her childhood was most prominently shaped by the works of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Anne Rice and the Brothers Grimm.
Mikhail leaned down, giving her plenty of time to turn her head or pull away. The orange specks bloomed in her eyes. He closed the minuscule gap, capturing her lips. They were as soft as rose petals. He stifled a hiss of pleasure as her mouth opened under his, and when his tongue swept over hers, her entire body shuddered, and she moaned.
He deliberately kept his hands where they were, but how they wanted to roam down her body. Too soon, the song ended, and she broke the kiss.
He opened his mouth to apologize, but stopped. He wasn’t sorry about keeping secrets. This was how his life was. Yet, when he looked up and found her brown eyes leveled on him, the scent of sadness rolling through the car, he was sorry this was the life he had to offer.
“How many other secrets are you hiding?” she asked, but not accusingly, more like she was as tired of his issues as he was of hers.
“So, where does that leave us?” Sierra asked, voice low.
He smiled, baring his teeth. “The closest thing to friendship two Kyn royals can have.”
The pink lightkyn made a strangled sound, her back pressed harder against the door. He expected her to disappear into the glass.
Scalded by shame again, his talons shrank. He ran a hand through his hair. None of this was the girl’s fault. He opened his mouth to apologize, but before the first syllable left his lips, she exploded into laughter. The sound was like chiming bells and as lyrical as a child’s rhyme. Although beautiful, it was joyless and manic, the kind of sound the condemned might make as they laughed on their way to the gallows.
Reassessing her threat level, it was his turn to take a step away. Was she dangerous or merely unbalanced? Any creature who laughed like that needed to be handled carefully.
“Are you well?” he asked as the loud peals continued to ring out.
“No, I am most certainly not,” she said between gasps. “Are you?” She collapsed against the door, dropping her injured arm.
Wary of the lightkyn and her bizarre reactions, he shook his head. “No.”
She sobered and looked at him with soulful brown eyes. “I suppose you wouldn’t be. Would you like to come inside?”
“Who are you?”
“Sierra,” he said, tasting the name. It rang with power and depth, matching this girl with wild laughter and sad eyes. “Will you help me escape before the new ruler finds me?”
She smiled, revealing even white teeth, and tilted her head. The last of the sunlight fell across her face like a mask. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. I am the new Queen of The Court of Light.”
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