SECRETS & LIES by Janet Sketchley ~ a review

Secrets & Lies. 2 jpg

Who can she trust?

The author sets up a situation where Carol Daniels, a pretty blonde waitress at a local café, her son Paul, and wealthy antagonist Patrick Stairs are caught in an elaborate trap set up by drug lord Lear, a man with a far reach. Sadness is a burden Carol carries as her oldest son Keith died of a drug overdose, and his father and her husband, rock ‘n roll guitarist Skip Daniels, abandoned her and Paul. As if that is not enough to weigh her down, Carol’s brother Harry Silver is in prison having been convicted of serial murder and rape. He’s also holding out on Lear, having hidden a large sum of illicit drug money, and the drug lord is threatening Carol to help him get his money back.

The author does a fine job with characterization. We get to know jittery, suspicious, emotionally shut-down Carol who is on the verge and sometimes even crosses the line at being over-protective and controlling toward her teenage son Paul. Yet, the author somehow makes this tense mother likeable, and I found myself in her corner.

Oldies radio jock Joey Hill is likeable from the get go. He’s an all-around nice guy, but unbeknownst to Carol, he’s also got a drug past. When she finds out, she’s unable to trust him and turns to Patrick who is being manipulated by Lear. And so, the treacherous web gets more tangled.

This is a Redemption’s Edge Novel, book two but it is definitely a stand-alone. It is Christian fiction and a clean read. I recommend it to anyone who likes a well plotted suspense novel with well-developed characters.

Lavender vs Mackey ‘ACTS OF MALICE’ ~ which of the 4 Classic Temperaments are they?

AOM Cover

Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric

Lavender Raines: Diplomatic, Appropriate

Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie: Guardian, Tough Guy

 

I use the Four Classic Temperaments when viewing my main characters in terms of similarities, complimentary attitudes, and conflict. I don’t use personality charts because personality can be something that is acquired over time to cover something deeper. Temperament is that deeper part.

Most people aren’t just one type. They are dominant in one and recessive in another. I see Lavender as Phlegmatic/Winter Dominant/Sanguine~Spring Recessive. And Mackey is Melancholy/Fall Dominant~Sanguine/Spring Recessive.

AAA 4 Temperments

Lavender and Mackey hardly know each other. Their temperaments appear to be in opposition to each other. He is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. She is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Her husband was brutally murdered right before the holidays, and the FBI isn’t telling her anything. She’s afraid for her life, her daughter’s, and her mother’s. She afraid of tough guy Mackey, but he could be the only one who can find her husband’s killers. Can they find common ground amidst the treachery, lies, and turmoil?

Excerpt:

Chapter Eight

Lavender Raines

 Wrapped in my ratty robe, I sat in George’s recliner with my feet dangling off the raised end in equally shabby, fluffy slippers. Savoring my first mug of coffee, I watched a favorite home buyers, renovators, and flippers cable show. On this morning’s episode, a petite woman with aqua combs in her frosted hair, and an artistic bent, shopped for a tiny house.

My mother waltzed into the living room in her kimono, carrying a steaming mug.

I pointed at the home improvement show. “Isn’t that A-frame adorable? I can see myself in it.”

“Oh, sure. I see you bumping your head when you climb that silly ladder trying to get into the loft to go to sleep.” She sat on the sofa.

“It’s got wheels. I could move anywhere I wanted. There are so many places I’d like to visit.”

“And just how would you haul that thing around?” Her laugh conveyed skepticism.

“I’d buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee and tow it wherever I went.”

My mother stared at me. “Lavender, I think you’ve lost your mind since George died.”

I lowered the sound. “Why? Tiny houses are the new rage. Lots of people, from all walks of life, buy them or build them.”

“Well, Strickland’s don’t do that sort of thing.”

“Mother, I’m no longer a Strickland. Haven’t been one for a long time. I’m a Raines.” What she could never be told was why I longed to run away. The problem was, I’d take the image of George’s tortured body with me wherever I went.

She placed her mug on the coffee table. “Lavender, darling, for your own good, I think you should come live with me for a while.”

I turned off the television. “Mother, I appreciate your offer. I do, but I’m going to stay right here. I’m not running off in a tiny house on wheels, as appealing as that might seem.”

“You exasperate me. I’m worried about you.”

I walked over to the sofa, sat beside her, and hugged her. “I love you.”

“I never doubted that. I love you too.” She stood and swiped at a tear. “How about some more coffee?”

I followed her into the kitchen and sat at the table while she brewed a fresh pot.

She turned to face me. “Kendall and I will be leaving this morning. She can’t miss any more classes. Duke will be only so forgiving.”

“Yes, she has to get back to school.” I stood and wrapped an arm around my mother’s waist. “Thank you for chauffeuring her.”

She stepped back and took a long look at me. Her head bobbled for a moment. “Really, Darling, you must do something with your hair. That bun is falling apart.”

“It’s a loose chignon. It’s a mess right now, and I don’t care one bit.” I laughed and gave her a quick hug.

“Darling, I swear, somebody switched you at birth. You can’t be mine.” She emptied the old coffee out of our mugs and filled them with fresh brew.

I placed two percent milk and artificial sweetener on the table, added a splash of the milk to my coffee, and doused hers with both the sweetener and the milk.

We sat at the table in somewhat companionable silence, drinking coffee.

I placed my mug on the table top. “I have to review our finances to see if Kendall can remain at Duke next year. We’re not broke by any means. George always did the responsible thing and, of course, had a life insurance policy. That only goes so far, and we don’t have George’s salary coming in.”

Mother blinked twice.

Oh, my, I didn’t dare laugh. She’d already put on her false lashes.

She stared and blinked again. “I’ll pay for Duke. Kendall is not going to some state school.”

Resisting her would be emotionally exhausting, and she’d drag Kendall into it. “Thank you, Mother. Kendall loves Duke. I know she’ll appreciate your generosity.” I took a sip of coffee. That was one thing off my plate.

Kendall would be happy at Duke. That left two things.

How I was going to get the information, I didn’t know, but I had to find out what had happened to George. Agent Lightfoot had stopped returning my calls.

And what was up with Randall Creston? Why was he intimidating Abigail and Olivia?

 

Day Ten, Morning

Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie

The water sluicing over my body was bracing, but in an abbreviated wetsuit, not frigid. I kept swimming out to sea. The waves were with me. I caught a big one and rode it farther out. The return would be the trial.

My dive watch told me I’d gone far enough, so I stopped and treaded water.

Through a pair of military grade goggles, I fixed my eyes on the shore and began the strenuous swim back. My thigh muscles strained as my legs sliced through the waves, which were now against me. I hadn’t worn flippers intentionally, to make the swim more difficult. When I reached the shore, I was winded.

Sunrise Boulevard ran north and south along the beach. It had a bike path and sidewalks on either side but no parking along the road. Three large public lots intruded onto the beach, having hard-packed sand due to constant vehicle usage. They were spaced evenly apart along the beach front. I walked to my graphite colored Jeep Wrangler, parked in the lot at Sunrise and Beaumont.

I shed my wet suit, slipped a pair of jeans over my swimming trunks, and fastened a clip-on holster to my belt. Then, I stowed my wetsuit in the four-by-four’s cargo space.

A seagull swooped low over the vehicle as I opened the driver’s side backdoor. I removed the floor mat, punched a code into a tiny panel, and lifted the cover of a custom-built secret compartment beneath the floor. I pulled out my Berretta, and secured it in my holster. After I threw on a black untucked, long sleeved shirt, I was good to go.

That’s when I noticed Lavender Raines walking on the sidewalk next to the bike path. The early morning sun, rising over the ocean, played with an occasional red strand of hair in the bun that looked as if it was about to fall apart. Her hair was lush and dark, but not quite as dark as I had thought.

“Mrs. Raines.” I waved. No time like the present to do as The Old Man requested. Check up on her.

She stopped and placed the flat of her palm over her eyebrows, to ward off the morning sun, as she tried to figure out who I was. Then she smiled.

I trotted to her. “It’s good to see you. How are you doing?”

She clasped her hands together. “I’m fine. Thank you for asking. Mackenzie, is it?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s so good to see you again.” I’d never been accused of having a way with words.

“So kind of you.” She backed up a step.

Awkward.

A kid on a skateboard propelled himself forward by repeatedly striking his foot on the sidewalk. He lost his balance and the skateboard left the pavement, flying six inches off the ground, directly at her.

She let out a small, frightened cry.

I grabbed her and turned her away from the wooden missile. We both staggered backward.

The skateboard grazed my calf. I winced.

“Ouch, my ankle,” she cried.

The kid ran after his board, and we never saw him again.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I tried to get you out of the way.”

She held onto my arm. “Don’t apologize. I’m grateful to you. Are you hurt?”

“Nothing much at all.” I’d have a bruise and would feel it for a while.

She took a halting step but found it difficult, painful. “I think I twisted it.”

Her leg buckled. As she collapsed to one side, she tried to break her fall by grasping my waist. Her head jerked and her eyes opened wide. She withdrew her hand from my weapon as if a snake had bitten her. If she hadn’t known I carry concealed, she did now.

I lifted her, holding on to her until she was able to stand up more-or-less straight. “Keep your weight off your foot.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“If I brace you on one side, can you hobble to my Jeep?”

“I’ll try.”

We took a faltering step, then another. A three-legged dog could’ve done much better. When she whimpered, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the Jeep.

Once I got her comfortably settled, I ignored her protests as I untied her running shoe, slipped off the sock, and examined her foot. “There’s nothing major broken. Still, you could have a hair-line fracture. Would you like to go to the emergency room?”

“No. No, thank you. I was on my way to my friend Emmi’s house. It’s on Beaumont off of Catalina– not far from here. If you could drop me there.”

I shimmied the sock back onto her foot over pale-pink painted toes that matched her fingernails. Then, I slid the shoe back on. After I tied the laces, I gently patted the shoe. “All done.”

When I got behind the wheel, she looked directly at me. “A lot of men in Florida carry concealed, but you’re more than you appear to be. From what George told me, Mr. Agard, he’s pretty important in the government.”

I looked straight ahead. “I don’t know that much about what Mr. Agard does.” True, very true.

“At the funeral, you said you knew my husband. Do you know what happened to him? He said he was going to New Orleans and they found his tortured body in Caracas?”

“I can tell you with absolute certainty, it had nothing whatsoever to do with another woman.”

“I already know that,” she snapped. She closed her eyes and took a breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“No apology necessary. Your world has been turned upside-down. I’ll take you to your friend’s house.” I fired up the engine, determined now more than ever to learn what had happened to George Raines. The man should be home with his wife.

Which of the Four Classic Temperaments are you? Leave a comment. I’d love to know!

PURCHASE ACTS OF MALICE ON AMAZON

NIKE N. CHILLEMI’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

 

 

Christmas Under Wraps (Mullet Harbor Book 1) by Fay Lamb ~ a review

Christmas Under Wraps

Romance, Humor, Christmas

This is such an engaging Christmas story. The cast of quirky, sometimes baffling townsfolk living in Mullet Harbor pull you right in.

English Professor Christian Abrams and his nephew Dylan are on the run and wind up in Mullet Harbor, a unique hamlet in the Florida everglades. Chris is broke, out of gas, and has a child to feed. This is when he meets sweet and compassionate local school teacher Kaylee McFarland who talks him into staying in Mullet Harbor at least until after Christmas. That’s when it starts to get interesting…and when Chris learns the townsfolk really do take care of each other and they rely on their faith.

We meet Herb, the mayor who wears flip-flops…and Abigail, the shy town baker who flits around like a hummingbird. Then throw in a Cajun sheriff not afraid to take a chance on a good man. Stir in a delightful little girl named Sophie who’s had more than her share of sorrow in her short life. Could the icing on the top be a Christmas miracle? Perhaps more than one.

This is a fun, delightful read…a romp through the swamp. There’s also an alligator named Abercrombie.

Purchase On Amazon

Annabelle’s Ruth (The Kinsman Redeemer Book 1) by Betty Thomason Owens ~ a review

Annabelle's Ruth

This beautifully crafted retelling of the biblical story of the Book of Ruth, brought forward to and set in the racially turbulent American south of the 1950s, stays true to the essence of the original.

The story gripped me from the beginning when Annabelle Cross and her two daughters-in-law lose their husbands off the coast of California when their fishing boat capsizes. Following the biblical narrative, one daughter-in-law leaves Annabelle to return to her parents, but native Hawaiian born Connie stays and they both travel to Annabel’s home in Tennessee. Most of the locals are happy to have Annabelle home again, but a few whisper that Connie is mixed-race mulatto.

Figuratively speaking, I wanted to bite my nails when one of Annabelle’s close relatives, a powerful local man who might have be involved in some shady deals, dearly wanted for her to be forced to leave Tennessee and to take that daughter-in-law with her.

Where the biblical Ruth picked wheat, Connie struggles with mourning for her dead husband and hides her pregnancy as she does the back-breaking labor of picking cotton. Alton, who owns the fields (her “Boaz”) takes note and has compassion for her. I loved the relationship of Connie and Alton growing from mutual respect to a deep love.

Purchas Annabelle’s Ruth on Amazon

Betty’s Amazon Author Page

ANNABELLE’S JOY – Kinsman Redeemer, Book 3 by Betty Thomason Owens ~ an author interview

Annabelle's JoyHistorical Romance, with a dash of suspense

I’ve known Betty Thomason Owens for a number of years online. As Chair of the Grace Filled Fiction Spotlight (a venue showcasing the best in Christian fiction), I’ve been blessed to have had Betty, from the very beginning, as a co-chair for the past nine years. Where have the years gone?

So, of course I’m delighted to ask Betty a few questions about her new release, ANNABELLE’S JOY. I’m a widow, and was one of her readers who wanted to see Annabelle let go of the pain of her past loss. I’ve read Annabelle’s Joy and it is a joy to read.flower, daisy

Nike: What brought you to write this book/series?

Betty: I was inspired to write the first book in the Kinsman Redeemer series after completing a study of the biblical book of Ruth. I love Ruth’s story and I’ve read it many times but this time, a story idea began in my imagination. What if?

I wrote the story and ANNABELLE’S RUTH was picked up by my publisher. However, she wanted a series. I made something up, she liked it, she accepted it. The first two books were easy to write. The central character, Connie Cross, was Annabelle’s daughter-in-law. Annabelle was the Naomi character, Connie was her “Ruth,” who left her home out of devotion to her mother-in-law.

SUTTER’S LANDING is the sequel to that story, as Connie sets out to begin a new life with her “Boaz,” Alton Wade. The story could have been complete at the close of book two. However, my readers wanted to know what happened to Annabelle, and so did I. After all, in SUTTER’S LANDING, she had a would-be suitor. Would she be able to let go of her painful past, cast her fears aside, and love again? I had to find out. The final book, ANNABELLE’S JOY, answers those questions. I hope my readers will finish with a smile on their tear-stained faces.

Nike: What comes first, plot or characters? How do you develop each of them?

Betty: Definitely characters. Most of my stories have been character driven. I’m not good at plotting. I end up following rabbit-trails because my characters develop minds of their own.

I decide what type of person I’d like my character to be in the beginning, and where I want them to end up. I have an idea of a character arc I’d like to develop along the way and try to stay within those parameters. Outside of that, I build a character from the inside out. I decide on their personalities, then create their outward appearance, using a simple character sheet (I use the one found in Scrivener). I may deviate from that first impression later, but I try to stay consistent. A character sheet helps me do that.

Nike: Do you have a blog or a newsletter? How’s that going?

Betty: I’m so glad you asked that. I do have a website and a personal blog called, “Hello, Thursday Morning!” I think it does well enough. I’m also the cofounder/developer of a multi-author blog called Inspired Prompt. It’s a blog dedicated to helping new and indie writers by providing information to help them grow in their craft. That blog is doing extremely well.

Both blogs require a lot of work, but I believe it’s definitely worth the time and trouble. I love that we’re helping other writers with pertinent information, while giving them a place to meet other writers and possibly market their published works.

Short/Fun Questions:

You can live anywhere while you write a novel set there. Where is that? Why?

Betty: Orcas Island (Puget Sound, Washington) – It’s like another world and so conducive to writing!

Describe yourself in three words.

Betty: Loyal, thoughtful, funny

What is your fav vacay spot?

Betty: Gulf Shores, Alabama

ANNABELLE’S JOY will be released on Amazon on August 6, 2019 ~ https://www.amazon.com/Annabelles-Joy-Wholesome-Romance-Redeemer-ebook/dp/B07TXQRKG3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Annabelle%27s+Joy%2C+Betty+Thomason+Owens&qid=1563206658&s=books&sr=1-1

She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. Drift back into the simple, country life of Tennessee in 1957 with this sequel to award-winning ANNABELLE’S RUTH.

B-Owens Headshot

Bio:

Betty Thomason Owens considers herself a word-weaver, writing stories that touch the heart. Besides her work on the KCWC planning committee, she also leads the Louisville Area ACFW group and is a co-founder of the multi-author Inspired Prompt blog. Married forty-four years, she’s a mother of three, and a grandmother of eight. A part-time bookkeeper at her day-job, she writes for Write Integrity Press, and has seven novels in publication. You can learn more about her at BettyThomasonOwens.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Delilah (Ties that Bind, Book 4) by Fay Lamb ~ a review

Contemporary Christian Romance

Delilah

 

As the story opened, I thought, what fun! Court room antics. A judge and a defense lawyer without a clue they’re in love with each other…when their legal colleagues have known for some time.

A line tickled my funny bone where Delilah defined herself: “Hope has a lot more faith in my goodness than I do. If something good happens, and I’m involved, you can be sure you’re at the scene of an accident.” Yes, it was funny, and I’ve read another novel in this series and know Delilah can be self-serving. However, I suspected there was much more to this sassy female defense attorney than she’s admitting to…and author Fay Lamb shows us that “more” as the story unfolded.

Then the story seamlessly transitions from lighthearted romance to a runaway teenage girl and the plight of the homeless in downtown Orlando, Florida. When Libby, perhaps the sweetest, kindest character in the Ties That Bind series, gets set up and is arrested when coming to the assistance of a near homeless woman…Delilah goes into action. Who is this homeless woman and what is her story?

There are plot twists and turns, a bit of suspense, and no end of underhanded court maneuvers to keep the reader turning pages. The author was able to get me so entwined in the character’s lives, dreams, and struggles that I was compelled to keep turning pages. I highly recommend this novel.

All My Tears by Kathy McKinsey ~ an author interview

 

Five women search for God’s hope through sorrow and deep troubles.

All My Tears

Meet five women who struggle with life’s deep sorrows. Beth fights to recover from alcoholism and to mend her relationships with her family. Ann doesn’t believe God will forgive her. Kathleen wrestles with a years-old fear and with saving her marriage. Cassie needs to learn to deal with chronic depression. Martie finds herself the single parent of the eight-year-old niece she barely knows when the child’s parents die in a car wreck.

See how god gives them the gifts of hope, healing, and love.

Flower, rose bud

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

Nike:  What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

Kathy:  God is our loving Father, and when we stumble and walk away, he waits and watches for us, so that he can see us as soon as we start to return and run to greet us and take us back.

Nike:  Why this genre is important to you, personally?

Kathy:  I write what I enjoy reading. I like books about women, reading how they deal with family and marriage issues; jobs, their work and job setting; and different kinds of relationships—dating, parents, siblings, neighbors, best friends.

Nike:  Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KathyMaking myself start to write exhausts me. When I finally settle into working on a story, I become excited, even after a long session of writing.

THREE FUN BULLET QUESTIONS:

What is your fav vacay spot?  Visiting my mother and daughters in Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  A writer

Describe yourself in three words.  Goofy home body

BIOGRAPHY:Kathy McKinsey 2

Kathy McKinsey grew up on a pig farm in Missouri, and although she’s lived in cities for nearly 40 years, she still considers herself a farm girl. She’s been married to Murray for 31 years, and they have five adult children. She’s had two careers before writing—being a stay-at-home-Mom and working as a rehabilitation teacher of the blind.

Now she lives in Lakewood, Ohio with her husband and two of her children. Besides writing, she enjoys activities with her church, editing for other writers, braille transcribing, crocheting, knitting, and playing with the cat and dogs.

Contact Kathy at:  Kathy.mckinsey@gmail.com

Visit her at:  http://kathymckinseyauthor.blogspot.com/