ENTANGLED by Barbara Ellen Brink ~ a review

Entangled

 

Author Barbara Ellen Brink has been connected to the Grace Awards for a couple of years. Her supernatural thriller SPLIT SENSE won the Grace Award 2011 in the Speculative Fiction category. She was also a judge in the Young Adult category in 2011. So, it’s an honor and a pleasure to let everyone know how much I enjoyed the first book in her California winery mystery series.

 

*****

Sometimes long past memories are like ghosts coming back to haunt us.

Minneapolis divorce attorney, Wilhelmina “Billie” Fredrickson, inherits her adventurer uncle’s Californian winery. She’s determined not to leave her present life by moving to the left coast. She’s merely going to attend to all the legal details and then put the winery on the market. She soon begins having the reoccurring nightmares she used to have as a girl after a boy in her high school attempted to rape her at a drunken party. He didn’t get too far, as she broke his nose with a wine bottle, giving him a concussion. This is no helpless heroine, yet she is plagued by buried and conflicting emotions from her past she’s rather duck than deal with.

Arriving in California, Billie is immediately attracted to attorney Handle Parker, who was her Uncle Jack’s legal eagle. However, she can’t shake the feeling that he seems to resent her inheriting the Fredrickson Winery. One of the lines I most enjoyed in the novel is…I knew he questioned the validity of my receiving my uncle’s holdings, as though I’d conspired to put a voodoo curse on Jack before he died, which was preposterous since I was raised Lutheran.

Author Barbara Ellen Brink has crafted complex characters. Billie has many secrets, most of them hidden from herself. She’s got a complex relationship with Sabrina, her protective mother. And Billie has a tendency to run away from her problems. She’s definitely pushing down disturbing memories of a long lost summer at the winery twenty-years ago when as a girl she first met Handle as well as the many not so subtle hints that her mother has quite a few secrets of her own.

A break-in at the winery and the discovery of troubling photographs forces Billie to face her past. Then there’s vandalism which is a serious setback to her plan for putting the winery on a local winery tour. And let’s not forget the attempt upon her life. All these add up to one enticing mystery read. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself yearning for an aromatic glass of California wine and perhaps a slice or two of good cheddar.

wine grapes

Amazon/Kindle: http://amzn.to/14iCFIC

Barnes and Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/14y0NuT

 

What’s So Funny About Murder? Gina Conroy Talks Her Use of Humor in Crime Fiction

Digging Up Death

…and Her Latest Release, DIGGING UP DEATH

I hear author Gina Conroy has been keeping a diary since second grade. I think a lot of writers start out writing in some manner at a very early age. I love to chat with writers who have been in love with the written word for years and I’ve been looking forward to this interview simply because the subject interests me a great deal: humor in murder mystery writing.

Nike: So, I’ll just get on with it and get to the questions. It’s great to have you here on the hot seat.

Gina: Um, hot seat? Thanks, I think…

Nike: Your heroine, archaeology professor Mari Duggins, has an awful lot going on in her life. It seems she’s in a whirlwind. Did you find that frantic pace lent itself to utilizing humor in the story?

Gina: Honestly, when writing the story I didn’t consider the frantic pace would lend to humor. In fact, I think the subject matter and hectic life Mari leads is anything but funny. Instead, it’s weighty, but it’s the characters and their personalities that make the story humorous. It’s their unique perspective and dialogue and reactions to their world around them and how they cope with that world that brings out the humor. I believe it’s human nature to find the funny in a life that can be burdensome, especially in this story. So I guess the answer to your question is yes, the frantic pace did lend itself to humor in the story.

Nike: The cover is wonderful and intriguing. Makes me think this is going to be a fun murder mystery. Is that what you had intended?

Gina: I did not envision a cartoonish cover, but I love it! When the designer asked for ideas I sent pictures of real life models in stylish dresses in grave yards or holding shovels. That was my idea, but I think the cover captures the humorous side of DIGGING UP DEATH.

Nike: How did you come up with your main character Mari Duggins? Does she resemble anyone in your real life?

Gina: Mari is a compilation of every working mom with a dream, including myself. Though most of her circumstances are different from my own, I was able to pull her emotions from my life and from others. Though I don’t work outside the home, I am a mom of four trying to build a writing career and I often feel pulled in many different directions. Many times mom guilt rises when I focus on my writing, and when I’m focusing on family, I sometimes feel I’m not working my writing career hard enough. So she’s not crafted after anyone specific, but you can say she represents all moms struggling to find balance in their lives.

Nike: What inspired you to write this story? And what would you like readers to get out of it?

Gina: At the time I was homeschooling my children and we started on an ancient Egypt unit, we stumbled upon the fascinating Pharaoh Hatshepsut who though a woman crowned herself pharaoh. Her history and the fact her name was etched out on most of her cartouche’s in an effort to erase her from history and her mummy was missing told me there had to be something more to her story. So we dug into her history and about that time Egyptologists thought they found her missing mummy. It was the perfect backdrop to a modern mystery. Then Mari Duggins showed up with all her baggage with Fletcher and Jack, her ex husband, an idea was born.

After reading DIGGING UP DEATH, I hope readers will take away with them that while life is hard and crazy, we don’t have to do it alone. We have friends, family, and a God who loves and forgives us even if we can’t forgive ourselves. We don’t have to hide behind masks because we’re afraid to show people who we really are. We just need to know who we can trust and who brings out the best in us. And though our lives may not go according to our plans, they are our lives, and we can find the good in it amidst the chaos and ugly.

Tell us about your novel, DIGGING UP DEATH.

DIGGING UP DEATH is about a single mom struggling from the emotional turmoil of a divorce she didn’t see coming as she tries to balance a career and raise her three children. It’s about a woman who wears masks to hide her pain and who she really is from the world and from God. On her journey to self discovery, forgiveness, and healing she stubbles upon a murder, a stolen Egyptian artifact and must wrestle with the pull of an old lover and an ex-husband who’s wanted by the FBI. Mari Duggins seldom makes the right choices, but comes to learn she can’t keep fighting on her own and must surrender to God to find her self worth I know the subject matter seems heavy, but I hope it’s infused with enough humor, faith, mystery and quirky characters to balance that out.

Purchase Links:

KINDLE
NOOK
KOBO
iTUNES

Gina ConroyWhere Gina can be found on the internet.

Facebook: Author Gina Conroy
Twitter: @GinaConroy
Pinterest: Author Gina Conroy

http://ginaconroy.com

gina@ginaconroy.com

Recipes From the Kitchens of Sanctuary Point

Baking, Apfelstrudel, Apple Strudel

Some say I write “Foodie Fiction,” while others say I’m a crime fictionista. I’m okay with both of those. How about I’m a crime fictionista who writes foodie fic that also happens to be action packed, classic, historical whodunits with romance set in the mid-1940s?

Whatever the case may be, I love to pour over recipes. And here are two favorite recipes of mine that would’ve been used my characters in my Sanctuary Point series.

Apple Strudel is mouth watering. My paternal grandmother used to make this delicacy and our entire family enjoyed it so much. It’s a fairly complex confection to bake. There is several steps to it. The end result is well worth the effort. An amazing thing happened after I had finished writing BURNING HEARTS and my editor had the manuscript. I was reading it over and realized Mrs. Brogna was amazingly like my grandmother. I remember my grown father stealing a confection before she was ready to set it out on the table. She smacked him on the behind with a towel and chased my dad around the kitchen table while he laughed. That is something Mrs. Brogna would do.

Apfelstrudel – If I had Mrs. Brogna’s old-fashioned apple strudel recipe, this would be it.

Apple Strudel Dough:

2 ½ C flour

¼ tsp. salt

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil

13 tbsp. water

1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl.

2. Stir with a spoon until the dough forms a ball.

3. Knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky.

4. Form the dough into a ball and coat it with additional oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour.

5. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a 9X13 rectangle.

6. Keep surface well-floured and gently flip the dough rectangle, keeping the long side toward you. Roll out as thinly as you can without breaking the dough. About 3 ft. X 2 ft. or slightly more.

Apple Strudel Filling:

½ C dark raisins

6  medium to large chopped, peeled and cored Granny Smith apples (not as fine as diced)

¾ C granulated sugar

1 tsp. lemon zest (grated lemon rind)

4 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Mix all ingredients together.

Preparing the Apple Strudel:

1 C melted butter

½ C white unseasoned breadcrumbs

1. Brush dough with slightly more than half the melted butter.

2. Evenly sprinkle the buttered dough with breadcrumbs.

3. Spread the filling along the longest edge of the dough as if it were a log.

4. Begin to roll the dough and the log of filling, slowly and gently.

5. Place the rolled strudel seam down in a horseshoe shape on a greased baking sheet.

6. Brush the remaining butter over the top of the strudel. Sprinkle a tiny bit of granulated sugar    on top.

7.Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

BH, Paper Back

BURNING HEARTS:

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?

Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.

Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs

Amazon/Print and Kindle. http://amzn.to/1b9pulE

Barnes and Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/16A4y0b

Kolache

Kolacke (the precursor of Linzer Tarts)

Renata Lenart made hers with raspberry jam and served them on New Year’s Day in GOODBYE NOEL, the Christmas/New Years themed novel in the Sanctuary Point series. If I had Renata Lenart’s recipe, this is what it would be.

1/2 C butter, softened
1 small package cream cheese (3 oz.), softened
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C jam (raspberry, strawberry, or apricot)
1/4 C confectioners’ sugar

1. Cream butter and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer, until fluffy. Add flour, and mix well.

2. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut into circles with a 2-inch round cutter.

3. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Spoon 1/4 teaspoon of the jam on each cookie; fold opposite sides together slightly overlapping edges.

4. Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes.

5. Remove to wire racks to cool; sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Goodbye Noel

GOODBYE NOEL:

The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?

Amazon/Kindle. http://amzn.to/11L4fUc

Barnes and Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/18TPVLc

Do you love delish baked goods? Love to pour through recipes? I especially love to do that right before a holiday. I’ll pile up stacks of cookbooks, some of them quite old, many of them with outstanding food photography. Then about a week before the holiday I’ll make myself a strong cup of black tea (perhaps Irish) and spend hours looking through recipes and making my holiday menu.

Nike. Pix

Do you enjoy reading “foodie fiction”?

What do you love about baking and baked goods?

Leave a comment…

You Know The Crime Fic Review You’re Reading’s In Trouble When…

Body Parts, Eyes, Scrunched

There were a few times if I could’ve willed myself to love the crime fiction novel I was reading and had planned to review, I would’ve. Especially when the particular story is being raved about on every blog I encounter. And yet, and yet…I couldn’t over look certain things. So, where is a fairy godmother with a magic wand when I need one to give me a police procedure lobotomy?

I tell myself it’s a matter of personal preference. I just have to get with the program and force myself to believe something like…the rookie detective’s high school sweetheart (who just happened to come back to town) could play Nancy Drew and best an entire police department, running through crime scenes in her Prada stilettos, and solve the crime in between manicure appointments. Yeah, I tell myself, that could really happen…or something similar.

Is it remotely possible it ain’t me? Or, you know the book’s a bomb (not da bomb) when…

  • Your amateur sleuth is so kindly and good she refuses to suspect anyone at any time.
  • Yes, real life crime scenes are very busy places…and your author has seen fit to name and describe every single member of law enforcement personnel who could possibly be present all in the first chapter. In addition they all have similar names. There’s Detectives John Slater and Jim Gardner. Then there are police officers Ruby Jones (male) and Randy Generette (female). So, by the time you get to news reporter Lance Porter and medical examiner Porter Lane you’re totally confused.
  • By the end of the first chapter, you know the ending. You do plod on only to discover you were right. You found every clue, knew the red herrings were shams, were able to predict the plot straight through to the end. Great, just great.
  • The sleuth turns out to be Superman’s cousin. He/she has no set backs, no worries, no trials that can’t be handled in an instant.
  • The story globe trots to places and locales you absolutely know that you know the author knows nothing about.
  • You’re just beginning to realize the villain isn’t supposed to be over the top or campy.

BURNING HEARTS Now Out In Paperback

BH, Paper Back

BURNING HEARTS is my first born so to speak…my debut novel. This classic whodunit with an endearing love story began its publishing journey as an ebook. It’s also been called a sweet historical romantic suspense novel. And I was thrilled to have it in electronic format and still am.

Now my wonderful publisher, Desert Breeze, has brought it out in paperback and I’m delighted.

BURNING HEARTS: (Historical Murder Mystery with Romance, mid-1940s)

—arson/murder, action, and romance

—Sweet romance, sophisticated themes presented tastefully

—Finaled in 2011 Grace Awards Romance/Historical Romance category

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?

Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.

Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.

 

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Long Island, New York

September 1946

Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary — her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada’s house and dress shop.

She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.

Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada’s house.

She’d think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning.

Nothing would ruin this day.

She climbed Ada’s wooden front steps and opened the door.

Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.

“Ada! Ada, answer me please.” Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman’s image. “Ada can you hear me?”

Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone — no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.

She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn’t outside, she had to be upstairs.

As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.

One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing.

Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.

The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain.

She tried to stand but couldn’t get her bearings.

Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.

Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada’s bedroom.

Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees — must’ve scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn’t see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.

Poppa’s lectures on fire drills flashed into mind — stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.

Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.

Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn’t make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.

 

ENDORSEMENTS:

“Right from the start, BURNING HEARTS captured my imagination and tweaked my curiosity. Nike Chillemi certainly knows how to set a scene and ignite excitement.” ~~ Athol Dickson, three time Christy Award winning author of LOST MISSION and THE OPPOSITE OF ART

“The action starts with Chapter One and keeps on going… I loved the way the hero rode in to the rescue on a bike instead of a white horse and turned out to be a true hero in more ways than one. If you’re looking for a clean romance, the couple is young and innocent, and the romance has the flavor of sweet, young love that it is.” ~~ Barbara Robinson, author of LAST RESORT, posted at Southern Christian Inspirational Blog

Burning Hearts is much more than what the title implies—romance. It is an arson murder story set in fictional Sanctuary Point, a village on Long Island, New York, during the post World War II era. Readers are swept into this 1940s period by well-researched descriptive prose as debut novelist Nike Chillemi weaves language, foods, businesses, clothes and vehicles to create a vivid step back into the past. This inspirational novel is a guaranteed page-turner…” ~~ Mark Young, Hook ’em and Book ’em Blog

“One of the things I most enjoyed about the story was the romance between Erica and Lorne. They were attracted to each other almost immediately, but were unwilling to act on it… enjoyed reading Burning Hearts. It is an inspirational story full of love and hope. Anyone who loves a good mystery paired with a sweet romance should certainly pick up a copy of Burning Hearts.” ~~ Long and Short Reviews

PURCHASE LINK:

Amazon. http://tiny.cc/8kt1vw

001

Readers Fav 5 Star

Announcing the DARKEST HOUR Cover and Release, Book Four Sanctuary Point series

Darkest Hour Cover

Darkest Hour: (Murder Mystery w/Romance, late-1940s)

—a widow is framed by powerful people/the medical examiners knows she didn’t pull the trigger

—Sweet romance, warm intimacy, sophisticated themes presented tastefully

A petite widow, secretary and sole support of her son and grandparents, is framed for the murder of her boss. Wealthy village residents conspire with the DA to indicte her and stop further investigation. The medical examiner thinks the shooter was a tall individual and when his report is shoved aside, starts snooping trying to clear her and in the process falls in love with her.

Lucinda Walsh lost her husband and parents at sea. When she discovers the body of her boss, his A-List society finacee, backed up by her powerful family and a corrupt DA, acuses Lucinda of murder.  She struggles on shielding her five-year-old son, her feisty grandfather and arthritic grandmother from the ugliness of her situation. She mistrusts the dapper ME, thinking he’s a ladies’ man, but soon realizes he may be the only one in her corner.

Hank Jansen, the county ME who’s had his share of pain and loss, doesn’t know if this little widow was in on the murder, but he knows by the trajectory of the bullet she’s too short to have pulled the trigger. His professional opinion ignored, he begins his own investigation and at least one cop accuses him of an ethics violation. He certainly can’t deny he’s fallen head over heals for the accused, and also is crazy about her son. A huge problem is there’s a leak inside the investigation and the murderer is always one step ahead of them.

Endorsements:

Nike Chillemi has written yet another high-action, highly charged mystery. A riveting read .  ~~  Linda Yezak, author of the award winning GIVE THE LADY A RIDE

Purchase Link.

Amazon/Kindle. http://tiny.cc/oe0bsw

Other Covers in the Sanctuary Point series…

Burning HeartsGoodbye Noel

Perilous Shadows

Purchase Links:

Amazon/Kindle. http://tiny.cc/i7nasw