Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Body in the Buick, The Wreck of the Lanternfish, Searching for Home @judypost @Virgilante @JillWeatherholt

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Hello, and thanks for joining me for my first book review post of 2022. It will take me a few posts to catch up with the books and novellas I’ve read this month. Today, I’ve got three five-star reads in a variety of genres. To prevent the post from being too long, I won’t be sharing blurbs, but I encourage you to click on the Amazon link to explore the blurb and other reviews. Happy
reading!


The Body in the Buick
by Judi Lynn
Jazzi Zanders #8

This is another great entry into an entertaining series. All the main characters are back, including the growing and extended roster of secondary characters and friends. Jazzi and Ansel are expecting a baby and Ansel moves into father-to-be protective mode when it comes to Jazzi. That doesn’t stop her from becoming involved in investigating another murder when the body of mechanic turns up in a Buick. At the same time, she and Ansel, along with their house-flipping partner, Jerod, are working on converting a barn to a residential property. And, of course, there are the usual big family dinners each Sunday, complete with a cast of characters I have grown to love.

I was surprised that one murder eventually led to three which broadened the list of suspects. The reason and motive were also a surprise. As always, the writing is breezy, and Jazzi and Ansel are a fun pair. I always enjoy their interactions and the relationship they have. It was fun seeing Ansel trying to come up with the perfect baby name. I’ve spent so much time with these characters over eight books, I feel like they are family. Judi Lynn really has something special going with this series and I highly recommend it to fans of cozies.

AMAZON LINK


The Wreck of the Lanternfish
by C. S. Boyack
Lanterfish #3


I’ve followed this series from the start, so the ending is somewhat bittersweet. I’m going to miss these characters. I’ve been through numerous sea battles with them, have been swept up in warring factions, confronted by exploding monks, and a bevy of creatures from dangerous to intriguing, each and every one a fantastical invention of the author’s creative mind.

This time around core characters are split, each group engaging in separate strategies while caught up in the war between the Hollish and the Prelonians. The Palumbo’s are still running cons (this time along with the help of an older woman posing as Camilla’s mother), Serang, now a general, is in the thick of the fighting, and James Cuttler risks everything to make Lanternfish seaworthy again. The action is non-stop, with all three plot arcs merging perfectly at the end. I grew particularly fond of the Palumbo’s during this third novel, and who knew I would develop such a soft spot for a snubhorn? (If you don’t know what a snubhorn is, you’re missing out on something special—and truly bizarre).

James is a clever, fair captain who rises to circumstance and finds himself in a surprising new role by the end of the book. Of all the characters, he remains my favorite. For fans of the series, the root monsters are back. I especially loved the section when a group in search of papers “and other crap” receive names—always a fun event.

Boyack deftly mixes dollops of humor into the story, to offset the political maneuvering and battle scenes. Underneath the bigger picture, this is also a tale about relationships. Of special note, I love the father/son relationship between James and Mule and how that wraps at the end. The title sits a little heavy on my heart, but the way in which Boyack addresses what becomes of each character (even the root monsters and Serang’s Fu dogs) left me thoroughly satisfied. Wreck of the Lanternfish is a fantastic conclusion for an engaging series. Bravo to the author!

AMAZON LINK


Searching for Home
by Jill Weatherholt
Love Inspired Inspirational Romance


What a heart-warming story! I fell in love with the characters immediately.

A physical therapist, Meg has inherited a B&B and become guardian to her two nieces and nephew—triplets of her sister who took off and left her children behind. The children’s father did the same, abandoning them before his wife did.

Meg and Luke were a couple back in high school, but then he took off to find fame in the rodeo circuit, believing he had to prove himself before he could ask her to marry him.

My heart broke for these kids, especially for Tucker, who felt he was somehow responsible. Enter “Cowboy Luke” who has returned to his hometown to heal from an injury, never realizing his PT is going to be Meg.

What follows is a mix of misunderstandings, plus a beautiful path about learning to forgive, and making family where you find it. Luke is such a strong father figure, and he has a heart of gold. Meg is selfless, constantly putting the kids before herself, all the while managing a plethora of potential problems and hurt.

I read this book in one day, I was so caught up in the story. There is heartache and joy, an adorable puppy, a fun rodeo experience, a scary venture at a river, and a wonderful HEA at the end that left me with a big ‘ole sloppy grin. I’ve read several of the author’s books, but this one is my favorite to date. I especially loved the epilogue, which shared an extra glimpse into how everything wrapped up for these charming characters. A true gem!

AMAZON LINK


Have you read any of these? Hopefully, I’ve tempted you to add to your TBR yet again. Starting today, I hope to return to one review post per week. I’m glad to roll out that commitment with these three wonderful authors.

Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: The Nine Lives of Cats #felinefolkore #catlegends

Art concept. Vintage still life with old books stacked near lighted old-fashioned candle, carnivale mask in background

Hello and Happy Tuesday! Today I’m discussing one of my favorite subjects—cats!

I love all animals, but cats are my favorite. As a kid I grew up with cats, dogs, goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, a parakeet, tropical fish, even a chinchilla. As an adult, I bonded with cats and never looked back. These animals have alternately been revered and feared throughout time. From the ancient Egyptians who worshiped them as demi-gods, to the people of Medieval England who believed they were the accomplices of witches, felines have known extreme highs and lows. Maybe the reason they’re said to have nine lives.

Arafel, my first cat came from a litter of farm kittens. I always told her she looked like a little woodland creature from myth.

Hmm.

McDoogal was a rescue who entered our lives a year after Arafel. If his name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of my novella, In Search of McDoogal. I always joke with my husband that McDoogal worshiped me because he was so attached.

More likely, the cat’s agility and its uncanny self-righting mechanism, allowing it to survive falls from great heights, is where the myth originated. Felines are extremely graceful, swift, and able to squeeze into small spaces—traits that add to its undeniable mystique.

Of all domesticated animals, the cat is the least tame. Like its wild kin, it is most active during early morning hours and at night, the best times for hunting prey. The nocturnal aspect of the cat and its ability to see in the dark also support the nine lives belief. Blessed with enhanced senses and fluid agility, this clever and crafty animal could easily live nine lifetimes.

When superstition was rampant, many believed a witch could take the form of her cat familiar nine times, thus giving the cat nine lives.  Another tale involves a cat entering a home where nine hungry children resided. Nine fish had been set out for the children to eat, but the cat devoured them all. The poor children died of starvation while the cat met an untimely end from gluttony. When the feline arrived in Heaven, God was so angered by its selfishness he made it fall to the earth for nine days. The nine lives of the children reside in the cat’s belly, which is why it must die nine times before finally being able to rest.

Sometimes those nine lives came in handy. Seafarers knew cats were able to predict storms, which is why they considered a cat onboard ship good luck. It wasn’t simply a matter of running roughshod over vermin.

Onyx, my last lovely boy. Everyone said he was so handsome with his silky black coat he could have been a show cat.

That was something Noah knew about. When the ark set sail, there were no cats onboard. Rats and mice multiplied and soon overran the boat.

 In desperation, Noah asked the lion for help. The great beast sneezed and two cats were born, the only animal not originally created by God.

Raven, my current lovely girl. I fell in love with black felines after owning Onyx, and even wrote a novella called Food for Poe that addresses the issues they sometimes have getting adopted. As the “child of my later years” she is spoiled beyond belief!

Whatever you believe, there’s no denying these frisky and entertaining animals have found a place in our hearts, whether for a single lifetime or nine. Disney gave us The Three Lives of Thomasina while Stephen King terrified us with Pet Sematary.

I prefer my cats cuddly and affectionate over Mr. King’s variety which is why I’m dedicating this post to the lovely felines who graced my life with companionship–Arafel, McDoogal, Onyx, and Raven. I wish the first three would have been able to hang around for eight more lifetimes!

To close, I leave you with my favorite cat quote. Nothing against dogs, (I love them too), but I think this quote speaks volumes about the mind of a cat:

A dog looks at you and says, “You take care of me. You must be a god.” 
A cat looks at you and says, “You give me food and shelter. I must be a god.”

Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: One Through Five

smart cat sits near a stack of books on a white background

Hello, and welcome to the final half of my Top 10 Reads for 2021. If you missed books six through ten, you can find them HERE.

All of the books I’m sharing are five-star reads. Each is linked to Amazon where you can read the blurb and explore reviews. I’ve included a few brief thoughts on each. 

Fun Fact 1:
I read book two on this list in January of 2021. It held the top spot as my favorite until December when a late-in-the year-read bumped it to number two. That’s a long time to be numero uno, especially given I’d read over 100 books by then!

Fun Fact 2:
I enjoyed all of these books so much, I purchased each in hardback or trade paperback, despite having read ebook copies of most.



5. IN THE SHADOW OF JEZEBEL by Mesu Andrews
A riveting journey of faith following Jehosheba, the granddaughter of Jezebel, who has been groomed to become a high priestess of Baal. Through an arranged marriage, she weds the high priest of God’s holy temple. The story presents a mix of warring kingdoms, political maneuvering, betrayals, and the rise and fall of rulers, all the while remaining truthful to the Old Testament and historic events.

4. FALLING by T.J. Newman
A pulse-pounding thrill ride about an airline pilot forced to decide between crashing his plane full of passengers or saving his wife and children who have been taken hostage by terrorists. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. Falling is already slated for the big screen.

3. CHASING THE BOGEYMAN by Richard Chizmar
It’s the summer of 1988 and a serial killer haunts a small town. I can be squeamish about books with serial killers, but there is nothing overly graphic in this novel. Chills, goose bumps, suspense, and tension abound. In Chizmer’s skillful hands, the book becomes mystery, thriller, and a haunting tale of small-town life that lingers long after finishing. 

2. LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam
Most reviewers either loved or hated this book with little room for middle ground. It’s a curious, sometimes annoying, but fully engrossing story about two couples (one white, one black, strangers to each other) who end up stranded together after an unknown event has knocked out phones, internet, and power. All the reader knows is that something terrible has happened. Something big. By turns eerie, mesmerizing, and crass, the atmosphere is what makes this book so outstanding—and disturbing.

MY TOP PICK FOR 2021 WITH FULL REVIEW

ISAIAH’S DAUGHTER
by Mesu Andrews

When it comes to historical novels, there are two time periods I love best—Victorian England and Old Testament times.

Starting in mid-November through the end of 2021, I devoured fourteen novels based on the lives of people who populated the Old Testament. Of them all, Isaiah’s Daughter moved me enough to claim top honors as my favorite read of the year. Maybe it’s because I’m so drawn to the story of King Hezekiah.

From his frightening childhood, as son to a father/king who worshiped idols and sacrificed children to the pagan god Molek by tossing them into fire, to the difficulties he faced during his own reign—especially against the Assyrian army—Hezekiah placed his faith in God for deliverance. At his side, supporting him with steadfast love, his wife, Hephzibah, was every bit as faithful. 

The story of Isaiah’s Daughter follows both from the time they are children—in a world of constant upheaval and danger—to their eventual marriage and adult years. The challenges each faces is staggering. The Bible tells us that because of his great faith, Hezekiah “was successful in whatever he undertook” and that “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

What astounds me most is the way in which the author has brought these people to life in a very personal sense. There is nothing stuffy, stilted, or draggy about this book. Both “Hezi” and “Zibah” are given vibrant life, along with many other historical figures and several fictional characters. The insight to Isaiah’s life as a prophet is particularly compelling, especially when balanced against his home life as a husband and father. The result is mesmerizing while delivering a message about the everyday struggles of faith we face. 

Certain parts had me as tense as a bowstring and I couldn’t read fast enough. Others made me laugh or warmed my heart to overflowing, and still others left me saddened by circumstance. Most of all, I was inspired and uplifted. I found it hard to put this book down and can’t recommend it highly enough. I would give it ten stars if I could! 


And that wraps up my top picks for 2021. I’m looking forward to discovering many new stories in the coming year and passing along my reviews. The great thing about books is the extraordinary variety which helps all of us find our own “goodreads.” I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of mine.

Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: Six Through Ten

Soft cuddly tabby cat lying in its owner's lap enjoying and purring while the owner is reading a book

Hello! It’s time to select my Top 10 reads from last year. If you’re someone who loves to devour books, you know how dreadfully hard this is. In my case, the first five were easy, but six through ten were tougher to decide. I was going to list all ten books in a single post, but they’re all so good I decided to spotlight them in two separate posts.

Each book is linked to Amazon where you can read the blurb and explore reviews. I gave every one of these fives stars and have included a few thoughts on each. Before I get to the results, I have a few cool stats to share.

I read 115 books in 2021. My original goal for the Goodreads challenge was 60, so I almost doubled that. Consider me jazzed. Or chuffed (shout-out to Fraggle and Harmony!)

The shortest book was 11 pages, the longest 530, with the average 245 pages.

January and July were my two top reading months with 12 books each. September saw the fewest with six.

Here’s a look, counting down from number six through ten, on my top list!

10. THE PERFECT GUESTS by Emma Rous
A twisty mystery that involves three different time periods, all of which converge for a spectacular finish. The present timeline plays off the board game Clue with guests gathering in an old mansion as test-run for a new business that hosts murder mystery parties.

9. THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley
An isolated location, treacherous weather, and a group of characters with plenty of skeletons rattling in proverbial closets. I’m usually pretty good at fingering the culprit, and although I had suspicions that eventually proved correct, the whys and wherefores completely blindsided me.

8. BLOODLESS by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Combining the mystery of D. B. Cooper with a series of odd murders in which the victims are drained of blood? Only Preston & Child could pull off a plot like that, and they do it exceptionally well in this latest outing for FBI Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast (whose cases always flirt with the supernatural or bizarre). I’m a diehard fan!!

7. SURVIVE THE NIGHT by Riley Sager
Cat-and-mouse suspense combines with well-plotted fiction in this slick, edge-of-your seat thrill ride. The operational word here is TENSION—with a capital T. It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.

6. HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager
A good old-fashioned ghost story. No gore or horror, just plenty of eerie happenings that deliver goose bumps, shivers and chills. Numerous twists and turns near the end had me trying to pick up my jaw from the floor. This is mind-blowing storytelling at its best, especially if you are a fan of ghost stories that twist like a corkscrew and prickle your skin. 


I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these and what your thoughts are. Tomorrow, I’ll be counting down books five through one, but in the meantime, let’s chat about these titles. Do any of them appeal to you?

Looking Back, Looking Ahead #writinggoals #writingcommunity

Happy New Year! It’s now officially 2022, and as I do every year, it’s time for me to take a look back at the year that was and a look ahead to future goals. In writing this post, I browsed back to see what my goals were for 2021. At the time, I had three:

Word 2021 Goals on torn brown grunge paper background
  • Finish edits on my mystery novel, The Keeping Place, and begin submitting it for literary representation.
  • Finish my WIP, The Ghosts of Wingate Hall, and indie publish or submit for small press representation.
  • Publish my collection of short stories or submit individually to magazines for possible publication.

Overall, I didn’t do too bad in meeting those goals.

  • I finished editing The Keeping Place, and started submitting agent queries in early December. So far, I’ve had one rejection.
  • I had hoped to knock out Wingate with NaNoWriMo but only managed a little over 22K. NaNo was a fail for me, but I used November to draft query letters and a synopsis for The Keeping Place, and begin researching literary agents.
  • I published my short stories as a collection called Things Old and Forgotten.
2022 hello new year symbol. Concept words Hello 2022 appearing behind torn orange paper. Beautiful orange background.

Moving ahead, 2022 is going to look much the same as 2021 did.

  • I need to continue submitting The Keeping Place. I know I’m in for a long haul in finding an agent, but I have faith in the manuscript. I’ve heard horror stories from best-selling authors regarding the amount of queries and time (YEARS) they invested before finding an agent. Discouraging, but at least I have plenty of other works to keep me busy while searching.
  • I REALLY plan to finish The Ghosts of Wingate Hall this year. It’s a little over halfway complete. As the title implies, the story is ghost fiction (mixed with mystery/suspense). The jury is still out on indie pubbing vs. contacting a small press, but I’ve got time to decide.
  • Once Wingate is done, I plan to return to Belladonna Cottage, my NaNo project from 2019–a straight mystery mingled with a splash of folklore.

My blogging schedule will likely look different moving ahead, too. Long time followers of this blog may remember my Mythical Monday posts, which took an in-depth look at various cryptids, urban legends, and tales from mythology and folklore. I maintained that Monday blogging schedule for years, then later did a brief stint of Wednesday Weirdness, which pandered to the same ideas.

In 2022, I’ll be introducing Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities. I can’t wait to share many of the strange and bizarre legends that have intrigued me over the years. We’ll definitely be taking a closer look at my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, the creature who factors into my Point Pleasant Series. The first Curiosities post will appear next week. While I may try to schedule them for the same day each week, they’ll likely pop up sporadically and won’t be on any set schedule. The same goes for my book reviews and guest author posts.

Elsewhere, you can find me on Story Empire, where I’ll be blogging throughout the year with the other members of SE on topics of writing, publishing, books, and all things related to the written word. I hope you’ll join us, and I hope you’ll continue to visit me at From the Pen of Mae Clair.

The last two years have been a challenge for all of us, but I’m hoping we’re headed toward the light at the end of the tunnel. Among all the things I’m grateful for, I include my many friends in the writing community and blogosphere.

I’m raising a glass of the virtual bubbly and wish all of you health, happiness, and many blessings in the coming year!

Limited Time 99c Sale: A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair #mystery #suspense #thriller #writingcommunity #mothman #pointpleasant #urbanlegends

Hi, friends. I hadn’t planned to blog today, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share news of a limited time sale. My publisher has placed A Thousand Yesteryears, book one of my Point Pleasant series on sale for 99c. You can read this as a stand-alone novel, or as the first of three books comprising the series.

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair, depicting a wooded thicket at night

New York Times best-selling author, Kevin O’Brien called this book “Masterful, bone-chilling fiction…one intense thriller. A Thousand Yesteryears will keep you guessing, gasping and turning the pages for more.”

I honestly don’t know how long the sale will last (it’s likely a 1-2 day flash sale), so if you’d like to sink into a novel where “A woman’s homecoming is met with death threats, a treacherous killer, and a legendary monster” now is your chance.

I’ll be taking a closer look at the urban legend behind this book in 2022, as part of a new series I’m planning called Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

A Thousand Yesteryears is a fictional account of historic events and established folklore, involving the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and sightings of the Mothman. I made two weekend trips to the actual town and surrounding areas while writing this series in order to visit areas firsthand and talk to the locals. I’ve been honored to have many book reviewers who live/lived in the area remark on how well I captured the town.

I’ve closed comments, but invite you to meet the Mothman and learn the history of a once thriving river town!

Teaser ad for A Thousand Yesteryears, a novel of suspense by Mae Clair

PURCHASE LINK

Visiting Today!

pine cones, a bundle of cinnamon sticks, frosted star cookies and a whole walnut

Happy Thursday! I’m off in the blogosphere today for a visit and friendly chat with Rox Burkey. If you’re unfamiliar with Rox, she’s a talented author of both novels and short stories, and an expert interviewer. I was flattered when she asked me to chat with her. I loved the insightful questions she posed. If you get a chance, pop over and see what it’s all about, You can find us HERE.

New Release: Mountain Laurel Christmas by Jan Sikes @JanSikes3 #Christmas #countrymusic #christmasgifts

Welcome, friends! I’m back after my November break, and delighted to welcome friend and Story Empire colleague, Jan Sikes, to my blog today. Jan has a brand new Christmas release out ready to warm your heart. Be sure to look for my review at the end of this post. Jan is also doing a giveaway which you won’t want to miss. Take it away, Jan!

Giveaway Christmas banner with pine cones, Christmas bulbs and Christmas lights. Giveaway for $20 gift card

What’s in a name? 

Anytime we create a story, readers can often visualize a character simply from their name. 

My character in Mountain Laurel Christmas has three names, and each one affects his personality differently. 

First, his given name, Norbert Angus Roberts, paints a picture of a character unsure of himself and subjected to lots of teasing in his growing-up years.

Excerpt: 

No kid should have to go through life as Norbert Angus. If I lived to be a hundred years old, I’d never understand what possessed Mama and Papa. At least, Papa had shortened it to Bert, but that wasn’t much better in my way of thinking. I took a lot of teasing from the other mountain kids.

Then when he arrives in Nashville, chasing a dream, he introduces himself as Andy Roberts. 

But that name is short-lived.

Excerpt:

 As soon as she hired me, Corinna decided to change my name.

“You’ve got hair as black as coal, and your eyes are as dark as night. I think your stage name should be Cole Knight.”

So, my character became Cole Knight. 

If you are familiar with the music business, you’ll find many artists taking on fake stage names. 

In the country music world, some of the most notable are:

Conway Twitty – Harold Lloyd Jenkins 

Johnny Paycheck – Donald Eugene Lytle

Johnny Bush – John B. Shin

Tim McGraw – Samuel Timothy Smith

Patsy Cline – Virginia Patterson Hensley

Can you think of others? If you created a pen name for yourself, what would it be? 

Teaser ad for Mountain Laurel Christmas by Jan Sikes so ebook on snowy background with Christmas candles and gold star in front

MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS BLURB:

Orphaned, his family torn apart by tragedy, Cole Knight has come a long way from a ramshackle miner’s cabin on the side of the Cumberland Mountain. 

Daring to follow an impossible dream, he’s made it big in the music business. Now, he’s a country music sensation with a huge house, fancy cars, plenty of willing women, money, and adoring fans. He should be on top of the world. Instead, he’s drowning in a swirling pool of self-contempt and relentless guilt.

It’s easier to lose himself in a bottle than face the hard truth…he hasn’t delivered on a promise he made to his father.

It’s almost Christmas, and the sting of failure drives him back to that tiny cabin in the mountains. But has he waited too late to put the shattered pieces back together—to find himself and restore a lost family?  

PURCHASE MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

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Bio box for author Jan Sikes

REVIEW OF MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS BY MAE CLAIR:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you want a feel-good Christmas story, look no further. Cole Knight is a music superstar with the world at his feet. He has everything he could possibly ever want or need but his heart is hollow. With Christmas around the corner, he finds himself thinking back to his poverty-stricken childhood when times were hard but love of family made life worth living. In the decades since, he’s lost touch with his sister and has no idea what’s become of his younger brother. Circumstances conspire in such a way to give him a second chance and help him rediscover the connections he’s lost.

Told with heart, this is a story that shines a light on what matters most in life. It’s rife with emotion, memories, and the idea of recapturing lost chances. I love how the author brought her characters to life while painting a picture that spans from backwoods squalor to the glitz of the celebrity spotlight. A quick read, this enchanting novella is polished, heartwarming, and all-around entertaining. A beautiful holiday gem!


Thanks for visiting to cheer on Jan with her new release. Don’t forgot to leave a comment below to enter her giveaway and wish her well with Mountain Laurel Christmas! If you enjoy heartwarming holiday reads, this short tale is just ONE CLICK away!

New Release: No Such Luck by Staci Troilo #sweetromance #holidayromance #novella

Happy Tuesday! Although I’m mostly offline this month to concentrate on NaNoWriMo, I’ve made several exceptions to host new releases on my blog. First up, is No Such Luck a sweet holiday romance from Staci Troilo.

Staci is a dear friend and one of the founding members of Story Empire. She’s also a super talented author who always delivers a phenomenal story. Her latest is no exception. Look for my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, say hello to Staci!


I appreciate you inviting me here today, Mae. Hi, everyone. Thank you for chatting with me about my new release, No Such Luck. It’s a fast and fun clean romance perfect for the holiday season.

Piper Seidel’s life-long best friend is Jack Rhodes. He’s always been there for her, and even though she moved away right after high school—first for college, then for her career—he never stopped staying in touch with her. When he says, “I’ll always be there for you,” he means it. They have history, even if she can’t remember it. This brief excerpt shows how far back it goes.

Teaser Graphic for or No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette with background of red carnation, teaser text over top

“Where’d you park?”

“At the lodge.”

“At the—How do you get the tree down there?”

“We drag it.”

“You and your father drag a tree down the side of a mountain?”

Piper nodded and smiled.

“It’s no wonder it takes you so long.”

She shrugged.

“Grab the top, Pea.” 

“Stop calling me that.”

“Never. You earned it.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“How?”

“Third grade.

“How?”

“Guess you don’t remember that one.” Jack shook his head and sighed. “Grab your end.” When she complied, he hefted the trunk, then started down the hill. He called over his shoulder, “Come on, Frank.” 

She worried about her Dad. He was still on the phone with Pam and didn’t look happy. 

The three of them made their way back to the lodge. 

While her father paid for the tree and got it loaded in the bed of his truck, she thanked Jack again. “I’m really sorry about Pam. You didn’t need to come here.”

Jack got a bottle of water and bandana from his center console, then turned to her. He dabbed at the cut on her head, cleaning the blood off her face. “I’ll always come for you if you need me, Pea. Always.”

“Stop calling me that.”

He smiled. “No.”

She shook her head, but he kept wiping at it. 

“There. That’s better.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking care of you. The way you should be cared for.”

“I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Think about it. Think about third grade, too. You need a better good luck charm.”


I have to admit, I’ve sustained an injury or two Christmas tree shopping. But I never walked away with my forehead bleeding. Good thing Piper had help. 

I hope you enjoyed that quick sneak peek. No Such Luck, the first installment of the Keystone Couples series, is available now on Amazon.

Book cover for No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette  with background of red carnation

Blurb:

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Bio box for Staci Troilo

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MY REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a sweet, breezy romance that instills a feel-good glow. Piper Seidel has lost her job as a journalist and ends up returning to her hometown for an extended winter vacation, uncertain of her future. Reconnecting with her past includes crossing paths with her old high school crush, Tommy Burnett, and her childhood best friend, Jack Rhodes. Both bring complications into her life and have her re-examining what matters most to her.

This is a short read, but one that is tightly written with a fully fleshed out plot. I loved the near-to-Christmas time frame (especially when Piper and her dad go searching for a Christmas tree) and the small-town feel. Piper grows over this story, learning truths that she was too blind to see previously, but I like to think the other characters (one in particular) experienced personal growth, too. Definitely a charmer!


Thanks for joining Staci and me today as we celebrate the release of No Suck Luck, Pop the virtual bubbly, and drop a comment to cheer on Staci with her newest book, the first in the Keystone Couple Series. I for one am definitely looking forward to more!