Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blog Tour: GRANNY SNOWS A SNEAK (Fuchsia, Minnesota Book 2) by Julie Seedorf


Granny may be retired as Fuchsia, Minnesota’s one-woman undercover sleuth for the Fuchsia Police Department, but that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t need a trusty weapon. Her weapon of choice? A pink snow shovel. When Granny runs over a dead body with her snowmobile, she unwittingly sets off a chain of events that involves mislabeled corpses, empty graves, and stolen money––lots of it! Who’s at the bottom of this years old crime? Granny has an idea, but she has little time to investigate, when in just days she’s scheduled to marry the love of her life, Franklin Gatsby, in a post-Christmas ceremony. So, Granny decides to enlist the help of her friends and neighbors. Add in Christmas holiday excitement and the arrival of Granny’s family, who are all there for her wedding, and mayhem ensues. Of course, Granny can always count on her many furry friends to provide her with moral support, but it’s quite possible that Granny––that is, Hermiony Vidalia Criony Fiddlestadt––has a secret or two of her own, which may very well be revealed as GRANNY SNOWS A SNEAK.


Hermiony (Granny) is supposed to be taking it easy and getting ready for her son's wedding and her wedding to Franklin, both scheduled to follow usual Christmas festivities. She's not supposed to get involved in solving crimes, even when she manages to run over her husband's dead body with her snowmobile. Then there's the obnoxious, and seemingly ever-present new neighbor, Silas who just makes her so mad. When the confusion continues to grow, with another body added to the mix and then stolen money, Hermiony's mind just isn't on her wedding, even with her furry friends as her wedding party, or Franklin's plan for their new home. 

This is the second in the Fuchsia Minnesota series with Granny (Hermiony) as the main character. I enjoyed the first, GRANNY HOOKS A CROOK, but you could read this one as stand alone. The story, and especially Hermiony, are definitely colorful and unique, bound to cause a smile or chuckle at times. While some aspects of the story are predictable and go along with Hermiony's personality, the solution to the mystery is not unfolded until the end.

About the Author

Author Julie Seedorf is a columnist, author and dreamer. She lived her live as a wife and mom, experiencing various careers including that of computer technician, retiring from her computer repair business in January of 2014 to follow her dream and transition to that of full-time writer.

Beside her Fuchsia, Minnesota Series, she is the author of the Granny’s In Trouble Series bringing mystery to the life of young readers along with sharing who Granny is under the wrinkles, so her grandchildren will always know that Granny can be forever young. Her column Something About Nothing, is written with the idea that under the nothings we all talk about there is a hidden something waiting to get out.

Julie is a longtime Minnesota resident who shares the tough Minnesota winters with her Granny character. Outside of writing she likes to read, try new hobbies and scurries to keep up with her social media. She lives with her husband and has two shysters of her own, Borris and Natasha. Her favorite moments are those she spends with her friends and family, especially her grandchildren.

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GIVEAWAY!!!  One random person will be selected from those who post a comment to receive an e-copy of GRANNY SNOWS A SNEAK!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: THE MOONGLOW CAFE : A Paige MacKenzie Novel by Deborah Garner

Synopsis (from Amazon)

New York reporter Paige MacKenzie has a hidden motive when she heads to the small town of Timberton, Montana. Assigned to research the area's unique Yogo sapphires for the Manhattan Post, she hopes to reconnect romantically with handsome cowboy Jake Norris. The local gem gallery offers the material needed for the article, but the discovery of an old diary, hidden inside the wall of a historic hotel, soon sends her on a detour into the underworld of art and deception. 

Each of the town's residents holds a key to untangling more than one long-buried secret, from the hippie chick owner of a new age café to the mute homeless man in the town park. As the worlds of western art and sapphire mining collide, Paige finds herself juggling research, romance and danger. With stolen sapphires and shady characters thrown into the mix, will Paige escape the consequences of her own curiosity?


A New York jewelry show is the impetus for Paige to travel back west to Montana to find out about Yogo sapphires. Timberton is a far cry from New York, local businesses barely making it since the close of the sapphire mines. Most of the community eats at the Moonglow Cafe, recently taken over by Mist, an artist. Paige finds a diary but a part is missing. The diary and her search for the missing part prove more challenging all around. And then there's the maybe relationship with Jake.

THE MOONGLOW CAFE has mystery, secrecy, and a touch of romance. It also has interesting characters not the least of which are Mist and the homeless man she's feeding, the gem dealer and the lonely woman trying to keep the hotel afloat. This is the second in the series, following ABOVE THE BRIDGE, but easily read as a stand-alone. Hopefully there is a third coming soon!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spotlight: SATURDAY IN SERENDIPITY by Margo Hoornstra

A twenty year high school reunion changes the lives of former classmates and leads to unexpected futures.

Three Strikes Thursday
Barry Carlson, a pro baseball success, could have any woman he wanted. Except one. Twenty years before, Barry won Amanda Marsh’s love, only to crush her heart. He’s returned to Serendipity, determined to win her back. Recently divorced, Amanda is happy—until Barry slides back into her life. Can they put aside old wounds and new misunderstandings to find a forever love?

Two On Tuesday
Blane Weston’s construction company needs the venture capital Matt Durand has. With his reputation for hostile takeovers, she wants no part of him. Mixing business with pleasure, she’s off to Serendipity to hook up with a former flame. Not used to being denied, Matt follows. How can Blane enjoy a journey to her past when Matt is determined to dictate her future?

One Fateful Friday
His high school reunion in Serendipity over, hospital CEO Jake Holbrook regrets his single state. When a special woman from his past tumbles back into his life—and his bed—he’s determined to keep her there. Family practitioner Bethany Thomas avoids an entanglement with her new boss, but unknowingly betrays him. As the holidays approach, can they overcome a lack of trust to find their Christmas miracle?

About Margo Hoornstra
Like many writers, it’s hard to determine exactly when my fiction writing career began. I remember composing a short story in grade school (I have no idea about what) which was chosen for publication in an all school anthology. A journalism class taken in junior high school led to a job on the school newspaper and a weekly column.

I always loved reading. I loved writing too. Someday, I thought, maybe when I grew up and received the right training, I could actually write a book. After all, I was often told, laughingly most times, I had an extremely vivid imagination.

Through the years, the desire to write was always there. I had so many ideas and characters roaming around in my head, so many stories. But the business of living—going to college, getting married then raising a family—took precedence over something as frivolous as writing a book.

Then one day out of the blue I was downsized—effective immediately—from a job I’d held for over thirty years. What seemed so unfair at the time, I now recognize the tremendous gift I was given that day. As I’m now able to spend more and more time doing what I love—writing romantic fiction—I find I really do have an abundance of stories to share.

Margo’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads | Amazon
Buy Link: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary Romance – Anthology
Release Date: August 11, 2014
Length: 427 Pages

Excerpt from Three Strikes Thursday
The solution was simple. Get out of the car, walk up to the house and ring the bell. Apologize for the intrusion when her father came to the door, and ask to see Amanda.

Only for a couple of minutes. Please.

Then he could fall all over himself telling her how sorry he was.

“Yeah that’s gonna fly.” His whisper filled the emptiness around him, and he dropped his head. “Face it, asshole. You blew it.”

In an odd way, talking to himself, he didn’t feel quite so alone.

He turned his gaze back to stare at Amanda’s window. The shade was still down. Her light was out.

So that was it.

Moving like a rigid, soulless robot, Barry put the car in gear and drove slowly away. Picking up speed as he left Amanda’s subdivision, he floored it once he hit the highway. With the windows down, the warm night air cooled as it roared around him.

He flicked the headlights on high. Their beams lit up the trees, telephone poles and bushes as they whizzed by. Nothing could stop him as long as he kept his foot down hard on the gas pedal. Then something did.

Pulling to one side of the deserted road, he jammed the gear shift into park, jumped out, ran around to the back bumper, bent over.

And puked his guts out onto the warm asphalt.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: RED TAPE (Jersey Shores Mystery Series #1) by Michele Lynn Seigfried

On February 5th, COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, the third in this series was reviewed on this blog. Today, here is where it all started... With RED TAPE!

Synopsis (from Amazon)
What do you get when you combine a mystery with a touch of comedy and a pinch of romance? Red Tape. A little something for everyone!

Municipal Clerk Chelsey Alton gets more than she bargained for when she encounters an irate resident and loose cannon, Robert Triggers. Triggers has been harassing the employees in the small, Jersey shore town where she works and he becomes the prime suspect when multiple attempts to sabotage the municipal building are made. Chelsey begins to piece it all together and finds herself framed for a crime she did not commit. She narrowly escapes several attempts at her demise, only to find herself in a much more precarious situation. Will she make it out alive or end up a tragic victim at the hands of a madman?

As the Municipal Clerk, Chelsey has to deal with all the customers who come into the office and answer to the mayor and other town officials.  Robert Triggers is a major problem.  He wants dunes put in near his house so that if there is a storm, his house won't wash away.  He screams, yells, and causes all sorts of trouble. In the meantime, there are things going wrong, falling apart at the office, and Chelsey, along with her co-worker, are besides themselves trying to get the ballots all set for the election. Not that there was any doubt that Frita O'Donnell would be re-elected.  As Chelsey tries to keep things together at the office, she is arrested and charged with embezzlement.  Then Agent Sal Romero and Tex come into the story. Life as a municipal clerk is less than simple and at the same time friends and family are pressuring Chelsey to have more of a life. Along with all the problems, there are many humorous moments, mostly between Chelsey and Bonnie. Whether you've already read TAX CUTS (the second in the series) or COMMUNITY AFFAIRS or not, I'd recommend RED TAPE!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: BAYLIN HOUSE by LJ Parker

Synopsis (from Amazon)

It was supposed to be a quick-fix editing job to uncover an old secret from the past, but Cassie’s involvement has uncovered more, including a connection to her own family.

Native of Las Vegas, Cassandra Crowley has been hired to complete an autobiography for cancer stricken Rosalie Baylin on the south Texas Gulf Coast. But word of Rosalie’s illness has put her beloved Baylin House under attack, and Cassie must deal with disappearing funds, a witch hunt by the county Health Department, and now even the police who suspect one of Rosalie’s mentally challenged clients in a Homicide.

Cassandra - Cassie - Crowley is broke, out of a job, and leaving her home in Vegas one way or the other. Headstrung, domineering Dorothy needs someone to edit a book - and find out a secret - and happens to know Cassie's grandmother. The money is good, the job is only for 3 weeks, and satchel and computer, Cassie arrives in Cordell Bay, Texas. 

The assignment is Rosalie's autobiography focusing on Baylin House.  Baylin House was a "home" for men who were challenged, but some were placed there because they were orphans and Rosalie worked with these men to give them skills to live independently. Some still live or work with her at Baylin House.

The "catch" (other than Dorothy) to the job is that Rosalie is dying and the book needs to be done before.  On top of that, Baylin House is having financial and licensing problems, and no one seems to know why all these problems are happening when there are large donations coming in. Cassie looks to find answers as forces are trying to close Baylin House even as Rosalie and some of her charges still live there. In the process, Cassie "kicks an anthill" or two. Even when hunky Detective "Cowboy Rob" Baxter tries to keep her safe, Cassie needs to keep asking questions and making connections. It's only a matter of time before the "villain" makes his final move.

Parker reels the reader in early, and then lets the story simmer.  Then Cassie goes in search of more information and pushes the wrong buttons reigniting the suspense. This creates a natural rhythm throughout the book. There are some predictable turns, but also surprises as the secrets are revealed. Scenes are described down to the scents, sounds, and emotions. A good read when you don't need to go anywhere for a bit!  You'll want to see how it all unravels. I'll be looking for more about Cordell Bay, Cassie, and Cowboy Rob for sure.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: FINE DINING: A Trudie Fine Mystery by Gale Deitch

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Trudie Fine’s romantic dinner with Detective Daniel Goldman is cut short by a gruesome murder. When her good friend May Dubois is discovered sitting by the body of her dead brother, holding a bloody knife, the case seems as cut and dried as sliced okra. From the start, however, Trudie believes in her friend and sets out to prove May’s innocence.
But if May isn’t the killer, who is? 

Taking over as temporary manager at May’s New Orleans-themed restaurant to do some sleuthing plunges Trudie into a jambalaya of dangerous waters.
*Recipes Included


Fine Dining by Gale Deitch
Trudie Fine and her long time friend Zach run a catering business, but that takes second fiddle to her friend May's problems when May's brother is killed and she's holding the murder weapon. Trudie wants to help May and agrees to "manage" the New Orleans themed restaurant with all the personalities that work there, including the Chef who doesn't welcome her help. Trudie's romance with Daniel cools off a bit while she stays at May's, with the advances of May's lawyer adding a bit of tension. Her attempt to surprise him at his place backfires humorously. In the meantime, though she doesn't seem any closer to the killer, the men in her life are not pleased with her as they try to keep her safe. 

The relationships and the descriptions are rich and engaging. There are several subplots that keep the story moving and some, like the romance between Trudie and Daniel, that likely could continue. It isn't obvious who the killer is until the end but the conclusion makes sense and the wrap up is warm and fuzzy. And, of course, the recipes...

This is the second in the Trudy Fine Mystery series, but it can be read as a stand alone - I will have to go back and read A FINE FIX!  I hope Deitch has a third one in the works!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: MAIN STREET MURDER by Linda Crowder

Synopsis: (from Amazon)

Accidental detectives Jake and Emma Rand are back in their second adventure. Spring is coming to their home in the shadow of Casper Mountain and Emma can't wait to see tulips and daffodils crowd out the snow that has covered her flower beds all winter. Then the May Day Blizzard hits, trapping the citizens of Casper, Wyoming in their homes, closing roads and shutting down highways out of town.

When murder strikes in spite of the snow, Detective Matt Joyner of the Casper Police Department quickly turns up the heat on his prime suspect - Emma's friend, Kristy Castle! As Casper celebrates the annual Summer Solstice Parade and Rodeo, Jake and Emma fight to prove Kristy's innocence. She's hiding a terrible secret, but is she a killer? A great read for fans of Cozy Mysteries!


Jake and Emma don't have to go far to find this dead body but how and why did it get there? And in the middle of a blizzard no less! The investigation in this small Wyoming town of course centers on Emma's friend, and even Emma has to wonder what Kristy is hiding. The consideration of others - friends or not - as a the possible murderer - puts a strain on the parade and rodeo preparations.  

The plot is well-developed and easy to follow, with a twist at the end. Jake and Emma have a healthy relationship and are both likable.  This is the second in the series, but easily can be read as a stand alone. Hopefully by the time I read the first one, TOO CUTE TO KILL, the third will be waiting...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: AMAZING GRACIE : A Senior Cozy Mystery Novella by Teresa Quill

Retired cop, John Flynn, directs traffic at the four-way stop when he's tipsy. The seniors of The Friendly Arms Apartments want him to stop, and assign Gracie Moore with the task since she's rather sweet on John. When John sees a dead body go by, the local Deputy doesn't believe him. The seniors ban together to solve the crime. Gracie Moore must step out of her shy self and save the day. 

This is the first of the Skeeterville Senior Mystery Novellas. Also, you'll meet Irene Weatherspoon, head of the resident board at the Friendly Arms Apartments, and her beau Wally Walters who will play roles in upcoming stories.


Gracie has a lot to deal with, starting with running out of money.  But she doesn't want to leave Skeeterville.  Irene and the others in the apartment complex come up with a plan so Gracie doesn't have to move in with her daughter that might just keep John from having to live with his son or worse. Problem is John is bored and when he's bored he drinks and then gets himself in trouble. No surprise that no one is inclined to believe he saw a dead body until he finds the dead body. Now can Gracie and John find the killer?

This is a great cozy mystery, and Gracie is a likable, but stubborn main character with John, Irene, and Wally, not to mention Tom, for support. The plot is well-developed and the ending makes sense. A good read to curl up with anytime or anywhere. I'm looking forward to the next Skeeterville Senior Mystery in the future.

About the Author
Teresa Quill writes with a dachshund at her feet, a parrot on her shoulder and a world of characters in her head. Her personal hero ignores the voices she hears and enables her to enjoy her writing trips to Skeeterville where the senior citizens are ornery and active, and the deputy scratches his head in wonder at their antics.

As a longtime member of Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers, she was writing a lovely contemporary romance when the secondary characters took over. Instead of fighting them, she let them run the show. Sometimes it's surprising where the seniors take her. They know that death happens, but they always want to know why. Teresa just follows them on their adventures.

Teresa asks if you read her book, please leave a review or visit her website. She loves to hear from readers. www.TeresaQuill.com

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guest Post and Review of SPICING UP TROUBLE by Mary Jo Burke

Sorry for the delay today!  I'm pleased to have Mary Jo Burke here as my guest to talk about cooking skills:

I inherited my cooking ability from my mom. In other words, I don’t have one. She preferred to have someone else prepare her meals or go to a restaurant. When we attended bridal showers and the invitation called for a recipe for the bride-to-be, my mother would write on the card, “Make reservations.” I can follow directions and offer an eatable meal, but no rave reviews. I did follow my mom’s lead by marrying a guy who likes to cook.

On the weekends, the kitchen was my father’s domain. He did the weekly grocery shopping too. I sat at the table and watched him. He prepared the basics: a roast beast, potatoes with gravy, and a vegetable, corn or green beans. My mother saw potential in my interest and recruited me to be the weekday dinner maker. I followed my father’s instructions and cooked five meals a week. And I hated it. I questioned his choices and pushed for macaroni and cheese, fresh from the box. One time he bought fish, still sporting their heads, and I drew the line there. I’d cook, if I got to pick some of the menu items. I introduced salads, steamed vegetables, and rice to the mix. 

At twelve, I attempted to bake and chose the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the semi-sweet morsel bag. I found all the ingredients in the cabinet, except baking soda. For some reason, we kept an open box of it in the refrigerator. I was unclear on the concept of the odor eating ability of baking soda. That initial batch was tasted and tossed in the garbage. The next week all the baking ingredients were replaced and I was encouraged to try again. I triumphed and still bring the cookies to family parties.

Do you have a signature dish or do you leave the cooking to others?

Here’s an excerpt from Spicing Up Trouble where Alexia Hale explains her love of spicy food.

"I bow to your expertise," Ben said to me.

"We'll have stuffed mushrooms, encrusted tilapia, and house salads," I said.

"Excellent choices." Tim took the menus and left. 

"Do you cook or write or model or fend off interviewers for a living?" Ben asked as his fingers filtered through my hair.

A hum vibrated down my spine as I tried to concentrate on his words and not his mouth. Before the fog hit my brain, he asked about my profession choices. I pretended men always caressed me in public.

"I entered a cake contest on a whim. One of the judges worked at Chicago News. She needed an assistant who could bake. I didn't win, but I got the job. I haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up."

Our salads arrived, and mine included an extra plate of chopped jalapeños and orange habañero chilis. 

Ben spied the hot peppers.

"You could eat a plate of peppers by yourself?" he asked as he released my tress.

"Yeah, they add so much to the crisp greens and offset the sugar from the carrots. Mixed with the balsamic vinaigrette, the flavor stings the back of your tongue."

"And sets fire to your nasal passages. Mind if I try a few?"


He scooped some off the plate with his fork, then speared a couple and put them in his mouth.

"My sisters used to call me Peter Piper because I ate so many pickled peppers."

Ben didn't respond as his eyes teared up. He drank a full glass of water.

"Would you like some milk? It helps to soften the burn," I said. He shook his head as he picked up my water glass, draining it. "I'm sorry, they are pretty strong."

"They're delicious, but not by the mouthful. I'll pace myself," he said as he signaled for Tim who returned to fill the water glasses. "Please bring the lady a fresh one. I gulped hers down too."

We finished our salads, and I ate the remaining peppers. The main courses arrived, and my usual bottle of hot sauce was included.

"More spice? Your insides must be lined with fire extinguisher foam," he said.

"Maybe I like it hot." I meant the sauce, but I was flexible about connotations.

He stared at me, took the bottle, and shook it.

"I like to make sure all the flavors are properly blended before I indulge," he said with a challenging smile. 

"This is my recipe and brings out the richness of flavor in the fish," I said, pouring the sauce on the tilapia. 

Ben placed a dot of it on his plate, cut a piece of fish, and dipped it. He put it in his mouth as his hand went for the full water glass. My nerves were on edge as I awaited his verdict.

"Outstanding, forget writing about food, design it," he said as he poured more sauce on his plate.

I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I exhaled. I discussed choosing items for the menu. His attention never wavered from my face.

"I hope you saved room for dessert. I'm trying to leave Irene with a big bill," he said.

Spicing Up Trouble
Mary Jo Burke

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Gemma Halliday Publishing, 332 pages

Alexia Hale works as a test kitchen writer for the Chicago News. But she gets her big break toward reporting "real" news when she's given the opportunity to interview the world renowned artist, Benjamin Nance Cobb.

The catch: to get it, Alexia has to pose as a nude model for Ben. What begins as an awkward assignment quickly turns into a real friendship...and possibly more. But when a photograph of Alexia is leaked to the press, their private life suddenly becomes very public. Ben's father isn't pleased, Alexia's sisters are shocked, and now she's being hounded by the press.

Dating a celebrity has its challenges and rewards. The only question is, which one will outweigh the other?


     Alexia is not the outgoing, strong woman like her sisters, and she's not like any woman Ben has met, dated, or painted before. She even knows all the books his mother wrote. This book has everything - problems with the press, the "uncle" who is out to bring Ben and his father down, family feuds and conflicts, hot steamy sex, dreams, and sweetness and compassion. All in all, a feel good read.

Buy now
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The Internet offered few details about Benjamin Nance Cobb's work. I needed to visit Chicago's Art Institute to do some research.
In the morning, out in front of the museum, I rubbed the paw of one of the lions. "Wish me luck," I whispered to the stoic predator and hurried up the stairs.
Once inside, I cheated and asked a docent to direct me to the Contemporary Art section. He pointed at a tour group, and I followed them. We entered a large foyer. The guide began to speak, and I saw my chance to escape.
Farther down the hall and to the left, two canvases took up an entire wall. First, a nude woman reclined on her back. Her lush black hair splayed on the pillow beneath her, her right hand laid in the tangles—eyes half closed, her lush lips pursed, her left hand limp against her side, her knees pulled together and slightly bent. Her whole body sated. She just had great sex. The plaque beside it read, "Satisfied by Benjamin Nance Cobb."
No doubt.
Next, a woman sitting on a bed, her back positioned toward the artist, the sway of her hip revealed the top of her butt, her arms and legs crossed in front of her, a hint of right breast showed, her face in profile, her eyes glanced over her shoulder, and her blonde hair mussed. I read the plaque, "Anticipation by Benjamin Nance Cobb."
How about Striptease for Benjamin Nance Cobb?
The paintings carried the same message: goddesses with an attitude. Power radiated from them. They owned the men who sought to possess them. Confident in their appearance and sexuality, the viewer of the portrait felt like an intruder, stumbling into the intimate setting. The discomfort was for the outsider looking in. I imagined being free not to care about others' opinions, living by one's own rules. Easier said than done.
A small blurb about the artist hung on the wall. I didn't get much passed his age, thirty-five, because next to it a photograph almost stopped my heart. The man himself glared at the camera. Not a posed shot, one stolen on the street by paparazzi. Black hair, ice blue eyes, nose and chin chiseled like a bust of a Roman god.
I stumbled away a little shaken by the portrait of the reaper of women.
Would I be released by my editor from this assignment? No. Would I gain the self-confidence required for public nudity in two days? Double no. Would my sisters ever let me forget I chickened out? Triple-dog no.
Not only my likeness would be captured, Cobb might prove capable of reaching down and finding my true self, ready to be exposed. Could this opportunity remake me into one of those women proudly displaying their attributes to the world? Was I willing to risk all for a taste of confidence like my sisters wore every day?
The new expressive me lay trapped inside the old mousy me. Where there was a will, there was a way, but no graceful way out.
I dodged my sisters' phone calls and focused all good karma on Wednesday. I arrived early for my exhibition; I mean appointment to a nondescript building with no sign or address, no names on the mailboxes. Subtle message, if you weren't invited, you shouldn't be here. I pressed the doorbell, heard footsteps coming to the door, and prayed I wouldn't faint.
The imposing oak door swung in, and the grail of my quest stood before me. The men of my dreams were book boyfriends. Men conjured up from another woman's imagination who yielded to her will. All were tall, muscular, ruggedly handsome, and smelled wonderful. Like them, this guy was all those myths come to life. Now I'd add a few revisions to include sparkling blue eyes enticing me to jump into those pools for a slow swim, full lips, and thighs like tree trunks. Forget breeders' hips, the sight of Benjamin Nance Cobb made my ovaries explode. He assessed me up and down then smiled. A slight dimple formed on his unshaven cheek. A kiss would fit perfectly on that indentation.
"I'm," he hesitated and stared at me.
He knew I was a fraud. Who would believe I was a model?
"I'm sorry, I'm Ben Cobb," he said, pushing the door all the way open to the wall. "You must be from the agency."
"Yes, I'm the model."
Of what, I didn't know.
"You look familiar. Have you posed for print ads?" His cordial tone sounded as if he had just parked my car.
What if he asked to see some credentials or my portfolio? I should have taken Eleanor's crazy advice about head shots or shots to the head. Right now, I was a bit confused as my fear and flight impulses beat against my brain. As a result, I stayed put and proceeded in. I didn't dare speak again, my voice hid under the covers, waiting for me to come to my senses.
"The changing room is to the right, I mean your left. There's a robe in there on the wall. On a hook on the wall. No, it's on the door," he said as he scratched the back of his head. "I apologize. I'm sure you're a professional and can figure it out."
Professional fraud at the moment.
            "No problem, I'll find it." I strolled down a hallway.
Was he upset or nervous? Did I scare him? He probably thought, "How am I supposed to work with her?" Should I apologize in advance?
I found an open pink door. It was more of a renovated closet with a full-length mirror, an embroidered chair, and an ornate hook on the back of the door with a flimsy yellow robe attached.
I bit my lower lip as I began to undress. I tried to focus on why I put myself in this situation: a career boost and a chance to get in good with the new bosses. I forgot about impressing my sisters, they would be questioning my sanity about now.
Getting him to talk presented the ultimate challenge.
"So why do you paint nudes?"
            "Do you pay them or do they pay you?"
"I'm a fan of your mom's work."
Helen Nance Cobb's books were special to me. They reminded me of my childhood before my parents died. Adele's Armoire, Benjamin's Bike, Celeste's Closet, and Daniel's Dugout were the first four books I could read by myself. Prose and illustrations represented all twenty-six letters.
A soft knock at the door brought me back to the present. I gripped the back of the chair.
"Is everything all right in there?" he asked.
"I'm coming."
If I shook anymore, I could make a smoothie. Yesterday I waxed, exfoliated, moisturized, and steamed myself. I wished I could pump up my courage too. Exhaling slowly, I opened the door to meet my new outlook on life or die trying.
The floor creaked as I ambled toward the easel where he stood, cleaning brushes.
"Where do you want me?" I asked as my fist clutched the robe shut.
He stared at me again. I must be the most hideous specimen to ever pose for him.
"When you're ready, take off the robe, and lay on your stomach on the pillows," he said, offering a slight smile.
I cautiously strolled over and sat on the floor with my back to the wall.
If a guy jumped out with a camera and yelled "Smile," I wouldn't be surprised. Being caught at the most embarrassing moment of my life made perfect sense right now.
"How long have you been a model, Miss?" he asked, shifting the canvas on the easel.
"I'm Alexia Hale. I've been modeling for two years."
Did it sound believable? Should I have used a fake name?
"Only with Perkins?"
Who or what was Perkins?
"I'm surprised they didn't send you earlier. I've asked for a variety of women, especially without endowments. Sorry, I mean a woman with natural beauty."
"My works takes me out of the country."
My nose was about to go Pinocchio on me, and he noticed my breasts. My nipples hardened up and rubbed against the polyester blend. Traitors.
"Where?" he asked.
"Paris, Vienna, Stockholm, and Hawaii."
All the places I would love to visit.
"Busy girl. Photography or painting?"
This one didn't count as a lie. I liked taking pictures, and I finger painted in kindergarten.
"Are you ready to start?" he asked.
I let the robe slide off of me and flopped on the pillows. He didn't flinch or move for three full minutes. He absorbed me into those piercing blue eyes.
"Excuse me," he said as he hurried away.
The sight of the nude me made him vomit. I stood, wrapped the robe around my shoulders, and sprinted toward the dressing room. I'd grab my clothes and dress on the sidewalk. He must be calling the agency to complain, and they would out me as a fraud.
He rounded the corner and almost knocked me to the floor. The robe swirled around my legs and landed in a puddle at my feet. My right arm went across my chest and my left hand fanned over my womanhood.
"Beautiful," he said under his breath as he swept my hair back behind my ear.
Me? I shivered from his touch. This was why the women looked enraptured in his paintings. They had sex with him before they posed. That would blow the wind in my sails, definitely a step out of character for me.
"Excuse me, I'm being totally unprofessional," he said as he leaned down, retrieved my robe, and handed it to me. "If you're uncomfortable staying and want to leave, I'll understand."
"No, I'm fine," I said as I fumbled with the robe, trying to put it on.
"Okay, let's get started."
I followed him back to the studio and pretended he didn't stir me up. I couldn't comment on my effect on him as I resettled by the pillows. The robe melted off me this time because I wanted him to see me.
"Please support yourself on your elbows," he said.
I stopped trembling, pushed up, and glanced at him.
"Like this, Mr. Cobb?" My voice squeaked.
"I'm Ben. Mr. Cobb is my worthless father," he swallowed hard, grabbed the back of his neck, and pressed down.
I touched a raw nerve.
"Look at me." he said. I only shifted my eyeballs, afraid to move anything else. "I'm going to tell you when to change your facial expressions like be happy, pensive, sleepy, or sad, understand?"
"Please follow my directions, and don't speak or move."
The artist had arrived and was all business. Time for me to do the same.

About the Author:

Long before DVDs, Mary Jo saw Gone with the Wind in the theater. She was ten. The story never left her. She read the book three times. She saw the movie every time it was re-released. GWTWwill be seventy-five years old this year and is her favorite movie. She would only make a minor change: Leave Ashley to Melanie and hold on tight to Rhett. Her writing sprung from reading, watching, and always wanting to edit.
Mary Jo was born in Chicago and has never strayed far from home. She majored in Accounting and received her MBA in Finance. She worked in the investment and banking businesses. 

Mary Jo is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Chicago North RWA, and Windy City RWA.
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