Thursday 27 December 2018

A Gilded Age Mystery Series by Rosemary Simpson

This series kept me thoroughly entertained during the week before Christmas.
I dived into each book one after the other and felt quite bereft when I reached the end.
I absolutely love historical mysteries and this fits the bill perfectly. Prudence and Geoffrey lead a fantastic cast of characters.
With tension, suspense and intrigue as well as a simmering, slow burn romance this series has everything. I really can't wait to read more as it's published.

I recommend that you read these books in the correct order.

Series in order 

Description for Book 1: What the Dead Leave Behind.

Set amidst the opulent mansions and cobblestone streets of Old New York, this enthralling historical mystery by Rosemary Simpson brings the Gilded Age to life in a tantalizing tale of old money, new love, and grave suspicion . . .

As the Great Blizzard of 1888 cripples the vast machinery that is New York City, heiress Prudence MacKenzie sits anxiously within her palatial Fifth Avenue home waiting for her fiance s safe return. But the fearsome storm rages through the night. With daylight, more than two hundred people are found to have perished in the icy winds and treacherous snowdrifts. Among them is Prudence s fiance his body frozen, his head crushed by a heavy branch, his fingers clutching a single playing card, the ace of spades . . .

Close on the heels of her father s untimely demise, Prudence is convinced Charles s death was no accident. The ace of spades was a code he shared with his school friend, Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent and attorney from the South and a former Pinkerton agent. Wary of sinister forces closing in on her, Prudence turns to Geoffrey as her only hope in solving a murder not all believe in and to help protect her inheritance from a stepmother who seems more interested in the family fortune than Prudence s wellbeing . . .

Filled with richly colorful characters, fascinating historical details, and thrilling moments of suspense, What the Dead Leave Behind is an exquisitely crafted mystery for the ages.

Advance praise for What the Dead Leave Behind

Naturally I always gravitate toward any book set in old New York, and this one exceeded expectations. It has everything one could expect from a historical mystery: set against the blizzard of 88, a smart heroine pits her wits against an evil stepmother out to destroy her. - Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of the Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries

An engrossing, complex tale of betrayal and triumph that takes the reader deep into the heart of Gilded Age Manhattan. - Alyssa Maxwell, author of Murder at Rough Point

Rosemary Simpson vividly recreates the world of nineteenth-century New York City in this exciting debut mystery. Every level of society intersects as we explore a world in which corruption touches both the highest and the lowest and nothing and no one is exactly what they seem. - Victoria Thompson, bestselling author of Murder in Morningside Heights

A beautifully crafted mystery, full of intrigue and historical atmosphere, with great characters and the potential for further adventures. - Catherine Lloyd, author of Death Comes to the Fair

A wonderfully colorful cast of characters makes Rosemary Simpson's debut mystery a pleasure to read. Prudence Mackenzie's focus on law, and the depiction of New York City in 1888 is fascinating. - Radha Vatsal, author of A Front Page Affair

Sunday 23 December 2018

Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal (2018)

Seventeen gruesome killings across the United States, within a span of six months and with one clear connection among victims. They were all book authors. 
While media was decorating the murders with sensationalist stories, and law enforcement was playing catch-up, the homicidal maniac remained elusive and secretive. 

Things got very interesting, however, when one day she decided to appear on an internet talk show for an honest fireside chat. Her reason for being on this show was not a quest for fame, but something much more disturbing.

Suvaal weaves a fast-paced, dark, serial killer tale. 

It's a story which is intense in parts yet comic on the edges and keeps the reader hooked in. A psychological thriller with a female protagonist.

Length- 40 pages
Buy Link Amazon 99p

Saturday 15 December 2018

The Duke's Agent (F.R. Jarrett Mystery #1) by Rebecca Jenkins

Publisher's Information

An ex-soldier turns detective in this thrilling Regency read!

A threatening presence is stalking a provincial Northern town…

1811, England 

Frederick Raif Jarrett has returned from battle and is seeking a quiet life as agent to the Duke of Penrith. 

So when he is sent to the Durham town of Woolbridge to settle the affairs of one of the Duke's tenants following his sudden death, the dangers of the Yorkshire countryside could not be more unexpected. 

Jarrett begins to uncover a network of crime and corruption but is thwarted at every turn by the town's powerful and much-feared magistrate, Mr. Justice Raistrick. 

When a young woman dies in tragic and mysterious circumstances, Jarrett is accused of her murder and has to fight for his life as he desperately seeks to uncover the truth. 

Is there a serial killer on the loose? Can Jarrett solve the case in time to clear his name? 

And what about the whispering rumours of the sinister figure calling himself The Tallyman…? 

This edition published 2018 (First published 1997)


THE DUKE’S AGENT is the first book in the Raif Jarrett Regency Mystery series: historical murder mysteries with a traditional British detective embarking on a private investigation in nineteenth-century England.

I found it quite difficult to get into this book and for the first 30% I found it slow and difficult to follow. There were so many side characters I couldn't figure out who the main ones were except for Raif, the Duke's Agent. The narrative jumped from person to person but the story didn't really go anywhere.
However, the more I read and as the story developed half way through I found it much more enjoyable. I liked Raif and Miss Lonsdale. 
It feels like much of the groundwork has been laid in book one so hopefully the second book won't be such hard work to get through. I liked this one just enough to give it a try.

Buy Link Amazon

Sunday 9 December 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke (The Cavensham Heiresses #4) by Janna McGregor (2018)

A lady with a noble mission. A duke looking for redemption. A forbidden love that cannot be denied… 

Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?

Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?

For a Christmasy, Regency romance this one ticks all the boxes; a cute childhood friends to lovers story, a dilemma to solve before reputations are ruined, and the reuniting of old friends and lots of humorous shenanigans.
Daphne and Paul's relationship is bittersweet with neither of the pair realising how significant their interactions were to each other as they were growing up. In adulthood the chemistry between them is strong and I loved how much humour was thrown into their banter and their late night adventures. It offered a nice balance to the poignancy of their shared grief.

Buy Link Amazon

Monday 19 November 2018

Benevolent Passion (Heaven's Heart Book 2) by Amanda Pillar (2018)

Peony has traded one Hell for another. 

As a qualified doctor who only ever dreamed of helping people, being kept as a slave and then sold as breeding stock for Mortus demons was never on the cards. 

Freed from imprisonment, Zadkiel is an angel on a mission: find Heaven’s stolen Heart and save the demon who helped him when he was a captive. But Z is suffering from a mystical illness no one can cure… Can he stay alive long enough to achieve his goals? 

Together, Peony and Z will need every ounce of their combined strength to survive the Mortus stronghold and find the key to Heaven’s Heart.


I can't get enough of these angels and demons! 

After reading the first book I couldn't wait to read Z and Peony's story. This was an exciting story from start to finish with just the right amount of romance.
The Mortus stronghold is a bit terrifying but I enjoyed every suspenseful minute of Peony's time there. I love how strong the women are in these books and I was especially impressed with the extent of Peony's power. 
This was a thrilling read and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Buy Links  Amazon

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Kiss Me at Christmas: Playful Brides by Valerie Bowman (2018)

“Merry, intelligent, and wholly satisfying.”—USA Today 

"Sizzles with sensuality." - Publishers Weekly 

“Delicious and suspenseful.” —Kirkus Reviews
A spirited lady facing spinsterhood. A common man with a noble mission. And a surprise that just might be waiting for them under the mistletoe in Kiss Me At Christmas by Valerie Bowman.
Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf abhors Christmas. Carol singing and holiday cheer only remind him of a dark time. When a close friend calls on him for help, Daffin is happy to capitalize on the distraction. But when he learns the lovely Lady Regina is the one in danger, he’s to become bodyguard to the captivating woman...
Regina has one mission: to find a night of passion in the arms of a gentleman. Considered firmly on the shelf, Regina has given up on marriage—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be denied the pleasure married ladies experience. Daffin has long captured her attention…and when a threat calls him to her side, the sparks between them ignite. But how can a hired bodyguard find his way into Regina’s noble heart?


Valerie Bowman does it again. This book was so good I read it all in one day.
It is funny, has a host of charming characters and a very exciting plot full of suspense and drama that kept me turning the pages.
A romantic Regency mystery very worthy of five stars.

Buy Links Amazon

Monday 29 October 2018

The Foundling Lady by Audrey Harrison, Narrated by Melanie Fraser (2018)


Fact and fiction come together to create a compelling historical romance. 
Miss Emily Wallis is a bluestocking whose parents have caused enough scandal for her to retreat from society.  
Mrs. Agnes Jones is living a lie which she is desperately trying to keep hidden.   
Viscount Robert Wilding is suffering from his injuries gained at Salamanca and the loss of his brothers.   
They are three damaged individuals who are on life-changing journeys in ways they could never have foreseen.   
None of them will ever be the same again.
©2017 Audrey Harrison (P)2018 Audrey Harrison


An excellent follow up to the Foundling Duke. Audrey Harrison has become one of my favourite authors in the genre.
In this story we see the twins who were separated at birth finally be reunited as adults and with their birth mother as well.
Their story is sad, bittersweet and full of surprises. 
The romance was well written and entertaining. The narrator, Melanie Fraser, gives a wonderful performance. I wanted to listen to this book all in one go as I couldn't put it down.

Buy Links Audible           Paperback and Ebook Amazon

Saturday 13 October 2018

The Secrets of Chateau Swansea: A Gothic Romance, R.C. Matthews (2018)

Publisher's information
When the hunter becomes the hunted ~

A grisly murder leaves a haunted estate without an heir, and a powerful medium scrambles to find answers from beyond the grave. 

Determined to escape the nightmarish memories of her childhood, heiress and psychic Maribeth Sommerset pursues the adventurous life of a psychic investigator, beginning with a murder and the spirits who hover behind at the haunted Chateau Swansea. 

Meanwhile, devoted steward of the chateau Arthur Dunn plays a dangerous game of deception to shield his employer's good name, landing himself at the top of Maribeth's suspect list.

Amidst scandalous secrets and destructive lies, will Maribeth uncover the secrets of Chateau Swansea before the killer strikes again? 

Don't miss out on this thrilling Victorian gothic romance!


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The mystery and the paranormal scenes really lent a supernatural and Gothic feel to the story. There were plenty of twists in the tale which kept me guessing and I was completely caught off guard when the killer was revealed.
I liked the romance. It was nice and subtle and didn't overshadow the main story.

I am still confused about title. The story is set in England but the people live in a chateau in Swansea.
I thought it was either going to be set in France or Wales as the family lived in a chateau in Swansea. It just didn't make sense.
There is no explanation why it's called a chateau as the characters are not French. It would be less confusing if it was a castle with an English name rather than a French castle named after a city in Wales but set in England.

                                                            Buy Link Amazon UK

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Mystery Loves Company: A John Pickett Mystery #7 By Sheri Cobb South, Narrated by Joel Froomkin(2018)


Returning to London after his honeymoon (For Deader or Worse), Bow Street Runner John Pickett soon discovers wedded bliss is not without its pitfalls, as he finds it galling to be financially dependent on Julia, his aristocratic bride. When he is summoned to the home of Lady Washbourn, Pickett finds he has something in common with the young countess: like himself, Lady Washbourn has married above her station and now finds herself adrift in a world to which she does not truly belong.
After a series of unsettling incidents - dismissed as accidents by Lord Washbourn and his mother, the dowager countess - Lady Washbourn fears her husband is trying to kill her. The couple will be hosting a masquerade ball, and the countess fears the anonymity of masks and costumes may afford Lord Washbourn an opportunity to make another, bolder attempt on her life. Tricked out in fancy dress for the occasion, Pickett feels more than a little foolish, but when one of the housemaids dies shortly after stealing a sip of Lady Washbourn’s ratafia, he realises her ladyship’s fears were not unfounded. 
Then the coroner’s jury returns a verdict of death by natural causes, and Lord Washbourn makes it clear that he considers the matter settled. Pickett stakes his professional reputation on proving the maid was murdered with a poison intended for her mistress. And with a reward of fifty pounds sterling riding on his successful resolution of the case, the marriage Pickett saves just might be his own.
©2018 Sheri Cobb South (P)2018 Sheri Cobb South

I love listening to this series and I eagerly await each addition as it is published. The narration is always very good. 

John Pickett always seems to find the most intriguing cases to solve. This one was no exception. 
I liked that John's new case involved his attending a masked ball. He was out of his element and it was humorous to watch him grapple with social niceties and fashion. I'm hoping to see more of John attending high society events in the future.
His relationship with Lady Julia has its rocky times but they are always outweighed by sweet, romantic moments. You can't help but want good things to happen for the pair of them.

I enjoyed listening to this book very much. I can't wait for the next one.

Buy Links Audible      Amazon

Monday 24 September 2018

The Christmas Wishing Tree: An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March (2018)

Sometimes life's most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began...From New York Times bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.
A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn't hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.
Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications --until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they'll both find the miracle they've been looking for all along...
A delightful Christmas novel in the New York Times bestselling Eternity Springs series.


This is a really sweet Christmas romance. It can be read as a stand alone even though it is the fifteenth book in the series.
I loved the relationship that developed between Devin and Reilly over the phone as Devin pretends to be Santa Claus in answer to Reilly's phone calls.
The stalker story line was quite exciting in places and I got a sense of the threat that Reilly and Jenna were facing. I was disappointed however in how that storyline was resolved as it fizzled away into nothing and was quite anticlimactic. 
The romance between Devin and Jenna was cute. I liked how he tried pushing her in the path of another man in order to stop himself from falling in love and then getting all jealous when she starts spending time with someone else. It led to a few humorous incidents.
All in all, this was a nice holiday romance and I would quite happily read more of the series starting from the beginning.

Social Links:

Facebook: Emily March
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                                          EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

An Eternity Springs Novel
Emily March
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Chapter One

Christmas carols played softly in the background. The scent of spiced cider perfumed the air. Shoppers munched happily on gingerbread cookies and perused the bookshelves for that perfect gift.
Dr. Jenna Stockton imagined ripping the halo off the angel’s head and choking her with it. Instead, she reached deep within herself for patience and managed to find a smile for the costumed character behind the bookstore counter. “If I could speak with your manager, please?”
“She’s awfully busy.”
Jenna thought of the ridiculous length of her own to-do list as she fought to keep her smile from turning into a sneer. “Yes, well, it’s that time of year, isn’t it? Your manager?”
The little angel gave a haughty sniff, and then said, “If you’ll step out of line, please?”
Without missing a beat, the angel turned a bright smile toward the woman waiting behind Jenna. “I’m sosorry for this unfortunate delay, ma’am. I’ll be as quick as I possibly can.”
Jenna didn’t snarl like a rabid dog. She didn’t. She smiled at the woman behind her in line. Sweetly. Without canines.
The woman and the four people behind her each gave Jenna an annoyed glower. She gave them all a smile too, then reached for the nearest book, which she pretended to read until the clerk returned, accompanied by a fiftysomething woman dressed like an elf. The angel gestured toward Jenna and said, “This is the one, Ms. Thomas.”
The elf spoke in a harried tone. “May I help you?”
“I hope so.” Especially considering that I went out of my way to support a local business rather than ordering online. Jenna set down the paperback. “I placed a special order two weeks ago and someone from this store called me last week to tell me it was in. However, your … angel … can’t find it in your computer system, so she insists I’m mistaken.”
“Do you have your receipt?”
“Not with me, no.”
“Well, if you’ll come back—”
“I don’t have time to come back. I ordered the books for an event that begins”—Jenna checked her watch—“in forty-five minutes. I’d like you to check your stock room. My name is Jenna Stockton.”
“Ms. Stockton, I can’t—”
“I ordered thirty copies of New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room.”
“Oh.” The manager pursed her lips. “Oh. I recall that order.”
Then the manager winced. Uh-oh. Maybe not so good. Jenna drew a deep, calming breath, then asked, “If you will get it for me, please?”
“Oh dear.”
Jenna closed her eyes.
“I’m afraid we had some internal miscommunication. We sold out of our stock of that particular title and an employee unfortunately failed to notice the hold notice on your order. She put them on the shelf.”
“How many are left?”
“It’s a popular title,” the manager hedged.
Jenna leaned forward. “The books are for pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital. The Christmas party is at four o’clock.”
“Oh dear,” the manager repeated. “Four o’clock you say?”
Jenna nodded curtly.
“I’ll call our distributor. If you can stop back by—”
“You’ll need to deliver them directly to the hospital. To the attention of Dr. Jenna Stockton.” She removed a card from her purse and handed it to the manager. “Here’s the address. Take them to the information desk in the lobby. I’ll tell the volunteers working there to expect them.”
“But we don’t have a delivery—”
Jenna folded her arms and gave the manager her best take-no-prisoners look.
“I’ll do my best to have them there by four, Dr. Stockton. I apologize for the inconvenience. Now, is there anything else I can help you with? I saw you looking at the new Liza Holcomb thriller.” She picked up the book and handed it to Jenna. “It’s a fabulous book. Scariest stalker story I’ve read in years.”
Jenna quickly returned the book to the display table. A stalker story? That was all she needed. “No, thank you. All I need today is what I ordered. Thank you for the help. You have my phone number. I trust if there is any further problem, you will give me an immediate call?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Perfect. Merry Christmas, Ms. Thomas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too, Dr. Stockton.” The manager gave her a bright smile that didn’t quite hide the worry in her eyes.
Jenna headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder before pushing it open. The elf was on the phone, the angel had been replaced at the register by a reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman was on hands and knees beside the urn of mulled cider wiping up a spill. She sighed. Angels with attitude aside, she liked this little store. She really hoped they didn’t let her and the children down.

Outside, the jangle from the Salvation Army bell ringer mingled with the shrieks and laughter of children embroiled in a snowball fight in the park across the street. Jenna tugged leather gloves from her coat pocket and pulled them on as she walked to the street corner and waited for the light to change. Her gaze drifted back to the snowball warriors. It did her heart good to see healthy, happy children playing, especially after a morning like this one.
When the walk signal flashed on, she crossed the street and cut through the park headed for her car, which she’d left in a lot a block away. Her thoughts returned to her to-do list. She could save a few minutes if she bought cookies at the grocery store instead of making the extra stop at the bakery before picking up Reilly from daycare. But she’d promised Reilly a gingerbread man from—
Something cold and wet stung her cheek. What in the world? Reflexively, Jenna lifted her hand to her face and the remnants of … a snowball. She’d been hit with a snowball. Had the battlefield moved without her noticing and she’d been struck by an errant shot? Or had the attack been deliberate? If that was the case, one of these heathens was about to get a piece of her mind.
But when she turned to identify the culprit seconds after the snowball landed, her gaze skidded over a group of youngsters to an adult standing nearby. The pockets of a black wool coat concealed the man’s hands. A black knit cap pulled low on his brow and the matching scarf looped around his face shielded everything but his eyes.
Eyes that watched her.
A shiver of fear skidded down Jenna’s spine. She whirled around and picked up her pace. By the time she reached her car, she was all but running. She thumbed the key fob and unlocked the door as she approached, then locked it again the moment she was inside. She sat behind the steering wheel breathing hard, her heart pounding. Her gaze locked on the path through the park.
Nobody had followed her. Chased her. She’d let her imagination run wild.
“You didn’t imagine the face full of snow,” she muttered.
She should call the cops. File a report.
Sure. Be one of “those people.” Tie up a law enforcement officer’s time over a child’s prank. Because surely, that’s all it had been. One of those kids probably threw the snowball, and the guy dressed in black probably saw it as it flew by. He’d watched her to see if she’d pitch a fit about it.
She slipped her key into the ignition, started the car, and did her best to dismiss the incident. Forty minutes later—after stops at the dry cleaners, grocery, bakery, and party store—she made it back to the office in time for her one-thirty appointment with five minutes to spare. If she’d checked her rearview mirror more often than usual and paid close attention to those around her as she completed her errands, well, she was simply being responsible.
Whenever she had a few free minutes during the rest of the afternoon, her thoughts drifted back to the troubling events of recent months. The harassment had begun in October, although for the first few weeks, she hadn’t recognised the threat. Everyone got hang-up calls. She explained away the texts as wrong numbers. But once online orders she hadn’t placed began showing up on her doorstep, she realised she had a problem.
She’d thought she’d been a victim of identity theft. She’d spent an entire weekend canceling cards and changing accounts. Then last week when a particularly difficult case kept her at the hospital until early morning hours, she came out to the physician’s section of the parking garage and found the air had been released from each of her tires.
Random vandalism, the police said. Teenage pranks. Jenna wasn’t so certain, but she didn’t know who would be doing this to her or why.
As she exited Exam Room 4, her receptionist met her with the news that her three o’clock was a no-show, which meant she was done for the day. Jenna tucked away her dark worries and turned her thoughts to the light and bright. Now she’d have time to pick up Reilly from school rather than have his after-school caregiver drop him off at the hospital.
Luck was with her for a change because a parking place became available just as she pulled up. As she got out of her car, a bell rang, and the door to the kindergarten classroom opened. Reilly was the third youngster out.
“Mom!” exclaimed her six-year-old son. “You’re here! It’s time for the Christmas party, isn’t it? Is it time for the party? Is Santa going to be there? I have my list all ready.”
“Hello, little man. Yes, it’s time for the Christmas party and yes, Santa has promised to make an appearance.”
“I’m so excited!”
“Me too, Reilly. Me too.”
She’d been trying to make the Santa visit happen for two weeks now. Because kids grew up so fast these days, she knew that this might be the last year that Reilly believed in Santa Claus. Jenna had wanted to make it a special event for them both.
For the initial effort, she had planned an all-day Saturday holiday adventure beginning with breakfast at a pancake house, followed by shopping for gifts for Reilly’s friends, then a matinee performance of Rudolphat the children’s theater, and culminating with a visit to Santa’s Wonderland and a conversation with the big man himself. They’d had a great time eating and shopping and watching the play, but as they left the theater, her pager had gone off. She’d tried again the following Saturday with a different itinerary, but with similar Santa results. She and Reilly both were counting on “The third time is the charm” axiom working today.
Arriving at the hospital, she took advantage of valet parking due to the amount of party supplies she had to tote inside. She loaded up a collapsible wheeled cart with gifts and decorations and bakery boxes, then Reilly helped her tug it inside, where she approached the information desk with trepidation. “I’m Dr. Stockton. Do I have a package waiting, I hope?”
“Books,” the volunteer said. “Yes, they’re here.”
She reached beneath the counter then pulled out a box. Jenna spied twice as many gift-wrapped items as she’d expected. The folded note taped to the front of the box read, “Your complete order is enclosed. In addition, please accept these thirty copies of the first book in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room series as a gift to the children from the staff here at Hawthorne Books.”
“Well, isn’t that nice?” Jenna murmured.
“Isn’t what nice, Mom?”
“The Christmas spirit.”
He nodded in all seriousness. “I love the Christmas spirit. I wish it could last all year long.”
“You and me both, little man. You and me both.”
The Christmas party that followed was a bittersweet success. Local and a few national celebrities showed up to shower attention and gifts and good cheer on the patients of Children’s Hospital and their families. It was always nice to see the smiles, but invariably, tears were shed too. The what-ifs and if-onlys were unavoidable. Hospital events always caused Jenna to hug Reilly a little tighter and spend a little more time on her nightly prayers.
The books Jenna gifted were well received by parents and patients alike. Reilly finally had his visit with Santa, and Jenna shed a tear or two of her own while she snapped photos of the moment with her phone.
In the car ride on their way home, Reilly bubbled about the party—the food, the games, the gifts. “There were a lot of dads there,” he observed. “Did you see, Mom? There were a whole bunch of dads.”
“Yes.” Then, in an effort to alter the direction of the conversation, she said, “I was surprised to see how many football players attended. How many autographs did you get?”
“I don’t know,” Reilly answered with a shrug before proving that he was not to be distracted. “I thought Dr. David would be there. Why didn’t Dr. David come?”
Oh, Reilly. Dr. David Henderson was Reilly’s pediatrician, a widowed father whom she’d dated briefly last summer. “I told you he moved back to Minnesota to be closer to Bella and Jessie’s grandparents. Dr. Larimer is your new doctor.”
Reilly gave a long sigh. “I pretended I forgot. I thought he would make a really good daddy for us, Mom.”
“Oh, Reilly.”
“We really do need a daddy.”
“Reilly,” Jenna said, warning in her tone. “Please. It’s been a long day. Let’s not get started on that subject again.”
“But, Mommy…”
She silenced him with a stern glance. Her son could be a terrier when he got an idea in his head, and lately, every time she turned around, he’d been yipping and yapping about needing a daddy.
How about I just order one online? Everything else was showing up at the house. She’d certainly have more use for a daddy for Reilly than a yodeling pickle electronic noisemaker.
She switched on the radio, which was tuned to the Christmas music station. Listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks hope that Christmas wouldn’t be late wasn’t much better than the yodeling pickle. However, the music did manage to distract Reilly, who sang along the rest of the way home, so she wasn’t about to complain.
Her son helped her unload the car, and then he dashed about the house turning on the lights of all of their Christmas decorations while Jenna sorted through the mail. One envelope in particular caught her notice. Whitewater Adventure Rafting on the Snake River? Her stomach took a sick little flip.
Dread filled her as she stared down at the envelope addressed to JENNA M. STOCKTON, MD.
This was coincidence, surely. Just bad timing of an advertisement that probably went to everyone in her zip code.
She slid the letter opener blade beneath the envelope flap and removed the folded paper.
A reservation for one. Paid in full. January 23rd at 10:00 a.m.
She dropped the paper as if it were on fire. Her hands trembled. Her heart pounded.
Her always-adventuring parents had drowned in a whitewater rafting accident seven years earlier … on January 23.
“Mom, can we read a story?”
Jenna saw her son standing in the doorway with his stuffed Rudolph beneath his arm. His request was a life preserver tossed to a drowning person. “Absolutely. I have a new book for us.”
Because she wasn’t on call tonight and she had no patients she suspected of being in imminent need of her services, she poured herself a glass of wine, traded her shoes for slippers, and settled into the overstuffed easy chair in the family room with the copy of The New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room that she’d reserved for her own family. “In my lap, little man.”
He bounded over to her, his face alight with joy.
Story time was special for them both. She’d finished the first book and allowed herself to be talked into reading a second and a third. They were negotiating a fourth when she answered the doorbell to a pizza delivery she had not ordered.
By nine thirty, her doorbell had chimed eleven more times with deliveries of eleven more cheese and mushroom pizzas. Jenna was allergic to mushrooms.
At nine forty-five she called the police.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily March in The Christmas Wishing Tree and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.