A Valentine’s Day with Kiki Lowenstein by Joanna Campbell Slan

happy homicides 2Four days before Valentine’s Day, and my store buzzed with happy customers. Time in a Bottle had originally been a scrapbook store until I purchased the place and expanded our offerings to include other crafts. Now every holiday presented me with another chance to pay down my hefty business loan.

This being the last Friday night before the holiday, it was “all hands on deck.” I’d even phoned my friend and co-worker Laurel Wilkins and begged her to come and help. After a quick conference with her fiancé Joseph Riley, aka Father Joe, they agreed to postpone their date night so she could help me out. Thank goodness for that, because we’d been crazy busy. So much so, that I sighed with relief when I flipped the front door sign to CLOSED. I was turning the handle on the lock when I spotted the handsome young priest striding up the walkway.

“Hey there!” I threw open the door and gave the man a big hug. I reveled in the scent of his woodsy men’s cologne. “Sorry about interrupting your date. I appreciate the fact that Laurel could help me out. She’s in the stock room.” I stepped back to give him an apologetic smile. “How are the wedding plans coming?”

His welcoming grin faded. “Not good. Not good at all. Got a minute to listen to my tale of woe?”

“Of course I do. Come into my office.” I pulled up a stool by my work table and gave him my full attention. “Don’t tell me one of you is getting cold feet?”

“Absolutely not.” He sighed and tugged on the ends of his wool muffler. “In fact, we’ve never been more committed to becoming man and wife. Watching you and Detweiler grow your family has been inspiring.”

I swallowed an emotional lump in my throat and waited for him to find the right words. Joe wasn’t accustomed to being the speaker, typically he was the one listening to an emotional congregant. He fiddled with his scarf as he struggled to gather his thoughts.

“As you know, Laurel’s mother just died—” He stopped. “I mean, her adoptive mom, of course. And that’s been hard, but it’s also a relief because Edith was suffering so from cancer. Laurel wants to get married, but she worries that people will think she’s not properly mourning her mother’s death.”

“That’s ridiculous!” I couldn’t help myself. “I know that Edith passionately wanted the two of you to wed!”

“Right. Then there’s Mert, Laurel’s biological mother,” said Joe. A weary tone crept into his voice. “Mert went out and bought a designer wedding gown that she’s insisting Laurel wear. Although it isn’t Laurel’s style. Not even close.”

A hand flew to my mouth as I smothered a giggle. Mert’s style could best be called “trailer park trashy.” I loved her, but she was a huge believer in “displaying the merchandise.” Since Laurel was built like a Playboy centerfold, the resulting gown could be. . .well. . .a real showstopper.

Joe snickered, too. “The wardrobe issue is small potatoes compared to my problems. The bishop of my diocese has told me he’s looking forward to officiating at our marriage. That’s nice. . .I guess. . .except that my best friend from seminary presides over a congregation in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas. I’d love to have Ralphie perform the ceremony. But flying him here for the service would be problematic, because protocol demands that the bishop pronounce the blessing and preside at the Eucharist, and that’s when I’d most like Ralphie to be the celebrant.”

I guess my eyes glazed over. I was raised as an Episcopalian, but I didn’t follow the “who’s on first” turn our conversation had taken.

However, Joe was just getting started. “And then there’s the congregation. I can’t tell you how many people have suggested that we use their children as flower girls and their adult daughters as bridesmaids. Don’t even get me started on best men. Or who gets to give away the bride.”

“Wow.” I hadn’t thought that through. He was right. He and Laurel were on course to tick off every blessed member of Joe’s congregation.

I had hoped I could offer a shoulder to lean on. Instead, I’d reminded Joe of all the problems strewn along the path to the altar. Now I sat there, stunned and overwhelmed by his problems.

With a groan, Joe sank his head into his hands.

Yet, all around us were cheerful red hearts, flying Cupids, and other symbols of undying love. The sweet fragrance of chocolate lingered in the air.

We weren’t talking Romeo and Juliet. We were talking Laurel and Joe. There had to be a way!

“Elope,” I said. “That’s what Detweiler and I had planned to do. If I hadn’t been eight months pregnant at the time, we would have hopped on a plane and run away together.”

Joe jerked to an upright position. “Elopement? Really? That would honk off everyone!”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but it would honk them off equally.”

~*~

The next four days flew by faster than an arrow shot from the bow of the winged God of Love himself.

I did my best to compartmentalize my conversation with Joe. Certainly, I had plenty to occupy my thoughts: the kids, my new husband, the return of my dead husband’s mother from rehab, and always, the hum and thrum of my store.

When Laurel sent me a text message that she wouldn’t be in on Valentine’s Day, I noted it and moved on. She’d done me a world of good by giving me extra time before the holiday. How could I be upset because she’d skipped out? Especially since she’d gone missing on that one day a year we set aside for romance?

I couldn’t be miffed. Instead, I sent up a silent prayer that she and Joe were having some well-deserved fun.

~*~

We closed the store at five on Valentine’s Day, so our staff could celebrate the holiday. Our nanny, Brawny, had volunteered to babysit so that my new husband and I could go out to eat, but we’d decided instead to have dinner as a family. “We’ll celebrate after the kids are in bed,” said Detweiler, with a wink, as he took a pass on Brawny’s offer.

I had blushed and agreed that a family dinner was certainly in order. After our youngest child was born, our older two had exhibited some anxiety. Friends had warned us this was common, a jockeying of roles as the dynamic of our little tribe changed. In an attempt to reassure the older two, Detweiler and I had privately discussed the need to spend as much time as possible with them.

Thinking back on that wink, I felt a tingle as I pulled into my driveway. Okay, so this evening might not include a romantic dinner for two. It would still be a wonderful celebration of the abundant love in my life. I’d only just opened my car door when Detweiler came racing toward me. “Hurry! There’s something you need to see!”

I took his arm and hurried into the house, expecting to find some surprise concocted by our kids. Instead, he whisked me through the kitchen and into the family room, where Anya, our thirteen-year-old daughter, stood with the remote control in one hand.

“Quick! Sit down!” She pointed to an empty spot on the sofa next to Brawny and five-year-old Erik.

“The wee master is asleep in his crib,” said Brawny, as she patted the space reserved for me. “He had his bottle and conked right off.”

“It’s six o’clock. Here we go!” Detweiler gave Anya a nod.

She clicked the buttons. As the screen came to life, Erik snuggled next to me. I planted a kiss on his head and wrapped my arms around him. He smelled of peanut butter and baby shampoo. Delicious!

On the screen stood Joe and Laurel, waving to us. In the background, I could barely make out an altar and flowers.

“What?” I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing.

“Joe took you up on your suggestion! He and Laurel flew to Las Vegas. See that priest? Stepping behind the altar? It’s his friend, Ralphie. Joe sent me a text this morning to tell us to watch. That’s one of those wedding chapels. We’re actually seeing the ceremony live.” Detweiler rubbed his hands together in glee. “Isn’t it terrific?”

And it was.

Through tears and smiles, our family watched as two hearts became one.

♥ The End ♥


Joanna Campbell Slan and twelve other authors have created a second in their popular Happy Homicides Cozy Anthologies. This one—Happy Homicides 2: Thirteen Cozy Mysteries (Crimes of the Heart)—includes fourteen stories (thirteen PLUS this one as a bonus). All are clean, entertaining reads with zero calories. The book releases today, February 14, Valentine’s Day. And the price for more than 600 pages of cozy crime capers is only $2.99. As always, inside the book you’ll find an email address to send away for your FREE Bonus File featuring romantic recipes and crafts. Go to Happy Homicides Mysteries for details.

My Musing ~ Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes

Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes is the third book in the “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, February 2016

Scene of the BrinePiper Lamb has to take a break from jarring her delicious pickles and preserves to blow the lid off a poisoner. . .

Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.

Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself. . .

This is a fun book to read. I love the idea of a pickling theme and learning what can and cannot be pickled. In the latest adventure, things get dicey when murder strikes and goods sold at Piper’s place is deemed poisoned. Now it’s up to Piper and her friends to find the person responsible for this dastardly crime.

The author does a good job of keeping me engaged and entertained through out this delectable mystery with plenty of suspects with motives and the clues given aids in the identifying killer with a nice twist to enhance the narrative of this tale. All the major players had a key role in this terrific book and the ending put a smile on my face. I can’t wait to see where we go next in this delightfully charming series.

My Musing ~ For Cheddar or Worse by Avery Aames

For Cheddar or Worse by Avery Aames is the 7th book in the “Cheese Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Berkly Prime Crime, February 2016

For Cheddar or WorseIn the new Cheese Shop Mystery from the Agatha Award-winning author of As Gouda as Dead, an extra-sharp tongued cheese critic is cut down during a summer cheese festival.

It’s time for the annual Cheese Festival in Providence, Ohio, and Charlotte Bessette’s cheese shop is packed with homemade specialties. Meanwhile, her friend Erin is prepping her dairy farm and inn for cheese makers, marketers, journalists, and one surprise guest—Lara Berry, pretentious cheese whiz, pompous bestselling author, and pungent critic whose extra sharp tongue can crumble a reputation.

Even though any love for Lara by her friends curdled long ago, Charlotte is surprised when the foodie is smothered to death in her room at Erin’s inn. Accusations start flying, but the one laying blame on Erin strikes Charlotte as a crock. Now, to clear her friend’s name, Charlotte has to sift through Lara’s ex-lovers, former business partners, and unforgiving enemies to find a killer before Lara’s past casts a tainted pall on the festival’s future.

This was a very enjoyable tale that grabbed my attention immediately quickly becoming a pager turner. The author knows how to deliver a story where the mystery kept me on my toes as all the suspects are presented and each clues brought me closer to the killer’s identity and boy did I like the lead up to the revelation. This was a good read with a great cast of characters, engaging dialogue and the perfect backdrop in this fast-paced and character driven drama. This is one of the best book in the series and I will miss Charlotte and her friends as this is the last book in this wonderfully charming series.

My Musing ~ It’s a Wonderful Knife by Christine Wenger

It’s a Wonderful Knife by Christine Wenger is the fifth book in the “Comfort Food” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, February 2016

It's A Wonderful KnifeComfort food and murder are on the holiday menu in the latest mystery from the national bestselling author of Macaroni and Freeze . . .

All Trixie Matkowski wants for Christmas is a break—just not the broken leg she got after slipping on some ice. With Sandy Harbor alive in the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s the busiest time of the year at Trixie’s Silver Bullet Diner. There are millions of things to do, including cater the town’s annual Christmas pageant and community dinner with some delicious holiday comfort food.

But the festivities turn into a bit of a turkey after Liz Fellows, the director of the pageant, is found with Trixie’s butcher knife in her back. Now Trixie must help the police arrest the scary gentleman—or lady—guilty of the crime if she hopes to get herself off the naughty list.

This was such a fun and enjoyable book to read. Despite a broken leg, Trixie and ACB find themselves caught in solving another murder during the Christmas holiday. I liked the pacing and the flow of this mystery as it was easy to follow and the author took great care to present this tale that embodied the holiday spirit. All the supporting characters had a role that enhanced the telling of a mystery that kept me engaged from the beginning to the magical ending. This was one of the best book thus far and I was looking forward to more adventures with Trixie, ACB and Ty in the next book, but alas, this is the last book in this endearing series.

A Day in the Life of Maura Donovan by Sheila Connolly

A Turn For The BadOkay, so I’ve been in Ireland for, what, six, seven months now? I got here in March, and then it was kind of a blur for a while when I found out I now owned a pub—Sullivan’s—and a house. I mean, the most I ever owned before was whatever clothes were in my closet. And suddenly I’m a homeowner and a manager, in a country I’d never seen before. At least they speak English here, except sometimes the people are a little hard to understand.

Well, I’ve made it this far. The pub hasn’t gone belly-up yet, and I haven’t burned the house down, although I’m not really sure how the heat works. If there are taxes and licenses and stuff like that to worry about, I’m going to save them until the end of the year. Maybe by then I’ll be able to afford an accountant or a solicitor or whatever the heck it takes. Maybe.

I’m not complaining, really. There is just this one problem: I get getting involved with crimes (no, I don’t commit them). I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. People keep coming into the pub, and they start talking, which is what I want them to do, and the next thing I know, they’re telling me about somebody who died a long time ago, or something that went missing. Why do they tell me this stuff? It’s not because I look friendly, or even wise (I’m kind of young for that). I guess they just look at me behind the bar and say, yeah, that’s a bartender, and I’m supposed to spill my guts to bartenders. Right?

Don’t laugh. It keeps happening. And now it’s happening again.

You wouldn’t think a dairy farmer who disappeared a good number of miles from here would be any of my business, but I keep finding out that everybody around here in West Cork knows everybody else and is probably related to them three different way, and that makes it everybody’s business. How come I lived in the City of Boston all my life before I came here, but after six months I know more people here than I ever did in Boston? And Sullivan’s is kind of information central, where everybody comes to swap stories and see what’s new. It’s better than the national news.

Okay, this time around it’s that missing farmer. Don’t ask me how many farmers just up and disappear, because I just don’t know. If you ask me, farming, especially with cows, is a messy job, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people get fed up with it and walk away. But the thing is, this guy left his kid behind, on the beach, wondering where his daddy went. Everybody who’s come into the pub says he isn’t the kind of man to do something like that. So the only other possibility is that somebody took him away, and either didn’t see the kid on the beach or didn’t care. Which doesn’t explain why anybody would want to grab a dairy farmer.

But when they heard he was missing, people got busy—fast. I didn’t know how many rescue agencies there were around here, like the Coast Guard and the Irish Navy, although I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since we’re so close to the coast. There’s a lot of coast around here. Most of it is too shallow or too rocky for boats. At least, that’s what people say, but then they kind of go nod-nod wink-wink, and I’m left wondering what they’re talking about, but nobody will tell me.

Maybe whatever is going on is not quite legal? But I can’t prove that. All I can do is try to help find the missing guy, and the best way for me to do that is to listen to the people who come into Sullivan’s, because I can promise you, someone knows something about it.


A Turn for the Bad is the 4th book in the County Cork Mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, February 2016.

The New York Times bestselling author of An Early Wake returns to Ireland where Sullivan’s Pub owner Maura Donovan gets mixed up with smugglers.

After calling Ireland home for six months, Boston expat Maura Donovan still has a lot to learn about Irish ways—and Sullivan’s Pub is her classroom. Maura didn’t only inherit a business, she inherited a tight-knit community. And when a tragedy strikes, it’s the talk of the pub. A local farmer, out for a stroll on the beach with his young son, has mysteriously disappeared. Did he drown? Kill himself? The child can say only that he saw a boat.

Everyone from the local gardai to the Coast Guard is scouring the Cork coast, but when a body is finally brought ashore, it’s the wrong man. An accidental drowning or something more sinister? Trusting the words of the boy and listening to the suspicions of her employee Mick that the missing farmer might have run afoul of smugglers, Maura decides to investigate the deserted coves and isolated inlets for herself. But this time she may be getting in over her head.

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All comments are welcomed.

About the author
Sheila Connolly, Agatha and Anthony award nominee and New York Times bestseller, writes the Orchard Mysteries, the Museum Mysteries and the County Cork Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. In addition, she publishes the e-book paranormal romance series Relatively Dead through Beyond the Page Press, most recently Watch for the Dead. Her short stories have been included in Level Best Books’ anthologies, and other e-stories have been published by Berkley Prime Crime and Beyond the Page.

Visit Sheila at www.sheilaconnolly.com and Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen where she blogs.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of A Turn for the Bad. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end February 19, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!