My name is Ophelia Flax, and there is no ordinary, everyday life for me anymore. Not since the fateful steamship voyage that took me from America to Europe, anyway. Things are peculiar here on the Continent, and folks don’t always stick to the facts . . . especially where their precious fairy tales are concerned. Oh yes, and there is a prodigious number of villains lurking about the castles, cities, and chateaux here. Even, I’m sorry to say, murderers.
But perhaps I ought to start at the beginning—my beginning. I was born in 1841 on a farmstead in New Hampshire, the daughter of a maid-of-all-work and a schoolteaching father who scarpered when I was small. Growing up lowly like that had its benefits. I learned how to scour pots, tend goats, hoe beans, darn socks, weave rush chair seats, and cure a rash with apple cider vinegar—and how to spot a fibber a mile off.
After Mother died I took myself south to a woolen mill. The wages were good there, but the work was maddeningly dull and the overseers didn’t keep their hands to themselves where the factory girls were concerned. So, when P.Q. Putnam’s traveling circus set up its tents in town, I jumped at the chance to run away with them. I traveled all about the Northeastern United States with the circus, learning to ride trick ponies and coax a poodle through flaming hoops, and making friends with everyone from the Bearded Lady to the Astonishing Aerial Twins. The circus taught me that the world is chock-full of illusions—and that deft balancing acts can sometimes get a lady out of a pickle.
The War Between the States broke out and the circus folded. Times were lean, but I found work as an actress in Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties in New York City, performing roles such as Pocohantas, Cleopatra, and a naughty nun in red stockings. (Beggars can’t be choosers, I always say.)
It was with the Varieties that I boarded that steamship bound for England, on the way to perform shows on the Strand. But I lost my job shipboard, fast-talked my way into a post as a lady’s maid for an American millionaire’s bride, and, well, things have been mighty strange ever since. I’ve collared two murderers so far, with the help (and sometimes the high-handed interference) of Professor Penrose, the fairy tale scholar.
And now that I’m facing yet another inexplicable murder in this magnificent, out-of-the–way chateau in France, I’ll collar this murderer, too . . . you can bet your boots on it.
Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is the third book in the Fairy Tale Fatal mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime in February 2016.
Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That’s why she’s accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.
But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte’s sprawling château. Soon she can’t tell the boars from the bores.
When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can’t trust her eyes—or her heart—since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets.
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Meet the author
National bestselling author Maia Chance writes mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. Her latest releases are Come Hell or Highball (St. Martin’s Minotaur) and Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna (Berkley Prime Crime). Maia lives in soggy Bellingham, Washington, where she plays laundress and cook to two imperious children and takes secret solace in vintage cocktails. She blogs at maiachance.com and loves to socialize on Facebook.
Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end February 23, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
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