Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Historical Fiction
Date Published: May 2017

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

London Spies is a book of historical fiction set in London, England at the end of World War II.

Phyllis Bowden, a secretary at the American Embassy, is catapulted into the limelight when the Military Attache, Lt. Col. Ronald Lawrence, is arrested for espionage and her boss, the Assistant Military Attache, assumes the position. The arrest throws suspicion on everyone at the Embassy, particularly Lawrence's secretary whose attempted suicide convinces Phyllis to be more curious about what really happened. With bombs still falling on a devastated city, Phyllis begins asking questions but she never imagined the dark underbelly of diplomacy. Entering a shadowy world filled with cryptic messages and dangerous men, Phyllis learns quickly that a safety net doesn't exist and if she wants to survive, she better figure out the game fast.


London, 1945

Phyllis Bowden picked her way carefully across the debris-strewn street. Walking wasn’t for the faint of heart this morning, any morning really, and she knew it. Rain had been falling steadily for the past hour and puddles formed in the oddest places. She had traveled this way every day for nearly eight months and the sight of broken store mannequins laying on the sidewalk and street made her breakfast threaten to come up.

She stepped over a plastic arm dislocated at the elbow and a half-clothed torso next to it. Her black leather boot stepped gingerly between a soggy pile of ruined clothing, and a hairless head with frozen eyes staring back at her. Shifting slightly, Phyllis moved to a small, empty space on the wet sidewalk and accidentally dropped her purse by the smooth pink back of a mannequin no longer part of a once chic display. She picked up the purse, brushed off the dirt and debris it had collected, and continued her winding route to the corner. It was a gauntlet actually as shiny plastic legs, severed heads and naked bodies lay in the shadow of the bombed clothing store.

Walking another street to the American Embassy was not much better than this one. She’d tried a few different routes when she first arrived, but it didn’t seem to matter; London was still experiencing the odd buzz bomb and more stores and restaurants had been hit in the West End than not. Oxford and Regent Streets had been hit hard during the Blitz with its after effects still evident. Selfridges and Bourne & Hollingsworth remained standing, but the John Lewis store had been gutted one night after a catastrophic fire caused by several incendiary and high explosive German bombs had dropped with pinpoint accuracy. Burning debris caused the famous area to be closed off in an attempt to bring the fires under control.

Fires were not as common these days, but the devastating effects of German bombing Phyllis saw on a daily basis was a constant reminder that, although the war was winding down, the historic city lay in ruins. She was filled with pride for the Londoners who somehow were able to pick themselves up and continue on in spite of all that had happened to them during this war. A war that clung like smoke on her clothes. No matter how many times she washed her blouses, skirts and dresses, the smell of war remained. It was in her mind when she woke up in the morning and in her sight as she picked her unsteady way across the cluttered sidewalk by the ruined store.

Relieved, Phyllis made it to the corner and turned to glance back at the destroyed mannequins in her wake. Her whole body shuddered with the thought they could have been human bodies. She straightened, tucked escaping tendrils of dark curly hair, slightly damp now, under her hat and proceeded to the American Embassy. There was much work waiting for her and she needed to get on with it. That’s what everyone was trying to do these days—just get on with it. Get busy living or get busy dying and heaven knows there had been enough dying.

Phyllis walked up to the Embassy door, smoothed her rain-splattered trench coat and opened the steel fortified door to walk in proudly. Her welcome was unexpected, to say the least.


What in the world? People scurried up and down the immense hallway as if they weren’t sure where they were going. Rats caught in a maze never had the worried expressions Phyllis saw now. Inside guards with stiff uniforms tried to direct frightened men and women to various offices to move them out of the fray. Even from her stunned position at the door, she could see the flinches when guards came into contact with nervous shoulders, quivering backs. No one wanted contact.

She glanced up to the second floor to see much of the same—slamming doors, a blur of humanity trying to find some place to hide. From what?

And then she saw it…something she never, ever dreamed she would see since she had started working for the War Department as a civilian several years ago. Coming down the long staircase was a two-man Military Police escort on either side of the American Embassy’s Military Attache, Lt. Col. Ronald Lawrence—Ronnie they called him—being escorted in handcuffs! out the side door, probably to a waiting car.

To go where? And why?

It was a still life picture before her at this moment in time. Everyone had stopped to stare at the tall man with the reddening face as he tried to maintain a confident posture under duress. He didn’t fight the shiny handcuffs that kept his arms locked behind him. He merely smiled to one and all, perhaps hoping they wouldn’t be as terrified as he had to be.

Ronnie? Being arrested? It was unthinkable that the man she knew, her boss’ boss, could have committed such a serious offense to be arrested in the American Embassy before all the men and women he worked with on a daily basis. Ronnie had been at the Embassy only two years and she had found him to be a pleasant, congenial boss, stern when needed, but never a taskmaster. He commanded with more of a velvet glove and had the respect of everyone she knew.

The Military Police officers, in their crisp blue wool uniforms, took a subdued Lt. Col. Lawrence out a side door closing it firmly behind them. The second the door clicked shut, bedlam broke out again with Embassy staff scurrying around like scared mice. Small groups cluttered in corners, no doubt gossiping about what they had just witnessed. Looking past the staircase, Lorraine Watkins caught her eye pointing toward a small office down the next hallway. Phyllis hurried after her and caught her trench coat in the door when she tried to shut it too quickly. Jerking on the material, she nearly tore part of the slick lining.

“What’s going on, Lorraine? I just walked in the door and…”

“Where have you been, Phyl? You’re late this morning.”

“Well, you know how hard it is to walk past The Emporium. Those mannequins are still all over the…”

“Phyllis.” Lorraine grabbed her arm to tow her to the nearest chair. She shoved her into it. “Sit and listen to me.”

“All right, all right.” Phyllis began to unbutton her coat. “Could I at least take my coat off?”

Lorraine shrugged. Phyllis watched her friend glance in a small mirror by the desk to pat her long pageboy hairdo with an upswept front curl. When she freshened her red lipstick, Phyllis laughed.

“So you rushed me in here to make sure you look good?”

“Hardly.” Lorraine’s worried eyes met hers. “You won’t want to hear this.”

“Then don’t tell me.”

She took a deep breath. “Lt. Col. Lawrence, our Ronnie, was arrested for espionage.”

Phyllis blinked, utterly astonished at the news. “That can’t be.”

Lorraine nodded. “It is and now your boss, Dickie, is in.”

That took a minute to sink in. Major Richard Simpson—Dickie they called him—was the new Military Attache? Phyllis had worked for the man for the eight months she had been assigned to the American Embassy, but had never warmed to him. He seemed like a good sort of man but she was never sure of her footing. He was mad one minute, then obsequious the next. Hot and cold, black and white, nervous and confident…she could never get a bead on what made him tick. She’d finally given up and was ready to ask for a transfer since whatever she did was never quite good enough. And now this.

“Dickie is the new Military Attache? I can’t believe the President would want him in the job. He’s too inexperienced, for one thing. Why not just appoint someone else like they did when Ronnie took the job from Col. Bradley?”

“I haven’t the foggiest, but the word is you’re going to be in the hot seat now.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

“Didn’t Dickie work closely with Lawrence?”

“Not that closely. Dickie doesn’t confide in me, but every time they had a meeting, neither one looked happy coming out of it.”

That stopped Lorraine for a moment. She bit her lip. “Maybe they didn’t get much in the way of happy news.”

Phyllis chuckled. “Astute comment, Lorraine. This is wartime. Besides,” she slid her arms out of the trench coat, “Amy would have mentioned if there had been some kind of fight. She’s been good that way.”

Lorraine sat down on the chair behind her desk, picked up a file, glanced at it and threw in a pile by her typewriter. “Didn’t know you and Amy were such good buddies.”

“Don’t pout,” Phyllis kidded. She stood, headed for the door. “You’re still my best friend, okay?”

“Well, okay.” A slow smile spread across Lorraine’s pretty face. “We still on for tonight?”

“After all that’s happened today, probably every staffer in the Embassy will be at the corner pub.”

“Then let’s head to Blue Anchor. Hardy anyone goes there anymore after…”

“…It was bombed and never reopened?” she finished.

“No, silly. It’s open, you just have to know the password to get in.”

Phyllis laughed, opened the door. “Let’s just meet at Angel’s. It’s small, quiet and hasn’t been bombed—yet.”

“After work?”

“Make it seven. I’ll probably put in a long one today.”

About the Author

SJ Slagle is a celebrated author of the Sherlock and Me series and the Phyllis Bowden series.

A teacher and nonfiction writer for part of her career, she taught in Florida, California and Nevada. 

She also writes western romances as Jeanne Harrell including these bestselling series: Rancher, the Westerners and These Nevada Boys with picturesque settings in the wild west of Nevada.

Contact Links

Purchase Links

a Rafflecopter giveaway

RABT Book Tours & PR

Monday, March 19, 2018


Close To You
B.M. Sandy

Contemporary Romance

just wants to be set free.

just might have the key.

Coffey is on the run. After arriving in Brooklyn four months ago, she
perfected the art of looking over her shoulder. Her only goal is to
make it through another day without being discovered.

Iain Sheppard unexpectedly walks into her life, Michele’s first
instinct is to retreat. Falling in love is not in her plan, and after
what she’s been through, she’s not ready to trust anyone yet.
Maybe ever.

is a rugged, sexy freelancer, born and raised in Brooklyn. After
showing up at the bar she works at one night, he leaves a note,
asking to show Michele the city. It goes against every rule she has
set in place for herself. She wants to forget about him and his
offer, but something about him draws her in. She can’t shake it, so
she agrees.

Michele doesn’t know is that Iain knows more about her than he’s
letting on.

clock is ticking. Michele knows that her time is running out,
especially after a stunning reveal that draws her and Iain even

their attraction grows deeper, she can’t stop looking over her
shoulder, waiting for inevitable disaster. And she can’t help but
ask herself if she escaped one prison, only to lock herself into a
new one of her own making.

she ever be set free?


Being with Iain felt like something out of a dream.
As we rode the subway downtown, he asked me about my week, our knees touching as we sat. I had forgotten how good it felt to laugh and get to know someone new. I had forgotten how good it felt to let loose and be myself.
For the first time in as long as I could remember, a light had broken through the dark clouds flooding my mind.
Iain took me to the Empire State Building first, an elevator shooting us up 86 flights and placing his hand on the small of my back, guiding me out onto the main deck. The wind was brutal, hitting me full-on in the face, picking my hair up and sending it flying. But all thoughts of the wind and my hair disappeared when I followed the direction his finger was pointing.
The city unfolded, like the richest of tapestries, as far as the eye could see. Buildings giving the illusion of being stacked on top of each other, growing smaller and smaller the further away they got. It was breathtaking to behold, and I wanted to somehow bottle this moment and keep it forever.
I forgot the entire world except for what I saw stretched out before me. The city where I lived

B. M. Sandy lives in Youngstown, Ohio with her husband, one-eyed cat
child, Maia, and as of June 2017, a rescue dog named Dorothy. She’s
a lover of books, film, and all things imaginary. SOMEONE TO STAY is
her first published novel.

the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!

Friday, March 16, 2018


Top o' the morning to you! Your reply should be, "And the rest of the day to yourself." I'm only a little Irish mixed with Scottish, Swiss, Cherokee, Scandinavian, and bits of other countries. However, I love Ireland and St. Patrick's Day. I could be packed and ready for another trip to Ireland in a flash.

As I mentioned in my newsletter, I'm giving away a box of swag and signed paperback books to someone who comments on this post between today and midnight on Sunday.

I’m excited to use this time near St. Patrick's Day to launch the first of my Texas Time Travel Series trilogy. (Try saying that fast three times ☺) TEXAS LIGHTNING releases March 17 but has been available for preorder. Early reader reports have been very enthusiastic. The second and third of the trilogy are TEXAS RAINBOW, releasing April 18, and TEXAS STORM, releasing May 24. Each will be available for preorder a couple of weeks before release.

I'm a bit nervous about this trilogy since I usually write either historical or contemporary western romance. Time travel romance has been fun to write, though, and I hope readers enjoy the books. I must admit that the second and third books have required tons more research than usual.  

In TEXAS LIGHTNING, Penny Terry is transported from 1896 to 2017 on her ranch. She was racing from rustlers when a bolt of heat lightning struck near her horse, resulting in the horse falling. Though Penny jumped clear of the horse, she fell down a ravine and hit her head. When she woke, rain was pouring and her horse was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, neither were the rustlers.

Imagine trudging two miles through the rain to your house and finding other people not only live in your home, but claim to have a clear title to it. Not squatters or con men, but owners live in the place Penny is certain belongs to her. In addition, there are puzzling, sometimes frightening, differences in her home. Only her room and the painting over the parlor mantel are unchanged.

Years ago I discovered the books of Kathleen Kane before the author (Maureen Child) switched names and subgenres. I fell in love with those books and with time travel featuring ordinary people. I also have enjoyed the time travels of authors such as Beth Trissel, Linda LaRoque, Peggy L. Henderson, Diana Gabaldon, and others.

I especially enjoy seeing a character from the past come forward to today. Think about it—when someone goes back in time, they know most details of what’s going to happen in that era. On the other hand, when a person comes forward, everything is new and requires huge adjustments in learning and attitudes. What a challenge for a character—and what fun for the reader! If there’s mystery and/or suspense, even better.

This is what I wrote in OUT OF THE BLUE, when Deirdre Dougherty, an Irish woman from 1845, plopped down out of the blue in contemporary North Central Texas to help Detective Brendan Hunter solve several murders and discover who was trying to frame and kill him. I love that story and hope readers do also. That book ends in happily ever after for the hero and heroine, as all books should in my opinion.

TEXAS LIGHTNING depicts Penny Terry as she stumbles forward in time and into a complicated scheme to steal the ranch that had been hers. While unraveling the mystery, she learns why her father was killed. In this case, there’s even a fabulous treasure. Of course, she also falls in love with Jake Knight, the contemporary owner of the ranch. I hope you don't think that's a spoiler. It's not as if you don't know how the story will end, but the twists of getting there that makes reading entertaining.

The setting is in Central Texas on the Medina River somewhere between Bandera and Medina. Bandera touts itself as “The Cowboy Capital of the World”. That claim might be opposed by other western towns, but you get the idea that there are a lot of cowboys there. My family once stayed at The Mayan Ranch, a dude ranch near Bandera. Our daughters and I fell in love with the ranch and the area. Mayan Ranch owners the Hicks family are excellent hosts. My Hero prefers to read about western life, riding horses, and ranching rather than experiencing them first hand. Hero was a good sport but he would much rather have been fishing.☺

Here’s a synopsis of TEXAS LIGHTNING:

How can two people from different eras own the same ranch? 

Penelope Jane Terry knows everything about ranching in spite of being a lone woman. She is determined to send to jail the rustlers who believe they can steal what is hers… until she is caught spying on their dirty works and must ride for her life. What Penny doesn’t count on is being hurtled over a 120 years into the future.

Jake Knight believes the attractive woman who stumbled into his home one rainy evening either has amnesia or is certifiably insane. Unless, that is, she is in league with whoever is trying to drive him out of business. Someone is trying to force him to sell his ranch by staging a string of damaging incidents. Jake’s been kept so busy making repairs that he can’t run his ranch properly. Even if he were stupid enough to wish to sell, the ranch is so firmly entailed that no one can break the conditions.

Jake gradually realizes Penny is who she claims, no matter that time travel is supposed to be impossible. They’re locked into a clash only one of them can win. If an outsider weren’t trying to kill Jake as well as bankrupt him, perhaps he and Penny might be able to reach an agreement. Once the murderer is revealed, they discover there is a huge treasure….


Finally, the lights of home shone faintly in the distance. Nothing had ever looked so good. She couldn’t keep going much further. Damned if blisters hadn’t burned on her heels from walking so far in wet boots. She was near frozen in these wet clothes.
How could she be so cold now when the heat earlier had nearly suffocated her? Nevermind, she just wanted to be home, safe, and in her bed. There stood the fence next to the paddock. Almost home now, keep walking.
Don’t pass out, don’t fall. One foot in front of the other. You can do this. Stumbling from fatigue, she labored up the front steps onto the long wrap-around porch and bumped into a rocker. Who’d put that there? Just like her cook to move stuff around without telling her. How she’d love to sink into it and rest. First, she had to send for the sheriff and find out if her horse Star came home.
At the door, she paused and listened for men talking—rustlers waiting to waylay her. She heard no sound. Lights shone so brightly, her cook must have waited up for her with every lamp in the house lighted. She eased opened the door, listened again, then walked in and leaned her rifle against the stair’s banister.
“Did Star come home?” She unbuckled her gun belt and hung it on the newel post—not something she’d do under ordinary circumstances.
Tugging off her gloves, she avoided a couple of cactus spines stuck in the fingers. How had they remained there without her feeling them? No matter, she sat down on the third stair tread to remove her boots.
She should have gone around to the back door, but she couldn’t walk another step. Weariness and sore muscles overwhelmed her and she wanted nothing more than to shuck out of her wet things and lie in her nice bed—if she could summon the energy to walk upstairs. Eyes closed, she leaned back against the stairs. She heard footsteps approaching and raised one foot.
“Had me a passel of trouble. Help me get these danged boots off, would you? Then I’ll tell you all about it.” A dog’s cold nose pressed against her cheek. She jumped and pushed her hair out of her eyes. A black and white dog stared at her. “Who are you?”
            “His name’s Rascal.” An unfamiliar baritone said, “He’s mine.”
            She looked up.
Whoa! The man who faced her was a stranger. In spite of her wariness, her mouth dropped open in awe. Instead of her arthritic middle-aged cook, this man was young and tall and definitely fit. And handsome. Unbelievably, mesmerizingly handsome.
He might be as comely as a fairy tale prince, but the regal disapproval on his face appeared anything but friendly.
Energized by fear, she jumped to her feet and grabbed her rifle. “Who the heck are you?”
He crossed his arms and ignored the Winchester pointed at his middle. His dark hair glistened in light that seemed too bright. Dark blue eyes had tiny creases at the corners, as if he laughed a lot.
He sure wasn’t laughing now.
“I might ask you the same question. And what are you doing tracking in mud and dripping water all over my foyer?”
Your foyer? This is my house, and it’s been my house since my daddy and I built it six years ago. Don’t you think for one minute I’ll let you steal my ranch.”
 The dog growled, the fur of his ruff bristling.
The man snapped his fingers. “Quiet, Rascal.”
Who was this man? He didn’t look the type but maybe he was one of the men stealing her cattle. Could he and his dog have been waiting for her? She gripped the rifle with all her strength. Why hadn’t her cook shown up to help her?
Oh, no, had they killed him?
He glared at her. “Lady, I don’t know who you are, but this is my house, get it? I grew up here. My daddy grew up here. My granddaddy grew up here.”
Penny’s knees trembled, but she fought fear to appear strong. “Don’t try and trick me. The Double T ranch was started by my granddaddy in 1836. No con man is going to steal it from the Terry family, and you can take that to the bank.”
“The Terry family hasn’t owned this since Penelope Terry died in 1896. The Knight family has owned it since then.” He threw up his hands. “Hell, why am I arguing with a crazy woman?”
“Crazy?” She was about to light into him when the first part of his statement hit her. “Hey, what do you mean, I died? I’m as alive as you, whoever you are.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I see you’re alive. I said Penelope Terry died. Are you hard of hearing as well as nuts?”
Increasing fear spiraled inside Penny, knotting her stomach. How could this man think her dead? What kind of trick was he working? Had she been conked out long enough that her cook sent men out to look for her and they decided she’d died?
Forcing herself to appear calm when she shook inside, Penny stood erect. “I’m Penelope Jane Terry and you can see I’m very much alive…”

Through a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To make up for this tragic error, she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains from a small office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their rescued cats and dogs. The books she creates there have made her an Amazon bestselling author and won several awards. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest.
Click on her Amazon Author Page for a complete list of her books and please follow her there.
Please follow her on BookBub.
Subscribe to Caroline’s newsletter here to receive a FREE novella of HAPPY IS THE BRIDE, a humorous historical wedding disaster that ends happily—but you knew it would, didn’t you?
She loves to hear from readers at

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Mary Queen of the Scots:
The Forgotten Reign
The Legendary Women of World History Book 3


Queen Mary Stuart was one of the most beloved and controversial women in
Scottish history. The granddaughter of King James IV and his wife
Margaret Tudor, Queen Mary's status as heiress-apparent to Queen
Elizabeth's throne in England paired with the violence of the
Scottish Reformation set the stage for one of the most dramatic and
poorly understood lives of the 16th century.

Mary Queen of the Scots tells Mary's true story, focusing primarily on her
reign as queen of Scotland, celebrating her life more than her death
and showing us all why she was truly a woman ahead of her time.

Features a detailed timeline, a list of Latin prayers with their English
translations, and the lyrics to all four featured period songs
performed in the book.

Queen Elizabeth Tudor:
Journey to Gloriana
The Legendary Women of World History Book 4


I am by your Council from you commanded to go to the Tower, a place
more wanted for a false traitor than a true subject, which though I
know I desire it not, yet in the face of all this realm it appears
proved,” wrote Princess Elizabeth Tudor in her eleventh-hour letter
to sister Queen Mary as guards waited to transport her to the prison
at the Tower of London.

Queen Elizabeth is perhaps the most legendary and celebrated ruler in
English history. Yet do you really know her as well as you think you do?

In this beautiful narrative biography you explore Elizabeth’s path
from “Lady Elizabeth” to “Gloriana” through the lens of her
relationship with Robert Dudley, a relationship far more contentious
than most people believe. Politics and religion collide, provoking
Elizabeth to console herself with her music, and a hard decision lays
before her as plots against her life threatens her throne.

Take the journey to Gloriana and discover a side to Elizabeth

you never knew existed.

Features six medieval and Elizabethan songs, a detailed timeline, and an
extensive suggested reading list. Continues "Mary Queen of the Scots."

Born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska USA Laurel A. Rockefeller
is author of over twenty books published and self-published since
August, 2012 and in languages ranging from Welsh to Spanish to
Chinese and everything in between. A dedicated scholar and
biographical historian, Ms. Rockefeller is passionate about education
and improving history literacy worldwide. 

With her lyrical writing style, Laurel's books are as beautiful to read as
they are informative.

In her spare time, Laurel enjoys spending time with her cockatiels,
attending living history activities, travelling to historic places in
both the United States and United Kingdom, and watching classic
motion pictures and classic television series.

One winner each week
will receive a sapling tree from the Arbor Day Foundation – trees
will vary depending on the winner's region – US only. There will
also be two random winners for a special mystery prize- drawn at
surprise moments during the tour!

Follow the tour HERE
to discover the other amazing Legendary Women of World History books
and enter the weekly giveaways!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Inn the Spirit of Legends
Spirits of Texas Book 1
Becki Willis

Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery

From the author of The
Sisters, Texas Mystery Series
 and Forgotten
, comes an intriguing new book series, the Spirits
of Texas Cozy Mysteries.
When the tiny hamlet of Hannah, Texas goes up for auction, Hannah Duncan’s
fun-loving uncle sees it as the perfect gift for her thirtieth
birthday. After all, what’s more fun than a town bearing your own name? 
Nestled in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, the ‘town’ isn’t much —
a dozen or less buildings in various stages of disrepair—but it
comes with a dedicated pair of caretakers, a menagerie of farm
animals, a surprisingly generous trust fund, enough stipulations to
make her head spin, and a handsome but maddening attorney to oversee
the handling of the estate.
Originally a stagecoach stop, Hannah, Texas resolves around the historic and
rather charming Spirits of Texas Inn. The old inn
comes with a colorful past, the mystique of hidden treasure, loyal
guests who still book summer vacations there, and three surprise
residents: true spirits of the past, who didn’t cross over as expected. 
Now Hannah has her hands full, coming to terms with her unexpected status
as an innkeeper, adjusting to life in the country, fighting her
attraction to attorney Walker Jacoby, plus dealing with ghosts! 
To top it off, two fortune hunters arrive to search for the hidden
treasure, and they don’t care who stands in their way. They’ll
stoop to any means—including murder—to get their hands on the
legendary stash of gold.
Don’t miss out on the excitement, right from the beginning. Book your visit
to Hannah, Texas today!


Humming along with the music streaming from her phone, Hannah studied the ledgers scattered in front of her. Fortunately for her, Miss Wilhelmina kept excellent documentation through the years, even though it was all done by hand. With nothing recorded electronically, Hannah had to search through each ledger, one by one. It was a slow process, but she was making progress.

She was buoyed by the totals in the margins. The Spirits of Texas Inn was, indeed, a profitable business, just as Walker reported that first day. It helped that a substantial deposit was made in late 1970, and again the following year. Smaller but still significant amounts followed for the next five years. With a healthy bank account to fall back on, the inn could afford a few lean times.

Most interesting of all was the fact that Miss Wilhelmina, like the innkeepers before her, made side notes throughout the ledgers. In many ways, the notes read like journals.

Some notes were brief and to the point: Raining. Or, Construction on the new highway.
Others gave a brief recap of guests, and events in the area. Sweet couple, here for first anniversary. Or, Trail ride and reunion for Bottoms Family. And, Lecture at library over hidden treasure. Should get their facts straight.

“Hidden treasure!” Hannah read aloud. “Knowing JoeJoe, that’s the whole reason he bid on this crazy place.” She blew away a tendril of dark hair that kept falling into her face. There was a bit of a draft in the room. “As if the man needs any more money,” she grumbled. “He just loves the thrill of the hunt.”

Despite his crazy, impulsive ways, she adored her uncle. He was the only family she had.
True, her mother was still living, but their relationship was hardly described as that of ‘family.’ They were more like polite strangers, exchanging Christmas cards and occasional texts. When was the last time she had heard from her mother in person, anyway? Sometime around husband number five, she thought. The producer who claimed he could revive her career and get her the type of leading roles she deserved. No more achy joint commercials and dowdy grandmotherly-type roles for the talented actress; she was a star, and he would help her shine. When that same husband and producer polished off her bank account a few months later, Jacqueline called her daughter. “Just to talk,” her mother claimed, but Hannah knew the drill. Her mother only called when she needed something.

Back then, Hannah was in a position to help her mother when times got rough. With no one else to spend her hard-earned money on other than herself, Hannah could afford to be generous, in more ways than one. She would graciously overlook her mother’s lack of parenting skills and send a note of encouragement after each hard-luck phone call. She always tucked a check in along with it, something to tide her mother over until her next big break came along.

Jacqueline called Hannah’s father the dreamer, but it was she who lived in a fantasy world. Life in rural East Texas never suited the voluptuous brunette. She wanted something bigger, something better, than a wildcatter husband who worked in the oil fields. Even when it meant leaving her only child behind, Jacqueline could no longer resist the lure of fame and fortune. Terrell could chase his dreams of finding oil; Jacqueline had dreams of her own, and they led her to Hollywood.

Oddly enough, both realized their dreams, at the same exact time. Duncan Drilling hit a huge vein of oil, launching them into the big time, on the very day that Jacqueline landed the roll of Rhonda in Doctors’ General, the most popular soap opera on television. With both of their careers spinning out of control, neither had time for an inquisitive little girl. Hannah bounced between the two of them like a ping-pong game that neither wanted to play. JoeJoe became the bright spot in little Hannah’s life, the only person who ever seemed to have time for her.

Her uncle was just an overgrown kid, himself. Technically, he was a partner in Duncan Drilling, a business the two brothers inherited from their father. Terrell ran the company while JoeJoe finished his education and squandered his share of the profits on things like cheap women and expensive birthday presents for his only niece. By the time Terrell died in a rig explosion, the company was almost broke. Hannah inherited her father’s share, but promptly sold it to her uncle. She wanted no part of the business, blaming it for taking her father’s life and for driving her mother away, all those years ago. One year later, her uncle was daring enough—or foolish enough—to throw in with an innovative new oilfield product coming out of Dubai. It made him an instant millionaire, several times over.

Now her uncle was a very rich overgrown kid, still buying extravagant gifts for his only niece.
Hence, here she sat, queen of her own little sad kingdom, reading over ledgers recorded in longhand.
The music began to cut in and out. Hannah picked up her phone and checked the signal. Something was playing havoc with the connection, causing interference.

Too bad, because the music kept the strange noises at bay.

A building as old and rambling as the inn made all sorts of odd and unexpected sounds. Nights were the worst, when silence settled in, broken only by the creak and groan of shifting seams and aging beams. And when Walker was away, and the house was empty save for her and Leroy, the noises came again, reminding Hannah of her isolation and her vulnerability. It was best to drown out the sounds with the radio, or Leroy’s shuddering snores, or by whatever means she could find.

Television, unfortunately, was not an option. The subscription to the satellite service had lapsed, and new equipment was required before the system could be restored. A technician wasn’t scheduled until early next week.

Curious about the mention of a hidden treasure, Hannah typed it into her phone’s search engine. The slow connection was excruciating. Deciding it was time for a break, she went upstairs to use her laptop. The inn’s computer was password protected, and until the elusive Sadie and Fred returned, there was no getting in.

Hannah was surprised to read that, according to local legend, there was a hidden treasure buried somewhere in the nearby hills. In the late eighteen seventies, notorious outlaw Sam Bass and a ragtag team of bandits perfected their robbery skills, targeting stage coaches before moving on to the more modern—and lucrative—steam-powered locomotive. Most of their hits were smalltime efforts, executed more for experience than for wealth. However, legend had it that one of the stages carried covert cargo: two huge crates of gold and silver.

The Army was transferring a sizable fortune from Fort Worth to San Antonio. The plan was to send a decoy troop of soldiers by rail, armed to the hilt but in fact guarding empty crates. While attention was drawn to the pomp and circumstance of army pageantry, the real gold traveled by stage, protected only by three undercover officers and the usual stage driver. The plan worked so well that two separate teams of bandits held up the train, fifty miles apart, and were taken into custody with minimal loss of life.

All went well until the stage neared the Hannah stop. As the vehicle neared South Grape Creek, a lone rider came up from the south and attempted to flag down the stage. Behind him, the Bass gang rode into view at the top of the hill, intent on overtaking that very same stage.

No one knew exactly what happened next. The only eyewitness left to tell the story was one of the officers, and he was in little shape to tell his tale. Best as anyone knew, fate played a cruel trick upon the men that day. When the officer grabbed his chest during the beginning stages of a heart attack, his fellow officers thought he had been shot. In the confusion, they over-reacted and assumed it was a robbery. Before Sam Bass and his gang made it down the hill and toward the crossing, two officers and the driver were dead, the third officer was mistaken as such, and the lone rider was injured. The crates spilled out on the ground, revealing their fortune.

No one knew for certain how much money was at stake. The Army refused to give details. Some denied the freight was even on the stage to begin with; a blunder such as this did not look good for their reputation. Bass and his gang, now plus one, were smart enough to keep their good fortune quiet. Right there at the creek crossing, they decided to hide the money and lay low. No need in spending a sudden unexplained fortune. When the time was right, they would return to the area and claim their booty.

Sam had success with a similar plan the year before, when he and the Collins Gang robbed a train in South Dakota and got away with sixty thousand dollars in newly minted gold. After that heist, the men broke off in pairs, each with their share of the money. The poor fools who spent their money openly were now dead, while Sam, on the other hand, still rode free.

The lone rider from the stagecoach, injured and in need of care, entrusted his share to Sam. Even a poor farm boy from Kansas had heard of the great Sam Bass. He was known as a fair outlaw, if such a thing existed. To prove his trustworthiness, Bass drew a map, gave the only copy to the injured fellow, and took him to the nearest farmhouse, which just happened to be the stage stop. They concocted a story about the fellow being on the stage and injured when an outlaw rode up and robbed them, single-handed.

It was weeks before anyone knew the real story, or parts of it, at best. The surviving officer tried to set the record straight, but his speech was weak and slurred. He had difficulty relaying the conversation he overheard that day, about a band of outlaws hiding the gold. Eventually, it was determined that the injured man recuperating in Hannah was actually the lone outlaw. Before they could take him into custody, however, he somehow managed to escape. Most believed he had an accomplice, and some thought it was the young girl from the stagecoach stop, young Lina.

According to legend, the treasure was never recovered. While the lone rider recovered from his injuries, too weak to retrieve the gold, Bass and his gang rode into Round Rock, intent on robbing the bank there. The notorious outlaw was injured in a gunfight and died. People spoke of Bass’s other hidden treasure, the money from the Dakota train robbery, but no one knew about the stagecoach heist. Not until the officer told his garbled story and the lone rider escaped in the night, never to be seen again.

Hannah read the story with a sense of mild amusement. Funny, how rumors and legends came into being. If there was ever any hidden gold to begin with, the lone rider probably took it with him when he left the country. She supposed it was more interesting, however, to imagine that it still hid somewhere in the hills, just waiting to be discovered. It was one of those stories people told their kids, in random moments when they had nothing else to talk about, or those times when they wanted to distract them and pull their minds away from current circumstances. It was something to tell visitors to the area, when there was little else to hold their attention. A fun tale to recite around a campfire, or when you ran out of ghost stories.

Hannah could definitely see her uncle falling for such a ruse, caught up in the thrill and romance of the old-west legend.

“So much for that,” she said, closing down the website with a click of her tongue. “If you ask me, legends of hidden treasure just never seem to pan out. Stories like that are for dreamers.” A wicked thought occurred to her, and she giggled aloud. “And if hell freezes over and my mother ever comes to visit, I’ll share the story with her. That might just be her best shot of getting any money out of me these days. Alas, my well—therefore, her well—runneth dry.”

As Hannah descended the stairs, her mind went back to the ledgers. She had spent the past few days studying them. Mention of hidden treasures aside, the books for the old inn boasted a healthy bottom line. If staying captive for the full thirty days meant a generous bonus for improvements and remodeling, she might very well be sitting atop a hidden treasure of a different kind. The sort that required a little imagination, a lot of hard work, and an investment of time and energy. The kind that paid off in the long run.

Was she up to the challenge? Hannah pondered the enormity of the question as her foot hit the last step. This meant making a commitment. This meant no wiggling out of the contract terms. This meant no quitting in a year, even after she earned the second bonus.

And that sound she heard meant someone was in the kitchen…

Hannah picked up the pace.

**Only .99 cents!**


This is my first cozy by Becki Willis, but it will not be my last. Hannah Duncan has been ignored by her actress mother unless her mom needs something. The person who has always been there for her is her Uncle Joe Joe, who is now a multi-millionaire determined to share his wealth with his niece. When the small town of Hannah comes up for sale, he buys it for his niece. Hannah the woman is a city girl and the town is in the sticks. When she loses her job, she decides to see what is involved in claiming her gift. Perhaps she can check on it, sell it, and have the money to tide her over.

Nice try, but there are lists of stipulations, and handsome lawyer, Walker Jacoby, is available to fill her in to them. Hannah is appalled to learn she can’t even leave the place. Worse, the care of farm animals is involved. Hannah is so ready to be over this. Only the presence of the gorgeous lawyer restrains her from throwing in the towel.  

She learns from the inn records that a buried treasure is rumored to have been left in the small town. While she doubts the existence of such a cache, villains (some of them humorous) are at work to locate and abscond with the loot. A few ghosts liven up the story as well.

This is a fast-paced and fun paranormal cozy mystery sure to delight most readers. I certainly enjoyed reading it and am eager to read more of this author’s books.

I was given a free ARC of INN OF SPIRITS OF TEXAS for an honest and unbiased review. 

My rating for this novel is 5 of 5 stars.  

Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series
and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November
of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has
published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery
Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced
her imaginary friends to readers around the world. 

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn
about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking,
unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but
believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best
part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas
Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the
Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University
and majored in Journalism.

the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!