Spotlight & Excerpt: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

Title: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Belfast McGrath Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 315 pages

Summary:

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Read my review HERE.

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Excerpt

CHAPTER One

I was wet, cold, and tired, but despite the fact that she was ready to kill me with her bare hands for staying out all night, my mother addressed all three of my immediate needs before saying anything else.

A towel to dry my hair.

Clean clothes in the form of a pair of jeans, a T- shirt, and a pair of socks. An Irish sweater, the most uncomfortable item of clothing ever made—a hair shirt, really— but welcomed, and probably deserved, at that moment.

A bologna sandwich. It would be the last time I would eat bologna, for many reasons, the most significant being that the smell would forever after remind me of Amy. And how she had disappeared the night before and would always be gone.

Mom was worrying a rosary in one hand, the other securely placed in one of my father’s meaty ones. She turned and looked at me, asking me a question she had already asked and would continue to ask, along with everyone  else even vaguely connected to Foster’s Landing. “Where is she?”

I didn’t know. I didn’t think I would never know.

My brother Cargan, the closest to me in age and the one who had found me beside the Foster’s Landing River, was across the room, looking out the window, his violin strapped to his back; he had a lesson later that morning and wouldn’t miss it for anything, even if Amy Mitchell was missing and never to be seen again. No, he was gearing up for a big competition in Ireland and nothing stopped him from his lessons or his practicing. Although the mood was somber in the police station, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had whipped the instrument out right then and there and started playing a tune, a sad one, the type I had grown up listening to.

My other brothers were out and about in town now. They, too, had come running when Cargan first discovered me but were less concerned about me now but had joined the hunt for Amy. It was another night for Bel, one said. She was going to be in a lot of trouble, said another. They were both right: It had been another typical night and now I was in a lot of trouble, the last to have seen Amy alive with nothing to tell that might lead to her whereabouts. They were a self-protective bunch, caring little as to why I would be hauled into the police station, happy that, for once, they were not the ones in trouble. Feeney, especially. He was always in trouble. Derry and Arney, not as much, but both had a way of finding their way into situations that were beyond their control. Feeney was a much more calculated and deliberate hooligan.

Next to Mom, Dad let out a barely audible sob, the kind that told me that he was, first and foremost, a father and one who felt the pain of a missing child. He looked over at me, almost as if he wanted to confirm that I was still there, and reached out the hand that didn’t hold Mom’s, patting me awkwardly on the thigh.

“Ah, Belfast,” he said. “Ah, girl.”

“It’s okay, Dad,” I said. “They’ll find her.  They’ll bring her back.” I thought about those words a lot over the years, wondering where that confidence came from. Youth, I eventually decided. When you’re young and nothing bad has ever happened, you think everything will always be better, every wrong will be righted. It’s only with age that I realized that that wouldn’t always be the case and that disappointments would stack up, like the layers of my famous mille-feuille cake, the one with seemingly a thousand layers of goodness that cracked upon the first dip of the fork. But even then, in my heart, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to turn out the way we all wanted, something I couldn’t give voice to at that moment.

Lieutenant D’Amato came out of the conference room at the Foster’s Landing police station and looked at me, frowning. Behind me the door opened, and his expression suddenly lightened, the sight of his only child, his daughter, coming through the doors with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bag of something delicious in the other, the greasy stain at the bottom indicating that it was probably a Danish from the local bagel store. It smelled better than my bologna sandwich, which I wrapped up in the wax paper that Mom had put it in and stuffed under my thigh.

Mary Ann handed her father the food and then turned to me, tears in her eyes. “Oh, Bel,” she said, and ran toward me, enveloping me in a hug. She smelled good, not like river water and stale beer like I did, but more like the soft grass that I felt beneath my feet when I ran from my house down the steep hill toward the river.  Beside me, my mother’s silent reproach hung over me like a fetid cloud.

Why can’t you be more like Mary Ann D’Amato?

I had heard it more than once in my seventeen years and hoped eventually it would die a natural death as I got older and more accomplished, setting off to take the culinary world by storm, another thing that left a distinct distaste in my mother’s mouth. I was supposed to be a nurse. A teacher. A wife, mother. Not a chef.

It was your idea to open a catering hall, I wanted to say. Your idea to have me in the kitchen every moment I wasn’t studying or swimming on the varsity team. Your idea to ask me how the potatoes tasted, if the carrots needed another minute. Your idea to let my brothers learn the traditional Irish tunes and put me in an invisible, yet highly important, role— that of sous chef to you and a myriad of other cooks who had come through the doors of Shamrock Manor, only to discover that yes, our family was crazy, and no, they didn’t really care all that much about haute cuisine.

Mary Ann was going to nursing school; of course she was. She was the daughter that my parents never had and she would make everyone in this town proud.

Years later, in what could only be from the “you can’t make this stuff up” files, Mary Ann would marry Kevin Hanson—my Kevin Hanson— and I would cook the food for their wedding. We would all be friends and we would laugh together and eat together and have a generally good time in one another’s company. Before, I felt the lesser, but in the future, the now, I would be equal, the one who had gone away and come back, realizing that my heart was in this little village, at least for a time. But back then, Amy was still missing and everyone thought I had the key.

“Where is she?” Mary Ann whispered into my curly hair.

“I don’t know,” I said. And I didn’t. Amy Mitchell was my best friend, my confidante, my sister from another mother, and she hadn’t said a word about where she would go after a night on Eden Island. My last words to her, an angry sentence (You’ll be sorry. . . .  ), burned in my gray matter. I don’t know where she is, I wanted to scream. It had been just fun and games until I had seen her kissing my boyfriend, Kevin Hanson. We had been celebrating our waning days at FLHS, and it was the best night we had ever had up until that point.

I don’t know why she wouldn’t tell me where she was going, but maybe I did.

Maybe of everyone here in the police station, she wanted me to be the last to know.

I broke the embrace with Mary Ann and sat down again; I would never smell a certain floral-scented shampoo again without thinking of that morning. I would never feel the grass beneath my feet without thinking of the smell and where it brought me in my mind. Mary Ann’s face, tear streaked and pale, made me feel bad about my own: dry as a bone, not a tear in sight, stunned, resigned. Amy was gone, and deep down I knew that she was never coming back. How I knew it so well in the early morning hours I had no idea. Why I had told Dad things would be fine was a mystery. But I knew it as well as I knew my own name that it was over and wondered how everyone else was still clueless to that fact. “Belfast McGrath?”

I looked up at a cop who clearly didn’t know who I was but whose face told me he knew why I was there.

“That’s me,” I said, and walked into the room where I would tell them everything and nothing.


Author Bio

MAGGIE MCCONNON grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels, beginning with Wedding Bel Blues.

Author Links: Facebook * Goodreads

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Winter Wonderland Giveaway #12: Operation Greencard by G.B. Gordon

To help celebrate the upcoming holidays and keep you curled up inside with a good book where it’s nice and warm, I am giving an eBook a day away from December 1-December 24. Today’s eBook is:

Title: Operation Greencard by G.B. Gordon
Bluewater Bay Universe Book 21
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Romance
Length: 219 pages/Word Count: 57,800

Summary:

Arkady Izmaylov is a family man. He’s also gay. In Russia. His sister Natalya has been telling him to get out for years, but it’s only after an attack in the street that he finally concedes and says yes to her desperate plan of him marrying a stranger for a green card.

Jason Cooley was taught from birth that he’s no good to anyone. Then the military taught him he was good enough to save other lives, but that purpose got amputated along with his leg. He’s now working security at Wolf’s Landing and sending monthly checks to his ex for their daughter’s education. When Natalya asks him to marry her brother, Jason knows right away he’ll do it more for the mission than the money she’s offering. But when he actually meets Arkady, his mission turns complicated.

Jason quickly discovers he’s not as straight as he thought. He’s also the man of Arkady’s dreams. Arkady must convince Jason that he’s worth loving, and that Arkady won’t disappear from his life like everyone else. Because Arkady has always wanted a family of his own, and he’s not letting go of this one.


Here’s how to enter the Winter Wonderland Giveaway:

You must do 2 of the Following:

1. Sign up for e-mail updates(one email daily with the day’s posts).

OR:

2. Be or become a fan of Book Reviews & More by Kathy Facebook page.

OR:

3. Follow me on Twitter (@BookReviewsMore)

Make sure you have filled out the contest entry form:

4. To be eligible to enter contests on Book Reviews and More by Kathy you MUST fill out the contest entry form (found HERE). This form only needs to be filled out ONCE. Your privacy is important to me, and I will not share your information.

And don’t forget to:

5. Fill out the form below by by 5 PM Mountain Time the next day.

It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using random.org. I will e-mail one lucky winner the eBook of their choice in their preferred format. Winners will be posted daily. Please check back HERE for a complete and ongoing list of daily winners.

The list of books to be given away during the upcoming week will be posted in Sunday’s “The Week Ahead” post.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the Grand Prize $10 gift certificate giveaway on December 25? One Grand Prize winner will be selected from the Winter Wonderland Giveaway contest entries for a $10 gift certificate from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Twenty-four books will be given away so say, for example, you enter all twenty-four daily contests, you will have twenty-four entries into the $10 gift certificate contest.

Stay inside where it’s warm, enter the daily Winter Wonderland Giveaway, curl up with a good book and enjoy the holiday season!

***All of the eBooks in the Winter Wonderland Giveaway have been purchased by Book Reviews & More by Kathy.***

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Review: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

Title: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Belfast McGrath Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 315 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Review:

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon is an entertaining cozy mystery with a fantastic cast of delightful characters and a perplexing missing person’s case to solve. This third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series can be read as a standalone.

A photo in a newspaper gives Bel McGrath a starting place in her search to find her long missing best friend, Amy Mitchell.  Amy went missing right after their graduation and the case has cast a long shadow over Bel since many of the townspeople believe she was involved in her friend’s disappearance. Without thinking, Bel impetuously rushes to the small town  where she hopes to learn more about the now defunct commune that might have been a haven for Amy. Coffee shop owner Tweed Blazer quickly shuts down when Bel begins asking questions but she remains undeterred as she follows every lead she uncovers. Will Bel finally uncover the truth about Amy’s disappearance?

Bel is still trying to make peace with the unexpected detour her life has taken in the past few years. Never expecting to return home, she is making the best of her position as the chef at her parents’ special events and wedding business. She is also still smarting over the painful breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Brendan Joyce, and her former high school boyfriend Kevin’s recent marriage to the police chief’s (in Bel’s eyes) perfect daughter Mary Ann.

Undeterred when her investigation into Amy’s disappearance hits a snag, Bel, along with her new friend, Alison Bergeron, doggedly continue following the scant clues they manage to unearth. She stumbles onto more proof that Amy might still be alive, but she is frustrated when she quickly hits a dead end. Bel is certain Tweed knows more than he is telling but before he can tell her everything he knows, someone tries to make sure his long buried information remains hidden.

Bel, Book, and Scandal is an intriguing cozy mystery that is quite humorous due to Bel’s snarky sense of humor and hilarious one-liners. Bel’s attempts to uncover new evidence about Amy’s whereabouts end in disappointment but she remains hopeful she will find her long missing friend.  Maggie McConnon brings this third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series to a twist-filled and action packed conclusion.

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Filed under Bel Book and Scandal, Belfast McGrath Series, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Paperbacks

Winter Wonderland Giveaway #11: As You Were, Cowboy by Heather Long

To help celebrate the upcoming holidays and keep you curled up inside with a good book where it’s nice and warm, I am giving an eBook a day away from December 1-December 24. Today’s eBook is:

Title: As You Were, Cowboy by Heather Long
Lonestar Leathernecks Series Book Two
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 210 pages

Summary:

Mateo Lopez, honorably discharged from the Marine Corps on medical leave, is struggling to rebuild his life. The spinal cord injury that left him feeling like a broken man resulted in his inability to ride the horses he loves and works with on Round Top Ranch.

The new horse trainer at the ranch, however, has decided that this isn’t acceptable. Claire Windsor, a spirited, London-born spitfire of a woman, has come to begin a new program to turn the horses into therapy animals. She turns Mateo’s world upside-down, and try as he might to avoid her, she keeps inserting herself into his life. As their plans for the ranch clash, so too do their hearts…making all things fair in love and war.


Here’s how to enter the Winter Wonderland Giveaway:

You must do 2 of the Following:

1. Sign up for e-mail updates(one email daily with the day’s posts).

OR:

2. Be or become a fan of Book Reviews & More by Kathy Facebook page.

OR:

3. Follow me on Twitter (@BookReviewsMore)

Make sure you have filled out the contest entry form:

4. To be eligible to enter contests on Book Reviews and More by Kathy you MUST fill out the contest entry form (found HERE). This form only needs to be filled out ONCE. Your privacy is important to me, and I will not share your information.

And don’t forget to:

5. Fill out the form below by by 5 PM Mountain Time the next day.

CONTEST OVER

It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using random.org. I will e-mail one lucky winner the eBook of their choice in their preferred format. Winners will be posted daily. Please check back HERE for a complete and ongoing list of daily winners.

The list of books to be given away during the upcoming week will be posted in Sunday’s “The Week Ahead” post.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the Grand Prize $10 gift certificate giveaway on December 25? One Grand Prize winner will be selected from the Winter Wonderland Giveaway contest entries for a $10 gift certificate from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Twenty-four books will be given away so say, for example, you enter all twenty-four daily contests, you will have twenty-four entries into the $10 gift certificate contest.

Stay inside where it’s warm, enter the daily Winter Wonderland Giveaway, curl up with a good book and enjoy the holiday season!

***All of the eBooks in the Winter Wonderland Giveaway have been purchased by Book Reviews & More by Kathy.***

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The Week Ahead Dec. 11-17

Here’s a look at what’s happening this week at Book Reviews & More by Kathy:

This week’s book reviews:

December 11: Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon (Recent Release)
December 12: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher (New Release)
December 12: Bury the Past by James L’Etoile (New Release)
December 14: Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman (New Release)

Blog Tours:

December 11: Maggie McConnon
December 12: G.B. Gordon
December 14: Viki Lyn

The eBooks in this week’s Winter Wonderland Giveaway:

December 11: As You Were, Cowboy by Heather Long
December 12: Operation Greencard by G.B. Gordon
December 13: West Coast Love by Tif Marcelo
December 14: How to Blow It with a Billionaire by Alexis Hall
December 15: Only You by Addison Fox
December 16: It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
December 17: Holiday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey

Please click HERE for a complete and ongoing list of daily winners & a complete list of all of the books in the giveaway.

The Winning Wednesday eBook Giveaway will resume December 30.

Click here for more info on entering the eBook contests.

This week’s Friday Feature: Rachel Lacey.

The Saturday Series Spotlight will resume January 2nd.

Have a great week!!

***All the eBooks in this week’s Winter Wonderland giveaways have been purchased by Book Reviews & More by Kathy.***

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Winter Wonderland Giveaway #10: Fire and Flint by Andrew Grey

To help celebrate the upcoming holidays and keep you curled up inside with a good book where it’s nice and warm, I am giving an eBook a day away from December 1-December 24. Today’s eBook is:

Title: Fire and Flint by Andrew Grey
Carlisle Deputies Series Book One
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Romance, Mystery, suspense
Length: 200 pages/Word Count: 63,403

Summary:

A Carlisle Deputies Novel

Jordan Erichsohn suspects something is rotten about his boss, Judge Crawford. Unfortunately he has nowhere to turn and doubts anyone will believe his claims—least of all the handsome deputy, Pierre Ravelle, who has been assigned to protect the judge, as he’s been receiving the threatening letters. The judge has a long reach, and if he finds out Jordan’s turned on him, he might impede Jordan adopting his son, Jeremiah.

When Jordan can no longer stay silent, he gathers his courage and tells Pierre what he knows. To his surprise and relief, Pierre believes him, and Jordan finds an ally… and maybe more. Pierre vows to do what it takes to protect Jordan and Jeremiah and see justice done. He’s willing to fight for the man he’s growing to love and the family he’s starting to think of as his own. But Crawford is a powerful and dangerous enemy, and he’s not above ripping apart everything Jordan and Pierre are trying to build in order to save himself….


Here’s how to enter the Winter Wonderland Giveaway:

You must do 2 of the Following:

1. Sign up for e-mail updates(one email daily with the day’s posts).

OR:

2. Be or become a fan of Book Reviews & More by Kathy Facebook page.

OR:

3. Follow me on Twitter (@BookReviewsMore)

Make sure you have filled out the contest entry form:

4. To be eligible to enter contests on Book Reviews and More by Kathy you MUST fill out the contest entry form (found HERE). This form only needs to be filled out ONCE. Your privacy is important to me, and I will not share your information.

And don’t forget to:

5. Fill out the form below by by 5 PM Mountain Time the next day.

CONTEST OVER

It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using random.org. I will e-mail one lucky winner the eBook of their choice in their preferred format. Winners will be posted daily. Please check back HERE for a complete and ongoing list of daily winners.

The list of books to be given away during the upcoming week will be posted in Sunday’s “The Week Ahead” post.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the Grand Prize $10 gift certificate giveaway on December 25? One Grand Prize winner will be selected from the Winter Wonderland Giveaway contest entries for a $10 gift certificate from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Twenty-four books will be given away so say, for example, you enter all twenty-four daily contests, you will have twenty-four entries into the $10 gift certificate contest.

Stay inside where it’s warm, enter the daily Winter Wonderland Giveaway, curl up with a good book and enjoy the holiday season!

***All of the eBooks in the Winter Wonderland Giveaway have been purchased by Book Reviews & More by Kathy.***

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Filed under Contest, Winter Wonderland Giveaway