Saturday, July 30, 2022

Off the Chain by Janice Thompson: Review & Giveaway!

Off the Chain by Janice Thompson

About the Book

Book: Off the Chain

Author: Janice Thompson

Genre: Christian Fiction / Mystery

Release date: July 1, 2022

The Town of Brenham, Texas, Has Gone to the Dogs!

Curl up with your pup and sink into a delightful small-town mystery as riddles and rescues stack up in book one of a new cozy mystery series.

Marigold Evans’ first attempt at rescuing an abandoned pooch lands her in a drainage pipe in Brenham Texas. . .and almost in jail, until Parker Jenson comes to her rescue. Then a bad day only gets worse as the Lone Star Vet Clinic, where they both work, is vandalized and the list of suspects starts to climb. With the help of her fellow employees, Marigold sets out to simultaneously solve the crime, rehab the rescued dog, and help more dogs in crisis. But why would anyone continue to work against all their good efforts?

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Janice Thompson, who lives in the Houston area, writes romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, nonfiction devotionals, and musical comedies for the stage. She is the mother of four daughters and nine feisty grandchildren. When she’s not writing books or taking care of foster dogs you’ll find her in the kitchen, baking specialty cakes and cookies.

More from Janice

Dogs, dogs, and more dogs! My world is full of dogs. If you follow me on social media, you’re probably overwhelmed with dog photos, but I simply can’t help myself. I’m in love with pooches of all shapes and sizes.

My fascination with dogs began when I was six years old and I got my first pup, Spunky. He was a mixed breed terrier. From that day until now I’ve had the pleasure of owning many, many pups—some purebreds, some street dogs that needed a safe place to stay, some elderly with chronic or acute health issues. I can’t get enough. They offer unconditional love, after all!

A few years back I was asked to foster for a local rescue, My Chi and Me. The rest, as they say, is history. For a quick glimpse at some photos, follow this link. You’ll see that I’m mostly enamored with small dogs. (Hey, I live in a tiny townhome and have limited space!) That said, I’m always willing to take on one more.

My most recent rescue ventures landed me squarely in the middle of a book idea: Why not use a dog story as the basis for a cozy mystery? My editor at Barbour Publishing wanted something dog themed and I was happy to oblige. That’s where the idea for Off the Chain (and the whole Gone with the Dogs series) came from—a simple idea involving dogs and crime.

I took the opportunity to focus solely on rescue dogs as the idea developed. These days (especially post-Covid) the need for homes for these pups is great. I linked arms with my BFF, Kathleen Y’Barbo, and together we set our series in Brenham Texas, not far from our stomping ground in the Woodlands. I felt strongly that we should merge two separate dog worlds: rescue and veterinary. (Hey, Brenham is close to A&M and they know a thing or two about veterinary training!)

Thus, the Gone with the Dogs series was born. And writing the first book, (Off the Chain), was a blast! I hyper-focused on one primary point of view character, a vet tech. (As the owner of three dogs I feel like I’m always in the vet’s office!) My stories, which are written in first person, took me back to my writing roots. I love, love, love writing in first person because I “become” the character. Fun, right?

My editors loved the book, and it got some fun endorsements, so I’m excited to see what my readers think. I can’t wait to get their feedback. I hope it’s not too “Ruff!”

But seriously. . .I’m hyped! And I’m feeling so blessed to merge my worlds—dogs and writing!

My Thoughts

Marigold “Mari” Evans is a veterinary technician who wishes to start a dog rescue in Brenham, Texas.  Mari finds herself in a drainage pipe rescuing an injured pup.  Mari and her friend, Cassidy end up in the back of a police vehicle after their escapade.  The officer does not believe their story since they cannot provide identification (Mari’s car disappeared while she was in the drainage pipe).  Then the officer receives a call to the Lone Star Veterinary Clinic where Mari and Cassidy work.  Someone vandalized the clinic.  There are a couple of potential suspects.  Mari is determined to learn who is behind the attack while continuing her work at the clinic and getting her rescue operation off the ground.

Off the Chain by Janice Thompson is the debut of Gone to the Dogs MysteriesOff the Chain is a lighthearted cozy mystery. We meet Mari Evans who has a dream of starting a non-profit dog rescue called Second Chance Ranch.  We follow Mari as she goes about her day-to-day activities.  She is also working with her adorable rescue pup, Beau Jangles and trying to figure out who is behind the break in at the vet clinic where she works.  Beau Jangles is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Mari’s grandmother, Grandma Peach is a quirky character.  She is lively and dispenses advice (whether you want it or not).   There is plenty of activity going on in the story which makes it lively.  The mystery was straightforward.  There are a couple of suspects and red herring or two.  I like how the group arrived at the answer.  Off the Chain is a Christian cozy mystery.  The faith element is woven throughout the story.  There is talk about faith, church, and God as well as prayer and scripture.  Mari has a crush on her boss, Tyler.  Tyler, though, seems to be getting cozy with the new veterinarian.  There may be someone else who is meant for Mari.  I like how the community rallies to help Mari with her dog rescue.  I enjoyed the Southern references (they will have you chuckling).  I just loved all the dogs in the story (real cutie pies).  Off the Chain has humor, faith, mystery, and romance.  Off the Chain is a quirky Southern tale with drainage pipe rescue, a dancing dog, beautiful blue eyes, wrecked windows, suspicious suspects, a dog dilemma, and an unforeseen find.   


To celebrate her tour, Janice is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e-gift card and a paper copy of the book!!  Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click here to enter.  Good Luck!

Off the Chain can be purchased from Amazon*.  The next Gone to the Dogs Mystery is Dog Days of Summer by Kathleen Y'Barbo which will be out on October 1.  Barking Up the Wrong Tree comes out January 1.  You can find Janice Thompson's other novels here.  Thank you for joining me today.  It is hard to believe that July is just about over.  I will return on Monday, August 1 with A Search for Redemption by Jo Ann Brown.  It is the third novel in the Secrets of  Bliss Valley.  I hope that you have a relaxing weekend.  Do not forget to leave a comment for extra entries in the giveaway.  Take care, stay cool, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 26

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 26

Texas Book-aholic, July 27

The Book Club Network, July 27

An Author’s Take, July 28

Remembrancy, July 28

deb’s Book Review, July 29

Pause for Tales, July 29

The Avid Reader, July 30

For Him and My Family, July 30

Christina’s Corner, July 31

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 31

Inklings and notions, August 1

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 2

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 2

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 3

She Lives To Read, August 3

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 4

Blogging With Carol, August 4

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 5

Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 6

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, August 7 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, August 7

Labor Not in Vain, August 8

Books I’ve Read, August 8

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Murder Spills the Tea by Vicki Delany

Murder Spills the Tea
Book Summary

The country's hottest TV cooking show is coming to Cape Cod. And against her better judgment, Lily Roberts is entering America Bakes! with her charming tearoom, Tea by the Sea! Filming is already proving disruptive, closing the tearoom during Lily's busiest season. But tensions really bubble over when infamous bad-boy chef and celebrity judge, Tommy Greene, loses his temper with Lily's staff, resulting in an on-camera blowout with Cheryl Wainwright. Just as Lily thinks the competition can't get more bitter, Tommy is found dead in Tea by the Sea's kitchen . . . murdered with Lily's rolling pin.
Suspicion immediately falls on Cheryl, but the temperamental star has racked up plenty of culinary clashes in the past, both on- and off-screen. And nearly anyone associated with Tommy or the show could be the killer: be it one of Lily's fierce competitors, a member of the beleaguered film crew, or even one of Tommy's fellow judges--struggling cookbook maven, Claudia D'Angelo or beauty contest winner, Scarlet McIntosh. Now, while she's baking up a storm for the show, Lily must also whip up an impromptu investigation . . . before the murderer rolls someone else away. 
My Thoughts

Murder Spills the Tea by Vicki Delany is the third A Tea by the Sea Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone if you are new to the series.  Lily Roberts finds herself on America Bakes! thanks to her grandmother, Rose and her best friend, Bernie.  Lily soon learns there is nothing real about reality television.  Lily arrives for her final day of filming to find Tommy Greene, one of the judges, dead in her tearoom kitchen.  Cheryl, one of Lily’s servers, ends up the prime suspect.  When the lead detective arrests Cheryl for the crime, it is up to Lily with help from Rose and Bernie to prove Cheryl’s innocence.  

I found Murder Spills the Tea to be well-written with developed characters.  I like the cast of regulars (Lily, Rose, Bernie, Cheryl, Simon, and MaryBeth).  The television people are a mixed bag.  There are some nice people and some you would like to toss into next week (and hope they get lost on their way back).  I enjoyed the descriptions of the Cape Cod as well as Rose’s bed and breakfast, the tearoom, and the lovely gardens.  The whodunit had good suspects plus misdirection.  There are clues to help readers solve the crime before the reveal.  Avid mystery readers will have no problem solving the crime.  I love Éclair, Lily’s labradoodle but I do not feel he should be allowed in the bed and breakfast’s kitchen (health department would have a field day).  Of course, Rose’s snooty cat should not be allowed free reign either.  The descriptions of Lily’s enticing pastries (lemon tarts, scones, cookies) will have your mouth watering.  There are recipes at the end of the book.  I was delighted with my latest visit to Cape Cod, and I look forward to returning in the next A Tea by the Sea Mystery.  Murder Spills the Tea is charming Cape Cod cozy with tasty tea, a bothersome baking competition, a derisive rival, a foul flirt, a bashed baking judge, a disdainful detective, and a killer to catch.
Murder Spills the Tea is available from Amazon*.  The first two books in A Tea by the Sea Mysteries are Tea & Treachery and Murder in a Teacup (you can read both novels for free if you belong to Kindle Unlimited).  You can find Vicki Delany's other novels here.  Thank you for stopping by today and reading my review.  Tomorrow I am a stop on the Celebrate Lit Tour for Off the Chain by Janice Thompson.  It is the first book in the Gone to the Dogs series.  I am off to get items on my to do list done.  I have been putting off phone calls that I need to make because they always take longer than they should (a five minute calls ends up taking an hour).  I hope that you have jaunty day.  Take care, stay cool, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd: Review & Excerpt!


Point Last Seen

Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd comes a brand new, standalone suspense about a reclusive artist who retrieves a seemingly dead woman from the Pacific Ocean...only to have her come back to life with no memory of what happened to her. With a strong female protagonist, a chilling villain, and twisty secrets that will keep you turning the pages. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Karin Slaughter and Sandra Brown, POINT LAST SEEN, will have readers keeping the lights on all night.


When you’ve already died, there should be nothing left to fear… When Adam Ramsdell pulls Elle’s half-frozen body from the surf on a lonely California beach, she has no memory of what her full name is and how she got those bruises ringing her throat.


Elle finds refuge in Adam’s home on the edge of Gothic, a remote village located between the steep lonely mountains and the raging Pacific Ocean. As flashes of her memory return, Elle faces a terrible truth—buried in her mind lurks a secret so dark it could get her killed.


Everyone in Gothic seems to hide a dark past. Even Adam knows more than he will admit. Until Elle can unravel the truth, she doesn’t know who to trust, when to run and who else might be hurt when the killer who stalks her nightmares appears to finish what he started…

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes "edge-of-the-seat suspense" (Iris Johansen) with "brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd" (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called "scary, sexy, and smartly written" by Booklist and, much to her mother's delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina's worlds and join her mailing list at

Author Social Media Links

Author Website

Twitter:  @ChristinaDodd

Facebook:  Christina Dodd

Instagram: @christinadoddbooks


My Thoughts

Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd takes us to Gothic, California which is a town for lost souls.  We meet Elle who washes up on the beach and is rescued by Adam.  Adam is a troubled man who has let an incident from the past haunt him.  It is evident that Elle was attacked and is lucky to have escaped.  Adam keeps her safe while Elle works on recovering her memories.  I loved the town of Gothic.  It is a charming town full of quirky, caring residents.  Rune is the town psychic and fortune teller.  She is a unique character.  She is a tall woman who wears the traditional fortune teller clothing and has a five o’clock shadow.  Rune tells people that they can use the pronoun they are most comfortable with when referring to her (which is why in the book some people use she and others use he).   There is humor sprinkled throughout that had me chuckling.  There is a mystery or two along with suspense.  The action keeps the story moving along at a good clip.  As Adam and Elle spend time together during these fraught times, they begin to fall for each other.   They must outwit a deadly foe if they are to get their happily ever after.   There are a couple of steamy scenes as well as foul language. I was surprised at the conclusion.  I am glad that this is not our only visit to Gothic.  It will be interesting to see what lost soul turns up next time in the Last Seen in Gothic series.  Point Last Seen is dramatic tale with a damsel in distress, an artistic knight, a conversant psychic, a mad mugger, a crafty killer, a kindhearted chef, a dodgy joust, and a hamlet of lost souls.  


A Morning in February

Gothic, California

The storm off the Pacific had been brutal, a relentless night of cold rain and shrieking wind. Adam Ramsdell had spent the hours working, welding and polishing a tall, heavy, massive piece of sculpture, not hearing the wailing voices that lamented their own passing, not shuddering when he caught sight of his own face in the polished stainless steel. He sweated as he moved swiftly to capture the image he saw in his mind, a clawed monster rising from the deep: beautiful, deadly, dangerous.

And as always, when dawn broke, the storm moved on and he stepped away, he realized he had failed.

Impatient, he shoved the trolley that held the sculpture toward the wall. One of claws swiped his bare chest and proved to him he’d done one thing right: razor-sharp, it opened a long, thin gash in his skin. Blood oozed to the surface. He used his toe to lock the wheels on the trolley, securing the sculpture in case of the occasional California earth tremor.

Then with the swift efficiency of someone who had dealt with minor wounds, his own and others’, he found a clean towel and stanched the flow. Going into the tiny bathroom, he washed the site and used superglue to close the gash. The cut wasn’t deep; it would hold.

He tied on his running shoes and stepped outside into the short, bent, wet grass that covered his acreage. The rosemary hedge that grew at the edge of his front porch released its woody scent. The newly washed sunlight had burned away the fog, and Adam started running uphill toward town, determined to get breakfast, then come home to bed. Now that the sculpture was done and the storm had passed, he needed the bliss of oblivion, the moments of peace sleep could give him.

Yet every year as the Ides of March and the anniversary of his failure approached, nightmares tracked through his sleep and followed him into the light. They were never the same but always a variation on a theme: he had failed, and in two separate incidents, people had died…

The route was all uphill; nevertheless, each step was swift and precise. The sodden grasses bent beneath his running shoes. He never slipped; a man could die from a single slip. He’d always known that, but now, five years later, he knew it in ways he could never forget.

As he ran, he shed the weariness of a long night of cutting, grinding, hammering, polishing. He reached the asphalt and he lengthened his stride, increased his pace.

He ran past the cemetery where a woman knelt to take a chalk etching of a crumbling headstone, past the Gothic Museum run by local historian Freya Goodnight.

The Gothic General Store stood on the outside of the lowest curve of the road. Today the parking lot was empty, the rockers were unoccupied, and the store’s sixteen-year-old clerk lounged in the open door. “How you doing, Mr. Ramsdell?” she called.

He lifted his hand. “Hi, Tamalyn.”

She giggled.

Somehow, on the basis of him waving and remembering her name, she had fallen in love with him. He reminded himself that the dearth of male teens in the area left him little competition, but he could feel her watching him as he ran past the tiny hair salon where Daphne was cutting a local rancher’s hair in the outdoor barber chair.

His body urged him to slow to a walk, but he deliberately pushed himself.

Every time he took a turn, he looked up at Widow’s Peak, the rocky ridge that overshadowed the town, and the Tower, the edifice built by the Swedish silent-film star who in the early 1930s had bought land and created the town to her specifications.

At last he saw his destination, the Live Oak, a four-star restaurant in a one-star town. The three-story building stood at the corner of the highest hairpin turn and housed the eatery and three exclusive suites available for rent.

When Adam arrived he was gasping, sweating, holding his side. Since his return from the Amazon basin, he had never completely recovered his stamina.


At the corner of the building, he turned to look out at the view.

The vista was magnificent: spring-green slopes, wave-battered sea stacks, the ocean’s endless surges, and the horizon that stretched to eternity. During the Gothic jeep tour, Freya always told the tourists that from this point, if a person tripped and fell, that person could tumble all the way to the beach. Which was an exaggeration. Mostly.

Adam used the small towel hooked into his waistband to wipe the sweat off his face. Then disquiet began its slow crawl up his spine.

Someone had him under observation.

He glanced up the grassy hill toward the olive grove and stared. A glint, like someone stood in the trees’ shadows watching with binoculars. Watching him.

No. Not him. A peregrine falcon glided through the shredded clouds, and seagulls cawed and circled. Birders came from all over the word to view the richness of the Big Sur aviary life. As he watched, the glint disappeared. Perhaps the birder had spotted a tufted puffin. Adam felt an uncomfortable amount of relief in that: it showed a level of paranoia to imagine someone was watching him, but…

But. He had learned never to ignore his instincts. The hard way, of course.

Are you ready to read Point Last Seen?  Point Last Seen is available from Amazon*, BookShop.orgHarlequinBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million, and Powell’s.  You can find Christina Dodd's other novels here on Amazon.  Christina Dodd's next novel is Forget What You Know which publishes on March 7, 2023.  I appreciate you stopping by today.  Tomorrow I am featuring Murder Spills the Tea by Vicki Delany.  It is the third A Tea by the Sea Mystery.  I hope that you have a happy day (it is Friday).  Take care, stay cool, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Lost and Found Girl by Maisey Yates: Review & Excerpt!


The Lost and Found Girl
Book Summary

The small Oregon town of Pear Blossom welcomes the return of its prodigal daughter Ruby McKee. Found abandoned as a baby by the McKee family, Ruby is the unofficial town mascot, but when she and her adoptive sisters start investigating the true circumstances around her discovery, it soon becomes clear that this small town is hiding the biggest, and darkest, of secrets. A raw, powerful exploration of the lengths people go to protect their loved ones, for fans of Lori Wilde and Carolyn Brown.

Ruby McKee is a miracle.

It’s a miracle she survived, abandoned as a newborn baby. A miracle that she was found by the McKee sisters. Her discovery allowed the community of Pear Blossom, Oregon, broken by a devastating crime, to heal. Since then, Ruby has lived a charmed life. But she can’t let go of the need to know why she was abandoned, and she’s tired of not having answers.

Dahlia McKee knows it’s not right to resent Ruby for being special. But uncovering the truth about sister Ruby’s origins could allow Dahlia to carve her own place in Pear Blossom history… if she’s brave enough to follow her heart.

Widowed sister Lydia McKee doesn’t have time for Ruby’s what if’s – when Lydia’s right now is so, so hard. Her husband’s best friend Chase might be offering to share some of the load, but can Lydia ever trust her instincts around him?

Marianne Martin is glad that her youngest sister is back in town, but balancing Ruby’s crusade with the way her own life is imploding is turning into a bigger chore than she imagined. Especially when Ruby starts overturning secrets about the past that Marianne has spent a lifetime trying to pretend don’t exist.

And when the truth about Ruby’s miraculous origins, and the crime from long ago, turn out to be connected in ways no one could have expected, will the McKee sisters band together, or fall apart?

About the Author

Maisey Yates is a New York Times bestselling author of over one hundred romance novels. Whether she's writing strong, hard working cowboys, dissolute princes or multigenerational family stories, she loves getting lost in fictional worlds. An avid knitter with a dangerous yarn addiction and an aversion to housework, Maisey lives with her husband and three kids in rural Oregon. Check out her website, or find her on Facebook.

Newspaper Office
Author Social Media Links

Author Website:

Facebook: Maisey Yates

Twitter: @maiseyyates

Instagram: @MaiseyYates

Historical Society
My Thoughts

The Lost and Found Girl by Maisey Yates is a tale about four sisters living in Pear Blossom, Oregon. I thought the characters were developed as well as realistic and relatable.  The author’s vivid descriptions allowed me to envision the characters and the quaint town.  As with any family especially when there are sisters, there is drama and secrets.  There is also love and strong bonds. As the story unfolds, we get to learn about the women.  Their hopes, dreams, heartaches, fears, and relationships.  Each one of them puts on a brave face to prevent the others from looking too deep.  The sisters reconnect and begin to share more of their lives.  The Lost and Found Girl is an emotional novel.  There is a mystery as well.  Ruby was left on the covered bridge on a cold December night shortly after her birth.  She would like to know the identity of her birth mother and why she abandoned her.  Ruby’s quest for the truth will bring some dark secrets to light.  There is a missing girl as well.  She was walking home from her boyfriend’s house, but she never made it to her destination.  The teenager disappeared shortly before Ruby’s birth.  I believe the reveal will shock some readers.  The Lost and Found Girl is about self-discovery, family, friendships, mistakes made, growth, a touch of romance, and forgiveness.  The main theme of the story is that a person should not be defined by their circumstances (such as being left on a bridge as an infant and surviving the bitterly cold weather).  We can each author our own story.  I thought this was a good life lesson and one I wish I had learned when I was younger. The point-of-view switched between the sisters which allows the reader to understand each sister (what they are feeling and thinking).  There is romance in the story as well.  Each sister gets a chance at love.  Those who love women’s fiction will enjoy this poignant tale.  The Lost and Found Girl has family drama, romance, mystery, four sisters, caring parents, and a charming small town.  



Only two truly remarkable things had ever happened in the small town of Pear Blossom, Oregon. The first occurred in 1999, when Caitlin Groves disappeared one fall evening on her way home from her boyfriend’s family orchard.

The second was in 2000, when newborn Ruby McKee was discovered on Sentinel Bridge, the day before Christmas Eve.

It wasn’t as if Pear Blossom hadn’t had excitement before then. There was the introduction of pear orchards—an event which ultimately determined the town’s name—in the late 1800s. Outlaws who lay in wait to rob the mail coaches, and wolves and mountain lions who made meals of the farmers’ animals. The introduction of the railroad, electricity and a particularly active society of suffragettes, when women were lobbying for the right to vote.

But all of that blended into the broader context of history, not entirely dissimilar to the goings-on of every town in every part of the world, as men fought to tame a wild land and the land rose up and fought back.

Caitlin’s disappearance and Ruby’s appearance felt both spe­cific and personal, and had scarred and healed—if Ruby took the proclamations of various citizens too literally, which she really tried not to do—the community.

Mostly, as Ruby got out of the car she’d hired at the airport and stood in front of Sentinel Bridge with a suitcase in one hand, she marveled at how idyllic and the same it all seemed.

The bridge itself was battered from the years. The wood dark and marred, but sturdy as ever. A white circle with a white 1917, denoting the year of its construction, was sten­ciled in the top center of the bridge, just above the tunnel that led to the other side, a pinhole of light visible in the darkness across the way.

It was only open to foot traffic now, with a road curving wide around it and carrying cars to the other side a different way. For years, Sentinel Bridge was closed, and it wasn’t until a community outreach and education effort in the mid nine­ties that it was reopened for people to walk on.

Ruby could have had the driver take her a different route.

But she wanted to cross the bridge.

“Are you sure you want me to leave you here?” her driver asked.

She’d told him when she’d gotten into his car that she was from here originally, and he’d still spent the drive explain­ing local landmarks to her, so she wasn’t all that surprised he didn’t trust her directive to leave her in the middle of nowhere.

He was the kind of man who just knew best.

They’d just driven through the town proper. All brick—red and white and yellow—the sidewalks lined with trees whose leaves matched as early fall took hold. It was early, and the town had still been sleepy, most of the shops closed. There had been a runner or two out, an older man—Tom Swenson—walking his dog. But otherwise it had been empty. Still, it bore more marks of civilization than where they stood now.

The bridge was nearly engulfed in trees, some of which were evergreen, others beginning to show rusted hints of au­tumn around the edges. A golden shaft of light cut over the treetops, bathing the front of the bridge in a warm glow, il­luminating the long wooden walk—where the road ended—that led to the covered portion, but shrouding the entrance in darkness.

She could see what the man in the car saw. Something abandoned and eerie and disquieting.

But Ruby only saw the road home.

“It’s fine,” she said.

She did not explain that her parents’ farm was just up the road, and she walked this way all the time.

That it was only a quarter of a mile from where she’d been found as a baby.

She had to cross the bridge nearly every day when she was in town, so she didn’t always think of it. But some days, days like this after she’d been away awhile, she had a strange, hushed feeling in her heart, like she was about to pay hom­age at a grave.

“If you’re sure.” His tone clearly said she shouldn’t be, but he still took her easy wave as his invitation to go.

Ruby turned away from the retreating car and smiled, wrapping both hands around the handle of her battered brown suitcase. It wasn’t weathered from her own use. She’d picked it up at a charity shop in York, England, because she’d thought it had a good aesthetic and it was just small enough to be a carry-on, but wasn’t like one of those black wheeled things that everyone else had.

She’d cursed while she’d lugged it through Heathrow and Newark and Denver, then finally Medford. Those wheely bags that were not unique at all had seemed more attractive each time her shoulders and arms throbbed from carrying the very lovely suitcase.

Ruby’s love of history was oftentimes not practical.

But it didn’t matter now. The ache in her arms had faded and she was nearly home.

Her parents would have come to pick her up from the air­port but Ruby had swapped her flight in Denver to an earlier one so she didn’t have to hang around for half the day. It had just meant getting up and rushing out of the airport adjacent hotel she’d stayed in for only a couple of hours. Her New­ark flight had gotten in at eleven thirty the night before and by the time she’d collected her bags, gotten to the hotel and stumbled into bed, it had been nearly one in the morning.

Then she’d been up again at three for the five o’clock flight into Medford, which had set her back on the ground around the time she’d taken off. Which had made her feel gritty and exhausted and wholly uncertain of the time. She’d passed through so many time zones nothing felt real.

She waved the driver off and took the first step forward. She paused at the entry to the bridge. She looked back over her shoulder at the bright sunshine around her and then took a step forward into the darkness. Light came up through the cracks between the wood on the ground and the walls. At the center of the bridge, there were two windows with no glass that looked out over the river below. It was by those windows that she’d been found.

She walked briskly through the bridge and then stopped. In spite of herself. She often walked on this bridge and never felt a thing. She rarely felt inclined to ponder the night that she was found. If she got ridiculous about that too often, then she would never get anything done. After all, she had to cross this bridge to get home.

But she was moving back to town, not just returning for a visit, and it felt right to mark the occasion with a stop at the place of her salvation. She paused for a moment, right at the spot between the two openings that looked out on the water.

She had been placed just there. Down on the ground. Wrapped in a blanket, but still so desperately tiny and alone.

She had always thought about the moment when her sis­ters had picked her up and brought her back to their parents. It was the moment that came before that she had a hard time with. The one where someone—it had to have been her birth mother—had set her down there, leaving her to fate. To die if she died, or live if she was found. And thankfully she’d been found, but there had been no way for the person who had set her there to know that would happen.

It had gotten below freezing that night.

If Marianne, Lydia and Dahlia hadn’t come walking through from the Christmas play rehearsal, then…

The Lost and Found Girl is available from Amazon*, BookShop.orgHarlequinBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million, and Powell’s.  You can find Maisey Yates other novels here on Amazon.  Maisey Yates has Merry Christmas Cowboy coming out on October 25.  It is the second novel in the Four Corners Ranch series.  Thank you for joining me today.  Tomorrow I am sharing my thoughts on Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd.  I am off to work on patching holes.  I want to get moving on getting our walls painted (I have not been up to the task recently).  I will start with patching the holes, sanding, and then start trimming.  I will get all the tedious work done before the rolling.  At the rate I move, it is going to take a while.  I hope that you have enriching day.  Take care, stay cool, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

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