- N. N. Light
Artful Dodging by @msspencerauthor is a Christmas and Holiday Festival pick #cozymystery #giveaway
Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders
M. S. Spencer
Brooding on both the death of her husband and the four needlepoint stockings she has to finish by Christmas, not to mention two mysterious murders, Milo Everhart is distracted by the handsome man standing in the pub doorway.
Tristram Brodie, hard-driving lawyer and former Marine, is focused on his plan to convert the Torpedo Factory Art Center into a box store. He is drawn to the beautiful woman watching him, but blocking the road to romance is his proposal to gut her beloved studio.
As Milo and Tristram edge closer to love, they must find a way to overcome not only their differences but also the still-fresh memory of her loss.
Excerpt: First Meeting
Milo checked her watch. The storm showed no signs of letting up. Why the hell didn’t I bring a hat? A man tripped on the cobblestone sidewalk in front of her and dropped his umbrella. She toyed with the idea of darting out of O’Connell’s and grabbing it, but the man who had been standing in the doorway for the last fifteen minutes blocked her path.
Tony edged around him to reach her seat in the cozy little window nook. “Another Jack D, Milo? Might as well. No letup in sight.”
“Sure. But give me something to nibble on too. I still have to drive home.”
The bartender backed out past the man, who made no move to get out of his way. Milo frowned. The fellow appeared oblivious to the fact that his position inconvenienced everyone. At first she had assumed he was waiting out the rain, but his body language said expectant. Every minute or so, he would poke his head out and look up and down King Street. For lack of anything more exciting to do, she fell to observing him. The top of his head brushed the doorjamb, making him about six feet three inches. His bulk didn’t jibe with his height, though. She guessed him to weigh in at maybe one hundred seventy-five pounds stripped. He was undeniably her type—lean, trim, tall, clean-shaven—none of that painted-on, five-o’clock shadow male celebrities sported nowadays. And old enough, for once. Maybe forty? She could only see his profile at the moment, which revealed thick black hair curling over his ears, slices of silver gray relieving the dark waves at the temple, a straight nose, moderately rosy—from drink or the cold?—and a forceful chin. Without warning he pivoted, and Milo caught the full impact of a deeply masculine face right in the kisser. Whew. Even with the Armani suit, definitely not gay.
He tapped a highly-polished Gucci loafer with impatience and pulled out a pocket watch. By this time, Milo had dropped all pretence and openly scrutinized her subject. He thrust the watch back in his pocket with a scowl and spun around toward the bar, almost colliding with Tony. He took Milo’s glass from the startled bartender. “Thanks, just what the doctor ordered.”
Milo began to rise in protest. Tony looked at her, and the man followed his gaze in surprise. He held up the whiskey. “Er, I take it this isn’t for me?”
Milo tried to come up with a flip response, but his rich baritone rattled her.
Tony stepped between them. “Yes, sir, that drink belongs to the lady. May I get you something?”
The man didn’t answer. He stared at Milo more or less the way she was staring at him. Flustered, she plopped back down on the narrow bench, barely avoiding an embarrassing slide to the floor. He continued to stare. She resisted the impulse to pat her short fawn-colored ringlets, which always appeared tousled no matter what she did, and blinked. He blinked back.
Finally she blurted out, “Would you care to join me?”
He shook his head as though to clear his mind. “Thank you. Forgive me—I’ve never seen such lovely eyes…I mean, eyes that color…I mean…sorry. What would you call them? Mahogany? Bronze?” His admiring gaze did wonders for Milo’s discomfiture, and her mood took a decided uptick.
“I just call them brown. But thank you.”
“I’m sorry about purloining your drink. Can I buy you a freshener in restitution?”
“I guess so. Er…did you want to sit down?”
“I’d better not. I’m waiting for someone.”
“Oh.” His plight, though not unexpected, depressed her. Of course Armani man had a date. He probably always has a date, even during Lent.
Tony brought another glass. The man paid him then hesitated as though reconsidering. “You know, she is awfully late. Since you’re right in the window seat with a commanding view of the entrance, may I change my mind and sit here until she arrives?”
Ulp. “Not at all.” Good—got that out without stuttering.
“Thanks.” He pulled a low barrel stool next to the bench and clinked her glass. “Cheers.”
They sipped their whiskies in companionable silence. The rain pummeled both the sidewalk and the pedestrians with barely concealed antagonism.
Milo decided her heart had settled down sufficiently to ensure a quaver-free sentence. “I’m Milo Everhart.” And I’m Gorgeous George. You don’t mind if I seduce you, do you? No, wait—he didn’t say that. I did. Hopefully in my head. “Um, I didn’t catch your name?”
“Tristram Brodie. Pleased to meet you.”
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Share a holiday family tradition:
I grew up in a Victorian Queen Anne house, complete with wrap-around porch, a stable, and a tower. The living room was closed off from the hall and dining room by French doors. On Christmas morning us children would come downstairs, and my father would open the doors to the living room, where our stockings hung over the fireplace. After opening stockings, we had to go out to the hall to the kitchen for breakfast. Only after that would my father swing open the French doors to the dining room. As in the Nutcracker, we would behold the fifteen-foot Christmas tree that just grazed the ceiling and fit in the huge bow window. Piled below would be (to my young mind) a mountain of presents. Magical.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood?
Artful Dodging is set in the perfect Christmas city—Colonial-era Old Town Alexandria. The old brick townhouses and cobblestone streets, festooned with holiday lights, remind one of an old English, snow-covered village. Add to it a quirky but delightful set of characters and an equally quirky murder, and you have a made-to-order book to curl up before the fire with.
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Librarian, anthropologist, research assistant, Congressional aide, speechwriter, nonprofit director—award-winning, multi-published author M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents and holds degrees in Anthropology, Middle East Studies, and Library Science. She has published fifteen romantic suspense and mystery novels. She has two children, an exuberant granddaughter, and currently divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
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