Title: BAUBLES TO DIE FOR (Shell Isle Mystery Series)
Author: Tonya Penrose
Genre: Cozy mystery
Gifted sleuth Page Wright’s inner world is anything but ordinary, yet her outer world craves a revamp from her mountain bookshop’s continuing demands. A summer escape to her beloved cottage on Shell Isle with cousin Betsy Ross always promised fun and relaxation…until this latest holiday.
Two constants exist that Page can’t escape: Betsy’s spicy culinary fiascos she’s obliged to chase with endless antacids, and the special guidance she receives from ‘inklings’ when her sleuthing gifts are needed.
While the ever-curious Page and Betsy savor lunch at the Bistro, the sleuth observes a cryptic exchange between her la-di-da neighbor, Catherine Lange, and a seedy-looking guy sitting a few feet away. Their words travel across the café’s table on a paper napkin. However, it’s the pistol passed under the table that awakens Page’s first inkling that unknown forces are conspiring to muck-up her and Betsy’s carefree sojourn.
The cousins witness subsequent sightings of Catherine, dripping in her canary diamond jewelry and making ominous threats to five people in her inner circle. On alert now that trouble lurks, Page must entice an always reluctant Betsy to help when the nudge comes to act, knowing time is pressing.
“How utterly curious.” Page’s sapphire eyes narrowed to focus on the cryptic exchange happening between a couple seated a few feet away. Their words traveled across the café’s table on a yellow paper napkin, rather than in conversation.
“What’d you say?” her cousin, Betsy, asked, distracted by the three remaining French fries on her plate.
“Oh, nothing, just a personal observation about that man and woman seated to your left.”
Betsy’s head swiveled.
“No, no. Don’t look.” Page grinned at Betsy’s evident inner battle to resist temptation, by jockeying around in her seat.
Both women had savored an early Saturday lunch at the trendy Beach Bistro’s outside terrace. Betsy had appeared at Page’s door only hours before, declaring she needed a vacation with Page on Shell Isle. Another relationship malfunction had sent her usually extroverted cousin scurrying into hiding, more from herself than her last guy. The family’s summer haven had always filled unrequited needs for them both.
“So, can I look now?” begged Betsy, starting to shift again in the metal chair.
Page’s attention snapped back. “Sorry. They just left.”
Betsy glanced over her shoulder at the empty table, seeing the waiter now busy clearing. “So, exactly what did I miss? And why must it always be you that attracts the strangest doings?”
An abundance of wavy auburn hair framed the flushed face of Betsy. Her tall frame once called willowy testified now to her passion for food. Betsy embraced flamboyance in the way she lived and dressed. She fixed her gaze on Page’s delicate features. Style clung to her cousin like ketchup in the bottle that Betsy held suspended over her plate. Page’s blond hair shimmered in the sun, and a sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks presented the image of someone much younger than fifty. Betsy often confessed to her cousin that she envied the put-together package Page seemed to create effortlessly, and the grounded way Page lived her life. Celebrating the same birthday and age, along with their moms being twins helped the cousins forge an early bond, almost as if they were twins themselves, albeit not identical.
Page broke the silence, dropping her napkin next to her half-eaten colossal shrimp salad. “I’ll enlighten you in a bit. Are you finished?” Page left money on the table to cover lunch.
“My plate’s cleaned, so guess I’m done.” Betsy licked the ketchup off her finger. “How about an ice cream cone, my treat? I spied a dairy bar a block from where we parked.”
“Ice cream? Okay, I’m considering.” Page sighed, thinking about her favorite flavor, and an expanding waistline, if she allowed the food aficionado Betsy to lead her to daily confections. Still, one itty bitty cone couldn’t cause too much harm.
“Well? Oh, come on. You can tell me what fired your curiosity gene, while we walk toward our cones.” Betsy waved and winked at their waiter, as they left.
Shell Isle was an atypical beach town, tucked away on the southern coast of North Carolina. Absent were the tourist traps; present were an eclectic group of shops that beckoned one to explore their inner selves, eat healthily, wear hip, natural fibers, and be a full-time islander. It was a town in support of both a happy and fulfilling life, for those having ties to the place. However, there existed a peculiar essence clinging to the island, which seemed to shun discovery by newcomers.
The cousins plopped down on the marina’s park bench and gazed out at the bay. Two tugs chugged toward the dock sending plumes of charcoal smoke skyward, signaling their captains’ yearning for home. The azure water glistened from the sun’s rays as if fairy dust was sprinkled over the surface. Vintage homes, moss draping their trees, were designed with southern charm testifying to Shell Isle’s historical pedigree. The beach side of the island presented a face of quaint bungalows and cottages tucked behind the façade of majestic live oak trees.
Betsy licked the drips from the sides of the cone. “Tell me what you saw back at the Bistro.”
Page handed her cousin a napkin. “Well, it was probably nothing. I mean a good explanation for what I saw could be─”
“Stop waltzing me. You know how much I detest slow dancing.” Betsy unfastened the top snap of her white pants and tugged her navy striped nautical shirt back down. She gave a little shrug.
“Okay, well, first, I noticed this seedy-looking guy and society-type woman writing notes to each other on a napkin. I’m telling you these two characters were total contrasts. You know, it just didn’t square they’d be together, but get this, just before they left, he slides a small silver pistol under the table to her.” Page turned her attention back to her cone.
Betsy studied her cousin’s face. “No. No. No. Not again. You’ve been in town for a short time. What, a week, tops? And I’ve only just arrived at Shell Isle to have a glorious laid-back summer thanks to our Aunt Tilly’s gift to you.” Bothered, Betsy did the unthinkable. She tossed the remains of her treat into the trash receptacle.
“Oh, just forget what I saw. I want a relaxed summer, too. I came here to do exactly that, and, well, of course, to see about putting Hibiscus Cottage up for sale in the fall.”
“What? Sell Hibiscus? You mustn’t! Aunt Tilly left it to you. She wanted you to have a getaway to call your own at Shell Isle. This place means so much to you…to us, the memories and all. Hibiscus Cottage has always been our place to ground. Aunt Tilly understood…” Betsy’s voice trailed off.
Page released a weighty sigh and dug in her handbag for a lipstick. “I know, Betsy, but what I don’t know is if I want the responsibility of two homes. We do need this sojourn, but you forget I have my bookstore to run.”
“Of course, I haven’t forgotten. Nor, that you’ve lived in that reclusive mountain village for what, three years now? It’s past time, if you ask me, and you should ask me, for considering a new adventure because─”
“Curious, so very curious.”
Page’s words alerted Betsy, who swiveled in the direction that had captured her cousin’s interest. “What? What’d I miss now?”
“That woman from the Bistro just sashayed into Garrett’s Insurance office.” Page motioned left with her head.
“Geez, why did you have to go and see that? Forget her. You aren’t listening to me.”
Page grabbed her handbag and stood. Indecision played across her face.
“Don’t do it. Whatever it is you’re planning, don’t do it. I’m telling you right now I refuse to budge from this bench and get snookered into another mystery-solving expedition with you.”
Ignoring her cousin, Page watched the mysterious woman’s exit from the insurance office. The stiletto heels didn’t slow her pace, nor did the dove gray pencil skirt with the high side split meant to show off a shapely leg. Page noted the manila envelope the woman clasped to her chest. Her signature wide-framed sunglasses were still in place. Funny how glasses hid so much, Page thought. “Something’s up with this one. I sense it. We’ve got to follow her. You know your role, Betsy.”
“Yeah, and I’m not playing it. I’ve got a new role, and it’s staying as far away as I can from anyone acting remotely strange. Seriously? You’re leaving me?” Betsy hollered to Page’s back.
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eBook on sale for $.99 along with the other two books in the Shell Isle Series.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
If you like a mystery romp with fun characters, a twisty plot, and dodgy characters, Baubles to Die For begs your next read. The addition of Betsy’s recipes waiting at the end of the book, should tempt your tastebuds and attract a bottle of antacids.
Enter to win a $15 Amazon US or Amazon Canada gift card
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Runs September 20 – September 28, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on September 29, 2022.
As an author, Tonya’s moved by the effect humor and narratives have on readers. That observation illuminates why her stories often convey messages inviting personal exploration. She is enthusiastic about crafting stories with beguiling characters, adding dashes of snappy humor, and engaging dialogue that leaves her fingerprint on each page.
When Tonya relocated to the mountains, she found fresh writing ideas waiting. From her favorite porch chair gazing at a tranquil lake, the nudge to scribe her first novel came calling. From her beach chair, she got the idea for a cozy series, Shell Isle Mysteries. Tonya confesses new respect for a chair’s ability to motivate writers. She chases her writing joy from the mountains to the seashore.
SHELL ISLE MYSTERY SERIES
BAUBLES TO DIE FOR
RED, WHITE, AND BOOM
MURDER BY NUMBERS (New release)
The characters of Page and Betsy keep chattering to Tonya, so expect future stories in this collection.
OLD MOUNTAIN CASSIE: THE THREE LESSONS
A SECRET GIFT
WELCOME TO CHARM (New release)
VENETIAN RHAPSODY (Releasing early 2023)
Tonya’s fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines. Find Tonya listed in the Poets and Writers Directory.
Please consider this your invitation to visit: www.tonyawrites.com
If you enjoy Tonya Penrose’s (pen name) novels, please tell others and do leave reviews.
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