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Nuts and Bolts by Barbara Barrett is a Cozy Mystery Event pick #cozymystery #bookboost #giveaway
Title: Nuts and Bolts
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Ex-cop Rowena Summerfield would do just about anything for longtime friend Ryder Tompkins. When he discovers he has a half sister he never knew about and pressures Ro to use her investigative talents to help him find her, she can’t say no. But boyfriend Chuck Dawson’s offer to accompany her to Atlanta might complicate the search. Is she ready for so much togetherness?
What begins as a simple missing-person case escalates to a danger-filled odyssey when they learn the woman has fled town, taking all her worldly goods except a bloodstained cocktail dress. The hunt is on as they follow clues cross-country from one town to another. But they’ve left a trail of their own, and the missing woman’s enemies now threaten Ro and Chuck—not to mention their friends and family back home in Florida.
Ro is torn. If they go home to protect their loved ones, they’ll leave Ryder’s sister in danger, but without the backup of Ro’s police colleagues, they don’t have the resources to face a killer. As Ro and Chuck work their way through a labyrinth of challenges, their partnership evolves beyond attraction. Is it strong enough to withstand Ro’s sneaky moves to solve the case while keeping him out of danger?
I stared at the computer screen debating whether to lay the seven of clubs over the six of hearts or place the eight of diamonds over the seven. Difficult decision. It had been months, maybe years, since I last succumbed to playing an online card game. Until today, there hadn’t been a minute to spare for such a diversion.
There shouldn’t be time now. I should be trying to catch my breath in the midst of renovating one home or another, but here I was, idled by a stalled supply chain that couldn’t deliver the flooring critical to completion of our two current projects. Revenue wouldn’t be forthcoming until the logjam moved. And here I was attempting to block out my concerns about paying our crew and subs by playing a stupid card game.
I’m Rowena Summerfield, Ro for short. With shoulder-length dark hair going gray, I’m about to celebrate my fifty-eighth birthday. Almost four years ago, I partnered with my daughter, Valerie Kowalski, to run a home renovation business here in Shasta, Florida, Nailed It Home Renos, when we were both at a crossroads in our lives and careers.
As I pondered which card to move, there was a quick knock on my door and my boyfriend, Chuck Dawson, burst in. Boyfriend is a bit of a misnomer; Chuck is definitely no boy, although my former football player still demonstrates the energy of a teen, particularly lately, since I’d let down my defenses and gone for broke in our relationship. Not that I regretted a moment of the new level of intimacy we shared. I was in love again for the first time since I met my late husband. Until now, I’d been afraid to trust that I could feel this way again about another human being.
Amazing he’d taken the time to knock, given how much he’d inserted himself in my life lately. He hadn’t moved in yet. We were dragging our feet in that regard because we’d both grown quite content with our single-person lifestyles. But he stayed over several nights a week and, at my suggestion, was storing some of his personal things in space I’d cleared for him.
“Hi,” I said, getting up to kiss him after he’d closed the door. “Didn’t I just see you a few hours ago?”
“Yes, you did,” he replied, setting me back on my feet, “but something has come up we need to discuss. The AC is out at the deli, and the new equipment can’t be installed for another week to ten days. Let’s take advantage of this break to head to Atlanta before the trail grows too cold.”
I took a step back. I wasn’t expecting this suggestion. I needed to sit down to absorb this idea. “You were serious about helping me track down Ryder’s sister?” Ryder served as superintendent on our projects in addition to running his own company. Several months ago, he told me how he’d discovered he had a sister he’d never known about, the result of an affair of his late father nearly three decades ago. He’d asked for my help finding her. I’d tracked her down as far as Atlanta, then Ryder attempted his own legwork.
The result had been some creep showing up at our work site telling Ryder to butt out after Ryder had gone there, only to learn she’d taken off for parts unknown. I considered my friend a very together kind of guy, but that visit freaked him out. Me, too, and also the crew that witnessed the confrontation. Until then, my search for the woman had been between Ryder and me, his request. But the fact that the guy had invaded Chuck’s space, the grounds of the wine bar, brought Chuck into the picture. Though he claimed he knew I could take care of myself, he wanted in on the search.
“You bet I’m serious,” he said, leaning forward. “Ever since I learned about this quest of yours on behalf of Ryder, I’ve been trying to figure out how we approach it.” He held up his open hands. “Now is the perfect time to begin this odyssey. I have the time, because of the AC, and from what you’ve told me about your current projects, you’re also free right now.”
He had me there, although the only partner I was used to was Hercules “Herc” Morgan, my old homicide investigator sidekick when I worked on the Shasta Florida police force. Lately, he’d convinced me to freelance on occasion to help him solve a few murders. Herc and I had developed a certain give and take in our work partnership over the years where I felt comfortable expressing my opinion and taking the lead as needed. I’d never worked with a civilian, even though this was a missing-persons case, not a homicide. Chuck’s infuriating interference during our work on his restaurant and wine bar suggested teaming up with him on this project might not be the best idea. As much as I was coming to care for Chuck, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to work together.
“Maybe you’ve made short work of planning to be away, but my list is a bit longer.”
He stared at me as if daring me to put up more roadblocks. “Val can handle whatever needs to be done in your absence. And Ryder will be so delighted you’re actively following up what he learned in Atlanta, he’ll do whatever he can to help her.”
“Everything I’ve done so far to help him find his sister has been done here in whatever spare moments came my way. If I—we—go to Atlanta, we’ll be on our own without the backup of the police force that’s always been there for me.”
He sat back and folded his hands. “Don’t you want to do this, Ro?” He paused, letting his question rest in the air. “Or maybe it’s just me you don’t want to work with?”
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
If you haven’t read any of the books in the Nailed It Home Reno Mysteries series, Nuts and Bolts is a great introduction to the dual world of Rowena Summerfield: currently an interior designer and co-owner of Nailed It Home Reno with her daughter, Valerie, and previously a crack homicide investigator for the town of Shasta, Florida. (You can start right here and meet Ro; her boyfriend, Chuck Dawson, deli, restaurant and wine bar owner, former pro football player and serious hunk even in his middle years; Valerie and her new love, Captain James Watkins of the Shasta Police Department and Ro’s sometime boss; Ro’s former partner, Hercules Morgan, who is continually pulling her back to her former world to help him solve current murder cases; and Ro’s longtime friend and mentor in the world of construction, Ryder Tompkins.)
If you have read the first four book in this series, this is the story you’ve been waiting for, when one of the previous secondary stories, the search for the half sister Ryder didn’t know existed until recently, Meredith Lynley, comes to the fore. This time, instead of pairing up with her old homicide partner, Chuck offers to accompany her on this odyssey that takes them across the country tracking down Meredith on the skimpiest of clues. Along the way, they discover the danger she’s in, which then turns on them. The constant togetherness, working out their next move and hiding from a couple of goons forces them to realize the true depth of their feelings for each other.
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Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.
Though not an interior designer, that occupation has always fascinated Barbara. Her father was a carpenter and her husband has his own woodworking business. Exposure to their work got her interested in watching numerous home improvement shows on HGTV. Ro and Val are an amalgam of several HGTV hosts. She used that combination of personality traits for Ro and turned her into a female sleuth who rehabs older houses.
Barbara is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sinc-Iowa and Florida STAR Fiction Writers.
She is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.
When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays mah jongg, watches TV detective shows and enjoys lunches with friends.
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