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The Power of Love and Murder by Brenda Whiteside is a Christmas in July Fete pick #romanticsuspense

Title: The Power of Love and Murder (Wild Horse Peaks Book 3)

Author: Brenda Whiteside

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Blurb:

Penny Spark’s desire to reconnect with family this Christmas exposes her true identity—a secret she’s hidden for thirteen years from the political powers that murdered her family.

Jake Winters is out of rehab and coming to grips with his demons. When he meets Penny, he believes this holiday season could be the start of life after rock star status…until her secrets blow up his world.

With a government agent turned hit man closing in on her, Penny and Jake race to expose the presidential contender who targeted her family. Even if they win the race with death, the murder that stands between them could end their hopes for a new life…and love.


Penny slumped onto the worn leather office chair behind the front desk counter of the Grand View Hotel in Timberline. Wednesday nights were the slowest. With nothing to do and the heavy funk she’d been in all day, her mind wandered down paths she didn’t care to tread—paths that led nowhere and ended in emptiness. She missed her family more than ever during the holidays. Her mother had loved Christmas. Besides all of the traditions with Secret Santa Week, the twelve days of Christmas, and holiday music playing every night at dinner, she’d decorate the entire house. Penny fingered the always-present bracelet on her left wrist, a Christmas present from her mother, and glanced overhead. With Thanksgiving over, Christmas decorations adorned the hotel. The holiday adornments didn’t cheer her.

But more than the holidays, it was December—she hated December.

Her purse stood open on the shelf beneath the counter and the sight of the corner of the newspaper tucked inside the inner pocket invited further melancholy. A weight settled on her chest as she slipped out the paper. With lace-gloved fingers, she gently opened the folds of the article from a December day, thirteen years ago. The paper was old and weary with handling over the years. The top half of the cut-out story was stained brown from the coffee she’d spilled the first time she’d read it. She could still feel the crush of the Styrofoam and the burn of the coffee over her hand.

Three Family Members Shot: Execution Style.

She didn’t need to read the article—unfortunately, she could recite every word. Having a photographic memory was a curse, not a gift, no matter what her mother had told her so long ago. But seeing her parents’ and her brother’s names in print helped to make them real. “Larenz Ricci. Myah Ricci. John Ricci.”

“I thought you were on the phone, but it looks like you’re talking to yourself, Penny.”

As if hauled from the depths of a dark cavern, she blinked to clear her vision and become accustomed to the hotel lighting. The smiling, green eyes of Lacy Meadowlark greeted her.

“I didn’t realize…” Rapidly refolding the news article, she palmed the paper against the lower shelf as she stood. “Was I talking out loud?” She forced a smile and a chirp of a giggle.

“I think so. You’re so small you practically disappear when you sit behind the counter, but I did hear some mumbling.”

At five two, Penny didn’t rise too high above the front desk even when she stood. “I guess I was thinking out loud. My head’s a bit fuzzy. Didn’t sleep too well last night.”

The sheriff’s wife set her to-go mug on the counter and leaned on her elbows with clasped hands.“I don’t envy you working when it’s slow and boring and you’re tired. I think it’s going to be a long night for you.”

“I think you’re right.” She pushed the article toward her purse and brought both hands to rest beside Lacy’s.

“Pink?” The woman stared at the lace gloves on her hands. “How can I possibly call you the Black Fairy if you’re going to start wearing pink?”

Penny chuckled. “Wouldn’t you know my white lace gloves got mixed in the laundry with Mandy’s panties and bras.”

“Now, there’s something I would never have guessed. I didn’t think you two wore anything but black and white.”

Delicate laugh lines bracketed her mouth and eyes. Penny wasn’t sure she’d had her fiftieth birthday yet, but Lacy was as vibrant and lovely as the day they’d met.

“We have similar tastes.” She adjusted the black tiara that pinched the left side of her head and winked at her friend. “I don’t go for the full-on black Goth thing anymore, unless I’m working. You know. Haunted hotel and all. Don’t tell Mandy I told you, but her undies are quite colorful. She’ll be in red until the week after Christmas.”


All right then. The lump in his throat went down with a hard swallow along with pride and disappointment. He hadn’t wanted to go to his family until he’d entered the real world, successfully, without anyone’s help. Three years since he’d had contact with his parents. And the last time he’d seen his sister was shortly before his arrest, over a year ago. He could’ve contacted her after his stint in rehab. They’d always been close. She topped his list of needed amends. But when his manager bled him of all his money and Flash Theory fell to pieces and scattered in every direction, he was afraid she’d think he only came around for a handout.

Well, that’s what he needed now.

But Mandy was an angel—his Dark Angel. Did she still favor black clothes or had her Goth phase been left behind?

She’d understand. He’d been out and working for almost six months. Still…he didn’t want to be broke and in need of anything from her.

No choice,Winters. Suck it up.

It took most of the funds in his account to gas up and get a coffee and a doughnut. Hopefully, Pete wouldn’t be there when he got to her house in Timberline. He didn’t really remember much about his sister’s husband since he’d been stoned mindless most of the times they’d met. But he’d guess Pete didn’t think much of him. Why would he?

The engine started on the first try—had to be a good sign—for a two-hour drive to Timberline, if he stayed off the Interstate. He’d take 87 to Lake Chelsea Road through pine-topped mountains called rim country as the road wound farther north. The cold but clear day boasted icy blue skies and sun-soaked evergreens. Christmas was right around the corner.

Instead of anxiety at seeing Mandy, given his current situation, a smile came to his mouth and spread deep inside. He couldn’t wait to hug his little sister, his Dark Angel.

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

Free to read on Kindle Unlimited!

First Chapter:

What I love most about the holiday season:

It’s the happiest time of year because of the attitude of humanity in general. Everyone smiles more, gives more, and helps more. From the ringing of bells in front of stores where you can drop your change in the red pot to the pine trees at malls with children’s names and wishes attached, there are opportunities to help others. Those opportunities are certainly there year-round, but because they aren’t in your face, most of us hurry through our life without regard to the less fortunate. The Christmas season brings out the best in us.

Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?

Christmas can be hard for those who have no family. Luckily, family isn’t all about blood. Penny is alone, without family, in The Power of Love and Murder. Jake has been estranged from his family for three years. This story is edge-of-your-seat, twisty, and will have you flipping the pages with the suspense. But it’s also about finding family and love. You’ll be routing for Penny and Jake to not only lose the villain but to find love.

Giveaway –

One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card:

Open internationally.

Runs July 1 – 31, 2023.

Drawing will be held on August 1, 2023.

Author Biography:

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, cozy mystery, and romance. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart so won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.

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