Set in New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island in 1990, meet Claire Kennedy, successful mystery book editor at Cauldron Press. Her most famous client, the reclusive Sarah Winesong, has written her first new novel in five years, and Claire is ready to break out the champagne!
And then, in walks Tony Nichols. He’s gorgeous, angry and full of accusations that start with “Cauldron Press stole my book” and end with “Sarah Winesong is a fraud”.
This contemporary cozy mystery has a stellar cast of would-be villains and one real one who will stop at nothing to eliminate his nefarious scheme from coming to light, including stalk and try to kill Claire and Tony!
Tony had not shown up to get her at the inn, nor had he called with a message. She had checked the inn not more than a half hour ago. Was his lack of punctuality further proof of his criminal makeup, she wondered?
Her determination not to be manipulated propelled her up the stairway to the second floor. The lighted hallway was empty of any security guards, secretaries or students to direct her. Turning away from the stairs, Claire walked toward a closed office with English Department stenciled on the frosted glass and knocked.
There was no answer. A lectern stood next to the door, and .the black notebook on it listed the instructor’s office hours. Turning hastily to the Ns, Claire found the entry.
Nichols, A.A. (Tony), Assoc Prof, Creative Writing #319.
The space for appointments was crossed through with a large black X.
She ought to just go see Sarah Winesong, Claire thought as she hurried down the hall. If Mr. Harrison and Tillie had not babied the author all these years, Cauldron Press might not have been in this predicament. And she would not be chasing around after Tony Nichols.
Claire took the stairs up to the third floor, pausing out of breath on the landing. A black arrow with the numbers 311-321 led her to the left.
That hall was dark, the only illumination coming from the gray sky visible through a single window at the far end of the corridor. All the offices appeared locked and unoccupied.
There was no lettering on the frosted glass of room 319 other than its number, and the small metal nameplate holder above it was empty. Claire’s stomach churned. She rapped loudly and waited.
Nothing. “Tony? Are you in there? It’s Claire.”
Her inquiry was met with silence. Rubbing one hand with the other, Claire looked around. Though everything was silent, she had the feeling that someone was nearby. Gingerly she put her hand on the brass doorknob and turned it. It opened easily, into almost complete darkness.
The instant she spoke his name, the shrill cry of the telephone rang out like a startled sentry’s gun. Clutching her chest, Claire gasped and stepped back.
With a sigh of exasperation, she decided to answer it and groped for the light switch. As she did so, she noticed the room was dense with the odor of Tony’s tobacco. Inhaling, she tried to ignore the vivid pictures that rose to mind. She found the switch and flicked it and the room lit up.
The first thing Claire saw was the blood pooled on the dingy carpet just inside the office door.
She froze. Dully she realized the phone had stopped ringing. Then her ears picked up a new sound. In the hallway she had just vacated, she heard the creaking of a door hinge followed by footsteps.
Footsteps that were coming closer.
Frantic, Claire snapped off the light and moved deeper into the small office. Her hands groped in the dark for a weapon. Heavy, leather bound books were everywhere. Gripping the smooth surface of a large, anonymous text, Claire raised it above her head and waited.
A bulky silhouette filled the doorway as the hallway light tumbled into the room. Though Claire had made no sound, it was clear she had been spotted. Without a word, the figure lunged across the small office at her. She brought the book down squarely on the intruder’s face and the corner of it stabbed into his cheek.
She was tackled and thrown against the edge of the desk while her attacker howled a curse at her blow. Claire struck him repeatedly with the book.
As they both crashed to the floor, Claire beat him with every bit of adrenaline pumping into her body. Then, quite suddenly, she knew who it was cursing her in the dark. She recognized the strong hands that hugged her waist, the wavy hair brushing against the tender skin on her arm.
Her body identified her captor even when her terrified mind had not. “Let go of me, Tony. You’re hurting my arms.”
He was straddling her hips. She could now clearly see his eyes in the dim light from the hall.
“Claire, what are you trying to do, kill me?”
Stranger Than Fiction by Emelle Gamble
Stranger than Fiction by Emelle Gamble is a 2015 publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Claire is a dedicated, hardworking, and loyal editor for her publisher firm, until she is stunned by the accusations by a professor that one of her authors is a plagiarist. Vowing to get to the truth, Claire agrees to keep an open mind about Tony Nichols and his claims. But, as the couple spends more time together, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want the truth discovered.
I loved the spotlight on the world of publishing, giving readers a little insight about the behind the scenes machinations of publishers and authors. Of course, times are a little different now, but the basics are still the same. The competition is brutal and authors can be a handful, which creates a very plausible scenario. Plagiarism is always a huge fear, and when it involves a cornerstone of your publishing firm, then the situation could damage reputations for years to come. With the prospect of losing out on a multi-million dollar deal, the stakes become extremely high, and in this case, it turns deadly.
Is Tony telling the truth or does he have his own agenda? Did Claire’s client actually steal someone else’s manuscript? Can she trust Tony, a man she feels inexplicably drawn to? Could her rival be behind the accusations?
The suspense builds slowly as a true, guessing game emerges and the reader is unsure who to trust or who to believe. Claire is a modern woman who would fit in with any present day protagonist just fine. She’s smart and careful, follows her instincts, and has many admirable qualities. I really liked her and felt concern for her as it becomes apparent she is in a no win situation, and is bound to be hurt in one way or another.
Naturally, Tony is not the warmest person on earth, in the beginning, and is perhaps a little unbending and overly confident in his accusations. He remains an enigma throughout much of the story, but in the end I grew to like him.
This story is the type of romantic suspense, I cut my teeth on, so to speak, and reminded me of stories written by Victoria Holt, Dorothy Daniels, and Dorothy Eden, authors who wrote back in the 1960’s and 70’s, where the hero was often dark, brooding, maybe a little bit dangerous, and at times a suspect, someone the reader couldn’t quite trust initially. The heat level is also quite tame, with little or no explicit content. Naturally, as the years pass, styles change and these days it’s all about the hot, inked, military hero, with lots of steamy scenes, which is fun too, but I often wish for more stories like this one.
This book was originally published back in the 1990’s, which brings me back to my mantra concerning e- books and the digital age. Now that we have e books, it is possible to reissue older titles and introduce them to new audiences or even provide us longtime fans with the chance to read older titles we love, but have a hard time finding in print.
New updated covers give these books a fresh face, but the content is still the same as when they were originally published. So, if you are reading this book for the first time, you will definitely notice some things are missing, like computers and cell phones, and there might be a few outdated references here and there too. Some older titles that find their way into the digital age do not translate well over time, but this book made the transition quite seamlessly.
The dialogue, action, and suspense were not affected by time, and was a compelling story without all the modern day bells and whistles. The story stands on its own merits quite well, and I found it to be evenly paced, and well plotted. This is my favorite type of romantic suspense novel, and I'm so happy I got the chance to read it this second time around
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Emelle Gamble became a writer at an early age. At six years old, she was bursting with the requisite childhood stories of introspection, and this itch to tell tales evolved into bad teen poetry and tortured short works that, thankfully, never saw the light of day, or an editor’s red pen.
She took her first stab at writing a novel in an adult education class in Mobile, Alabama when her kids were in bed for the night. As ‘M.L. Gamble,’ she published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin Intrigue. She now publishes novels of Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Situations with SoulMate Publishing and Posh Publishing …works ranging from women’s fiction to thrillers and romantic suspense.
Always intrigued by the words ‘what if’, Gamble’s books feature an ordinary woman confronted with an extraordinary situation. Emelle celebrates the adventurous spirit of readers, and hopes each will enjoy the exciting and surprising journeys her characters take.
Emelle lives in suburban Washington D.C. with her hero of thirty years, Philip, and two orange cats, Lucy and Bella. Like all good villains, the cats claim to have their reasons for misbehaving. Her children are happily launched on their own and are both contributing great things to society, their mother’s fondest wish.
Emelle welcomes any reader interested in emailing her at email@example.com and hopes they will visit her website, www.EmelleGamble.com or her Author Emelle Gamble FaceBook page.
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