A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, April 27, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY-James M. Cain: The Complete Crime Stories- Feature and Review


Seventeen gripping tales from one of the toughest authors in the history of crime fictionThey call him Lucky—but he has never had a lucky day in his life. A nineteen-year-old hobo just starting to ride the rails, he is hiding in the coal car when the railroad detective comes through. They get into a scuffle, and Lucky’s hand finds a railroad spike. Before he knows it, he has smashed the investigator’s head and shoved him out of the car. If he hurries, if he’s lucky, he will get back to Los Angeles in time to establish an alibi, burn his clothes, and avoid the electric chair. But as Lucky will discover, the deadliest threat is lurking within his own mind.

“Dead Man” is just one of the outstanding stories included in this volume. The author of some of the most hard-boiled prose ever written, James M. Cain understood fear in all its forms—and knew better than anyone the terror of a killer on the run.



The Complete Crime StoriesThe Complete Crime Stories by James M. Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James M. Cain - The Complete Crime Stories is a 2015 Mysterious Press/ Open Road Integrated Media publication.

Most people equate the name James M. Cain with his famous hardboiled crime novels such as “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. But, Cain also wrote short stories for magazines, as well as screenplays.

This is a collection of seventeen short stories by Cain, none of which I had ever read or even heard of, and I actually considered myself a fan. So, hats off to the publisher for collecting this outstanding group of stories and putting in them into one volume and in digital format.

Now, a brief word about the these stories:

The stories are all pretty short, with a couple of exceptions.  While labeled as crime stories they have a kind of pulp quality to them and many are just dark essays on the underbelly of human nature. While many years have passed since these stories were written, they still pack a punch, and could be shocking to even the most jaded modern reader. No holds barred, no politically correct watered down dialogue or actions and some may even be offended, especially when it comes to the treatment of women in some cases.

However, I did enjoy reading these more obscure works by the author. I couldn't pinpoint a story I would call my favorite in the collection, but the first story - “The Baby in the Icebox” was the perfect lead in and stuck with me. Not all stories were to my liking, but for the most part they are quintessential Cain and one can't help but get caught up in his signature prose.

If you are a fan of this author, or of the hard boiled style of writing, you really do want to pick this one up. Cain's unapologetic style of writing and his insight into humanity's dark side is absolutely riveting, even in small, contained stories like these. So, even if you aren't all that familiar with the author, this is a nice way to familiarize yourself with a true legend of crime fiction.





James Mallahan Cain was an American journalist and novelist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labelling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the 'roman noir'.

He was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of a prominent educator and an opera singer. He inherited his love for music from his mother, but his high hopes of starting a career as a singer himself were thwarted when she told him that his voice was not good enough. 

After graduating from Washington College where his father, James W. Cain served as president, in 1910, he began working as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun.

He was drafted into the United States Army and spent the final year of World War I in France writing for an Army magazine. On his return to the United States he continued working as a journalist, writing editorials for the 'New York World' and articles for 'American Mercury'. He also served briefly as the managing editor of 'The New Yorker', but later turned to screenplays and finally to fiction.

Although Cain spent many years in Hollywood working on screenplays, his name only appears on the credits of three films, 'Algiers', 'Stand Up and Fight', and 'Gypsy Wildcat'.

His first novel (he had already published 'Our Government' in 1930), 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' was published in 1934. Two years later the serialized, in 'Liberty Magazine', 'Double Indemnity was published.

He made use of his love of music and of the opera in particular in at least three of his novels: 'Serenade' (about an American opera singer who loses his voice and who, after spending part of his life south of the border, re-enters the States illegally with a Mexican prostitute in tow), 'Mildred Pierce' (in which, as part of the subplot, the only daughter of a successful businesswoman trains as an opera singer) and 'Career in C Major', a short semi-comic novel about the unhappy husband of an aspiring opera singer who unexpectedly discovered that he has a better voice than she does.

He continued writing up to his death at the age of 85, his last three published works, 'The Baby in the Icebox' (1981), Cloud Nine (1984) and The Enchanted Isle (1985) being published posthumously. However, the many novels he published from the late 1940s onward never quite rivaled his earlier successes.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY: The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders:The Story of a Town in Terror- by James Presley- Feature and Review


The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian James Presley reveals evidence that provides crucial keys to unlocking this decades-old puzzle.

Dubbed "the Phantom murders" by the press, these grisly crimes took place in an America before dial telephones, DNA science, and criminal profiling. Even pre-television, print and radio media stirred emotions to a fever pitch. The Phantom Killer, exhaustively researched, is the only definitive nonfiction book on the case, and includes details from an unpublished account by a survivor, and rare, never-before-published photographs.

Although the case lives on today on television, the Internet, a revived fictional movie and even an off-Broadway play, with so much of the investigation shrouded in mystery since 1946, rumors and fractured facts have distorted the reality. Now, for the first time, a careful examination of the archival record, personal interviews, and stubborn fact checking come together to produce new insights and revelations on the old slayings.



The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in TerrorThe Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror by James Presley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Phantom Killer- Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror by James Presley is a 2015 Pegasus Books LLC publication.

This case has been the subject of much speculation over the years. Officially, it remains an unsolved mystery, but in this book, James Presley builds a case against the prime suspect which left me feeling, at least in my mind, as though the case was finally solved.

In 1946, the term “serial killer” wasn't on the tips of everyone's tongue like it is today. While there were multiple killings in this case, I'm wondering if “spree killer” might not be a more apt description. Nevertheless, this type of crime was practically unheard of, especially in the small boom town of Texarkana, a city with the unique notoriety of being placed between the borders of both Texas and Arkansas. Yes, there is an Arkansas side and a Texas side. Otherwise, there was nothing especially remarkable about Texarkana, but this case put it “on the map” so to speak.

The first vicious attack on a dark, isolated lover's lane is the stuff horror movie legends are made of. Two young people parking are approached by a gunman wearing a hood or mask and brutally attacked. The couple miraculously survived, but law enforcement had a nearly blasé sort of attitude about the crime. However, when another attack occurs, and this time the victims are murdered, the case took on a whole new dimension and law enforcement sat up and took notice and then... another attack took place.

The first part of the book which outlines details of the crime spree was riveting. It will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Random shootings and attacks like these, where there doesn't appear to be any kind of personal motive or pattern, is one of the most difficult to process and understand and it's hard to pinpoint who is responsible.

The atmosphere in the town of Texarkana was nearly one of mass hysteria and the media wasted no time hyping the story making the situation even more tense.

But, once the book moves past the initial shock of the murders themselves and the author begins to make a case for one particular person who most likely had an accomplice, the pace of the book slows down to crawl. This part is pretty dry reading despite the fact I thought the author had the killer pegged.

The book comes with a set of photographs which gives faces to names and lets us know what happened to all the people involved, either as victims or officers in the case.

The book also, of course, reminds us that the movie “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” was loosely based on this crime, and I do mean loosely. The crime, the publicity, the movie and TV true crime shows have all left Texarkana with a bit of notoriety it might not have otherwise and there are people there today who are still attempting to cash in on that fifteen minutes of fame, some of which I found to be in poor taste.

Overall, the author did a great job of laying out the crime, the era of time, the aftermath and the investigation. He went into great detail in making his case and had me convinced, without a doubt, that the man he fingered was in fact “The Phantom Killer”. The book is well researched and thought out, and even though the book was a little dull in places, it accomplishes it's goal. I am so glad someone has written a book about this crime and put to rest that awful image people have due to the Hollywood version of events. If you want to know what really happened, read this book.





James Presley ​has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas and has won numerous awards for his journalism, including the Anson Jones Award and the John H. McGinnis Memorial Award.  He is the author of ​A Saga of Wealth: The Rise of the Texas Oilmen, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  He lives in Texarkana, Texas.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena- Feature and Review


In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A domestic thriller packed full of secrets, and a twisty story that never stops—from the bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—heLr car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There's a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.



A Stranger in the HouseA Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena is a 2017 Pamela Dorman Books publication.

Oh dear. Well, this novel is the fourth one I’ve read within a one or two- month span with very similar plot lines.

Although, by the time I got this one from the library, I’d grown weary of the repetitiveness, I have to say I enjoyed the quirky atmosphere, and the dash of dark humor thrown into the mix, which was refreshing.

Tom and Karen look like the ideal couple. But, their lives rapidly spiral out of control when Karen abruptly leaves the house after receiving a phone call, and winds up crashing her car in a bad neighborhood. The accident causes Karen to suffer memory loss, so she can’t tell anyone what happened or why she was in such dangerous location.

To complicate matters, a dead body is discovered near the car crash and it looks as though Karen could know something about the murder, and to top it all off, Karen begins to suspect someone has been in their house, moving little things around and going through her things.

With the cops asking pointed questions, Tom and Karen become increasingly paranoid, which puts an enormous strain on their once perfect marriage.

Karen finds support from her best friend and neighbor, who keeps a very close eye on Tom and Karen….

This story moves along at a brisk pace and has several very nice twists along the way, but it also has one of those annoying tacked on codas I’ve begun to despise. The last sentence was, no doubt, intended to leave the reader feeling a slight shiver down the spine, but honestly, I thought it was   a nice touch of dark humor, and wickedly funny. I can’t go into details, but it was a very fitting conclusion and I would enjoy reading a short epilogue sometime in the future, updating us on how the characters are doing.

 My issues with this book stems from having read so many psychological thrillers right in a row, with similar plots. But, this book stands on its own merits and overall, it was an enjoyable enough read.





Shari Lapena is a Canadian novelist. She is best known for her 2016 thriller novel The Couple Next Door, which was a bestseller both in Canada and internationally. Lapena, a lawyer and English teacher before beginning her writing career, published her debut novel Things Go Flying in 2008. That novel was a shortlisted Sunburst Award finalist in 2009. Her second novel, Happiness Economics, was a shortlisted Stephen Leacock Award finalist in 2012.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Nanny's Double Trouble by Christine Rimmer- Feature and Review


Meet The Bravos of Valentine Bay...And the single father of twin toddlers in desperate need of a nanny! All his life Daniel Bravo has been the responsible one. So when he's left widowed with adorable twins to raise, he knows he needs help, fast. Enter family friend Keely Ostergard--a woman with love in her heart for his children, and a gigantic chip on her shoulder for him. She's the last person he'd ever fall for--the aversion is mutual. Until it isn't...

                                                                           READ AN EXCERPT:

Chapter 1
When Keely Ostergard entered the upstairs playroom, she found Daniel Bravo lying on the floor. His eighteen-month-old daughter, Frannie, sat beside him rhythmically tapping his broad chest with a giant plastic spoon.
“Boom, Da-Da,” Frannie said. “Boom, boom, boom.”
Meanwhile, Jake, Frannie’s twin, stood at Daniel’s head on plump toddler legs, little hands over his eyes in a beginner’s attempt at peekaboo.
Watching them, Keely couldn’t help thinking that for a man who’d never wanted children of his own, Daniel sure was a dream with them. The guy rarely smiled, yet he lavished his kids with attention and affection.
“Boo!” cried Jake, followed by a delighted toddler belly laugh that had him toppling head-over-heels toward his father’s face. Daniel caught him easily and started to tickle him, bringing more happy chortling from Jake.
Frannie spotted Keely first. “Keewee!” She dropped her spoon, lurched to her feet and toddled across the floor with her little arms wide.
Keely scooped her up. She smelled so sweet, like vanilla and apples. “How’s my girl?”
Frannie’s reply was almost in English. “I goo.”
Daniel sat up, Jake still in his arms. “Keely.” He looked a little worried at the sight of her. She came by often to see the kids, but she’d always called first. Not this time. He asked, “Everything okay?”
“Absolutely.” She kissed Frannie’s plump cheek. “Sorry, I know I should have called.” But if she’d called and said she would like to speak with him, he would have asked what was going on, and she didn’t want to get into that until they were face-to-face. He could too easily blow her off over the phone.
Grace, Daniel’s youngest sister, who had answered the door at Keely’s knock, entered the playroom right then. “Keely needs to talk to you, Daniel.”
“Sure—down you go, big fella.” He set the giggling Jake on his feet.
“Come on you two.” Grace took Frannie from Keely and held out her hand for Jake. “Bath time.” She set off, carrying Frannie and pulling Jake along, on her way to the big bathroom down the hall.
Daniel stood still in the middle of the floor, watching her. “How `bout a drink?”
“Sounds good.”
Downstairs in the kitchen, he poured them each two fingers of very old scotch, neat. Keely wasn’t much of a drinker, and scotch wasn’t her favorite. But she had an offer to make, and she wanted him to say yes to it. Sharing a drink first might loosen him up a little.
She raised her glass and took a small sip. It burned going down, and she tried not to shudder. “Strong stuff.”
He looked at her sideways and grumbled, “Why didn’t you just say you hate scotch?”
“No. Really. It’s very good.”
He stared at her doubtfully for a couple of awkward seconds and then, with a shrug, he looked out the window. It was after seven on a cool Friday night in March, and already dark out. Beyond the glass, garden lights glowed golden through the thickening fog. Behind her somewhere far out in the bay, down the tree-covered hill from the front of the house, a foghorn sounded.
Keely rested her hand on the cool, smooth soapstone counter. It was a beautiful kitchen. Her cousin Lillie had redone it with meticulous, loving care. It had lustrous heated wood floors in a herringbone pattern, a giant farm-style sink, twinkly glass backsplashes and chef-grade appliances.
Keely’s throat got tight just thinking of her. She’d died eighteen months ago, leaving behind two adorable newborn babies—and one very grim husband. For the last fifteen years or so, Daniel had hardly been what Keely would call a happy guy anyway, but since they lost Lillie, the man rarely cracked a smile.
She took another sip and inched up on the reason she’d stopped by. “So then, what will you do for childcare now?”
He shifted his gaze back to her. “What can I do? Guess I’ll try the nanny service again.”
Keely almost laughed, though it wasn’t all that funny. “Will you ask for the one with the alcohol problem or the one who gets sick all the time? Or maybe the one who’s in love with you?” Daniel was a Viking of a man, big and buff and really good-looking in his too-serious, borderline-broody way. It wasn’t the least surprising that one of the endless string of nannies and babysitters had decided she was meant to become a second mother to his children and show him how to heal his wounded heart.
He pinched the bridge of his manly nose as though he might be getting a headache. “Something will come up.” His eyes—of a rather eerie pale blue—had circles under them. Clearly, he hadn’t been sleeping well lately.
Keely felt kind of guilty for teasing him. Okay, she harbored some animosity toward him for what had gone down between him and her cousin in the last months of Lillie’s life. But that was private stuff, husband-and-wife stuff, stuff Lillie had shared with Keely in strictest confidence.
Daniel wasn’t a bad guy. He’d just had to shoulder too much, too soon. On the plus side, he was a man you could count on—and pretty much everyone did. Keely needed to remember his good qualities whenever she felt tempted to blame him for making Lillie unhappy.
He was doing the best he could, and he did have a real problem. President and CEO of Valentine Logging, Daniel worked long hours. He needed reliable childcare for the twins. Yet the nannies came and went. And Daniel’s mother-in-law, Keely’s aunt Gretchen, had always been his nanny of last resort, stepping up to take care of the kids every time another caregiver bit the dust.
Then two days ago Gretchen tripped and fell—over Jake. The little boy was fine, but Gretchen had four broken bones in her right foot. At seventy and now on crutches, Keely’s aunt was no longer in any condition to be chasing after little ones. Daniel needed another nanny, and he needed one now.
And that was where Keely came in.
She knocked back the rest of her scotch. It seared a bracing path down her throat as she plunked her glass on the counter. “Okay, so here’s the thing…”
Daniel gazed at her almost prayerfully. “Tell me you know a real-life Mary Poppins. Someone with excellent references who can’t wait to move in here and take care of my kids.”
“‘Can’t wait’ might be a little strong, and Mary Poppins I’m not. But as for references, your mother-in-law will vouch for me. In fact, Aunt Gretchen has asked me to take over with the kids for a while and I’ve said yes.”
Daniel’s mouth went slack. “You? You’re kidding.”
Should she be insulted? She answered tartly, “I am completely serious. The kids know me, I love them dearly and I’m happy to step in.”
He pinned her with that too-pale stare. “It’s just not right.”
“Of course, it’s right. Lillie was my sister in all the ways that matter. Jake and Frannie need me right now. I know you and I aren’t best friends, but you’ve got to have someone you can depend on. That would be me.”
“You make it sound like I’ve got something against you, Keely. I don’t.”
She didn’t believe him. But how he felt about her wasn’t the point. Jake and Frannie were what mattered. Yes, he could probably hire yet another nanny from the service he used. But the kids deserved consistency and someone who loved them.
“Great.” She plastered on a giant smile. “Daniel. It’s going to be fine, I promise you. Better me than yet another stranger.”
His brow wrinkled to match the turned-down corners of his mouth. “You’re busy. You’ve got that gallery to run and those quilt things you make.”
Quilt things?  Seriously?
Keely was a successful fabric artist as well as the proud owner of her own gallery, Sand & Sea, down in the historic district of their small Oregon town of Valentine Bay. And whatever Daniel chose to call the textile arts, he did have a point. Taking care of Jake and Frannie on top of everything else she had going on would be a challenge.
She would manage, though. Gretchen had asked her to help. No way would she let her Auntie G down.
“I’m here and I’m willing,” she coaxed. “The kids need me and they know me.” She raced on before he could start objecting again. “Honestly, I have a plan and it’s a good one. This house has seven bedrooms and only four people live here now—including the twins.”
After his parents died, Daniel and Lillie had raised his seven surviving siblings right there in the Bravo family home. All the Bravo siblings had moved out now, though. Except for Grace. A junior at Reed College in Portland, Grace still came home for school breaks and between semesters. She had the only downstairs bedroom, an add-on off the kitchen.
Keely forged on. “I can take one empty upstairs room for a bedroom and one for my temporary studio—specifically, the two rooms directly across the hall from the twins’ playroom and bedroom. It’s perfect. And most nights, once you’re here to take over, I’ll probably just go home.” She had a cute little cottage two blocks from the beach, not far from her gallery. “But if you need me, I can stay over. With a studio set up here, I can work on my own projects whenever I get a spare moment or two. I have good people working at Sand & Sea, trustworthy people who will pick up the slack for me.”
He leaned back against the counter, crossed his big arms over his soft flannel shirt and considered. “I don’t know. I should talk to my sisters first, see how much they can pitch in.”
Besides Grace, who would be leaving for Portland day-after-tomorrow, there were Aislinn, Harper and Hailey. Aislinn worked for a lawyer in town. She couldn’t just take off indefinitely to watch her niece and nephew. As for Harper and Hailey, who’d been born just ten months apart, they were both seniors at U of O down in Eugene and wouldn’t be back home until after their graduation at the end of the semester.
And what was it with men? Why did they automatically turn to their sisters and mothers-in-law in a childcare emergency? Daniel had three brothers living nearby. Keely almost hit the snark button and asked him why he didn’t mention asking Matthias, Connor or Liam if they could pitch in, too?
But she had a goal here. Antagonizing Daniel would not aid her cause. “Well, of course everyone will help out, fill in when they can. But why make your sisters scramble when I’m willing to take on the main part of the job?”
“It just seems like a lot to ask.”
“But see, that’s just it. You’re not asking. I’m offering.”
“More like insisting,” he muttered.
“Oh, yes I am.” She put on a big smile, just to show him that he couldn’t annoy her no matter how hard he tried. “And I’m prepared to start taking care of Frannie and Jake right away. I’ll move my stuff in tomorrow, and I’ll take over with the kids on Sunday when Grace leaves to go back to school.”
He scowled down at his thick wool socks with the reinforced red heels and toes. Daniel always left his work boots at the door. “There’s still Gretchen to think about. If you’re busy with the kids, who’s going to be looking after her until she can get around without crutches again?” Keely’s uncle, Cletus Snow, had died five years ago. Auntie G lived alone now.
“She’s managing all right, and I will be checking in on her. And that’s not all. She’s called my mom.”
One burnished eyebrow lifted toward his thick dark gold hair as Daniel slanted her a skeptical glance. “What’s Ingrid got to do with anything?”
It was an excellent question. Ingrid Ostergard and Gretchen Snow were as different as two women could be and still share the same genes. Round and rosy Gretchen loved home, children and family. Ingrid, slim and sharp as a blade at fifty, was a rock musician who’d lived just about all her adult life out of her famous purple tour bus. Ingrid had never married. She claimed she had no idea who Keely’s father was. Twenty years younger than Gretchen, Keely’s mother was hardly the type to run to her big sister’s rescue.
Keely said, “Mom’s decided to change things up in her life. She’s coming home to stay and moving in with Aunt Gretchen.”
Daniel stared at her in sheer disbelief. “What about the band?”
Pomegranate Dream had had one big hit back in the nineties. Since then, all the original members except Ingrid had dropped out and been replaced, most of them two or three times over. “My mother pretty much is the band. And she says she’s done with touring. She’s talking about opening a bar here in town, with live music on the weekends.”
He just shook his head. “Your mother and Gretchen living together? How long do you think that’s going to last?”
“There have been odder odd couples.”
“Keely, come on. Those two never got along.”
She picked up the bottle of scotch and poured them each another drink. “How `bout we think positive?” She raised her glass. “To my new job taking care of your adorable children—and to my mom and your mother-in-law making it work.”
He grabbed his glass. “I would insist on paying you the going rate.” He looked as grim and grouchy as ever, but at least he’d essentially accepted her offer.
“Daniel, we’re family. You don’t have to—”
“Stop arguing.” He narrowed those silvery eyes at her. “It’s only fair.”
Was it? Didn’t really matter. If he had to put her on salary in order to agree to accept her help, so be it. “Go ahead, then. Pay me the big bucks.”
“I will.” He named a figure.
He tapped his glass to hers. “Here’s to you, Keely. Thank you.” He really did look relieved. “You’re a lifesaver.” And then something truly rare happened. Daniel Bravo almost smiled.
Well, it was more of a twitch on the left side of his mouth, really. That twitch caused a warm little tug in the center of her chest. The man needed to learn how to smile again, he really did. Yes, he’d caused Lillie pain and Keely resented him for it.
But Lillie, diagnosed with lupus back in her teens, had craved the one thing that was most dangerous for her. She’d paid for her children with her life and left her husband on his own to raise the sweet babies she just had to have.
Life wasn’t fair, Keely thought. At least there should be smiles in it. There should be joy wherever a person could find it. Jake and Frannie needed a dad who could smile now and then.
“What are you looking at?” Daniel demanded, all traces of that tiny twitch of a smile long gone.
Keely realized she’d been staring at Daniel’s mouth for way too long. She blinked and gave an embarrassed little cough into her hand. “Just, um, thinking that you ought to smile more often.”
He made a growly sound, something midway between a scoff and a snort. “Don’t start on me, Keely. You’ll give me a bad feeling about this deal we just made.”
It was right on the tip of her tongue to come back with something snippy. Do not get into it with him, she reminded herself yet again. They would be living in the same house at least some of the time, and they needed to get along. Instead of a sharp retort, she gave him a crisp nod. “Fair enough.”
Claws clicking gently across the floor, Lillie’s sweet Basset hound, Maisey Fae, waddled in from the family room. The dog stopped at Keely’s feet and gazed up at her longingly through mournful brown eyes.
“Aww. How you doin’, Maisey?” She knelt to give the dog a nice scratch under her jowly chin. “Where’s my sugar?” She pursed her lips, and Maisey swiped at her face with that long, pink tongue.
When Keely rose again, Daniel was holding out a house key. “I’ll give you a check tomorrow to cover the first week.”
“Thanks. I’ll be here nice and early with my car full of clothes, equipment and art supplies.”
“I can’t wait,” he said with zero inflection as she headed for the front door. “What time?”
“Eight,” she said over her shoulder.
“I’ll come over and help.”
“No need.” She waved without turning. “I’ve got this.”
The next morning as Keely was hauling her prized Bernina 1015 sewing machine out to her Subaru in the drizzling rain, Daniel pulled up at the end of her front walk in his Supercrew long bed pickup.
He emerged from behind the wheel, his dark gold hair kind of scrambled looking, his face rough with beard scruff, wearing a heavy waffle weave Henley, old jeans and the usual big boots.
“I told you I can handle this,” she reminded him as he took the sewing machine from her.
“You’re welcome. Happy to help,” he said, and for a split second she imagined a spark of wry humor in those ice-blue eyes.
She remembered her manners. “Thank you—and be careful with that,” she warned. “Those aren’t easy to find anymore, and they cost a fortune.” She swiped at the mist of raindrops on her forehead, then stood with her hands on her hips watching his every move as he set the machine carefully in the backseat of his truck. When he shut the door again, she asked, “So Grace has the kids?”
“Yeah, they’re with Grace. Let’s get the rest.” He headed up the walk, his long strides carrying him to the front porch of her shingled cottage in just a few steps.
She hustled to catch up. “You want some coffee? I can make some.”
“I had two cups with breakfast. Let’s get this done.”
Half an hour later, all her equipment, including her spare Bernina, a 1008 model, a raft of art and sketching supplies and the giant pegboard loaded with industrial-sized spools of thread in just about every color known to man, was either in the rear seat of his crew cab or tucked in the long bed beneath the camper shell. He’d loaded up her two collapsible worktables, too, and the smaller table she liked to keep beside her easel. That left only her suitcases to go in the Subaru. She’d figured it would take three trips to get everything up to the Bravo house. Thanks to Daniel, they would get it done in one.
“See you back at the house.” He climbed in his truck.
“Thank you. I mean that sincerely.”
With a quick wave, he started the engine and drove off.
She locked up and followed him, leaving the mist-shrouded streets of town to head up Rhinehart Hill into the tall trees and then along the winding driveway that led to the beautiful old Bravo house, with its deep front porch flanked by stone pillars.
Keely stopped behind Daniel’s truck, in the turnaround in front of the house. She grabbed her biggest suitcase and hauled it inside and up the curving staircase to the room she planned to use for sleeping whenever she stayed over.
He emerged from the other room to meet her as she headed back down. “I’m putting your sewing stuff in the white room.” He shot a thumb back over his shoulder. “You’re using it for work, right?”
“How’d you guess?”
“It has better light than the other one. You want me to get the bed and dressers out of there?”
“I can use the dressers for storage, if that’s all right. Are they empty?”
“I think they’ve got a bunch of old clothes nobody wants in them. Just clear out the drawers, and I’ll take everything away.”
“Thanks.” Note to self: be nicer to Daniel. He really was a handy guy to have around when a girl needed to get stuff done. “And as for the bed, yes please. I would like it gone.”
“I’ll have it out of there before dinnertime.” And off he went down the stairs to bring up the next load of her stuff.
She peeked into the kids’ bedroom and also the playroom before following him. Nobody there. Grace must have them downstairs somewhere.
Working together, they hauled everything up to her two rooms, bringing the big thread pegboard up last.
“You want this board mounted on the wall?” he asked.
“That would be terrific.”
“I’ll get to that tonight. Once we get the bed out, we can set things up pretty much like the room you were using at your place.”
It was exactly what she’d hoped to do, and she got a minor case of the warm fuzzies that he’d not only pitched in to help move her things, he’d also given real thought to making her as comfortable as possible in his house. “Totally works for me. Thanks.”
With the barest nod of acknowledgment, he pulled a folded scrap of paper from his pocket—a check. “First week’s pay.” She took it. “I need to go on up to Warrenton,” he said. Valentine Logging operated a log sorting and storage yard, deep water and barge cargo docks, and a log barking and chipping facility in nearby Warrenton at the mouth of the Columbia River. The company offices were there, too. “You planning to look in at the gallery today?”
“I am, yes. But I’ll be back in the afternoon, ready to take over with the kids.”
“No rush. Grace is here until tomorrow. She’ll watch them today and tonight so you can get settled in.”
That didn’t seem fair. Grace had spent her whole week helping with the kids. “I’m fine on my own with them.”
His regular frown got deeper. “Grace’ll be here. In case you need her.”
She considered the wisdom of arguing the point further. But his mouth was set and his eyes unwavering. Maybe not. “See you later, then.”
With a grunt, he turned and went down the stairs.
From the docks in Warrenton, Daniel called a handyman he trusted to haul the bed from the white room down into the basement. He’d been feeling pretty desperate yesterday when Keely showed up to save his bacon on the childcare front.
True, her offer had seemed like a bad idea at first. He’d been afraid they wouldn’t get along. In the last years of Lillie’s life, as his marriage unraveled, Keely had never said a mean word to him directly. But he got the message in her disapproving glances and careful silences whenever he happened to be in the same room with her. She’d been firmly Team Lillie, no doubt about it. Still, for the twins’ sake, she’d stepped up to provide the care they needed.
It was important to do everything he could to make her happy in his house. He planned to be home for dinner and then to help her get everything just the way she wanted it.
But the day came and went. By late afternoon, he still needed to go through the stack of paperwork he hadn’t managed to get to during the week. After a short break to grab some takeout, he headed for the office, ending up by himself at his desk until after seven.
When he finally pulled his truck into the garage, he caught Grace, in tight jeans and full makeup, as she was coming down the stairs from the inside door. She flashed him a smile and tried to ease past him on the way to her car.
“Hold on.”
“Daniel.” She made his name into a serious complaint. “I have to go. I’m meeting Erin at—”
He caught her arm. “We need to talk.”
“Come on.”
She let out a groan, but at least she followed him back into the house. “What? Can you please make it quick?”
“Let’s talk in my study.” She trudged along behind him to his home office off the foyer. Once they were both inside, he shut the door. “The kids and Keely?”
There was an eye roll. “Jake and Frannie are already in bed. Keely’s upstairs putting her stuff away, fixing up her room and her workroom. She said it was fine for me to go.”
A hot spark of anger ignited in his gut. But when he got mad, Grace just got madder. He reminded himself to keep his cool. “The agreement was that you would give Keely a hand tonight, help her get comfortable, pitch in with the kids.” He kept his voice level. Reasonable.
Still, Grace’s eyes flashed blue fire. “The kids are in bed. Got it? And what agreement? You told me what to do as you were going out the door.”
“Grace, I—”
“No. Uh-uh. I talked to Keely. I asked her if she needed me. She said go, have fun.”
“Of course, she would say that.”
Grace looked up at the ceiling and blew out a furious breath. “You know, some people go to Cancun for their spring break. Me, though? I come home and help your mother-in-law look after your kids. And then when she trips over Jake, it’s just me. Until Keely stepped up—which I totally appreciate. Keely’s about the best there is. But me, I’ve got one night. One night of my spring break to myself. A few hours with my friends, and then I’m on my way back to school.”
When she said it like that, he felt like an ogre. A litany of swear words scrolled through his brain. Playing stand-in dad to his own sisters and brothers should be more rewarding, shouldn’t it? How come so much of the job just plain sucked?
She’s the last one at home, he reminded himself. He was pretty much done with raising his siblings.
Too bad he still had a couple of decades ahead with his own kids.
“Come on, Grace. Don’t exaggerate. You’ve spent time with your friends this week.”
“Not much, I haven’t.”
“You went out last night, remember?”
Another giant sigh. More ceiling-staring. “For like two hours.”
“I want you to stick around tonight in case she needs you.”
“But I promised Erin—”
He put up a hand. “You’re needed here. And that’s all I have to say about it.”
If looks could kill, he’d be seared to a cinder. He waited for the yelling to start, dreaded the angry words about to erupt from her mouth—I hate you, Daniel and Who died and made you king? and the worst one of all, You are not my father.
As if he didn’t know that. As if he’d asked for the thankless job of seeing that his brothers and sisters made it all the way to fully functioning adulthood without somehow crashing and burning in the process.
But this time, Grace surprised him. “Fine,” she said way too quietly. And then, shoulders back and head high, she marched to the door, yanked it wide and went out.
He winced as she slammed it behind her. And then, even with the door shut, he could hear her boots pound the floor with each step as she tramped through the downstairs to her room off the kitchen—and slammed that door, too.


The Nanny's Double TroubleThe Nanny's Double Trouble by Christine Rimmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Nanny’s Double Trouble by Christine Rimmer is a 2018 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

Daniel has already raised his siblings, single handedly, with only one sister living at home part time. His desperate need for freedom, at long last, is left unrequited when his wife dies after giving birth to twins. His mother-in-law has been helping him with the babies, but when she has an accident, her niece Keely steps up and volunteers to pitch in.

Keely is still grieving the loss of her cousin, and although she and Daniel were not each other’s favorite person, Keely is happy to help him with the twins. She also ends up running interference between Daniel and his sister, Grace, who are always locked in a battle of wills.

While there is a family connection between Keely and Daniel they have an uneasy truce going on until an embarrassing encounter has them seeing each other in a whole new light. As they grapple with their growing attraction to each other, they worry about the reaction their families will have once they find out they are involved with one another.

Who doesn’t love adorable babies, and a ‘friends to lovers’ romance? What a sweet book cover for such a cute and adorable story!! While the twins are featured prominently, this story is really about Daniel and Keely unexpectantly falling in love with each other. Daniel has been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, looking for a time when he would have the last of his siblings out of the house and mentally ticking off the years until the twins are older, so he can finally live a little.

Keely certainly wasn’t looking for love, especially not with Daniel. She fights the attraction, until she realizes Daniels feels the same way about her. She is loyal to the memory of her cousin, is great with the twins, and Grace, and gives Daniel a new lease on life, which greatly improves his disposition – most of the time, anyway. I really liked her character and the way she stood up to Daniel, and for Grace and herself.

But, at the end of the day, this story is about appreciating what you have right in front of you, counting your many blessings and realizing all you ever needed to be happy has been right there in front of you all along.

This is fantastic, heartwarming love story and another awesome addition to the Bravo family saga!!





A New York Times and USA-Today bestselling author, Christine Rimmer has written more than 100 contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. A reader favorite, Christine has won Romantic Times BOOKreview's Reviewer's Choice Award for best Silhouette Special Edition. She has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award and five times for Romantic Times Series Storyteller of the Year. Christine lives in Oregon with her family.