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AN ENGAGING END
An 18 Karat Cold Mystery
BY MABRY HALL
18 Karat Sold? Or 18 Karat Cold? Antique jewelry dealer Annalee Wyatt recently moved from Houston to Goat Hill, her family’s ancestral farm in Louisiana. Okay, admittedly she knows jack about farming and makes her living selling expensive baubles, but she’s returned to her roots and wants everyone, including the citizens of nearby Berryville, to be as enthusiastic about it as she is. Her goal of acceptance gets a boost when the scion of an old family pays her big bucks for an engagement ring. When his intimidating mother invites her to attend the ceremony, she really feels like she’s made it.
Unfortunately, “Happily ever after” turns into “Happy never again” when the young bride shockingly dies at the wedding reception. Soon Annalee is dealing with a grieving, hostile groom and unpleasant accusations regarding her honesty.
Though there seems to be no way to prove her integrity, Annalee can’t afford to give up. With the help of her hunky cattle-rancher neighbor and the town book club, she sets out to solve the mystery that threatens her reputation. It comes as a nasty surprise to find that her life is in jeopardy, too!
Montrose flattened her ears and hissed at me before vaulting off the porch swing. “If you don’t like my text tone, don’t sleep on my phone,” I hissed back. I blew on the screen to dislodge the wisps of orange cat hair and read the all-caps electronic confirmation of today’s big event:
THE JUDGE PRONOUNCED
RECEPTION IN FULL SWING
Lifting my glass of white wine toward the setting sun, I made a toast to my mother. “Congratulations on husband number four, Mom. Remember, I placed my bet on anything between three and four years, and I could use the cash.”
Of course she couldn’t hear me; the French Riviera is a long way from northwest Louisiana. Baby brother Charlie drew the short straw and was representing the family at the wedding ceremony. The fact that a trip to France is considered a short straw will give you some idea of how excited we were to break in another husband for Dear Mother.
I leaned my head against my nubby chenille pillow and pushed against the painted wooden floor with my big toe. The heavy oak swing responded with a creak from its chains and a slight uptick in speed. Back and forth, to and fro, I tried to catch a non-existent breeze. Even though the ceiling fan whirled and the table fan rotated, my big screened porch was still hot as hell. My screened porch. My porch. Mine. Four months living at Goat Hill Farm and I still grin every time I think about being here to stay, the most recent in a line of ancestors stretching back to 1840. I wouldn’t have gone to France even if it wasn’t for another one of Mariah Leighton Wyatt Oakes Clements Nelson’s weddings. Heck, the first day I was here I painted my name on the mailbox before I ate breakfast.
Heat, humidity, and a frequently miserable climate may be synonymous with the South, but it’s not like I couldn’t just stand up and walk inside to the air conditioning if I wanted. My house; my choice. After spending the last three days on a buying trip, hitting antique malls across a two-state area, I was pooped. I’d rather be outside in my great-great-great-great grandmother’s porch swing with a glass of wine in my hand even if the air was so thick you could chew it. She might not have approved of drinking alone, but she’s been gone longer than I’ve been alive so I didn’t worry about getting caught committing a social no-no. Besides, it was Friday and after five o’clock. I was having my own little happy hour.
Dusk is prime time for mosquitoes, and I could hear their high-pitched whine and see their tiny wings beating against the screen as they tried to get in for a taste of my A-positive. In case you’ve read all of those popular books set in north Louisiana, I need to tell you that we have no vampires or werewolves around here. I own every one of those volumes and found the TV show pretty entertaining, especially that Nordic god tall blonde guy, but let’s try to stay in touch with reality. Extra-large mosquitoes do all our bloodsucking. As I tell the tourists who come to the local antique store, if any place was going to have weird stuff it would be Louisiana, but we don’t have anything supernatural around Berryville except for a few ghosts.
If you think ghosts sound exciting, come by and I’ll introduce you to mine. Repentance is one hundred fifty or so see-through pounds of obnoxious, just like he was in 1885 except for the see-through part, but he’s a goat. Was a goat. Thinks he’s still a goat. The two of us came to an understanding a couple of weeks after I took over the farm, and he’s pretty much kept his horns to himself. I haven’t caught him on top of my car again since. I’ve been able to see him since I was a little girl, but he’s just part of the scenery. I do wish I’d known the long lost relative he was named after; no one was ever willing to tell me exactly what his parents needed to repent for that they would saddle a newborn with a name like that. But I can guess.
I finished my wine and went inside to eat some shredded wheat and watch faded celebrities compete on reality TV. A bowl of cereal, maybe some more wine, and a televised dance contest would be enough to convince my life-of-the-party mother I’d fallen headfirst into a low-rent lifestyle, just like she predicted when I decided to move back to the family home. I’m not calling France to tell her about it.
The most rewarding thing about writing is feedback from readers who enjoy my books and ask when the next one is coming out. I have a need to tell stories, and there’s nothing better than knowing people like to read them. It’s icing on the cake when someone tells me she laughed so much while reading that she annoyed the people around her. For my 18 Karat Cold Mystery series, I created a heroine who makes her living with antique jewelry, one of my passions. Annalee Wyatt buys and sells both fine and costume pieces, lives in a historic family home in north Louisiana, has a good-looking neighbor who both annoys and intrigues her, and discovers she has an affinity for murder. She doesn’t commit any herself, but they tend to happen in her vicinity. She never planned to add “detective” to her resume, but somehow each murder involves a piece of jewelry that pulls her into the action.
I was born and raised in the South, and have lived in Mississippi, Texas, and now Louisiana. After an operating room fall curtailed my career as a nurse anesthetist, I turned my energy to writing. My boys are grown and live in New England (egads!) I really do collect antique jewelry, and have amazing Pinterest boards that showcase the types that I write about, so pour yourself a glass of tea or wine and prepare to be dazzled. I write what I know, except for the murder part. Though I’ve traveled the globe, I always come back to the friendly and quirky people who populate northwest Louisiana.
Links to Mabry’s website, blog, books, etc.
An Engaging End: https://books2read.com/u/bMrOKA
A Regrettable Reunion: https://books2read.com/u/ml57nP
Thanks, Mabry, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!