Author Guest Post
Author June Shaw shares a book excerpt from A Fatal Romance:
I stood in a rear pew as a petite woman in red stepped into the church carrying an urn and stumbled. She fell forward. Her urn bounced. Its top popped open, and ashes flew. A man’s remains were escaping.
“Oh no!” people cried.
“Jingle bells,” I hummed and tried to control my disorder but could not. Words from the song spewed from my mouth.
“Not now,” my twin Eve said at my ear while ashes sprinkled around us like falling gray snow. She pointed to my jacket’s sleeve and open pocket. “Uh-oh. Parts of him fell in there.”
I saw a few drops like dust on the sleeve and jerked my pocket wider open. Powdery bits lay across the tissue I’d blotted my beige lipstick with right before coming inside St. Gertrude’s. “I think that’s tissue residue,” I said, wanting to convince myself. I grabbed the pocket to turn it inside out.
“Don’t dump that.” Eve shoved on my pocket. “It might be his leg. Or bits of his private parts.”
“Here Comes Santa Claus,” I sang.
She slapped a hand over my mouth. “Hush, Sunny.”
The dead man’s wife shoved up from her stomach to her knees, head spinning toward me like whiplash.
“Sorry,” Eve told her. “My sister can’t help it.”
Beyond the wife, a sixtyish priest and younger one and other people appeared squeamish scooping coarse ashes off seats of the rough-hewn pews. An older version of the wife used a broom and dustpan to sweep ash from the floor. People dumped their findings back into the urn. Other mourners scooted from the church through side doors. A boiled crayfish scent teased my nostrils. Someone must have peeled a few crustaceans for a breakfast omelet and didn’t soap her hands well enough.
Ashes scattered along the worn green carpet like a seed trail to entice birds.
“Look, there’s more of him. I’ll go find a vacuum,” I said.
The widow faced me. “No! Get out.”
“But she’s my sister,” my twin said.
“As if I can’t tell. You leave with her. Go away.” The petite woman wobbled on shiny stilettos, aiming a finger toward the front door.
I sympathized with her before this minute. Now she was ticking me off. I’d been kicked out of places before but never a funeral. “I didn’t really know your husband, but Eve did. I stopped to see if she wanted to go out for lunch, and she asked me to come here first. She said y’all were nice people.”
“We are!” The roots of the wife’s pecan-brown hair were black, I saw, standing toe to toe with her, although my toes were much bigger inside my size ten pumps. I was five eight and a half. She was barely five feet. Five feisty feet. “But you’re not going to suck up parts of my husband’s body in a vacuum bag.” She whipped her pointed finger toward me like a weapon. “And you need to stop singing.”
I wanted to stop but imagined parts of the man that might be sucked into a vacuum cleaner and ripped out a loud chorus, my face burning. Nearby mourners appeared shocked. Mouths dropped open.
“You don’t know my sister,” Eve told the little woman who’d just lost a spouse. Actually, lost him twice. “Sunny can’t help singing when she’s afraid. And that includes anything dealing with sex, courtesy of her ex-husband.”
“What does sex have to do with Zane?” The wife’s cheeks flamed.
Should I tell her about his privates possibly being in my pocket? Second thoughts said not to. “Who knows? But you don’t need to worry. I certainly wasn’t having an affair with your husband,” I said, quieting my song to a hum.
“Just the thought of sex makes her sing,” my sister explained. “Maybe it’s a good thing she doesn’t think of it often.”
The widow shook her finger. “Zane was always faithful to me.”
“I’m sure he was,” I said, working to get my singing instincts under control. Nodding toward the carpet, I spoke without a hint of a tune. “I’d really like to help you get those pieces of him out of the rug. If we can just find an empty vacuum bag, I’ll--”
“Go! Get away!”
I stomped out of the church into muggy spring air. Eve clopped behind me toward her Lexus in the parking lot. “You told me they were fine people,” I said.
“They are. At least he is. Or was.” Eve shook her head, making sunshine spread golden highlights over her Crayola-red waves. Her clear blue eyes sparkled. I was glad few people could tell us apart. “I only met his wife that day I laid their pavers, and Zane stayed and helped a little. When she got home, he introduced us. She seemed pleasant.”
“I guess you never know.”
“Good grief, Sunny. You kept singing after she spilled her husband.”
I lowered my face toward the chipped sidewalk.
Eve touched my arm. “I know, but maybe you can try harder.”
I nodded. She knew how long I’d fought to stop the songs that began when a major tragedy threw my life into an unending tailspin. Junior high had been especially painful.
At the next corner, we waited for a truck to pass. I checked my sleeve in the sunshine, relieved that if any ashes had been there, the breeze had blown them off to a better place. “There weren’t many people in church.”
Eve frowned. She started across the street. “They’ve lived here less than three years and don’t have much family. Zane’s job kept him out of town a lot. When he joined our line-dance class, he said his wife was shy and didn’t like to dance anyway.”
“I don’t think she’s shy. I think she was involved in his death.”
“What?” My twin stopped. “The man drowned. It was an accident.”
I spread my hands “In his own yard? Why didn’t he fall in that pond before now?”
“Because this week he tripped on a cypress knee near the job we did in their yard and knocked his head on the tree and fell in. He couldn’t swim. And you don’t even know his wife.”
No, neither she nor her husband had been home when we created that seating area in their yard. I tugged on Eve’s arm to get her across the street so oncoming cars waiting for us could turn.
She kept talking. “Darn it, Daria Snelling might not be the sweetest person right after her husband’s ashes flew to the heavens, but that doesn’t make her a killer.”
“Eve, you know I have good instincts about people. And covers on burial urns are sealed. They aren’t supposed to come off.” I created a mental picture of what happened. “Besides, she was walking along carpet. There weren’t any bumps for her to trip over.”
My twin’s face pinched up. Not a pretty picture. “How do you know that?”
“Her shoes. When the organ music started and everyone turned to look back, I noticed her shoes.”
“I can’t believe this, Sunny. You aren’t usually that shallow.” She stomped off ahead of me.
I strolled faster behind. “You know I can’t even pronounce the brands of expensive shoes. I saw she was tiny but looked extra tall, so I glanced at her shoes. Her heels must be four inches. That’s really showy for a grieving widow.”
“Wearing stilettos make her a murderer?”
“And a bright red dress. Red?” I caught up with my twin. “I think she wanted to dump her husband so his remains couldn’t all be buried together.”
She threw up her palms. “You are so sick. The man was my friend.”
“Geez, you worked for him briefly and saw him a couple of times in dance class.”
“That doesn’t give you the right to cut down his family.”
“And if you hadn’t made that dig about my unhappiness with sex, his wife wouldn’t have gotten so upset.”
Eve knew my limited experience with sex had come with Kev soon after our marriage. If I’d known how unpleasant one man could make the quick chore, I would have started chuckling in bed much sooner. My twin and I were both divorced—she, three times, her choice—and her admiring exes still showered her with gifts. Kevin left me with little and did so after my spontaneous laughter about frightening things escalated to include sex. But he made the intimacy so unpleasant I had begun to dread it.
Watching my sister, I saw myself a little slimmer, wearing dressier clothes and an unpleasant grimace. At thirty-eight, she was fairly attractive in a black knit top and skirt, emerald green jacket, and spiked heels. I wore low heels and tan slacks with a white shirt and my favorite jacket, a rust-colored silk. With a pocket that now held parts of Zane Snelling.
“Sis,” I said, “do you see any ashes in my hair? Or on my sleeve or other places on my clothes?”
She did a quick inspection of my hair and looked longer at my clothes, while I did the same to her. “I don’t see anything anymore,” she said and checked inside my pocket, “except in there.”
“You’re clean,” I said, voice dull from knowing I still wore parts of a man. I slid my jacket off and carefully folded it, not letting anything escape.
Eve wrenched her car door open and flung herself inside. I slid onto the passenger seat. “Buckle up,” she said and waited until I did before pulling onto the street.
“Do you want to go out for lunch?” I asked.
“My stomach’s too upset. I’m going to change clothes and hit the gym.”
Positive news came to mind. “Anna Tabor wants us to give her a price to replace the picture window in her den with a glass block one.” It wasn’t much of a job, but we were still pleased with every one that came in.
“Why does she want that?”
“She said it would be unusual and attractive. I’ll do the estimate this evening.”
“Okay. I’ll check your work tomorrow, and we’ll schedule her in.”
I nodded. Our deceased father had been an excellent carpenter who made us enjoy working with our hands. We’d done quite a bit of work with him and liked changing the design of some of his jobs. Ever since I convinced Eve to join me to start Twin Sisters Remodeling & Repairs months ago, we were gradually building up our name and earning people’s trust. We were both strong and knew how to use subcontractors and power tools. So far my estimates all turned out correct. Still, being dyslexic made me want all written work and numbers double checked. Early struggles and some teachers’ hurtful comments made me still doubt myself.
Most of the sugar cane stalks in fields Eve drove past stood three feet tall. On the opposite side of the highway, the brown bayou lazed along, shielding gators, turtles, catfish, and other water creatures. We sped by shotgun houses dotted between brick homes in our small town of Sugar Ledge and entered our subdivision. Houses were brick and stucco and most of the lawns well-tended, especially on her street. She reached her house, remoted the garage door, and pulled in. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I’m sorry,” she said.
I leaned over and kissed her forehead like Mom used to do to let us know anytime we were forgiven. “To make amends, can I see what you’re working on?”
She considered a minute, then led the way through her picture-book house. The lingering fragrance from vanilla triple-scented candles made me want yellow cake. The spacious den held large windows and pale neutral shades, its main color from Mexican floor tile and Eve’s muted-tone abstracts, which I determined she painted when she was between dating or marriage.
She kept most of her home with a colorless feel like a blank canvas, letting her imagination soar. Pulling a key from the second drawer of an end table beside the white marshmallow-leather sofa, she unlocked a door off the den.
Shell-shocked. Her studio made me feel that way even more so than usual. While the rest of her house gave off a bland feel, this room was infused with color, especially on a huge canvas on an easel in the center of the room. Splashes of color and bright dots of varying sizes filled almost every inch of the canvas.
“Intriguing,” I said. “Who does it represent?”
“Dave Price. That man is terrific.”
“I can tell. Y’all must have an explosive relationship.”
“I only know him casually. Of course I’m planning to change that.” Her grin widened. “This is how I’m expecting our relationship to become.”
The other dozen or so paintings on easels and standing on the floor represented men she’d dated or married. Some wore drab shades. A couple of canvases showed small vases. Others held crudely-drawn flowers or apples. She wasn’t a proficient artist, but while our business grew, this gave her something to do with extra time besides line dancing once a week and working out at the gym. She didn’t get to see her daughter in Houston often enough. A sex therapist would enjoy analyzing what she did in here.
“Thanks for letting me see your latest work. Sorry about the funeral ruckus.”
“You didn’t cause it.” The fair skin between her eyes creased. “I’d like to know what happened after we left the church.”
I’d prefer to know what really happened to the dead man before we went there.
About The Author
Amazon Author Page
A Fatal Romance by June Shaw
Book 1: A Twin Sisters Mystery Series
Publisher: Lyrical Underground / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Format: Paperback - 192 pages
Kindle - 647 KB
Nook - 408 KB
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Buy The Book:
Barnes & Noble
Buy The Series: A Twin Sisters Mystery Series
Book 1: A Fatal Romance
Book 2: Dead On The Bayou (Pub Date: August 22, 2017)
Barnes & Noble
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.
Fixing up homes can be tricky.
Finding true love can be even trickier.
But finding a killer can be plain old deadly . . .
Twin sister divorcees Sunny Taylor and Eve Vaughn have had their fill of both heartaches and headaches. So when they settle down in the small Louisiana town of Sugar Ledge and open a remodeling and repair company, they think they’ve finally found some peace—even though Eve is still open for romance while Sunny considers her own heart out-of-business.
Then their newest customer ends up face-down in a pond, and his widow is found dead soon after. Unfortunately, Sunny was witnessed having an unpleasant moment with the distraught woman, and suspicion falls on the twins. And when an attempt is made on Eve’s life, they find themselves pulled into a murder mystery neither knows how to navigate. With a town of prying eyes on them, and an unknown culprit out to stop them, Sunny and Eve will have to depend on each other like never before if they’re going to clip a killer in the bud.
My Book Review:
In A Fatal Romance, the first book in the Twin Sisters Mystery Series, author June Shaw weaves an intriguing cozy mystery tale that easily draws the reader into following twin sisters Sunny Taylor and Eve Vaughn, as they try to solve the murder of local resident Daria Snelling.
Twin divorcee sisters Sunny Taylor and Eve Vaughn own Twin Sisters Remodeling and Repairs in Sugar Ledge, Louisiana. When the sisters attend client Zane Snelling's funeral after he drowns in a pond on his property, Sunny gets into a squabble with Zane's widow Daria after she trips walking down the church aisle and Zane's ashes spill out of the urn onto the floor and on Sunny's clothes. Sunny and Eve go over to the Snelling house and find Daria dead on the kitchen floor. Sunny and Eve suddenly find themselves on the list of suspects, so they decide to investigate the murder and find the real killer in order to clear their name before their fledgling business fails, and they become the killer's next victim!
Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the story takes place in Sugar Ledge, Louisiana. This captivating and fast-paced whodunit tale has enough quirky characters, witty humor, drama, a growing list of suspects, and intriguing twists and turns that will keep you engaged and guessing. You can't help but get caught up in the drama and mystery that ensues as Sunny and Eve try to solve the murder while trying not to be the next victim. The twin sister's story unfolds with a wonderful balance of comedy, drama, suspense, and intriguing twists and turns that easily kept me guessing, and left me wanting more.
A Fatal Romance is an entertaining cozy murder mystery that will engage you to join twins Sunny and Eve in solving an intriguing murder mystery.
RATING: 4 STARS
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