Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Payne & Misery by Catherine Leggitt (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Catherine Leggitt, author of Payne & Misery!

Author Guest Post

Question: What are the main animals of Payne & Misery?
Answer: An incredible dog, two black-and-white cats, and a Morgan stallion named Ranger

In a way, the Christine Sterling Mysteries represent my tribute to Molly. Such an amazing border collie required commemoration. Molly had the sweetest, most compliant disposition of any dog we’ve ever owned. Big brown eyes in her expressive face communicated her feelings. Her intelligence often seemed off the charts. When Bob took her to learn how to herd sheep, she immediately did everything exactly the way the instructor guided her. At the end of the first session, Molly was fully ready to herd sheep. It would take more lessons for Bob to learn to signal her.

Molly’s vocabulary was enormous. If I wanted the two cats to come in at night, I’d say, “Get the cats.” Molly would meander out, nose to the ground, circling around trees and boulders. When she returned, the cats would be with her. She always came when called, sitting in anticipation at our feet to wait for the next instruction. I could take Molly to town without a leash. She’d trot along beside me on the sidewalk. When we got to the stop sign or stoplight, I’d say, “Wait.” She’d sit and wait until I started to go again. She never ran off unless I let her.

The two cats, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, poked their tiny heads through a cage door outside the local Kmart store when I first laid eyes on them. We had recently lost our cat and when I saw these two brothers, I fell instantly in love. I knew they belonged to us. That day, I brought Hoppy home. The next morning, we got a call from the owners. Roy had cried all night for his brother. Didn’t I want to adopt him as well? How could I not?

Roy and Hoppy slept in a tangled heap piled on top of each other. They were great playmates. Molly tolerated them well from the beginning. They ate their meals from dishes on the washer where Molly wouldn’t be tempted to munch along with them. Roy quickly became my cat, always choosing to sit on my lap when we watched television. Hoppy was Bob’s cat. They decided and we were happy with their choice.

The impressive Morgan stallion, Ranger, was Bob’s cowboy mounted shooting horse. Midnight black, Ranger had a long tail and shiny coat. Ranger was a perfect choice for mounted shooting. Even of disposition, not easily ruffled, and a fast runner. At least fast enough to amass a set of winning buckles with Bob guiding him around the pattern of orange highway cones with balloons on them which comprised the course for each set.

The animals in the Christine Sterling Mysteries were real. I cast them in the stories to add their own characters to each mystery. Molly would have made an excellent sleuthing partner, possessing an excellent nose for sniffing out truth, so to speak.

About The Author

Catherine Leggitt is an author and inspirational speaker. A native Californian born in the Bay Area, she raised two daughters, taught school, and cared for her aging parents in southern California before retiring to the north end of the state. Proud grandmother of six brilliant children, Catherine studies the Bible, reads, serves as a leader in Bible Study Fellowship, and sings in the church choir.

Catherine wrote a trilogy called the Christine Sterling Mysteries, which include Payne & Misery, The Dunn Deal, and Parrish The Thought. The first book, Payne & Misery won 2nd place at the Orange County Christian Writers Conference in May, 2010. It was published by Ellechor Publishing in 2011. The Dunn Deal and Parrish The Thought were published in 2012 by Ellechor Publishing. Parrish The Thought made the quarterfinals in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.

In addition, Catherine has completed a fourth novel with different characters called Dying To Be Noticed and coauthored a memoir for Sam Contino called Street Smarts.

When called upon to share her story, Catherine’s main themes come from Christine’s struggles in her books, which also happen to be some of the things Catherine struggles with. Thus, since Payne & Misery addresses complaining, the first message, titled Always Choose Joy, centers on how to be thankful and choose joy instead of misery. The spiritual theme of The Dunn Deal exposes with the nature of truth. Merely having faith is not enough. What we believe matters. Catherine named the second talk, Always Choose Truth. In Parrish The Thought, Christine learns to love unlovable people, so Catherine calls the third message, Always Choose Love.

Payne & Misery by Catherine Leggitt ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Pump Up Your Book!

Payne & Misery - Book Trailer

Book Review

Payne & Misery by Catherine Leggitt
Book 1: A Catherine Sterling Mystery Trilogy
Publisher: Ellechor Publishing House
Publication Date: November 11, 2011 
Format: Paperback - 334 pages / Kindle - 617 KB / Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 0982624298
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Christian Fiction 

BUY THE BOOK: Payne & Misery

BUY THE TRILOGY: A Catherine Sterling Mystery
Book 1: Payne & Misery
Book 2: The Dunn Deal
Book 3: Parrish The Thought

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

All that glitters is not gold for Christine Sterling. The luster of her shiny Golden Years dream fades when Christine's newly retired husband, Jesse, becomes obsessed with a hobby requiring extra time away from her.

Christine has developed a reputation for jumping to wild conclusions. With such an imagination, who is likely to take her seriously when she discovers a bruised and neglected neighbor named Lila Payne? Try as she might, she cannot interest anyone in Lila’s dire need for immediate rescue. Something about crying wolf once too often.

But then Lila and Christine’s beloved dog Molly both disappear the same night.

If no one will help her, she must find Lila and Molly herself. Heedless of possible consequences, Christine dives headfirst into a dark pool swirling with muddy secrets and misery. Her best friend throws her a lifesaver of prayer and soon she begins to sense God at work. But even with God’s help, can Lila and Molly be saved before it’s too late?

Book Excerpt:

Dark—the word fit him like a bad guy’s black hat—complexion, glasses, expression, knit cap pulled low over his ears, tufts of curls poking out underneath. I concentrated on memorizing his suspicious features as I observed him through the plate glass window of the Humpty-Dumpty Restaurant where my husband Jesse and I often ate brunch after Sunday morning church. The man’s lurking worried me.

“Maybe he’s an Arab.” Not that I’d know an Arab if I bumped into one on the streets. Except for Hispanics, Grass Valley, California, maintained a mostly snow-white population, much like most small towns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Around us, flatware scraped stoneware, glasses clinked, voices swelled and ebbed interspersed with occasional laughter swirling through the appetizing breakfast smells, but I couldn’t pry my eyes off the shady man in the parking lot. Nevertheless, I would guess Jesse didn’t so much as look up from his breakfast when he answered. “Who?”

“Out there.” I jabbed a finger toward the culprit.


I let out the anxious breath I’d been holding in and pointed again. “See the man hiding behind that forest green car?”

Jesse frowned as he chewed a few more bites of chili bean omelet. “Honestly, Christine. If he’s behind a car, how can I see him?”

“He keeps popping up. There he is! Look, look. Now.”

Jesse dutifully followed my pointer and then sustained a long stare before turning his attention back to his food. “Okay, I see him. So?”

“He staked out that car. He’s been waiting the whole time we’ve been here. He paces behind it, trying to stay out of sight. When the driver comes back, he’ll jump out and mug her—take her cash and jewelry and who knows what else. Bet he has a gun or a knife in that pocket where his hand is. Watch him.”

Jesse rolled his eyes. “Give it up, will you? You’re jumping to conclusions again. How do you know a woman drives that car? Even if there is a man driver, maybe he’s in a hurry to get home and his wife is taking too long in the restroom.”

“Then why doesn’t he unlock the car and get in?”

Jesse stopped chewing and blinked.

Ha! I got him there. I went back to studying the perpetrator in case I got called on to identify him in a line-

Jesse’s delayed answer mumbled out between chews. “Maybe his wife has the car keys.”

After being married to this man for thirty-five years, I should expect Jesse’s reaction to my gift of observation. He never took it seriously. “You’re going to be sorry when you read in tomorrow’s paper that some poor woman got murdered in the Humpty-Dumpty parking lot while you gobbled down a chili omelet.”

Jesse didn’t look up, just harrumphed and kept on eating.

I returned to surveillance, thankful for last year’s laser surgery, which had given my vision razor-edge clarity. The man stood in the shadow of an overhanging oak, but from the direction of his head, I could tell his eyes remained fixed on the front door of the restaurant. My stomach knotted into a pretzel. Danger! I narrowed my eyes. Would Jesse run out to save the woman when the man attacked her? Jesse, my hero, the love of my life. I’d be right behind him, swinging my heavy purse.

Just then, a woman in a leopard-print Spandex dress exited the restaurant and minced across the parking lot toward the man. I held my breath and then whispered, “Jesse!”

Neither of us moved while the woman’s rectangular bag flopped from side to side on its thin strap in rhythm with her swaying hips. Like a lamb to the slaughter, she sauntered closer to her fate without a trace of fear in her walk.

A gasp escaped my lips when the dark-complexioned man popped from the shadows directly in front of his victim. After a short verbal exchange, the woman opened the door of the green sedan and slid in. The mysterious villain hurried to the other side and settled in the passenger seat. Back-up lights flickered. The automobile reversed out of the parking space and sped away.

Without so much as a punch or a yell. He didn’t even grab her bag.

I leveled my gaze at Jesse and blinked.

He opened his mouth.

I held up one hand. “Don’t say it.”

Instead, he shook his head and grunted again before returning to his omelet.

I gulped coffee and fidgeted with my napkin. “He did look suspicious. You can’t deny that.”

Jesse buttered his biscuit, took a big bite, and chewed. I felt the lecture building in his brain like a sudden summer thunderstorm. He stared at me with a curious expression—as if I’d grown a second head—swiped his mouth with his napkin and sighed. “You never give up, do you? There’s something sinister happening everywhere we go. Face it, Chris. This is an ordinary small town in northern California. Good people live here. Bad things don’t happen. That’s why we retired here. Remember? Extremely low crime rate. But you insist on seeing evil everywhere we go. You won’t stop snooping into other people’s affairs. Looking for ...” His shoulders sagged and he waggled his head once more. “If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.”

“Funny? What would?” Do I dare ask?

“Your imagination.” He leaned forward and pointed his fork in my face. “Someday, that wild imagination of yours is going to get you into real trouble.”

My Book Review:

Retirement can be a challenging and lonely time in a woman's life, especially when her husband discovers a new hobby of mounted shooting that includes weekend ventures away from home. For fifty-five year old Christine Sterling, moving away from their Southern California home and retiring to Green Valley, a Northern California historic mining town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains two years ago has brought loneliness and a bit of unhappiness in her life. With too much time on her hands, Christine has developed a penchant for being nosy coupled with a wild imagination that she calls her "gift of observation" which leads her to spy on a neighbor's mysterious activity. Her madcap zany snooping adventure investigating what is going on in her neighborhood leads to the disappearance of neighbor Lila Payne and Christine's beloved Border Collie, Molly. Christine is determined to solve the mystery of Lila and Molly's disappearance. Following her instincts and finding clues along the way, Christine embarks on a journey that holds both danger and faith-based self-discovery.

Payne & Misery is an entertaining cozy mystery that mixes humor, suspense, and Christian faith. Author Catherine Leggitt weaves an enjoyable tale written in the first person narrative with Christine Sterling taking the reader along for the ride on her zany mystery adventure.

Christine's witty humor, vivid imagination, keen observation skills, and penchant for snooping gets her involved in a mystery that is full of drama, suspense, and twist and turns that keeps the reader guessing what will happen next. Christine is an interesting person, her quirkiness finds a way to draw her husband Jesse and neighbors Zora Jane and Ed Callahan into investigating the disappearance of their frail neighbor Lila Payne and the Sterling's beloved dog Molly. As the mystery unfolds, Christine's journey with the support of Zora Jane's compassionate Christian faith and beliefs will lead her down the path of self-discovery, that will have Christine rediscovering her faith and examining her relationship with her husband Jesse.

With a quirky cast of characters that includes a lovable Border Collie, two cats, and a black Morgan stallion; humorous dialogue and interactions; a richly detailed description of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains setting; and an interesting multi-layered storyline; Payne & Misery is an enjoyable cozy mystery with a Christian faith-based theme.

Payne & Misery is the first book in the Christine Sterling Mystery Trilogy.


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