Stilettos & Scoundrels by Laina Turner
Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?
As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.
Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.
Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.
Taking the plunge to write books (cozy mysteries and chick lit) that she actually let people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to being a real author, having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, Writing is a Lifestyle, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.
“I heard Helen was having an affair,” I blurted out.
“What?” Ruth exclaimed. Her eyes narrowed, and crossing her arms in front of her chest, she gave me a dirty look. “What right do you think you have, asking these questions?”
“Well, if she were that would be a motive for someone to kill Tom, wouldn’t it?” I continued. Ruth was clearly unhappy to hear me talking about this, so I added quickly, “Not that anyone would blame Helen or anything—”
Ruth interrupted. “First of all,” she said coldly, “Helen is not having an affair, and if she were, that’s not anyone’s business but hers. And they’re not having money problems. Or any other problems for that matter.”
“Ruth, I’m just saying…”
“Second, you should be ashamed of yourself, spreading these kinds of lies about Helen and Tom.” She continued with her rant. “Have you no shame? Helen just lost her husband, and you are accusing her of cheating. And murder.”
“Ruth, I’m not accusing Helen of anything,” I said, hands on hips, trying to act indignant, which wasn’t that difficult as Ruth was making me feel defensive. I wasn’t trying to say anything bad about Helen. Each to his own and all that. “From all I’ve heard, she was entitled to have an affair with the way Tom acted.”
Ruth walked out from behind the counter and pointed to the door. “I think you should leave, Presley. I will not continue to listen to you slander poor Helen. She’s been through enough.”
I started walking toward the door when I turned back to Ruth and said, “I am not trying to start rumors about Helen. I just want to find the truth. It’s going to come out eventually. If something is going on, the cops will find out.”
“Presley, this is none of your concern.” As the door started to shut behind me, I heard Ruth call out, “Don’t think I won’t be telling your mother about this!”
I cringed at the thought, but I got the sense Ruth might be hiding something. Not that I expected her to spill all the beans, but what Ruth didn’t say, and the way she looked when I mentioned Helen having an affair, were the real clues. I hadn’t realized my HR skills would come in so handy. When interviewing job applicants, body language and what they didn’t say, usually, spoke volumes.
I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to help me think, trying to decide my next course of action.
I decided my next stop would be Betty’s Baked Goods. Not only did Betty have the best peach cream cheese muffins in the world (I had eaten enough to know over the years and always made my parents bring me some when they came to visit), but Betty also knew everything that went on in Alkon. If there were something going on inside or outside of Helen Daniels’s marriage, Betty would know it, and Betty was not shy about spreading gossip. She always said, if you didn’t want someone to talk about it you shouldn’t be doing it. I agreed with that motto, at least when it was about other people. There were some things I would much prefer no one ever found out about—like the time I had too many cosmos and danced on the table at Muldoon’s in a skirt. Though in my defense Jared dared me, and I couldn’t turn down a dare.
I smelled the sweet treats as I walked up to the building, and deeply inhaled the heady aroma of cinnamon buns and freshly made donuts. Yum. My senses drank in the flavor. It was enough to make one drool, and I quickly swiped my chin to make sure I hadn’t.
Deep into the daydream of fresh, hot muffins, I ran into something hard. “Excuse me,” I said, looking up and finding myself face–to–face with that obnoxious security guy named Simon, who worked for Cooper. He had a coffee in one hand and a bakery bag in the other. He obviously had the same mid–afternoon snack idea I had.
“Watch where you’re going, lady.” Simon looked me up and down.
“Maybe you should watch where you’re going,” I retorted as he just stared at me.
Taste buds in overdrive, I put all thoughts of Simon out of my head. Time for a snack. Betty’s was slow at this time of day. The only people in the bakery were a couple of old farmers talking over late morning coffee, the cook in back, and of course, Betty. I never knew of a time when Betty wasn’t there overseeing the place, making sure everyone was enjoying their food and giving them a hard time. That kind of special attention was one of the nicer things about a small-town. Back in Chicago, people barely looked you in the eye while you were eating, much less cared if you enjoyed yourself, or engaged you freely in conversation.
Betty’s back was to me when I walked in, so I snuck up behind her and said, “Any fresh peach cream cheese muffins today?”
Betty turned around, startled, and then smiled when she saw it was me. She looked pretty much the same, as if time had stood still for her. Her silver hair was pulled back in a tight bun, wisps going in many directions, and she wore her uniform of blue jeans and T–shirt with a flour–dusted apron tied around her waist. However, unlike most women her age, which was somewhere north of sixty, her blue jeans were fashionable, distressed–looking wide–legs. And she had a sassy T–shirt saying I’m too good for you on it.
“Why, it’s Presley Thurman,” she said, reaching across the counter to hug me. “Of course, sweetheart, I always have fresh muffins.”
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
My daughter, who is 10, is the most amazing creature on earth. But it takes so much energy to keep up with her sometimes that I need to be creative. The other day she wanted me to go fro a run with her and normally I would but I was dragging that day so I told her my foot hurt. She busted me later on it though and said next time I could tell the truth and she wouldn’t be mad. Yeah, I know I didn’t set a good example there.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I would fly. The scenery I would be able to take in would be incredible, I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic, and surely flying would burn a ton of calories.
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I would be a seahorse. Not only are they beautiful but every time I se them they float so effortlessly through the water. To me it looks like the ultimate in relaxation.
Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
It’s not often I dream but when I do it’s usually some twisted version of a TV show I recently watched or a book I recently read. I’ve always thought that my subconscious must have really liked the story to continue it in my brain.
Do you have any scars? What are they from?
I have several scars (I was a very accident prone child) but the most interesting story is the one I got when I was about ten or eleven. I used to barrel race horses when I was young and I got too close to a metal barrel one day and the sharp, rusty edge gave me a deep cut which I subsequently hid from my parents. It causes a wide 1 inch scar that could have been prevented with stiches but hey….then I wouldn’t have a story.
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
I am an only child so reading was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 7 and back then I was inspired by Walter Farley – The Black Stallion series, Kathryn Kenny – The Trixie Belden series. As a pre-teen I quickly latched on to things my parents read (and they didn’t always know it) by Janet Daily, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy and Stephen King. I so loved getting lost in these fantastic stories I just knew I had to write.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
The main characters have names with significance. For example Presley Thurman comes from my mother’s love of Elvis Presley and Thurman was her maiden name. To me, it makes this character very special. I carry on that trend in many books.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
My children. In many ways, it’s hard for me to write that. I grew up not wanting children and my husband and I got pregnant in a week moment (mine not his) and even then I swore I’d never be one of those moms whose entire life was her kids. My kids are not my entire life, and I raise them to be very independent, but I look at them (now 14 and 10) and think how in the heck did I do this. They are truly amazing.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews and of course the bad ones hurt. At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t nearly the writer I am now. My first books in the Presley series aren’t nearly as good as the last ones. Early in my career bad reviews would devastate me and I’d spend weeks thinking I should quit. Then I had another author give me a great piece of advice. She said go look at the “famous” authors on Amazon. You’ll see that they also have bad reviews. You can’t please everyone. And she was right. I don’t obsess over my reviews but I do look at them a few times a year. I look for constructive feedback that will help me be a better writer. I care that those people took the time to give honest feedback and I want to always be improving. For the bad review trolls…not worth my time to cry over.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
You CAN do it. Don’t let anyone, or yourself, talks you out of making it as a writer if that’s what you truly want to do. It’s hard work but very rewarding.
‘Why are you here?’ I snapped, on the defensive without quite knowing why. Just the look on his face took away any good mood I had at seeing him. Ignoring my tone, Cooper said calmly, ‘Senator Daniels was found dead this morning. You were the last person he met with yesterday, so I need to ask you a few questions.’ ‘Oh my God!’ My hand flew up to my mouth, my heart racing. I didn’t know what I expected him to say, but that sure wasn’t it.
Who would ever think of using a stiletto as a murder weapon? A very creative and furious woman—that is who! Or…at least that is what a reader might think, so the case should be easy to solve right? Turner provides a captivating story based around a murder in a small town that hasn’t had upscale crime in forever. When Presley returns to her parent’s house in her hometown, she has a choice to make. She can either grovel and beg for her job back in the city, under a bastard of a boss who makes unwanted sexual advances toward her—or she can totally re-evaluate her life and find something different, maybe a passion long since squashed down by reality. After discovering that the Senator is in town and in a hotel, rather than staying with his wife at her house, she is immediately suspicious and starts snooping away. Then out of the blue, he is found dead and there are plenty of suspects to go around. Just who killed Senator Daniels and why does Presley feel the need to investigate?
Turner does a good job with character development, but her characters do lack a bit of back-history. Some of her characters appear for no apparent reason, other than to provide a filler for the story. Stilettos & Scoundrels does need a bit more editing because there are definite struggles throughout the read, but by no means is it uninteresting or lacking in creativity. This book does switch from different characters rapidly and without warning; therefore, be prepared and stay focused. It is a fast paced novel and an entertaining mystery, so if you a reader of mystery with a bit of romance, this may interest you.
A free copy was exchanged for an honest review of this fictional piece.
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April 11 – Polished & Bubbly – Review
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