West of Bliss

West of Bliss

4.5 2
by Suzann Ledbetter
When thoughts of marriage turn to murder . . .

As resident manager for the exclusive retirement community of Valhalla Springs, Hannah Garvey is up to any challenge life throws her way — which, lately, is usually a corpse. But a marriage proposal from sexy lawman David Hendrickson has her completely flummoxed. Doesn't he realize the odds against a


When thoughts of marriage turn to murder . . .

As resident manager for the exclusive retirement community of Valhalla Springs, Hannah Garvey is up to any challenge life throws her way — which, lately, is usually a corpse. But a marriage proposal from sexy lawman David Hendrickson has her completely flummoxed. Doesn't he realize the odds against a successful Aries-Libra match?

Then, while attending a going-away party for Eulilly and Chet Thomlinson, even bigger questions erupt when the restaurant dishwasher suddenly opens fire. Chet, an ex-Secret Service agent, manages to shoot the gunman, and is hailed a hero. The tragedy is chalked up to a case of a disgruntled employee — with poor Eulilly caught in the cross fire. But David, Hannah and the erstwhile senior sleuths of Kinderhook County think the whole incident is just a little too cut-and-dry.

In Sanity, Missouri, ignorance is not bliss.

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4.26(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.06(d)

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West Of Bliss

By Suzann Ledbetter

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

ISBN: 1551669250

Chapter One

"Will you marry me?"

The flickering candles and strings of tiny twinkle lights illuminating the banquet room pinwheeled and seemed to retreat. Three other couples sharing the parquet dance floor and the hundred-some guests seated at tables vanished into a perceptual black hole.

Hannah Garvey forgot to breathe. Mesmerized by the sensuous sway of waltzing in the arms of the man she loved, she couldn't comprehend the shift from what had sounded like small talk to him asking her to be his wife.

David Hendrickson's six-foot-three-inch, broadshouldered build was born to wear a sheriff's uniform and made for a jet-black, satin-lapelled tuxedo. Laugh lines fanned eyes aged well beyond his thirty-six years. Tonight the irises were a clear, off-duty blue, without a trace of gray.

A stunned, disbelieving Hannah gazed into them. She felt as though she were aboard a high-speed elevator, rocketing from parking-garage level to the penthouse suite. The music's last stanza faded con amore. "Marry you?" she said. "But we haven't even had sex yet."

David's head angled a fraction. Realizing that what she'd blurted and what he'd heard were one and the same, his mouth curved into a lazy grin. "Well, sugar. You can't say we haven't tried."

His tone implied a willingness to remedy numerous episodes of coitus interruptus right there and then, in front of God and everybody - namely, the guests attending Leo andRosemary Schnur's wedding reception, the bride, the groom, their families, the minister, the catering staff, the four-piece combo providing musical entertainment, and anyone else drawn to Valhalla Springs' community center by orgasmic moans on the wind.

The band swung into "Some Enchanted Evening." More dancers streamed onto the floor. David and Hannah stood motionless, vaguely aware of perfumes, after-shave lotions and the swish of spring-colored dresses and sports coats in orbit around them.

His lips brushed hers. "Do you love me?" A montage scrolled through her mind. David's body, slick and glistening, the morning they'd almost made love in a steamy, hot shower. The grief and guilt that contorted his face the night he was forced to take another man's life or lose his own. His head thrown back, laughing at the sky as he swung her around in a wildflowered meadow. His palm raised to deliver the Special Junior Deputy oath of office to an awestruck, six-year-old boy.

The only response Hannah could muster was a wobbly nod.

"Tell me."

"I love you, David...." The hand at her waist glided upward. Fingertips skimmed her velvet gown, the nape of her neck, then parted the waves in her hair. His kiss was slow and sweet. His tongue caressed hers, daring her to believe in forever.

"Tell me again," he said. "This time, without any buts tagging along behind it."

Another I love you wasn't enough. He wanted an unqualified Yes, David. I'll marry you.

Hannah glanced at the bride and groom. Leo, a retired insurance executive, and Rosemary, a grandmother of six, bumped bellies as they danced. Their courtship had been whirlwind. Leo's proposal had been as swift and sure as Rosemary's acceptance.

At their engagement breakfast, she'd told Hannah how rare it was to find true, abiding love once in a lifetime, let alone twice. "When what you want is right in front of you, what's the sense in waiting to have it?"

If only it were that simple. Few things had been since the afternoon Hannah rolled her Blazer to a halt outside Valhalla Springs' brick-and-wrought-iron gates. From the dashboard speakers, Janis Joplin defined freedom as nothing left to lose. Hannah had squinted through the bugsplattered windshield and wondered whether the song was a rallying cry or a requiem.

At the drop of an inter-office memo, she'd downsized herself from a twenty-five-year career at Friedlich & Friedlich, a prestigious Chicago advertising agency. A future ripe with possibilities but devoid of income was beginning to sound Marxist, when Jack Clancy offered her a job managing his central Missouri Ozarks retirement community.

Jack, a longtime client and dear friend, was desperate to fill the position. Hannah told him she knew more about nuclear fission than she did about property management, had no desire to learn and wasn't about to waste a perfectly good midlife crisis playing bingo with a bunch of geezers.

What she'd wasted was her breath. Jack had leveraged his Saint Louis-based construction company into a premier, resort-development firm. Any entrepreneur who could transform worthless desert acreage into a tropical paradise could sell the sultan of Brunei a used Buick.

She'd expected the transition from corporate fast track to the Ozarks' famed, laid-back lifestyle to be a little disorienting, but a second chance to leave her past behind and start fresh in a new place was exciting. Invigorating. Lusciously self-indulgent.

And it had been, for approximately forty-eight hours. Then a retired schoolteacher was brutally murdered, Hannah and David's mutual distrust escalated to mutual lust, and Jack Clancy's mother got busted for distributing marijuana to her Every-Other-Tuesday Bridge Club.

The pace picked up a bit the second week. Hell and high water. That's how David described their emotional roller-coaster ride. It was apt and not all negative, although homicide, felonious assaults, and the willful destruction of private property had been as central to their relationship as resisting the urge to have one.

"I'm not an impulsive man," David said, bringing Hannah back to the present.

"No, you aren't."

"Leo and Rosemary's wedding was beautiful, but it didn't inspire anything."

Hannah smiled. "Bull."

David's eyebrows crooked into upside-down check marks. "Beg pardon?"

"I know a conspiracy when I'm in the middle of one." She struggled to look stern. "Me, Cinderella bridesmaid. You, the surprise Prince Charming groomsman in an ooh-baby-ooh tuxedo."

His grin reappeared at the compliment. "I can see where that might arouse your suspicions."

Everything David said or did aroused something. It was a gift. Hannah wrenched her train of thought from the depths of unrelieved horniness. "Then you escorted me to the only table for two in the place, twitched your nose and, allakazam, the band struck up 'Could I Have This Dance.'"

"I don't twitch, Miz Garvey."

"I don't believe in coincidence, Sheriff."

He chuckled low in his throat. "I may have taken advantage of an opportunity, but there were extenuating circumstances."

Excerpted from West Of Bliss by Suzann Ledbetter
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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West of Bliss 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Suzann Ledbetter has produced yet another winner - the fourth in an outstanding series of tales about life's choices, taking chances, and finding your soulmate just when you think it is time to give up. The characters are enjoyable and compelling- Hannah Garvey, Valhalla Springs' on site manager, smart, compassionate and a survivor who meets life's sometimes difficult challenges with courage, humor and wit. David Hendrickson- Kinderhook County, Missouri's sexy sheriff and Hanna's Mr Perfect. And the zany residents of Vahalla Springs- a country club style retirement community for the most loveable group of 'life just get's better' sleuths you have ever met. Throw in the citizens of Sanity, add a new crime to solve almost every week, and you have the perfect recipe for a really good romance/mystery that leaves you counting the months until the next book is released. I recommend you start with book one, East of Peculiar, and then read the next 3- but each book is great standing alone. If you start later in the series the author does an outstanding job of catching you up on this developing love story/mystery/laugh fest. By the end of book one the characters feel like your family and friends and the bonds only grow stronger with each following novel. Suzann's books do not just tell a story. They make you both think and care about Hannah, David, Delbert, Marlin, Jack, IdaClare, and the myriad of other delightful characters who put Sanity on the map and in your heart.The only downside is the 9 month wait until the next book, In Hot Pursuit, is published. Fair warning, once you start reading this series, you won't quit. And you will count the weeks until you are again in Kinderhook County, a place that feels a lot like home.
harstan More than 1 year ago
When she first accepted Jack Clancy¿s job offer to manage an Ozarks retirement community, Harriet Garvey thought her biggest problem would be boredom. However, Valhalla Springs proves wilder than her former home Chicago. In a very short time Harriet has been on several murder investigations and a few other felonies. However, her toughest problem is her deep feelings for local Sheriff David Henderson even though the Gods must frown upon this couple mating as coitus interruptus is the norm of their relationship.

Though she loathes Eulliy Thomlinson, Jack convinces her to represent him at a going away party for the woman and her spouse Chet. Everything seems okay until D.K. Bogart starts shooting at people; Chet retaliates and kills him. Most of Kinderhook County think Chet is a hero, but Dave and Harriet wonder about the incident. Accompanied by her geriatric detectives, Harriet begins to make inquiries while Dave tries to entice her to marry him. He also attempts to coax his love and her band of amateurs to not investigate.

WEST OF BLISS is an engaging amateur sleuth tale starring a frustrated hero, a clever heroine, and an insane peculiar crowd of seniors who often steal the plot. The story line is well written, but though the mystery is delightfully disguised, the banter between Harriet and Dave feels stale perhaps because this is the fourth novel in two years without enough movement in their relationship. Still Suzann Ledbetter provides an amusing amateur sleuth police procedural combo that now needs to move to the center of the compass and fully explore the magnetism between the lead duo.

Harriet Klausner