Mystery author Maggie Kelly had enough on her mind wondering how she was going to keep her fictional Regency Era creation from dropping to one knee with a marriage proposal. Then a murderer crosses the foul lineway too close to home. . .
Maggie wouldn't mind putting a little distance between herself and the hunky Regency hero of her novels, Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, who has miraculously come to life with talk of sweeping her straight down the aisle. But now that her parents have split up, Maggie is having trouble resisting Alex's tender loving care. So she invites him along to visit her family. Unfortunately, they arrive just in time to watch her father being taken away in handcuffs as a murder suspect! Luckily, she has Alex riding to the rescueand making her wonder if a happily ever after might not be out of her league after all. . .
"Part fantasy, part romance, and part good old-fashioned mystery, this book has it all." Romantic Times
About the Author
Kasey Michaels is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 romance novels. She has won an RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award and several other commendations for her contemporary and historical romance novels. Her bestselling series include the Romney Marsh Trilogy, The Coltons Series, and others.
Read an Excerpt
By KASEY MICHAELS
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Kathryn A. Seidick
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMaggie sat with her back to her computer, looking around her living room, which also served as her office, her dining room, her den, her library, her-how had she ever thought this arrangement worked for her? Claustrophobics-R-Us.
Figuratively choking herself with both hands as she stuck out her tongue and gurgled, she decided, once and for all, that she had to relocate. Expand. Grow.
This time the gurgle was audible, closely resembling a whimper.
Not that Alex lived with her anymore, showing up in her kitchen early in the morning, looking put together while she leaned against the sink in her ratty pajamas, just trying to stand up straight until her morning caffeine kicked in.
He wasn't sleeping just down the hall anymore, leaving the top off her toothpaste, beating every password protection she put on her computer, and generally driving her insane.
No. He was now gainfully employed as a perfume company's photo model, financially self-sufficient, and happy, living in his own condo directly across the hall. He and Sterling both were happy.
She was happy, having them live directly across the hall.
She could watch out for him, keep an eye on him, make sure he didn't do anything too hero-like.
And then there was the fact that, once Sterling was tucked up in bed, Alex could tiptoe across the hall to her for a few hours and they could ... well, how could she possibly leave Alex?
And the idea of moving had nothing-nothing!-to do with the fact that her onetime friend and now archnemesis, fellow author Felicity Boothe Simmons (once Faith Simmons, back before she went NYT and figuratively left the planet), had just bought herself a two-level condo soon to be featured in Architectural Digest.
Nothing to do with that. Absolutely nothing.
Okay, maybe a little bit.
But there were better reasons.
Maggie's accountant had told her she needed the interest deduction. Her bathroom was too small; she didn't even have a bathtub, for crying out loud.
She had to keep her new treadmill in the living room (the treadmill a gift from Faith no less, given just so that Faith could comment without commenting that Maggie still hadn't lost the weight she'd gained after she quit smoking), and Sterling had this way of walking in without knocking, to see her sweating bullets as she ran her tail off in the hopes of running her tail off.
There were a lot of reasons for her to move, sell the condo, buy a bigger one. Good reasons.
And one very big drawback. Leaving Alex.
But she'd just signed a new contract with Toland Books. An obscene contract. It wasn't as if she didn't have the money, plus most of the money she'd earned in the past six years. When success hit in the publishing arena, it hit. Big. Even her earlier Alicia Tate Evans novels had been re-released, and were in their sixteenth printing, for crying out loud.
So she had buckets of money, and it wasn't because, as Alex had teased on more than one occasion, she squeezed every penny until it squealed.
Okay, maybe a little bit.
For crying out loud.
"For crying out loud, I'm becoming a little bit redundant," she said, looking over at her Christmas tree, which had been shoved into the corner of the small room. Faith's tree had been a good twenty-feet high in her two-story living room. It was pink, with real crystal ornaments, and probably snowed on itself. Not that it mattered, for crying out loud, even a little bit.
Maggie swiveled back to face her desk and looked once more at the real estate page she'd brought up on the computer screen.
The building pictured on the screen was big. Extremely big. And it had character.
If you could call vaguely resembling a wedding cake having character.
Constructed of light gray stone, the ground floor had its own straight lines and straight roof, but then the next three floors rose in half-rounded tiers. Like a wedding cake.
Built in 1897, it had seven huge bedrooms, nine fireplaces, seven full bathrooms, two kitchens, a couple of balconies, a pair of staircases, a rooftop garden, and an enclosed backyard fashioned of marble, or something. At any rate, there were two huge stone greyhounds guarding the entrance to the patio like twin sphinxes.
If stone greyhound sentries didn't say class, what did?
And the house-not a floor, not a condo, an entire house!-was on West Seventy-sixth Street, just off Broadway. Close to Central Park, not too far away from Riverside Park, and not within easy walking distance of Faith's pink and white penthouse on the Upper East Side.
The interior had original woodwork to die for, kitchens that would be any gourmet's dream-Maggie didn't really care about the kitchens, but Sterling would-and the main room on the top floor had a twenty-by-forty-foot glass ceiling. A domed, many-paned glass ceiling! Jeez.
The house called to her.
Alex called to her.
She needed both of them.
She looked at the page again.
Much too large a place for one person, definitely, but not at all too large for three people. Alex and Sterling could move in, maybe even share expenses, and they could all be together and yet private from one another, even while they were all under the same glass roof.
Maggie loved it when a plan came together.
And all for only six million nine hundred and fifty dollars. For Manhattan, for a house like that, six million nine hundred and fifty dollars was pretty much chump change. Right?
"Meanwhile, back in the land of reality," Maggie muttered to herself, closing the window on a photograph of the roof garden. "Besides, when you get to nearly seven million, why bother with the fifty bucks on the end? That's so tacky."
Wellington, the black male Persian, stood up, stretched, and waddled over to rub himself against Maggie's ankles.
"I wasn't talking to you, fish-breath. I was talking to myself," Maggie told him, reaching down to scratch behind his ears. "But, as long as you're here-would you like a new house, hmm? It's got a walled garden out back. I could open the door, and you and Nappy could go outside, sprawl belly-up in the sun. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Wellington purred, rubbed his head against her hand.
"Sure, that's it," Maggie said, inspired. "I'm the old maid cat lady, thinking about buying a nearly seven-million-dollar house so her cats can lie in the sun. Is that as bad as Faith enrolling that pee-machine mutt of hers in doggy day care? No, it's probably worse. Cripes. Worse than Faith. You got to go some to be worse than Faith, Welly, trust me."
Wellington looked up at Maggie, meowed something probably Persian-speak for "I'm going to assume we're through here," and headed back to the still-warm spot on the carpet.
Maggie swiveled back to face the screen and called up the Realtor listing again. There it was; bottom right corner of the page: Rodgers Regency Realty. Regency? Like the English Regency, the one in which her perfect hero cavorted? Was that an omen, or what?
Especially the cavorting part.
It could work.
But did she have the guts to actually do this?
She and Alex and Sterling were leaving for New Jersey in a few days for the Annual Kelly Dysfunctional Christmas. By the time she got back, the house could be sold. An opportunity, gone.
Then she'd spend the next year or so kicking herself around the apartment, bemoaning her missed opportunity. And, with the size of this place, she'd be dizzy in a week, just from booting herself in circles.
She looked toward the bookcase, saw the Dan Mittman book Doctor Bob had given her for Christmas. Remembered a quote from the book: The time is now, the place is here. Stay in the present. You can do nothing to change the past, and the future will never come exactly as you plan or hope for.
Not so shabby, Danny boy, even if you ended with a preposition.
Maybe even prophetic.
Maggie picked up her nicotine inhaler-minus its medicinal cartridge now, so that it was, in reality, a pacifier-sucked on it like the pitiful ninny she was, and then reached for the phone.
And now for a little author intrusion
As Maggie knows, one of the time-honored (or timeworn) ways to heighten anticipation and keep readers turning the pages while the author is busily filling in the background information several books into an on-going series, is to introduce some shadowy figure at about this point.
Put him in italics at the end of a chapter, make him sort of deep, sort of ambiguous, sort of scary.
Foreshadowing. Foreboding. Dropping an oblique hint or two. Maybe a red herring to throw off the armchair crime-solver. Setting the hook in the reader's mouth.
Or, if feeling less literarily inclined-flipping the reader a fish.
One way or another, fish always seem to be involved ...
The object of the exercise is that the reader hears the footsteps, knows Something Wicked This Way Comes a few chapters down the road.
So what the hell, why not.
Introducing, ta-da, the Shadowy Figure.
Just don't count on the baddie being deep. Not in Maggie's world ...
Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Circumstances demanded as much.
And it wasn't like, hey, there were a million different ideas out there. Just this one. A good idea. Good ideas didn't come along that often. There had been Dad and the hula hoop, but somebody else got there first. Somebody else was always getting there first.
Now. What about the weapon ...?
God, no. Too loud.
Ix-nay on the knife. Too messy.
Strangulation? No way. Much too up close and personal.
Okay, okay. So the idea still needed some work ...
See? That's how it's done. Fun, huh? And not just senseless banter, either, because that wouldn't be fair to the reader. There's a clue in there, honest!
We'll do it again in a little bit. Stay tuned.
Chapter TwoSaint Just pushed open the heavy wooden door with the tip of his sword cane and peered into the darkness. "And this would be ...?" he asked Kiki Rodgers, daughter of the owner of Rodgers Regency Realty. Or, as Kiki had explained, pointing to the three gold Rs circled in gold thread on the pocket of her navy blazer, "That's our brand, sugar. The Triple R. Daddy's originally from Texas."
Saint Just wasn't as familiar with Texas as he probably should be, because he'd only been able to look at Maggie in confusion as they'd both stared at Kiki's remarkable bosom when they'd first met, without trying to look as if they were staring, and Maggie had whispered, "They like everything big in Texas, sugar."
In truth, he was still trying to sort out what was happening, as Maggie's request that he and Sterling accompany her to view a house she was considering purchasing was so completely out of character for the woman, who never did anything spontaneously, never acted on a whim-at least when it came to parting with a penny of her hard-earned money.
She studied every advertisement in the newspapers before she went shopping, planning her route, laying out her itinerary, and even then only purchased something new when he would finally put his foot down, insisting that she make a choice. He doubted she bought a packet of gum without first considering the thing.
And she was a creature of habit. The ornaments on her Christmas tree had to be placed in the same positions they'd been hung the previous years.
She always hesitated for a moment-five seconds, he'd decided, after keeping a mental count on several occasions-before putting out her foot (left foot first), and descending any staircase.
Her bacon went on the left side of her plate, her scrambled eggs always to the right. Even if she had to turn the plate around after it was placed in front of her.
She sat in the same chair, at the same table at Mario's, at Bellini's.
She always laid her napkin in her lap immediately, and then carefully rearranged the cutlery, moving the knife and spoon from the left and putting them to her right.
He could go on. Indefinitely.
Maggie was a creature of habit. A traditional person, one with routines, even rituals. Compulsive, in a nice way, he'd have to say. Reliable. Dependable.
He didn't like feeling off balance, not the one in control. But Maggie seemed to have taken the bit between her teeth on this business of purchasing a new domicile, and what were women created for, if not to indulge them?
"Why, sugar," Kiki told him, suddenly not more than an inch away, her lush body brushing his as she leaned in beside him, "that there's the steps down to the wine cellar."
Behind them, Maggie chirped, "A real, honest-to-God wine cellar? I don't remember seeing that on the listing. Oh, wow."
Kiki turned to smile at her client. "Yes, it is exciting, isn't it? Here, let me show you," she said, reaching past Saint Just to turn on the light.
Saint Just stood back to allow her to precede them down the stairs, and then ushered Maggie and Sterling ahead of him before following the small troop to the cool, stone-walled room the size of Maggie's living room.
By the time he'd reached the bottom of the stairs, Maggie was poking about the floor-to-ceiling, freestanding shelves, gushing excitedly that she felt as if she was in "a library for wine."
"Yes, although depressingly small, don't you think?" he said, lifting his quizzing glass to his eye as he peered at the dusty label of one of the half dozen or more wine bottles still lying in holders on the shelves. Those few bottles had probably gone to vinegar and had therefore been left behind at the time of the previous owner's departure. "I do very much fear that my own cellars-plural, Miss Rodgers-at Blake Manor would dwarf this paltry attempt."
"Oh, for God's sake, Alex," Maggie muttered quietly, "you don't have a wine cellar. Cellars. You don't have a Blake Manor. I made all that up, just like I made you up. Remember?"
"I remember, my dear, that the more interest one shows in a purchase, the higher the price and the less reason to negotiate toward a lower one," he responded just as quietly. "You take my point?"
Maggie shot a quick look toward Kiki, who was deep in conversation with Sterling about the joys of the kitchen they'd just viewed. "Oh, okay, I get it. Sterling's going a little overboard, right? Should we call him off?"
"Possibly," Saint Just responded, tamping down a smile. "Although I believe I was referring mostly to you, and this distressing tendency to gush 'oh, wow' every time a new door is opened."
"Oh." But then she grabbed his arm and pulled him behind the last rack, obviously not quite understanding the acoustics of a fifteen-by-fifteen foot cube constructed entirely of stone. "I want this house, Alex. It's perfect. We can be private, we can be together, we can-you know damn full well Faith doesn't have a wine cellar. A cooler, maybe. One of those under-the-kitchen-counter deals, but not a cellar. I mean, she lives on what, the twenty-sixth floor, or something? No way can she have an authentic wine cellar. Is that petty? Don't answer that."
"As I quite value my neck, yes, I do believe I will refrain from comment. I will, however, take my life into my own hands and ask if you're seriously considering purchasing a house in order to upset Miss Simmons, as it seems out of character for you, my dear."
"I know. My bad, right? But that's not why, okay? It's just that Faith got me thinking, you know? If she can buy a monstrosity like she bought, then I should be able to take a chance, a leap of faith-no pun intended-and believe in myself and my future enough to make a purchase of this size. You know what a purchase like this says, Alex? This house? This house says I've made it. I'm not going to get tossed out on my ear again, because I've got a real career. A real future. I'm secure. I mean, you can't owe as much money as mortgaging this place would cost, not if you weren't confident about your future. Right? This house, the mortgage-they'd be like affirming statements."
"Are you insinuating that you'd purchase this house in order to convince yourself of your own worth?"
Maggie frowned. "Don't be logical, Alex. And stop playing Doctor Bob, okay? I want this house. I want ... I want us to have this house."
"Ah, now that's comforting. You've decided that I'm ... staying?"
Excerpted from Bowled Over by KASEY MICHAELS Copyright © 2007 by Kathryn A. Seidick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good installment in the series. Reads like it will be the final installment.
Lightweight and breezy, but a fun series on how a traditional Regency aristocratic hero would feel out of place and have to adapt fast to today's modern life. Maggie, however, needs some serious straightening up - why in the world does St. Just find her charming and attractive, when she's a major slob reeking of cigarette smoke?
I love this book... I wish that the series could keep going however... I could never grow tired of these characters Kasey Michaels is amazing
When last we saw Maggie she was preparing for the holidays. Preparing to visit her parents - who are currently separated. To say she was dreading the visit is an understatement. To take her mind off of what¿s ahead (and in an effort to secure a tax break) Maggie goes house hunting. One slight misstep in the house of her dreams and she breaks her foot, gets a cast and has to hobble along with the aid of a walker. None of which garner her any sympathy from her family. ..... Just missing her father at his apartment, and not ready to face her mother, Maggie indulges Sterling¿s love of casinos and drives him and Saint Just to Atlantic City where she immediately ¿runs into¿ Henry Novack and steals his jackpot. Well, to hear him tell it at any rate. And he doesn¿t intend to leave her alone until she gives it back to him. ..... When she finally makes it back to her father¿s apartment she can only watch as he is taken away in handcuffs, accused of murder. The evidence against him is circumstantial but the police won¿t even consider any other suspects so it¿s up to Maggie and Alex to prove his innocence. With each new piece of evidence they uncover, Evan Kelly looks more and more guilty. Will they be able to uncover that once piece of evidence that will clear him - even with Henry shadowing their every move? ..... Bowled Over is reportedly the final installment in the Maggie Kelly series. Kasey Michaels has written it with her usual humor and smart dialogue (just ask Maggie how she broke her foot). The reader is given more insight into Maggie¿s family and a few more of the skeleton¿s fall out of the closet. The reader is also treated to a look into the ¿shadowy figure¿s¿ head. As always the story was a lot of fun and I read the entire book in one afternoon. While Ms. Michaels has written a nice ending to the series, she also left it open to the point the story could continue without taking away from the ending she¿s written. And I, for one, hope this is not the last we see of Maggie, Alex, Sterling and even Henry.
Regency mystery writer Margaret 'Maggie' Kelly still wonders about her sanity ever since the hero of her historical whodunits Alexandre 'Alex' Blake (the Viscount Saint Just) and his assistant Sterling somehow came to life in her home. However, as time has passed and they have worked several capers, Maggie begins to believe that Alex is real and perhaps they belong together.------------------ Maggie, accompanied by Alex and Sterling, is heading to Ocean City, New Jersey for another Kelly family Christmas disaster with her separated parents, Alicia and Evan. However, before leaving the city, Maggie looks at a Manhattan house she might buy but breaks her foot on the metal doorstop. Maggie and her Regency companions travel to Evan's apartment only to find the police arresting him for the murder of his bowling friend Walter Bodkin the motive is Walter¿s affair with Alicia and the murder weapon Evan's bowling ball. Maggie, Alex, and Sterling investigate only to realize much of the heterosexual male population of New Jersey wanted Bodkin dead for his trysts with their wives a number of females including Maggie¿s sister and mother shared their desire.------------ BOWLED OVER is an amusing romantic cozy that in spite of the Regency gimmick and being the sixth Maggie mystery retains a freshness that showcases Kasey Michael¿s talent. The fast-paced story line is fun to follow as Maggie stumbles and fumbles with Alex and Sterling always there to pick her up. The whodunit is cleverly designed so that the audience as well as the heroine has the clues, but putting them together proves difficult. This is another winner in a magnificent series.------- Harriet Klausner