Southern gal Sarah Booth Delaney packs up her hound dog and her P.I. business and sets off for Hollywood to take a shot at stardom. No stranger to acting, she aces the screen test for a racy remake of the movie Body Heat alongside leading man Graf Miliau. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and why not? Graf has already starred in one of Sarah's previous affairs and is well on his way to landing a big part in the sequel.
Thrilled as Sarah is, her dream come true comes at a price. She has to leave behind her family's ancestral home in Mississippi, her closest friends, and the possibility of settling down with her longtime love to film on location in Costa Rica. And it's not long before rivalries flare, mysterious accidents occur, and this leading lady finds herself in some steamy tabloids without turning up in a single frame of film.
Carolyn Haines's Wishbones takes the sultry romance and colorful friendships of this delightfully Southern series and heads out west for a mystery that is as thrilling off camera as it is on.
About the Author
Carolyn Haines is the author of the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries, including Greedy Bones, Bone Appetit, and Bones of a Feather. She is the recipient of both the Harper Lee Distinguished Writing Award and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence. Before writing fiction, she worked for several years as a journalist, and first visited the Delta, the setting for her mysteries, to do a newspaper story on Parchman State Prison. Born and raised in Mississippi, she now lives in Alabama on a farm with more dogs, cats, and horses than she can possibly keep track of.
Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of over 80 novels in a number of genres, mostly mystery and crime. She is the author of the long-running Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series, the Pluto's Snitch paranormal-historical mystery series, and the Familiar Legacy romantic suspense series featuring Trouble the black cat detective. She is the recipient of the Alabama Library Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing, the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, and the Mississippi Writers Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a former journalist, bartender, photographer, farmhand, and college professor and lives on a farm where she works with rescue cats, dogs, and horses.
Read an Excerpt
By Carolyn Haines
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Carolyn Haines
All rights reserved.
Spring is not the time to leave the South. This is the season when Mississippi is truly the belle of the ball, dressed in vibrant azalea frills, white lace dogwoods, and bridal wreath. The promise of money drifts on the dirt-scented breeze that blows across freshly planted soil. For those of us with Irish blood and the heritage of farming, this is the beginning of the gambling season, when futures will rest on the unpredictable weather and the possibility of a good crop.
My great-great-grandmother Alice planted and farmed the land around Dahlia House. She stood each spring, hands on her hips, determining what to plant, where, how much. One wrong decision could mean the loss of the land — which to a Delaney is equal to the loss of our soul. Year after year she bet and won, hanging on to the plantation against all odds. I won't be planting this year. Like Alice, I'm taking a gamble. Not on crops, but on my own talent.
Sitting on the front porch of Dahlia House with my mother's battered red "good-luck" suitcase at my feet, I'm going to my new life.
Whenever I think of the future, my stomach jigs and lurches. As hard as that is, it's better than thinking of the past and all that is gone and can never be again. Somewhere between the two is the lost dream of Sheriff Coleman Peters and a family of our own, living here in my ancestral home, raising our children, and continuing on with a life that once sounded near perfect.
"He was never less than married." The voice drifts to me from inside the open front door.
Jitty, the resident haint at Dahlia House, has come, at last, to tell me farewell. I was afraid I'd have to go without saying good-bye.
"Now that I'm leaving, do you think Coleman will divorce Connie?" I asked her. In the year I've been home, I gave my heart to Coleman but never my body.
"Did you really want him to leave his wife to be with you?"
I drummed my fingernails on the gray floorboards of the porch and wished for a cigarette. Instead, I pulled out a stick of gum. Jitty stabbed too close to home. I didn't want him if I had to take him from someone else. I didn't want him if I had to "take" him at all. Love has to be a willing surrender.
If I'd insisted on action, if I'd seduced or demanded that we consummate our love, I could have snared him. Instead, we'd both played by honor rules and tempted fate to snatch away the offered gift of our relationship. We'd hesitated, and he who hesitates is lost.
"I guess what I wanted was for Coleman to leave Connie and then find me."
"Your life got out of order, Sarah Booth. Sometimes it happens that way."
I turned to see if Jitty was being consoling or annoying, and I almost swallowed the gum I was chewing. Jitty came swooping toward me, her eyes wide and glazed with madness framed by lashes at least two inches long. She wore a dress with shoulder pads and her hair was smoothed into perfection.
"Camera! Lights! Action! I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille," she said as she came down the front steps of Dahlia House. She swiveled and gave a low bow. "How was that, Sarah Booth?"
"An excellent imitation of Gloria Swanson." I applauded. "Come out to Hollywood with me, Jitty." I'd been trying to work on her to make the trip with me, but she wouldn't commit. In fact, she ignored my request and generally took a powder. Now, at least, she was listening.
She sauntered back to the steps and dropped down beside me on the wooden porch. "I don't think so."
"Then you'll stay here and keep the home front safe while I'm gone, right?" I was taking Sweetie Pie with me, and Reveler, my horse, was already grazing peacefully in the lush pastures at my friend Lee's. This trip to Tinseltown wasn't permanent, but it was my shot at being a movie star.
Jitty lifted an arm and the silver bracelets she'd worn since the first day I met her jingled merrily down her wrist. In contrast, her voice was low and sad. "Sarah Booth, we need to talk."
Her words sent an Arctic chill down my entire body, and suddenly I realized that since I'd been cleared of Renata Trovaioli's murder only a few weeks ago, Jitty and I hadn't really talked. My life had whirl-winded from clearing my name to going to Hollywood to star in a movie with Graf Milieu. Everything was moving way too fast for me.
"What is it? You will stay here, in Dahlia House, and watch over everything, won't you?"
Jitty stared straight ahead, sighting on the driveway and whatever memory that held her undivided attention. "I'm not sure that's the right thing to do."
She was freaking me out. "What do you mean?"
She turned to me, and her smile made tears spring to my eyes. I'd never seen anything so lovely or so sad. "Remember the first time we met?" she asked.
How could I forget that? She'd nearly scared me out of my shoes. But she wasn't interested in funny stories of the past, she was making a point. "Go on," I requested.
"I came to you because you needed me. When you first came home, after all the loss you'd suffered and after things didn't work out in New York, I came because you were alone, without the guidance of family. Dahlia House was a big responsibility, and potentially a huge burden."
"It's still big. It's a really big house, and I still need you." I talked so fast my words were almost incoherent. I had this horrible idea that she was going to say it was time for her to leave, to go on to that Ghostly Reward in the Sky. She was already dead, but a little thing like that wouldn't stop Jitty once she made up her mind.
"Dahlia House hasn't shrunk, Sarah Booth, but you've grown."
Jitty wasn't one to hand out a compliment, and I didn't want to hear this. "Not that much. I haven't grown hardly at all. I'm still scared and alone and —"
"You're taking a shot at your dream, Sarah Booth. Now that's something." The curve of her cheek lifted as she smiled. "Your mama would be proud of you. She is proud of you. And your daddy and Aunt Loulane, too."
My throat closed with emotion, and I swallowed and fought for control of my tears. If I started crying now, I might not quit. "Mama would want you to go to Hollywood and look out for me. Mama will be mad if you leave me now."
Her laughter was clear and sparkling, and for a moment I thought I'd won her over.
"You sure are the devil to play that card, but it won't work. Guilt never worked very well on me."
"What would you do if you didn't stay in Dahlia House? Where would you go?" There were so many things about the Great Beyond that I didn't understand. Normally, Jitty refused to discuss it. I'd asked her once if she could cross over, why my parents couldn't visit me. They'd died when I was twelve, and I'd never truly overcome that sense of abandonment. When I wasn't haunted by Jitty, I was haunted by that.
"I don't know, Sarah Booth. Being dead is ... a bit vague sometimes. I'm here with you right now. After that, maybe it's just a long sleep."
"You don't sleep! You're always rambling around at night. That's when you do your best haunting." I stood up and began to pace. "I do need you, Jitty. You can't just disappear."
"I love you, Sarah Booth. Remember that, no matter what."
I felt the feathery tickle of what might have been a kiss on my cheek. I reached for her, grasping only air.
"Jitty, promise me that you'll be here when I come home." The words choked me. "Jitty!" I lost all efforts to control my emotions. "Jitty!"
"Be strong, like your parents taught you." Her chuckle was hollow, merely an echo. "And break a leg."
The last bit of her shimmered away, and I was left on the front porch drowning in the sweet smell of wisteria that blew up on the wind.
Down the driveway I saw Graf Milieu's car headed my way. He was picking me up for our flight to Los Angeles. I stood, wiping the tears from my face, walked to the front door, and closed it. The sound of the lock tumbling into place was empty and final.
Picking up my suitcase, I turned to meet my future while my past, once again, broke my heart. What would my life be like without Jitty? I couldn't bear to think about it.
On the plane, Graf did his best to entertain me, but he was no competition for my companion riding shotgun — self-doubt. Through some of his movie connections, we'd managed to buy a first-class seat for Sweetie Pie, who took to the skies with the aplomb of a seasoned traveler. Her gentle howl brought immediate attention from the efficient stewardess, Moesha, assigned to take care of us.
"Are you three movie stars?" Moesha asked.
"Only the dog," Graf answered. "We're taking her out for a starring role in Lassie and the Hound."
"I can see where she'll be big box office." Moesha gave Sweetie's ears a gentle caress. "You can bet I'll be in line for a ticket as soon as the movie comes out."
When she walked away, I punched Graf in the ribs, hard. "Liar."
"Maybe not," he said, grinning. "Along with your screen test, I've booked one for Sweetie. We might as well employ the entire family. Just think, Sarah Booth, we can work four or six months and the rest of the year we can do what we want."
For the first time that morning, I felt the dark cloud of despair lift. I'd left behind a life I loved, but it wasn't gone. It hadn't evaporated. And neither had Jitty. Or Tinkie. Or any of my friends. They would be in Zinnia when I returned.
Graf gave me a hug and signaled Moesha. "Bring my lady a spicy Bloody Mary. I think she just decided to enjoy the life of a movie star."
"Coming right up." Moesha leaned down to whisper. "I'll bring a bone for Sweetie Pie. On this plane, you all get the star treatment."
"What do you think?" Graf held me against his side as we stood in the driveway of the most incredible house I'd ever seen. Hanging off the side of Lettohatchie Canyon, the house was clean, modern stucco and steel with a wraparound porch. The view was incredible — mountains highlighted in glowing pinks and oranges to the east and visible to the west, the Pacific Ocean, where a cresting moon hung over the dark waters. We'd spent the entire day traveling to California and arrived just in time for a spectacular sunset.
"I've never seen anything like this," I told him.
"I thought about a beach house in Malibu, but I thought this would be better, and then Bobby Joe Taylor said we could have his place for a few months, until we decided where we wanted to settle."
Stepping away from his side, I entered the house. I hadn't committed, in my heart, to settling anywhere in California. Zinnia was my home, and even though I'd only been gone for twelve hours, I missed it.
"Why don't you call Tinkie?" Graf asked. "I'll take Sweetie for a walk and then open a bottle of wine. I had some salmon steaks and a spinach and artichoke salad delivered, so dinner is ready whenever we are."
I faced him, taking in the leading-man good looks. I'd been very much in love with him when I lived in New York. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and I wasn't certain what I felt for him. Sharing a house might be tricky, but he'd already put my suitcase in my bedroom. He'd promised no pressure. "Thank you, Graf."
"Your screen test is tomorrow at eleven. I'll drive you, and you're going to do great." He stepped forward and kissed my forehead. "Call your girlfriend. Sweetie and I'll be back in half an hour."
I watched the two of them head down the winding driveway as I pulled my cell phone from my purse. Tinkie might be the perfect medicine for what ailed me.
Her phone didn't even ring once before she snatched it up. "Sarah Booth," she said, her voice breathy, "are you okay?"
"I'm fine." It was only half a lie. "I'm sorry I asked you all to stay away when I left. I simply couldn't have stood it to say good-bye to you and Cece and Millie."
"We understand. And as soon as you're settled in and working, we want to fly out and watch. Millie bought a copy of The Hollywood Snoop today and there was a big story about you and Graf and how you two are the leading candidates to play Matty and Ned in the remake of Body Heat. They had a great photo of you."
"How are things with Graf?" she asked.
"He's being a real gentleman. No pressure." I laughed. "He's taking care of everything."
"Everything?" There was a note of mischief in her voice.
"Not that." I tried to match her foolishness, but she must have heard the sadness.
"I saw Coleman this morning. I told him you were gone."
"He said he was happy for you. He said that he saw your talent in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and knew you'd leave Zinnia again."
The anger that touched me was pure and hot. "What a bastard! So I've chosen career over him. That lets him off the hook, doesn't it? He couldn't manage to get himself disentangled from a crazy woman who pretended to be pregnant and produce a brain tumor just to manipulate him, but I left to follow my career."
"Whoa, there!" Tinkie pulled me up short.
"Sorry. It's just so unfair."
"Sarah Booth, you do have an amazing talent. Whatever you decide to do with it is up to you. Remember, you can only paddle your own canoe. Coleman has to paddle his."
And that was the perfect answer. "Thank you. I am now paddling mine. My screen test is at eleven tomorrow."
"That'll be one o'clock here in Zinnia. I'll rally the troops and we'll light a candle for you in Millie's while we're eating burgers and fries."
My mouth watered at the thought of one of Millie's burgers. Now that I was in Hollywood, it would be a long time before I could indulge in such foods. The camera loved to see the bone structure beneath the flesh. "Eat a piece of apple pie for me."
"That I can do." She was laughing when she said good-bye. "You keep your strength up. See you soon."CHAPTER 2
"Magnifico!" Federico Marquez's voice rang out through the studio, and though the scene was over, I couldn't pull my gaze away from Graf. His dark hair, so silken, fell forward, almost but not quite covering his compelling eyes.
We were lying on the floor of a studio set, acting the scene where Ned overpowers Matty with his passion, and her last restraint snaps. The teasing scent of Graf's cologne clouded my senses as the warm weight of his body pressed against mine. He leaned closer, the desire so evident in his eyes that I felt a blush creep up my neck, and I wasn't a girl prone to flushing.
"Cut, Graf!" Federico laughed as he grasped Graf's shoulder. "You look as if you mean to devour her."
"I do." Graf reluctantly eased off me and then offered his hand to pull me to my feet. It took a few seconds for me to become fully aware of my surroundings again, so deeply had I been captured by Graf's eyes.
"Sarah Booth, you are incredible!" Federico kissed both of my cheeks in the French style. "You are a star. You were born to make love to the camera."
"And me," Graf said under his breath but loud enough for all to hear.
A twitter rippled among the crew, and to my chagrin, I felt another flush move along my skin. Graf noticed and gave me a knowing look. So far, he'd played the game by my rule book — no kissing or making love. But the movie scene had called for a kiss, and he'd delivered one that seared me to the tips of my toes and brought back memories of a time in my life when I'd lived for his embraces and the dream of being a star.
Sweetie Pie ambled onto the set and gave Federico a big sloppy kiss. "I think we must find a role for el perro." He lifted Sweetie's ears, holding them out from her head. She bore a strange resemblance to Dumbo, the flying elephant of the childhood story. "She is extraordinary." He turned to the scriptwriter, Ron O'Gorman. "Can we write her in?"
"Sure, Federico. Whatever you say." He shot me a glare as he walked away.
"Hollywood can't function without writers, but no one respects them," Graf whispered in my ear. "They're all so surly."
"I see his point. The original version of the movie didn't have a dog in it." I'd only seen the movie about a billion times.
"If Federico wants a dog, this one will have a dog. Let's hope Sweetie can pull it off. I wonder if we can get her in the union?"
I rolled my eyes and noticed that Federico was watching the two of us. He came over and took my hand.
"I want to see the takes, but I know how good you're going to be on screen, Sarah Booth. You're perfect to play Matty. And Graf is an exceptional Ned. The two of you will be hotter than Kathleen and Bill."
Excerpted from Wisbones by Carolyn Haines. Copyright © 2008 Carolyn Haines. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
Wonderfully entertaining. I have not read this series in order, however it does not matter. These are so delightful and a great read.
Wish Bones is another great book in a wonderful series. It is one I couldn't put down and when I did, I had to pick up the next one right away. Love the entire series
Wether you are a repeat reader, or a newby to the bones collection everyone can have a fun read with this book.
I really enjoyed reading how Sarah Booth went out to Hollywood and tried to act again. This to me is the best book in the whole series so far. We get to see another ghost where she is staying and her friends come to see her in Costa Rica as well. I hope the author will be putting out a new book soon.
I am a great fan of this series about Sarah Booth Delany, and this book is quite readable. But it is not up to the standards I have come to expect, so if you're new to the books about Sara Booth Delaney, go back and start with any of the earlier ones. This one just didn't ring true. Part of the book is about shooting a film in Costa Rica, but no real flavor of the country came through. Some of the middle of the book seemed repetitive, making the same plot points in slightly different ways. And sometimes Jitty was just plain mean to Sarah Booth.
Sarah Booth Delaney is living her dream as she is cast at Matty in a remake of Body Heat. She leaves her beloved Mississippi home for Los Angeles and Costa Rica for the filming. She also leaves behind a love for a man who has returned from her past. But she just can't leave behind mystery and murder and a corpse shows up before the filming even starts. I really like this series. I had my doubts about moving away from the southern setting but Haines manages to pull if off. I find that I have grown attached to the characters and we are left with a sort of cliff hanger that has me anxious for the next installment. The only complaint I have is the name dropping that I guess sort of goes with the Hollywood theme of the story, but I could have done without it.
I was really disappointed with this book. I have previously loved the series. In this the main character, a southern ex-daddy's girl, moves to Hollywood for her second chance at making it as an actress. The setting of Hollywood didn't translate well for the southern lady. It was awkward and her "Southerness" was displaced. It wasn't this fun charming story about her roots, and the ties that she has. It became this forced plot, and awkward dialogue. What works in the south for these books doesn't seem to work as well set someplace else, at least for this book. I'm hoping it was a fluke.