by Cathy Perkins
Is it possible to use the words “light” and “mystery” in the same sentence? Or are “romance” and “mystery” really polar opposites?
Several of my fellow Entangled Suspense author friends have teased me for calling For Love or Money a light romantic mystery, pointing out that Holly finds a rather gruesome body in Chapter One of the book.
Yeah, maybe that bit isn't so light.
But he does look fine doing it. I believe her first thought was, “Even tired and grim-faced, he still looked better than sex on a stick.” Of course, she immediately tells her hormones to go take a cold shower, because she's been down that path with JC already and she knows where it ends.
As much as I enjoy mysteries and thrillers, I love books that feature an intelligent heroine suddenly out of her comfort zone, trying to solve things while also facing her demons and learning more about herself. A mystery, a murder, a pushy ex wanting to know what she did to upset the equilibrium – it all adds to the story for me.
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Barbara Parker, Edna Buchanan, Toni McGee Causey—I gobbled their stories about strong women working through twists and turns of a mystery and juggling a less than perfect relationship. It feels very strange to mention my book in the same paragraph as some of my heroines, but readers tells me they love that my books balance the mystery and the romance. For me, having both is the best part.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest, the setting of FOR LOVE OR MONEY, with her work-a-holic husband, a 75-pound Lab who thinks she’s still a lap-puppy and a Wirehair puppy’s who’s intent on digging her way to China.
Connect with Cathy at:
For Love or Money by Cathy Perkins
When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body while hiking, her life suddenly takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. The verdict is murder—and Holly is the prime suspect.
Of course, the fact that the infinitely sexy—and very pissed off—cop threatening to arrest her is JC Dimitrak, who just happens to be Holly’s jilted ex-fiancé, doesn’t help matters.
To protect her future, her business...and her heart...the intrepid forensic accountant must use all her considerable investigative skills to follow the money through an intricate web of shadow companies, while staying one step ahead of her ex-fiancé. She better solve the case before the real killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass...and the next dead body found beside the river is Holly’s.
He moved past her to the window, then turned and leaned against the wall. “I heard you were back.”
She gave him an and-your-point-is? look. What had he expected? That she’d call him? Show up on his cheating, black-hearted doorstep?
“Why’d you move back to Richland?”
Holly wasn’t going to tell JC her father had suffered a midlife brain fart and taken off with his yoga instructor, or that she’d made a deal with her mother to bail out the family accounting business, a decision she regretted on practically a daily basis. And at a deeper level, his question pissed her off because he knew damn well exactly why she was there. She’d seen the cop pow-wow information exchange out at Big Flats, where the deputies had brought JC up to speed. He was digging for personal information.
She crossed her arms and ignored the way her body heated up just because he was in the room. Stupid body. If it heated up, it was because she was mad. Period. “You know why I moved. And if you were really interested, it would take you about two seconds to find out when I changed the address on my driver’s license from Seattle to Richland.”
JC smiled and two dimples appeared.
She caught her breath. Oh, man. How could she have forgotten about his dimples?
It didn’t matter how many times she told herself they were just a simple indentation of flesh. Dimples made serious, grown-up men look like they still had a mischievous little boy inside. The kind who sledded down the forbidden steepest slopes, dyed the dog green for St. Patty’s Day, or knew how to be especially devilish in bed.
And she personally knew every one of them applied to JC.
In spite of her irritation, she smiled at him and his grin widened. His shoulders relaxed and his eyes grew a shade warmer. “You never could pass up a chance to jerk my chain.”
“You set yourself up often enough.”
Why was he making nice? She did the mental head-slap. What was she thinking? JC stood for “Just Cool” as often as it did “Just Crazy.”
“Is this your loosen-up-the-idiot routine, so I’ll say something stupid like I killed Marcy?”
His face immediately closed off, but before he could make another comment, she pulled on the composed shell she used at the negotiating table. “Look. At least for tonight, let’s declare a truce. You quit taking jabs at me and I won’t take any swipes at you. I’ll tell you everything I know about Marcy.”
He pushed away from the wall and nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
“If we’re going to talk about her, I need coffee.” She headed toward the kitchen.
JC followed her into the large area beyond the vacant living room. “Nice.”
There was no snark in his tone this time.
She surveyed the renovated space with pride. A tile-topped peninsula—she’d set every one of those suckers—separated the kitchen from the dining area. Cherry cabinets lined the interior walls and surrounded the Bosch appliances. City lights sparkled through the oversized windows at night, but right now she could see eighty miles to the Blue Mountains.
“Have a seat.” She pulled out coffee and filled the machine. “With all that activity at Big Flats, I’m surprised you’re here. Shouldn’t you be following leads or something?”
From the safety of distance, she gave him a closer examination. His hair was shorter. No big surprise there, he was a policeman. His face was tanned; apparently he still spent time outdoors. The lines at the corners of his eyes were new. He’d filled out, not that he’d been a wimp when she knew him. She checked out the broad chest and shoulders tapering to slim hips and remembered why hormones had fried her brain when she was in college.
Good thing she was too smart for that now.
But all his assets still didn’t outweigh the big ol’ blot in his liability column, a.k.a. infidelity.
He dropped his coat on a counter stool, but claimed the chair at the head of the table. “You looked like you were nearly out on your feet earlier, so I let you go home.” A lazy smile, the kind that used to set her heart racing, warmed his expression. “You still look good, though.”
“Hmm.” Telling her pulse and her traitorous hormones to go take another cold shower, she gave her ratty yoga pants and T-shirt an appraising glance. She didn’t have to see her hair to know it had already dried in the desert air without benefit of blow-dryer, styling gel, or flatiron. “What do you want, JC?”
It was the belly-deep, I’m-an-idiot-and-you-called-me-on-it combined with I-don’t-take-myself-too-seriously chuckle she remembered. One of the protective barriers holding in her anger and hurt creaked a little, as though it was rusty and maybe she didn’t need it anymore.
No, no, no. He was not getting under her skin.
The coffee machine made steamy brewing noises behind her. Deliberately turning her back on him and his smile, she picked up his coat and headed toward the closet. As she draped the garment over a wooden hanger, her nose caught floral perfume wafting from the wool. Definitely not JC’s cologne.
Her stomach knotted. She should’ve known there’d be a woman in his life.
Anger knifed through any remaining illusions. She knew better than to trust anything he said or did. And what did he think he was doing, giving her that c’mon look?
She slapped the hanger onto the closet rod. He wasn’t wearing a ring. Was he still married to what’s-her-face? Like being married stopped anybody. Look at Dad. If he fell off the rails, why should she expect JC to be different?
She already knew JC wasn’t different.
She returned to the kitchen and slammed around a few coffee mugs. She wasn’t sure if she was mad at her father, JC, or herself for still being even the tiniest little bit attracted to him.
He had a notepad open on the table. “I have some questions.”
“Well, we can keep this short and I’ll get started painting. Here are all the answers.” She ticked them off on her fingers as she spoke. “I thought we were going hiking. I had no idea it was opening weekend for pheasant hunting. I had no idea Marcy’s body was in that swampy area. And no, I didn’t kill her. Would you like your coffee in a to-go cup?”