Blogroll: Spacefreighters Lounge

Anchors Aweigh: Sail into a Great Summer Adventure

August is “Hell Month” at my day job, which usually means I drop out of sight until sometime in September. But I just had to pop in to share this…

I just finished the coolest book!

Yes, it’s written by one of my fellow Firebirds–which means she’s also a 2012 RWA Golden Heart finalist–but that said, I have this thing… If I can’t rave about a book, I don’t write a book review. Peeps, I’m raving. For anyone, anywhere, interested in Military Romance, don’t pass this one up. For those of us who write Military Romance (of any era), you can learn a lot from this tale about how the military–the Navy, in particular–works.

Like…flight decks are damn scary, noisy places, full of hazards.

And trying to get a bit of much-needed shut-eye is no easy feat when you live in the equivalent of a dormitory packed with three-tier-high bunk beds located directly beneath a busy airport.

This story delivers not only a great romance, but a genuine experience. “Join up” and serve aboard a floating, self-contained city as it heads out “on cruise.” What great muse-fodder for those of you who write Science Fiction Romance of the space-faring variety.

Forgive & Forget

by Heather Ashby

Henery Press

280 pages


There’s something about a man in uniform…but there’s something about a woman in one, too…

When Hallie McCabe meets Philip Johnston at a picnic, she is drawn to his integrity. He is a gentleman. But also an officer. From her ship.

Aware of the code against fraternization between officers and enlisted, Hallie conceals her Navy status, hopeful she and her secret will stay hidden on their enormous aircraft carrier until she can figure out a way for them to sail off into the sunset together.

Caught in an emotional firestorm, Hallie faces a future without the man she loves, a career-shattering secret from the past, and the burden of being the one person who can prevent a terrorist attack on the ship she has sworn to protect with her life.

Prepare to set sail for the Persian Gulf with a crew of 4,999 sailors and officers and one terrorist in search of his own kind of Paradise.


What so completely absorbed me once I started reading this book was the feel of utter authenticity. The rules, the regs, the smell of jet fuel, the roar of the engines, the close quarters, conflicts and camaraderie of military life.

I can appreciate the heroine’s situation. She’s fallen for a man she knows she shouldn’t be with, and she’s bending the rules to the point of catastrophic failure–and risking his trust in the process–because she knows as soon as she tells him the truth, it’s over. But she will tell him the truth, even if it costs her everything. It’s just that her timing on that big reveal goes completely askew…

I imagine some holier-than-thou readers will have issues with her honesty, and admittedly, I did at times, too, thinking, “OMG, girl, just tell him!” At the same time I could completely relate to her sentiments and easily walk in her shoes. This is the man of her dreams and she doesn’t want to see her relationship go up in smoke. Who would? Hallie is likable, relatable, and an endearing combination of timid heart and tough-as-steel mind.

The hero, Philip, is a man of integrity, a true gentleman and someone I admired as a “good guy.” He’s a a working hero, not some commanding officer with lots of shiny brass and top-dog swagger, but an honest-to-goodness Navy man doing a real job in the bowels of his massive ship. Even so, this shoulder-to-the-grindstone, squeaky clean, BCG-wearing sailor has an alpha side that often surprised and delighted me. I LUV me an unpredictable hero.

Author Heather Ashby
with Navy Seahawk

The story also does a remarkable job of getting inside the head of the villain, and showing some of the culture and traditions he has more-or-less adopted (less, actually). Though I can’t respect him or his warped values, I can understand why he turned. He’s tragic, twisted and deeply disturbed, but he’s no cartoon villain.

This story carries some big surprises and killer twists, but the biggest surprise for me came in the form of a secondary character that at first annoyed and then absolutely dazzled me. You know things will be okay when this guy takes charge. And best of all? The next book is about him! (Pssst….Keep your eye on the Sky. :)

FORGIVE & FORGET is the first book in the Love in the Fleet series. Watch for the next one, FORGET ME NOT, December 3, 2013.

Here’s the link to Amazon: Forgive & Forget (Oh, and BTW, just between us, you might want to note the very reasonable price on the Kindle version right now. *winkety wink*)

Malice Domestic 2013 – And the winner is…

And the winner of the 2013 Malice Domestic “Best First Novel” goes to Susan M. Boyer for LOWCOUNTRY BOIL

A BIG HEN HOUSE CONGRATULATIONS to Susan M. Boyer on writing such a great book!!  Your win was well deserved.


Susan kissing the teapot after winning the Agatha Award for Best First Novel




















Blogroll: Must Read Mysteries

Mrs. MRM reviews Susan Boyer’s “Lowcountry Boil”

LOWCOUNTRY BOILI just finished reading Susan Boyer’s Lowcountry Boil, and I am experiencing a severe case of PBW – Post Book Withdrawal! I haven’t had as much time for reading as I would like recently, but this book made me want to steal every minute possible to read. I was a bit hesitant at first as I am not usually a big fan of paranormal story lines, but the depth of characterization made every character (even the ghost) strong and relatable. Plus, if you’ve ever visited or lived in the Charleston area, you know it is almost impossible to experience the city and its barrier islands without feeling the ghosts of the past looking over your shoulder. Every time I found a minute to read, I found myself slipping into the warm sea air of Stella Maris, and I instantly felt like an island insider. In this fantastic debut, Boyer does a lovely job of maintaining tension while developing sympathetic, identifiable characters. Any small town southerner would be hard-pressed not to see someone they “know” in this book. She kept me guessing right up until the end, but in hindsight all the clues were there. It was smart, funny, and overall a very enjoyable read. I am impatiently waiting her next book and another Liz Talbot adventure!

Blogroll: Huff Post Books

Shrimp, Grits and Murder

by Chef John Malik

Are you looking for a clever murder mystery? One with a unique sense of place and enough quirky characters to make the cast of The Big Bang Theory take notice? Can you deal with a ghost as a central character? And I don’t mean a ghost in the traditional sense, one that fades in and out on a whisper and holds the same mass as the aromatic vapors of a warm chicken pot pie. Nope. This ghost comes and goes when summoned, holds conversations with a dear friend and plays an integral part in a tightly knit crime drama. If you can let yourself go long enough to enjoy the preposterousness of the ghost of a 17 -year-old sworn to protect the fictional island of Stella Maris, just north of Charleston, S.C., then you’re going to love Lowcountry Boil, the debut novel of Susan M. Boyer. [Read more...]

Blogroll: Mystery Scene Review

Humor is in the ascendancy in Susan M. Boyer’s Lowcountry Boil. A plethora of Southern eccentrics populate this rousing tale of murder and real estate on the tiny South Carolina island of Stella Maris. After her beloved grandmother dies, PI Liz Talbot suspects murder and uses her considerable investigative skills to find out the truth. Along the way, she discovers a plot to develop the serene island for tourism, something the island’s strict zoning laws have historically forbidden.

Murder may be a serious matter, but there are guffaws galore as author Boyer treats us to some of the goofiest and most loveable characters in crime fiction. There’s Liz’s cousin Colleen, who, due to her untimely death, is now a ghost who delights in popping up at untimely moments; Liz’s mother, who believes that mayhem and heartbreak can be cured by freshening up your lipstick; Liz’s shotgun-toting daddy; her brother, the perpetually perplexed police chief; and last, but certainly not least, Chumley, a drooling basset hound.

Twisted humor has long been a tradition in Southern literature (maybe it’s the heat and humidity), and Boyer delivers it with both barrels. In lesser hands, all the hijinks could be distracting, but not in Lowcountry Boil. Boyer’s voice is so perky that no matter what looney mayhem her characters commit, we happily dive in with them. An original and delightful read.

—Betty Webb

Blogroll: Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

A Very Cozy Christmas: Susan M. Boyer


Let’s welcome Susan M. Boyer, author of Lowcountry Boil.

* * * * *

Our Traditional Christmas Dinner

My husband, Jim, and I are blessed with a large family. The holidays are full, and scheduling a challenge because of all the sub-groups of family. We celebrate Christmas with my side of the family twice—once with immediate and once with extended family. Jim is one of eight siblings, most of whom have taken the “go forth and multiply” thing to heart. You can imagine the crowd. By the time we celebrate Christmas at home with our children, no one wants to look at a turkey or a ham. Over the years, we’ve put together our own traditional Christmas menu.

Using a super-secret process, Jim roasts a beef tenderloin outside in his grill. To keep it company, we make béarnaise sauce, mashed potato casserole, corn pie, green beans, yeast rolls, and a family favorite, tomato pie. The desserts may vary, but there’s always a cheesecake and something chocolate. Jim likes heavier wines than I, so we usually serve both a cabernet and a pinot noir with the meal.

I love this “recipe” for tomato pie because it’s both delicious and versatile. When we first started making it we used ten-inch pie plates. But we’ve discovered it works great in muffin pans for individual servings, and also in bite-sized pastry shells for an appetizer to take to parties. For Christmas the past few years we’ve used the muffin pans, so I guess we’ll call these tomato tarts.

Did you notice how I put the word recipe in quotes above? This is because I never use recipes. I’m one of those cooks who uses a dash of this and a little of that, and probably has never made a dish exactly the same way twice. This stresses my sister-in-law to no end, as she is forever asking me for recipes. I try to give them to her off the top of my head. She measures everything precisely, and gets really nervous when I say things like, “Just put a little in and taste it,” and “It helps if you sip a glass of pinot noir while you cook.”

From the best of my memory, this is how we make tomato tarts. If it isn’t exact, I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell it. This recipe makes 12 individual, muffin-size tarts.

Tomato Tarts
1 large sweet onion
1 stick butter, softened
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar (you can substitute honey)
3 Refrigerated pie crusts (We use Pillsbury, but my grandmother would not approve. If you really want to, you can make them from scratch.)
3 cans fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
2 cups mayonnaise (We use Duke’s, naturally, because it’s a rule in the South. But Hellman’s would work just as well. I can only tell you this because my mamma doesn’t read blogs.)
4 cups shredded 6-cheese Italian blend (We use Sargento Chef’s Blend or Publix house brand.)
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend (We use Emeril’s.)
Sea salt
Black pepper

Step One: Caramelize the onion
1. Thinly slice, then chop the onion
2. Place 3 tablespoons of the butter and the canola oil in a cast iron frying pan and turn on medium-low heat
3. Rotate the pan to mix the butter and oil as the butter melts
4. When the butter is completely melted and blended with the oil, add the onion to the pan.
5. Sprinkle onion with sea salt—don’t ask me how much, just sprinkle some on there.
6. You want the onion soft and an even brown. This will take 20-30 minutes. Stir every few minutes and watch carefully. If it gets too brown, it will be bitter. About half-way in, add the agave nectar or honey.
7. When the onion is caramelized, set aside.

Step Two: Prepare crusts
1. Chill your muffin pans.
2. Flatten and bring crusts to room temperature.
3. Cut circles of crust. My muffin pans have 12 muffin cups, 3” across and 1” deep. Yours may or may not be the same size, but here’s the trick: You need to make circles of crust that are the bottom width plus 2 times the height—in my case, 5” circles. I have a small metal bowl just the right size. I’ve never found a biscuit cutter big enough.
4. Butter the tins and place a strip of parchment paper across each cup that reaches all the up the sides and over the top a bit.
5. Press circles of crust into chilled tins. Form the crusts to the pan, crimping the edges.
6. Refrigerate pan.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step Three: Prepare Filling
1. Mix drained tomatoes, onion, Italian seasoning, and additional sea salt and pepper as desired.
2. Set aside.
3. Mix mayonnaise with cheeses.

Step Four: Assemble and bake
1. Spoon tomato and onion mixture into prepared crusts. Fill about ¾ full.
2. Generously top with mayonnaise mixture. You can use a pastry bag for this if you like. I just spoon mine on. (You may have some topping left over—I never get it to come out exact.)
3. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and continue baking another 10-15 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
5. Use pastry strips to lift tarts from pans and serve.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your holidays are filled with family, love, laughter, and good food.

About Susan M. Boyer

Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, was the 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and an RWA Golden Heart® finalist.
Visit Susan at:


Now for a giveaway. We’re giving away a copy of Lowcountry Boil. To enter:
- complete the form below.
- giveaway ends on December 11, 2012 at midnight.
- giveaway is open international
- winners will be contacted via email


Lowcountry Boil by Susan Boyer – A Review by Cynthia D’Alba

 From the back of the book:  Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer.

She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

I found this book to be a totally charming read. The author’s voice and writing style are cozy-mystery in tone but the protagonist here is a professional private investigator (as opposed to a nosey heroine we find in so many cozies!) [Read more...]

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