Hey there, Launching Fireworks in France last week made for a busy week but by the time you read this, I will have had a few days off during which I hope to have read several books.

I've been delighted with the reception Fireworks in France received. One of my favorite comments from reviewers was “not your average cozy.” Annabelle would love that.

Today, I've got the third and final extract from the book and announcement of a new Annabelle box set.

Fireworks in France

Chapter Three

(Read Chapter One here)

(Read Chapter Two here)

MIKE NICHOLLS BROUGHT out his best pair of shoes from the closet and took them to his kitchen where he had laid out newspaper, a cloth, a brush, and black polish. He dabbed the cloth into the polish and started to apply it. It was Annabelle’s big day, and while not much of a churchgoer himself, he wanted to support her as best he could.

As he pushed the polish into the leather, his fingers working in small circles, he thought about how his life had changed since he had met Annabelle. Fifteen years of police work that put him in direct contact, and often confrontation, with the most nefarious and duplicitous of society had given Mike an emotional spectrum that was limited and distinctly dark. Anger, frustration, disappointment, and dismay came easily to him—the best he could usually hope for being the brief sense of relief he felt when justice was served. For years, he had found it impossible to smile without feeling a tinge of sadness, laughter felt bittersweet, and he certainly had neither the time nor the inclination for silly jokes and trivial chatter. He was not a man accustomed to expressing joy.

So when he and Reverend Annabelle had begun walking their dogs together on Sunday afternoons—in the hours after her morning service and before Evensong—he felt as if it were a form of therapy. It was hard to remain gruff and cynical among the vibrant greens and somber browns of the Cornish countryside as the pleasing colors of the summer sunsets struck them with awe. When autumn came around and the days began to shorten, it was impossible for him not to beam with genuine pleasure as the lovely vicar’s cheerful laughter pealed through the still, crisp air. By the time winter’s cold snaps sharpened their pace, Annabelle had become a radiant presence in the inspector’s life. She was like an electrical charge crackling with positive energy, and he was never more than a short glance away from an easy, comforting smile. The concerns and worries that plagued his thoughts—always on his work—seemed to melt away when he was with her. Her jovial manner and easy-going nature relaxed him, and for the first time in years, Mike found himself smiling and laughing like the young boy he had once been. And he simply could not keep a detached, apprehensive attitude when both of their young dogs were chasing and wrestling each other so playfully around them.

Annabelle and Mike’s relationship had evolved slowly and gently. Mike had come across Annabelle many times in the course of his investigations, and although at first her propensity for getting in the middle of things had irritated his sense of proper police procedure, he had quickly realized that she was marvelously talented at getting to the bottom of things. Her sense of justice—albeit from a more pious source—was as ferocious as his own, yet she managed to unearth truths and right wrongs with a delicate, sympathetic hand. It had been a revelation to him that being able to act on strong principles while feeling a sense of deep compassion was possible, but over time, Mike saw that this was one of the most important lessons Annabelle had taught him. It was a lesson that made him a better detective, a better man, a better person. Though he was loathe to admit it in these terms, Annabelle had been good for his soul.

When they had met, the inspector had been deep in the throes of a contentious divorce, losing his beloved dog in the process. Thanks to his workload and his closed-off attitude, he hadn’t noticed Annabelle’s sincere—if somewhat clumsy—flirtations. Had one ever tickled the edges of his consciousness, he had deflected it with an angry swat. Yet, in the face of his determined grumpiness, Annabelle had been as dogged. It was she, recognizing a need in him, who had convinced him to take one of the pups she had rescued—the dog he was now impossibly attached to. He had been unable to resist Molly and with her entrance into his life, warm, tender feelings, feelings that had been long buried, started into being, giving him an outlook that was much more positive and optimistic. Annabelle had adopted one of Molly’s brothers and as they schooled and enjoyed their dogs together, their relationship had matured. Now he came to think of it, as their dogs had grown, so had his and Annabelle’s love for each other. Mike stopped polishing for a moment and tapped his temple. That was a profound thought, that was.

The shoes now matte with polish needed buffing. Mike stuck his hand inside one to get to work. He picked up a large soft brush, feeling the broad back of it against his palm as he prepared to put some effort in. He crisscrossed his shoe with quick, broad, soft brush strokes. The leather began to shine. When he was satisfied with the strength of the gleam he saw bouncing off the toe, he turned to the second shoe.

Mike now realized that Annabelle wasn’t the enthusiastic proponent of gullible naïveté or unfounded faith that he had once thought, but rather someone who held deep, sincere beliefs about the fundamental goodness in people, and who, when that goodness did not readily spring forth, sought to understand instead of condemn. It was Annabelle’s willingness to look beneath the surface that had helped him solve particularly difficult cases, ones that he nearly let slip through his fingers because of his tendency toward cynicism and mistrust. For that, he felt deeply indebted to her professionally, but he was also wildly impressed personally. Annabelle was a formidable woman. She was loyal, intelligent, and compassionate. Once they had overcome their mutual awkwardness, they had slipped into a relationship with the kind of easy contentment that made it seem strange that they had waited so long.

The shoes, now clean and shiny, sat side by side on the kitchen table, uniform and bright, the sight of them satisfying to a man like Mike who enjoyed order and routine. He went outside to get his walking boots and threw them into his car, along with his warm jacket. He whistled for Molly who was stretched out on her bed, and she came immediately. Mike bent down to scratch her head. “Right girl, time for the best part of the week. Are you ready?” Molly gave a little bark. She knew exactly what was up. She was ready. They both were.

You can get Fireworks in France here.

It is available on Kindle, in paperback or via Kindle Unlimited.

 

The Reverend Annabelle Dixon Cozy Mysteries, Books 5-7

For those who are still early into the series, I have brought out a box set that comprises the fifth, sixth, and seventh books in the Annabelle series.

The books in the set are:

Horror in the Highlands

Killer at the Cult

Fireworks in France

You can get the box set here.

It is available on Kindle, in paperback or via Kindle Unlimited.

Finally…

I am seeing over on my Facebook page that a lot of you are receiving your vaccinations. I hope that means that the world is opening up a little for you. Spring is in the air, Easter is nearly here, and good times are a-coming. Fingers crossed.

Happy reading!

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