When a serious bout of writer’s block threatens to delay mystery author Drew Daniels’s newest book, his aunt offers her New Orleans apartment in the heart of the French Quarter as a writing retreat. She neglects to mention that it’s occupied by the enigmatic and sexy Finn Murphy, a cemetery tour guide with a penchant for Victorian attire and a Cajun accent.
A body discovered in an open crypt forces reclusive Drew to deal with Finn’s eccentric group of friends and his underlying attraction to the hot Cajun—despite warnings about Finn’s violent past. Drew might write this stuff, but he’s never had to solve a real-life murder. With a deadline looming and a killer on the loose, this retreat is proving to be anything but helpful for Drew’s novel. Drew can only hope he won’t end up a tragic tale for the Ghostly Legends & Lore, Inc. haunted tour.
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Good Friends Bar housed the Queen’s Head Pub upstairs. Guys were everywhere, women few and far between. A gay bar? Were Finn’s friends gay? At least I knew Finn and his girlfriend were cool with it. The lower floor was packed, and though there was a definite vintage charm with the classic wood bar and decor, the neon, jukebox, and modern touches made it a much more contemporary spot. I hesitantly returned the smiles of a couple of guys on my way to the stairway, eager to find a familiar face. The unwanted attention got me thinking again about my hasty decision to go out.
I took a deep, clarifying breath as I emerged onto the top floor. What a difference up here. There were a lot of men, but the vibe was more relaxed and homey. Not to mention, Victorian. Chandeliers and wall sconces gave off a warm, soft light, and tin ceilings reflected the glow. The wallpaper and artwork replicated Victorian design and images. I moved around the bar toward the balcony, noticing the etched glass above the bar casting a curious pattern of light and shadow around the place.
The men and few women were more eclectic than anything else, dressed from completely casual to tuxes and ball gowns. Crossing into the far room, I saw Finn leaning on the bar. Relief washed over me. He was talking to an attractive bartender. I rolled my shoulders and walked over. He turned my way with a dazzling smile that hit me right in the sternum. Wow….
“You made it,” he said, straightening up.
“Couldn’t sleep. I guess I’m too wired from the trip.”
“How about a drink?” He had already grabbed two from the bartender. “Pete, the gentleman will have….” He gestured to me.
“A club soda with lime, please.”
Finn’s brow furrowed. “Nothing stronger?”
I shook my head. “I don’t drink.”
“À chacun son goût,” Finn replied, with the shake of his head.
The bartender laughed and pulled out a glass to fix my soda. “He said, ‘to each his own.’ He forgets we don’t all understand French.”
Finn blushed. “Excuse-moi.”
“That, I understood.” I chuckled. “No need to apologize. Why not let me pay for—”
“Non! My treat. Now help me carry these over to our table in the corner.”
I huffed as Pete handed me the soda, and Finn placed what looked to be an old-fashioned in my other hand. Finn held a whiskey and something in a highball glass I didn’t recognize. My dad had been a bartender before he went into law enforcement, so I had grown up around alcohol and fancy drinks. I knew more about cocktails than any sober person should, and the irony of that wasn’t lost on me. I used to indulge, but after the marijuana, it was too dangerous a combination.
I followed Finn to a love seat in the back of the room, where two memorable faces greeted us. Finn handed the whiskey to a black man dressed in cloth robes and necklaces made of twine and… bones? White and black paint smeared around the edges of his face as if he’d wiped off the rest of the makeup.
“Drew Daniels, meet Lemaitre Peyroux and Rozalie Eynaut.” Finn handed the highball glass to the woman I recognized from the photo on the refrigerator. Finn’s girlfriend. She wore her hair long and thick and large hoop earrings. Her violet eyes were even more vibrant in person, absolutely stunning against her mocha complexion. She smiled and her entire face lit up the room. I could see why her beauty would entrance Finn. She also had a huge bosom that nearly spilled out of her peasant top, and a slim waist, accentuated by her lengthy skirt.
Seeing as I had my hands full with drinks, I nodded to both Lemaitre and Rozalie. “Nice to meet you.”
Lemaitre nodded back and raised his glass. Finn took his old-fashioned from me, brushing my hand in the process, a jolt of electricity shooting up my arm. I blinked at him as he raised his glass, but apparently he didn’t feel a thing.
“To new friends,” Lemaitre said in a deep baritone voice, and we all repeated the phrase.
“We’ve heard so much about you, Drew,” Rozalie said, her lashes fluttering against her cheeks. She’d already heard about me? And did Finn just glare at her?
“I… um… told them about your writing,” Finn said to me, biting his lip like he was nervous. Odd.
“You write mysteries?” Roz asked, doing a horrible job of hiding a smile.
I nodded. Celia must have mentioned that. “Mostly crime fiction, specifically noir. I’ve been writing for about six years now, but only recently has it made enough money for me to write full-time.”
“That’s wonderful,” Roz replied. “Right, Finn?”
He turned away for a moment as if his attention was elsewhere. “Quoi?”
She laughed and Lemaitre shook his head. “Nothing.”
I must be missing something. Was this some private joke? Or were they making fun of me? I went to pull out my wallet. I wanted to settle up with Finn so I could leave after I finished my drink. This was obviously a mistake. I was kidding myself thinking I could be social. “How much do I owe you for the drink?”
He put his hand on my wrist. “I already told you, mon cadeau. It’s the least I can do.”
I didn’t get him. But one look into his gray eyes had me forgetting why I wanted to leave in the first place. “I was the one who barged into your home, remember?”
“It’s not your fault, and now Celia and I have sabotaged your writing retreat.”
He hadn’t removed his hand from my wrist, and I hoped he hadn’t noticed.
“It’ll be fine with your hours. I should be buying you drinks for allowing me to stay.”
“You complimented my gumbo. Ça c’est bon,” he said and winked.
“My God! Get a room already, will you?” A slick voice came from behind. If it was possible to hear eyes roll, I just did.
Release Date: January 18, 2017
Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33397667-cemeteries-by-moonlight
Review by Elaine White
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 108
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 1st person, one character
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Murder
As my first book by this author – and my first of the States of Love Collection – I was instantly convinced it would be fantastic because it contained all of my favourite things – MM romance, writer’s block, New Orleans, a murder mystery and ghost tours. I was instantly taken back to history books I’ve read about Edinburgh ghost tours and was thrilled to explore the haunting and so mysterious New Orleans in a similar way.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The first line, mentioning Hitchcock’s Birds, had me hooked. I’m terrified of birds, but I love to watch them from afar, so the constant appearance of Marie the crow really freaked me out. It didn’t help that while I was reading this spooky story all about ghosts and New Orleans Voodoo, I kept hearing unexplained noises in the house. So, thanks for that Frost. I nearly died of fright!
But, saying that, I can only admit that this would never have happened with a poorly written story. The way Frost writes is magnificent. Without going overboard into description, detail or labeling every item, colour and possible one-inch mark of location for the scenery, I still felt completely drawn in. The attention to detail was perfectly balanced with believable storyline, strong, relatable characters and a subtlety that allowed me to create my own image of what New Orleans looked like, without feeling like I’d implanted an image of some caricature in its place. The feeling the words instilled were authentic New Orleans and, I’ll admit, I even read the French, Cajun and Creole in a French accent.
I can’t say I was shocked – nor can I say I wasn’t disappointed – when the strongest, most interesting female of the story was killed, but it was a great piece of writing that still made it feel like a shock, even though I’d anticipated it. (If you read the book, you’ll know when I first suspected it.)
The inclusion of our MC, Drew, having Tourette Syndrome was a really nice portrayal of the struggle and coping mechanisms of someone with the syndrome. It was both sympathetic, authentic and didn’t make a mockery of Tourette’s, even by accident. The syndrome was explained, controlled and explored well throughout the story, though it didn’t need to become some third main character to show how severely it affected Drew. His control of the condition was subtle, like so many more important details.
I loved the addition of Voodoo, even when it was only mentioned in passing. With the practice being so commonly associated with New Orleans, it would have felt wrong to avoid it entirely, but it was nice to see that it didn’t take the front seat, with a paranormal twist, like so many of the New Orleans stories I’ve read in the past. Though the story was based in New Orleans, it managed to avoid the hazardous pitfalls of the stereotypes, while exploring the genuine underbelly of its history.
Also, don’t be put off by the French. It’s usually always explained and the one time it isn’t, it was pretty easy for me to guess what it meant (with only rudimentary, and not well retained, high school French lessons). But, if you really want to know, highlight that one quote, Google it and squee like a little girl, like I did when you realise just what it means.
Overall, I could rave about this book forever, but it’s probably better that you just go and read it for yourself. It’s got murder, intrigue, chemistry off the charts, humour and still manages to handle some pretty serious topics.
There was more heat, action and passion in this story of 108 pages than I’ve read in books three times its size. If you’re looking for a satisfying page-turner, look no further. You found it.
“The sympathetic look on his handsome face made my gut clench. I wanted to smack him and kiss him all at once for caring about my failings as a writer.”
“It’s a shame he’s adorable. It would be easy to say no to anyone else. I had just met the guy and he had me under his thumb with those pretty eyes and sexy accent.
And he did bring my beignets.”
“I couldn’t believe how smitten I was over a hot, straight, Victorian-dressed man with a penchant for the paranormal.”
“The way Finn’s eyes brightened, like the sun breaking through cloudy skies, had to be the sexiest thing
Meet Hunter Frost
Hunter’s early addiction to the smell of printed books led her to spend most of her childhood in libraries and bookstores. There she fell in love with stories featuring medieval castles, ghosts, and handsome heroes. Though writing has always been a part of her life, after college she went on to explore careers in graphic design, the culinary arts, and dog grooming before returning to graduate school to get her MA in British history. To pay the bills she spends her days working for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but to appease her overactive muse, she writes the kind of fiction that keeps her sane. She adores romance in all forms, but prefers her stories with two heroes that find their happily-ever-after with each other.
Hunter would rather watch Spaceballs (or any Mel Brooks movies really), despite being born in the same year as Star Wars. She loves Monty Python, MST3K, and cheesy rom-coms from the ’80s and ’90s. Her wacky sense of humor is only paralleled by her hopeless romanticism. She’s a goth at heart and a sucker for men with long hair. She adores everything British, but insists tea be drunk without milk. She’s a pescetarian with vegan tendencies and has two fat little cats named after her favorite beverage – Latte and Java. She dreams of coastal living, marshmallows, and Matt Bomer.
Feel free to connect with her through any of her social media accounts, or send her an email. She welcomes messages from readers and/or Brits looking to adopt.