Friday, February 15, 2019

Dear Abby - Dog Songs: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

Dear Friends,

Continuing with my dog song series, I am going to get a little creative this week.   "Hounds of Love" by Kate Bush is our featured song this week.   This is NOT a song about dogs, although it does feature "Hounds" in the title.  I have several favorite old songs like this, though, that I would like to share with you during this series.

"Hounds of Love" was the title song from Kate Bush's 1985 album.  (It is my Momma's favorite song from the album.)  This is a song about being afraid to fall in love ... with the image of falling in love being like running from hounds. 

From my pup perspective:  this is a beautiful song, but she sings about being chased by "hounds of love" like that is a bad thing.  I bet those hounds were perfectly delightful!

I'm including the official video for this song here.  It is filmed in an old movie style, and I just learned that it was a homage to the Alfred Hitchcock movie The 39 Steps

Do you remember this song?  What did you think of the music video?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Talk to you next week!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Book Synopsis

1946, Manhattan
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

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My Review
The Lost Girls of Paris begins in New York City in 1946.  Grace Healey is on her way to work, and while passing through Grand Central Station she discovers an abandoned suitcase.  On an impulse she looks inside and finds a folder with photos of women -- just their first names written on the back.  She is determined to find out more about this mysterious folder.  It leads her to the story of Eleanor Trigg, a spymistress during World War II London.  Eleanor recruited young women to work across the continent during World War II.  Although they were ostensibly radio operators, they often did much more dangerous work in secret.   One of those women was Marie Roux.  Her story is also featured here.

This is just a remarkable book.  There are so many layers of storytelling, from 1946 New York to 1944 London and France.  Most impressively, though, Pam Jenoff tells the story from the perspective of three different women:  Grace Healey (New York), Eleanor Trigg (London), and Marie Roux (London and France).

I love historical fiction set in the 1940's, especially during the years of World War II.  I had never heard of Vera Atkins (the inspiration for Eleanor Trigg) or Special Operations Executive (SOE) and their work before this book.  

The characters in The Lost Girls of Paris are beautifully drawn.  I especially found recent widow Grace and young single mother Marie to be very sympathetic, and I read their stories with great interest.  Eleanor was more of a cipher, rarely seen outside of work;  I never was quite as engaged in her story for that reason, although this in no way impacted my interest in this book.

The historical details are subtle but perfect.  The author also does a fine job of sense of place across a variety of different locations and settings.

There was so much that intrigued me about this novel.  What prompted Grace to take the photos and investigate the story?  Why did Marie leave her young daughter impulsively to join SOE?  Who was Eleanor and was she to be trusted?  

I read this book in about 48 hours because I was compelled to know the answers to these questions and to find out what happened to these women.   The Lost Girls of Paris is sure to be one of my favorite reads of the year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for other fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who loves 1940's history.

Author Bio

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.


Connect with Pam

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Book Review - Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron

Book Synopsis
A storied castle. A band of rebels.

A nation chasing a centuries-old dream of freedom.

And three women who rise above it all . . .

When Laine Forrester travels overseas to attend her best friend’s vineyard wedding, she expects to find the bride on the brink of a fairy-tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks, it seems the storybook lives they’d imagined are suddenly ripping apart.

With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending, Laine agrees to accompany the newlyweds to the groom’s home in Ireland—never expecting she’d be the one drawn in by its wide-open moors, backroads bordering the Irish Sea, and a mysterious castle that dares to keep its secrets hidden.

From the storied streets of Dublin to the shores of the Emerald Isle, Laine is drawn in to the land and its rich history. The castle ruins whisper stories of Issy—a photojournalist battling through the 1916 Easter Rising, and Maeve—the castle’s lady of legend, fighting for survival through the 1798 rebellion that started it all.

Spanning more than two centuries, Castle on the Rise unites the legacy of three women who must risk mending the broken places within for life, love, and the belief that even through the depths of our pain, a masterpiece of a story can emerge.

My Review
Castle on the Rise begins with Laine Forrester traveling to her best friend Ellie's wedding in France.  They all travel on to Ireland.  From there the story branches into three storylines:  we have Laine, a newly divorced single mother, in present day;  Issy, a budding photojournalist, in 1916 Ireland;  Maeve, an Irish lady in love with a pirate during the 1798 Irish rebellion. 

This is the second book in the Lost Castle series.  I read the first book last year, and it was one of my favorite books of 2018.  I was so glad to read more about Ellie (from The Lost Castle) in this book, and to continue her story.

There are three Irish stories that comprise this book.  It took me a while to find my footing as a reader, as the storylines switched back and forth on a chapter to chapter basis.  I was most interested in the contemporary storyline of Laine, recovering from a painful divorce and slowly warming to Ellie's brother-in-law Cormac.   I really liked Laine as a protagonist.  She has a background in antiques, as I do, and I found her work researching antiques at the family's castle to be fascinating.   I also loved Cormac as a romantic lead.  He was so quiet and wise.  I marked his line to Laine in the book:  "Funny thing about Dublin -- the rain always stops, just not in the moment we may want it.  So like God.  His plan, His timin'" (p. 176).

Issy's 1916 storyline was also very interesting.  I especially liked the details of early photography, and her fascination with her new Kodak camera, as well as her dedication to chronicle the Easter Rising on film.  I loved this description:  "Issy squeezed the camera case just to feel the leather against her skin.  How she wished to capture the moment -- anything to remind her that the world had so much more to offer than what transpired within the confines of ladies' parlors in County Wicklow" (p. 85).

Maeve's storyline was a little harder for me to get into, although I enjoyed it more as the book went on.  I often read and enjoy dual storyline historical fiction, and perhaps I just found triple storyline fiction a bit of an adjustment.  

Kristy Cambron's descriptions are beautiful.  She has a masterful ability to create a strong sense of time and place.  I loved her description of places in Ireland, and especially loved the castle that figures prominently in this story.  

The storylines all came together in an interesting way -- with some good detective work from Laine and Cormac.  Without spoilers, I will add that I loved the last chapter of the book.

I recommend the Lost Castle series to fans of historical fiction, and especially to readers who want to explore another time and place (and who love mysterious old castles!).  I look forward to reading the third book in this series.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Dear Abby - Dog Songs - "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" by Lobo (1971)

Dear Friends,

I have an oldies song that involves a dog for you today.   It is called "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo."  It's about a young hippie couple who are taking a road trip with their dog named Boo.  They have adventures, including getting stuck in the mud, taking food and working to pay off their debt, and ending up back in Los Angeles, ready to go again.

The lyrics include the chorus:

"Me and you and a dog named Boo 

Travellin' and livin' off the land 
Me and you and a dog named Boo 
How I love being a free man"

This song was a hit in 1971.  It was written and performed by Lobo (real name Kent LaVoie).  Kent LaVoie is originally from Tallahassee, Florida.  He was in a band called The Rumours in the 1960's with Gram Parsons and Jim Stafford.  He also played in a band called the Sugar Beats.  He decided to try a solo career, and recorded under the name Lobo ("the wolf").  "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" was his first hit.  It went to #5 on the charts, and received a gold record.  Lobo had two other 1970's hits - "I'd Love You to Want Me" and "Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend."

I found a video of this song so you can listen.   Have you heard this one before?

I always love to hear from you in the comments.   Wishing you a good weekend!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

Book Synopsis

What can a woman–a mere governess–do against the scourge of slavery?
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston’s quietly held principles oppose those of the Southern Cause–but when forty thousand soldiers converge on the fields of Franklin, Tennessee, the war demands an answer. The Carnton home, where she is governess, is commandeered as a Confederate hospital; and Lizzie must summon fortitude to assist the military doctor with surgeries that determine life or death–even as she fears for the life of Towny, her fiancĂ© and lifelong friend.
A young soldier’s dying words convey an urgent message that Lizzie promises to deliver, yet she knows little more than the boy’s first name. That same night, decorated Mississippi sharpshooter Captain Roland Ward Jones extracts a different promise from Lizzie: that she intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. Even if it costs him his life.
Lizzie is nothing if not a woman of her word, earning the soldiers’ respect as she tends the wounded convalescing within Carnton’s walls. None is more admiring than Captain Jones, who doesn’t realize she is already pledged to another. But Captain Jones holds secrets of his own, which prove costly for Lizzie. Because a betrothed woman shouldn’t harbor feelings for a man other than her intended. Especially not when that man is a slave owner.
When Towny vanishes after a crushing battle in Nashville, Lizzie must confront the costs of war. And torn between love, principles, and promises made, she struggles to be true to her own heart while standing for what she knows is right–no matter the cost.


Purchase Links

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My Review
With This Pledge is set at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee during the Civil War.  Lizzie Clouston is a governess in the house.  When the war moves close to home (the Battle of Franklin), the house becomes a makeshift hospital, and Lizzie is recruited to work as a nurse.  As she takes care of the soldiers she develops a special bond with a sharpshooter from Mississippi named Roland Jones.  She is engaged to another man and deeply conflicted about her feelings.  This novel is Lizzie and Roland's story, but it is also the story of how the war effects the family and community.

Although I am a great fan of historical fiction, I am not really a Civil War buff (despite growing up in Georgia).  For that reason I was surprised at how engrossed I was in this novel.  It is beautifully told with solid historical research.  (After you read the book, be sure to visit Tamera Alexander's website to see photos of the real people and places that inspired this novel!)  

I appreciated how nuanced this book was.  The protagonist, Lizzie, has strong moral beliefs against slavery, but she also feels strongly about taking care of the wounded military men.  I particularly liked Tempy, the family's cook, and Lizzie's warm friendship with her.  I also admired Lizzie's determination to do what was right and her sense of independent thought.  She was a natural with medical care (her father was a pharmacist) and I think at a later time she would have become a doctor.

Lizzie and Roland's story is fascinating, especially because it was based on fact.  The author did a wonderful job at character development in general, and of these two characters in specific.

In some respects, this novel reminded me a bit of the PBS series Mercy Street, especially as it dealt with medical care during the Civil War.  I think that anyone who enjoyed that series will also really love this novel.

I have to add that I loved the way Lizzie and the McGavock family (including the family's young children) reached out to the soldiers to provide comfort and a sense of home during the Christmas season.  There is a storyline about Lizzie reading A Christmas Carol to the soldiers evenings during the holiday season.  The sense of time and place in these scenes is exceptional.

I found With This Pledge utterly fascinating and look forward to reading the upcoming books in the Carnton series.  I also plan to catch up with the author's other series.   Very highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in Civil War history.

Author Bio
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award (two-time winner, seven-time finalist), the RITA Award (two-time winner, four-time finalist), the Carol Award, the Maggie Award, the Booksellers Best Award, and Library Journal’s top distinction, among others. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of Tamera’s two USA Today bestselling Southern series.


Connect with Tamera

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Murder, She Meowed (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery) by Liz Mugavero

Book Synopsis
Kristan “Stan” Connor loves concocting tasty organic treats for dogs and cats—and she also loves her fiancĂ©, pub owner Jake McGee. But she’s not so enthusiastic about finding a dead body at her own bachelorette party . . .

Stan and Jake’s wedding will soon take place on the town green in Frog Ledge, Connecticut, followed by a reception at their beloved Irish pub filled with friends, family, and their four favorite canine companions. Stan just has to endure the traditional girls’ night out first. Male strippers jumping out of gigantic cakes aren’t her preferred entertainment. But the hired hottie never gets around to taking it all off . . . because someone takes him out first with one of Stan’s kitchen knives. A heartbroken Stan recognizes the victim as one of the delivery men from the local farm—who must have been moonlighting for some extra cash. Now the guest list has turned into a suspect list—and Stan’s making a vow to find the killer . . .

Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!

Author Bio
Liz Mugavero has been writing stories since she could hold a pen. Before that, she would tell them to anyone who would listen (not many at the time). After deciding early on she would write books for a living, she practiced by writing bad, angst-filled poems, short stories and even a storyline for a soap opera–all by age 15. She never wavered from her goals despite all the usual questions including, “So are you going to be an English teacher with that degree in English?” or, “That writing thing sounds nice, but how are you REALLY going to make a living?”

She went on to get a master’s in writing and publishing and spent time in journalism, PR, and presently, corporate communications. And she’s confident this writing thing IS the way to make a living.

Aside from writing, she loves animals (has a houseful), the beach, reading other writers’ masterpieces and Starbucks coffee.

Author Links
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Twitter –;
GoodReads –;
Facebook –

Purchase Links
Amazon – B&N  – KoboGoogle PlayIndieBound


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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Novel Art of Murder (Mystery Bookshop) by V.M. Burns

Book Synopsis
Mystery bookstore owner Samantha Washington is trying to keep her grandmother from spending her golden years in an orange jumpsuit . . . 

The small town of North Harbor, Michigan, is just not big enough for the two of them: flamboyant phony Maria Romanov and feisty Nana Jo. The insufferable Maria claims she’s descended from Russian royalty and even had a fling with King Edward VIII back in the day. She’s not just a lousy liar, she’s a bad actress, so when she nabs the lead in the Shady Acres Senior Follies—a part Nana Jo plays every year in their retirement village production—Nana Jo blows a gasket and reads her the riot act in front of everyone.

Of course, when Maria is silenced with a bullet to the head, Nana Jo lands the leading role on the suspects list. Sam’s been writing her newest mystery, set in England between the wars, with her intrepid heroine Lady Daphne drawn into murder and scandal in the household of Winston Churchill. But now she has to prove that Nana Jo’s been framed. With help from her grandmother’s posse of rambunctious retirees, Sam shines a spotlight on Maria’s secrets, hoping to draw the real killer out of the shadows.

Author Bio
V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of  Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at

Author Links:
Twitter:  @vmburns

Purchase Links – Amazon –  Barnes & Noble – IndieBound:  – Books-A-Million –  Hudson Booksellers

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Dear Abby - Dog Songs - "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley (1956)

Dear Friends,

Welcome back!  My dog song today is "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley.  I know this song because it is one my Momma likes ... and of course I like it because it is about a dog.  (A hound dog, no less!)

"Hound Dog" was written by the great songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  This song was originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952.  Elvis Presley first heard the song when he was working in Las Vegas in 1956.  A group called Freddie Bell and the Bellboys did the song onstage, and Elvis thought it was fun.  

When Elvis was asked to appear on The Steve Allen Show, he was talked into singing the song directly to a Basset Hound.  In the video Elvis wears a tuxedo and the hound dog wears a top hat.  Elvis thought this was pretty embarrassing, but to his surprise, the song was a huge hit! 

This is a video of Elvis singing to the Basset Hound.

This song was released as the B-side on the 45 record "Don't Be Cruel."  It went platinum, and was #1 on both R&B and country hit charts.

Here is a video of Elvis singing the song in his own rock and roll style.

What do you think of this song?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

Book Synopsis
From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.


Purchase Links

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My Review
When Ruth Neufeld's husband is killed on a humanitarian mission overseas, she and her young daughters go to stay with her husband's cousin, Elam, in Wisconsin.  Her mother-in-law, Mabel, whose husband was lost during the same mission, stays there as well.  Ruth is surprised when she develops feelings for Elam.  When she learns her husband may not be lost after all, everything changes.

This is my first read by Jolina Petersheim, and I love her writing style.  She writes the most beautiful descriptions, and is wonderful at capturing atmosphere.   This novel is set in a small Mennonite community on a cranberry farm in Wisconsin.  I found everything about this setting new and fascinating, and I loved the details. For instance:

"Elam awoke before the sun and walked out of his house into the fields.  The smell of peat from the cranberry bog rose around him  He thought about all the leaves that had fallen off the ring of silver birches and sifted down through the bog's layers of sand. . . .  The fog rolled in across the land like an opaque carpet.  This subtle transition was Elam's favorite part of morning, when everything was quiet and there was nothing to say or do" (p. 9).

There are some wonderful characterizations in this novel, including Ruth and Mabel, and the way their relationship in many ways mirrors the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi.  Elam was my favorite character.  He is seen as strong but quiet, gentle, and kind.  From his physical description I pictured the Alexander Godunov character in the movie Witness.  There is a triangle of sorts between Elam, Ruth, and Chandler (her husband who was presumed lost for much of the story) and I was firmly on team Elam.  

There are several BIG twists in this storyline.  I won't say more because I don't want to give spoilers.  I was extremely surprised with the final twist, and reread the last chapter of the book for details and nuance.   I am not sure what I think about the twists and the denouement.  I thought the story was going one place (a retelling of Ruth and Naomi, and Ruth and Boaz) and then it went somewhere totally different.   I think this novel would be a very good discussion group book for this reason.  I believe it is a book that will generate many opinions.   I know would love to talk about it in a group setting!

I believe that fans of Christian women's fiction, especially anyone interested in Mennonite life, will enjoy How the Light Gets In.   I especially recommend this book as a group read for a discussion group.

Author Bio
Jolina Petersheim and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s fifth novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.


Connect with Jolina

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Not a Creature Was Stirring (Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery) by Christina Freeburn

Book Synopsis
Empty nester Merry Winters loves three things: Christmas, crafting and her family. To regain purpose and joy, Merry hits the road to a Christmas vendor event with her furry sidekick Ebenezer in her new mobile crafting sleigh, aka an RV.

But it soon turns into the nightmare before Christmas when Merry unwraps her Scrooge of an ex-husband’s body in one of the RV’s compartments. Add to that his missing winning lottery ticket believed to be stashed somewhere in the RV, leading the homicide detective and Merry’s stepdaughter to believe Merry is the one whodunit.

With visions of prison dancing in her head, will Merry be able to solve this Christmas calamity before she’s locked away?

Author Bio

Christina Freeburn has always loved books. There was nothing better than picking up a story and being transported to another place. The love of reading evolved into the love of writing and she’s been writing since her teenage years. Her first novel was a 2003 Library of Virginia Literary Award nominee. Her mysteries series, Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery and Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mysteries, are a mix of crafty and crime and feature heroines whose crafting time is interrupted by crime solving.

Christina served in the US Army and has also worked as a paralegal, librarian, church secretary, and golf shop pro. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid and allergic to felines.

Author Links


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Cover Reveal - A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Book Synopsis
He Needed Peace…

Attorney Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…


Available for Pre-Order

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Author Bio
Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Lost Letter) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.