I'm happy to welcome Maggie Robinson back to the Word Wenches! Today's blog is not a suggested mental exercise, but the title of her new book, Just Make Believe, third in her delightful Lady Adelaide historical mystery series. I've been hooked since she mentioned the first Lady Adelaide story to me: Nobody's Sweetheart Now.
Set in the 1920s, the series features Lady Adelaide, the wealthy widow of a philandering war hero, a handsome Detective Inspector who is a half Indian–and Rupert, ghost of Addie's late husband who is trying to work his way into heaven by doing good deeds. He has an annoying tendency to drift into her bedchamber while she's dressing and criticize her choices of costume. <G>
MJP: Maggie, can you tell us more about the series and what you had in mind when you created it?
MR: During my misspent childhood, I watched a lot of old black and white movies–Blithe Spirit, Topper, The Thin Man, etc. Somehow they all got mixed up and resulted in the Lady Adelaide series, LOL. Naughty ghostly Rupert is the perfect foil for noble upstanding Dev, and I very much enjoyed bringing him to life, so to speak. He gets his chance to redeem himself for his misdeeds through witty banter and sneaky derring-do, and Addie gets her chance to move on.
MJP: Now tell us about Just Make Believe!
MR: Addie has been invited to a country house party, but finds it rather difficult to have fun when bodies begin turning up everywhere. Something is very much awry at Fernald Hall; however, she happens to know a dishy Anglo-Indian Scotland Yard detective who's as smart as he is good-looking.
MJP: The story is set at a week long country house party. There are horses. <G> Care to expand on that?
MR: Ha! Horses. I went to a dude ranch once, and discovered I am not a natural horsewoman. Years later, I went down the Grand Canyon path on a mule. Still not a natural. I was absolutely terrified, and missed most of the scenery because my eyes were closed or awash with sweat.
Now, mules aren't fancy Irish horses, but one has to mine what little one knows. In my case, the head of the expedition kept making us turn the mules' heads over the edge so they could see down…down…down to remind them where they were, since he swore mules were not suicidal. All I know is that I barely survived and had to throw my clothes away afterward because they smelled atrocious. I have not been atop anything else since!
MJP: I'm not sure, but are all the book titles taken from 1920s songs? If so, care to comment?
MR: The 20s were an absolute Golden Age for music. Of course jazz comes to mind first, but there are so many songs we think of as old standards that came to fame in the era. The books were inspired not only by the song titles but the lyrics. In the case of Just Make Believe, nothing is as it seems, and it's up to Addie, Dev, and Rupert to reveal the truth.
There are times when you feel sad and blue
Something's wrong, you don't know what to do
When you feel that way, stop and think awhile
Just make believe and smile
MJP: Could you give us an excerpt as a taste of the book?
MR: The whole first chapter is here. But here's a favorite snippet:
She washed and rinsed her hair, then rose from the steaming tub and wrapped herself up in a crisp white linen bath sheet. A shaft of golden sunlight poured through the open bathroom window, and she sat in it, basking like a cat on the seat cushion, rubbing her hair dry and combing through the tangles.
“Damn. You’ve gone and done it, haven’t you? I didn’t notice earlier, what with having to cushion the blow and all and save your bottom. You cut off all your glorious hair. What a shame.”
Addie yipped and dropped the comb to the tiled floor. Rupert perched on the edge of the recently-vacated tub, trailing a finger in the scented water. The cheek of him! Couldn’t he respect her privacy? She wasn’t his wife anymore.
She rose, pulled the chain on the plug, and stood over him. Her tone was frigid. “I hoped you were done with me today. And every other day.” She’d prayed it was so on Sundays and all the days of the week ending with ‘y.’
“Believe me, so did I. What a bore. How many good deeds must I perform? I must confess, it’s a cracking disappointment to be back in Old Blighty after our last adventure. But what can one do in this tenuous position but go along with a smile? Make the best of it, eh? It’s not as if one belongs to a union and can go on strike. One cannot argue with this Boss. I wonder who’s about to get the chop,” Rupert said, sounding altogether too cheerful.
Addie sighed and sat back down. He was always as vague as a charlatan clairvoyant. Allegedly never fully privy to the details, he once described his role like receiving a radio broadcast that was continuously interrupted. So it was up to Addie to put the pieces together. Yet he managed to ferret out helpful facts during their murder investigations…through somewhat underhanded means.
“Rupert! Have you no sense of decency?”
“Probably not much. You know me better than anyone.”
MR: Farewell Blues is the fourth and final (sob) book in the series, and will be released in the summer of 2021. Rupert was getting anxious to earn his celestial wings, and as a lapsed romance writer, I needed to give everyone their happy ending. But I've never had so much fun writing anything, and I will miss these characters dreadfully.
MJP: Thanks so much for visiting the Word Wenches, Maggie. I'm looking forward to the next book! Will you be giving away a copy of Just Make Believe to someone who comments on the blog between now and Tuesday night?
MR: Yes! I have trade paperbacks of all three books in the series, and the commenter can choose an earlier one if they'd rather start at the beginning (or any book from my backlist, which can be found here.
My question: what song "speaks" to you? My favorite is still the Beatles' I Saw Her Standing There!