Bonnie Elizabeth began making up stories and telling them to her black cat, Jet, when she was just a child. Jet, in turn taught that her highest calling was serving cats.

Bonnie has written columns for a cat focused animal shelter newsletter, has blogged as her cat Cheysuli, and written novels and short stories in a variety of genres, many of which feature felines that are far from ordinary.

In addition to writing about cats, Bonnie has volunteered at animal shelters and worked as a veterinary receptionist for over a decade.

Currently, she shares her home with three cats and her husband. She's is at work on the next book in the Familiar Café series, when the cats allow her to use the keyboard.

Unfamiliar Magic by Bonnie Elizabeth

Jade Owlens, owner of Jade's Café, a very special feline familiar café, starts her Tuesday like any other. While she's having tea with Trinity and Natalie, her two best friends, disaster strikes. Police find Trinity's boss dead in the library. Someone bludgeoned him to death.

In no time, the police zero in on Trinity as a suspect and before Jade knows it, her friend is under arrest. With the help of Jade's ginger and white familiar Mason, Jade and Natalie know they have to figure out the identity of the murderer before someone else dies.

CURATOR'S NOTE

Bonnie Elizabeth is my go-to person for advice about cats. She knows more about cats than I have ever learned. Under a different name, she runs a cat-focused website and interacts with all kinds of cat-oriented writers.

I love this cozy mystery series. She has come up with a great way to deal with cat familiars. And because I asked for a paragraph on the story, Bonnie wrote me this:

"Because the bundle is called Cattitude, I'll focus on Mason, though the story is told from Jade's point of view. Mason is a feline familiar who belongs to Jade Owlens. His witch runs Jade's cafe a cat cafe for feline familiars. Mason runs the feline room with a velvet paw. While Jade is running around trying to find out who murdered her best friend's boss, Mason listens to customers and uses feline logic to assist Jade in deducing who the killer might be. Despite Mason's brilliance, Jade (foolish human) has an unexpected encounter with the murderer and it is up to Mason to help her survive using all the magical knowledge he has at his paws."

Magic, cats, mystery. What more could you want? – Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

REVIEWS

  • "The characters intrigue you from the very start, with Mason as the most fascinating of all."

    – Reader review
  • "A Great Weekend Read."

    – Reader review
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Running a cat café, or rather a familiar feline café, in Waverton, Kentucky should have allowed me plenty of time to spend with friends. Coming up on the second anniversary of the opening, I'd learned that wasn't always true. I'd had no idea what I was getting into when I set up my own business, no matter that I had plenty of magic to help me and plenty of friends and family to support me.

My two best friends, Natalie Edgars and Trinity Lyons, always made time to come by the café on Tuesday mornings to have coffee or tea. Like all cat cafés, our cats were in their own space behind a glass wall with several comfortable chairs, a loveseat, and a few tables for the customers who made reservations to spend time with the cats.

In the main area, I had the coffee bar, which like coffee places everywhere didn't just serve coffee. I'd talked to the local coffee shop near City Hall and the drive-through at the edge of town about what they sold the most of, and had decided on a variety of coffees, teas, and pastries. I closed sharply at 5:30. I wasn't terribly busy after four but the later hours allowed witches who wanted to visit with a potential familiar time to visit after work.

I managed the place with six employees, all part-time except for Greg who was just recently out of high school and trying to determine what he wanted to do.

That Tuesday morning, while I was on my extra-long coffee break, Greg was serving coffees along with Cade, one of my part-timers. Cade mostly covered Tuesday mornings so I could take the long break.

The coffee bar is off to the left of the room, all dark scratched wood, which had been part of the original building. Once upon a time, this place had been a tavern. The cats took up the pool room area which had always been sectioned off, so it was easy to put in the glass divider. While familiars were far more likely to remain in a set area, the health departments don't know that. In the same way, humans looked at me and saw an ordinary young businesswoman and not a witch. We keep our secrets.

The mayor loved the café because it brought in business and I have a thank-you paw print plaque on the wall near the door with my name, Jade Owlens, on it. It all looks quite normal, even if our little town in Kentucky is anything but ordinary.

Waverton is the place to go in the United States if you need a familiar or have an issue with yours. The Waverton Specialty Library holds about every book written on the subject of familiars and familiar medicine. Our three vets specialize in the problems common among familiars, from cats to horses to the occasional wild creature who is endowed with magic. We even have a college if you want to take classes and get a specialty in familiars.

We have multiple breeders, and our familiars are known world-wide. I might be from a small town in Central Kentucky, just a bit southwest of London, but I'd met folks from all over the world and even spoke four different languages—at least well enough to serve them the right coffee or tea.

I studied to be a veterinary technician right here at the college in Waverton. It's one of the most exclusive programs around. Lots of magical vet techs come here for the three-month continuing education program about working with familiars. We have several tracks for those who want to specialize. Naturally, while I was studying there, I focused on cats.

Mason, my large ginger and white bicolor male rules the roost over in the cat area of the café and keeps everyone in line. Some of the new familiars don't always get the routine, particularly not when there are ordinary folks just visiting. Mason always makes sure that all the cats are put in a position to show off their best qualities.

Sometimes I get inquiries from ordinary folks about adopting a certain familiar. Mason and I discuss the pros and cons with the cat. Some familiars say they're open to a non-magical home—it's kind of a retirement. Mostly, though, I end up sharing with the person inquiring that the cat has already been adopted out.

I've had to have my friend Natalie come in now and then to erase a memory if that person comes back and the cat hasn't been adopted. I try to stay up on things, but every now and then Mason and I get busy and it gets missed. Natalie is far better at interpersonal work like erasing memories than I am.

At any rate, that Tuesday, I was having my break from serving coffees and teas and eating a pastry with Natalie, who in addition to erasing memories, runs the hotel at the edge of town, and Trinity, my other best friend, who works for the specialty library.

Of everyone I knew, Trinity had seemed the most unsuited to library work. She'd tended towards wildness, rebelling against authority at every opportunity. She loved being outside. Everyone expected she'd go to work at one of the farms that raised horse familiars.

Natalie is tall and blonde and has the build and harsh cheekbones suggestive of a Nordic goddess. She's outgoing and funny. She loves people, loves entertaining, and loves making sure people have a good time. The hotel is absolutely perfect for her. Her family has run it forever and she's just the latest in a long line of great hoteliers in our little town.

Trinity has dark hair and her skin is a few shades darker than either Natalie's or mine with large round eyes. Her features are softly molded as a clay sculpture. Her skin holds a softness to die for. She's quieter than Natalie, often preferring to be outside in her own company than chatting with everyone. The two of them are opposites.

I fell somewhere in the middle, though of everyone, I tend to be the most timid. I like to think I'm the peacemaker, but I could be wrong.

That morning, we had all chosen to have tea. Sometimes I have to have a latte and Natalie gets a craving for mochas now and then. Trinity loves our chai, so that's a staple for her. Today, in deference to the heat that spilling out over the state, she had it iced. It had sounded good to me so I made the same for myself. Natalie ordered a hot green tea.

Trinity and I each had a fresh-baked scone delivered from Olivia's just around the corner. That day we'd gotten thumb-print jelly scones as well as scones made with fresh peaches, and the ever-popular blueberry scones. Personally, I love the peach scones with lemon frosting. They are to die for.

"I swear Eric Boyd is going to fire me one of these days," Trinity said as she sipped her chai. She'd barely taken a bite of her blueberry scone. I smelled it from where I was sitting, the warm blueberries giving off their own scent amongst the aromas of coffee and teas. I tapped out a light beat with the instrumental music in the background.

We sat at one of the tables towards the far end of the café. If I was too visible, my employees would defer to me about decisions I wanted them to learn to make themselves, so I hid back there, in the corner on the bench that runs along that part of the wall, serving three two-top tables. Naturally, we'd pushed two of the tables together, but those two are almost always pushed together by someone.

The room held six other four-top rustic brown tables all with chairs. The bench and the chairs were all upholstered in red fabric with black and white cats on it. I'd have liked more feline variety but I'd not been able to find what I was looking for on a nice bright color like red. I also had blinds done in the same fabric. For most people, this would have been a huge expense, but my sister's magic comes from sewing and she was more than happy to make up the blinds so long as I got the fabric. She made sure I got a good deal on the cloth, too.

Her ability was lucky for me because I didn't just have blinds for the windows to the outside, but for the big wall of windows that separated the cat part of the café from the human part. Sometimes the cats needed their privacy from people. This morning, though, I had four people from out of town, all ordinary folks, enjoying some coffee with the cats. I noticed Mason had enticed Jelliane, an elderly calico to sit on a woman's lap. Good. Jelliane had been terribly depressed at the loss of her witch and she was finally starting to come out of her shell.

I shifted my feet against the dark tile floor as I listened to Trinity talk about Eric. I glanced at the walls, which were rustic wood with images of famous familiars from the town. The witches who came in often recognized some of the familiars pictured, cats or not and the ordinary folks who joined us just enjoyed the animal images.

"What happened this time?" Natalie asked. Natalie didn't understand why Trinity put up with Eric. Natalie had only ever worked for her family, starting out in housekeeping and working her way through all the positions available in a hotel. After she graduated with her business degree in hotel management in North Carolina she'd started working in management. Now she was pretty much running the place while her parents took all the trips they had always dreamed of doing.

"A book was missing from the archives," Trinity said. "It was Ezekiel Johnston's book on non-magical familiars." Trinity frowned. I did too. Familiars by nature, are magical. To have a non-magical familiar was merely a pet. If the book was kept in the archives, chances were it involved someone giving magic to an ordinary cat. A shiver went down my spine. Chances were that involved negative magic.

"Why is that your fault?" Natalie asked. I knew the rest of the conversation would be Natalie giving Trinity items to prove she'd not taken or misplaced the book. I knew Eric, though, and he wasn't the sort to listen once he made up his mind. Talk about a bad boss. I felt for Trinity. I understood that Natalie's actions were the result of her caring, but she didn't understand.

"Because I was the last one in there. I shelved a completely different book after someone asked for it from the archives." Trinity picked up her heavy cream-colored mug of chai and set it down without taking a sip. "He says he didn't let anyone else in so it had to be me. Except it wasn't. This isn't the first time he's been all over me for books that have gone missing."

Trinity was in charge of the circulation desk and she took her job seriously. She sent out fines when required. She searched out missing books. However, if Eric couldn't find something the moment he wanted it, he immediately blamed her. Even if the book was sitting on a cart waiting for one of the pages to shelve, he'd blame Trinity for the book not being back on the shelf immediately.

As the front desk person and the head library assistant, a title just below Eric's own, Trinity was only required to shelve books in the archives, where the pages weren't allowed. Some books weren't meant to be read by just anyone.

Eric was a jerk. Aunt Sharine had gone to school with him and she'd said he'd been a pompous ass back then, too.

"I think you do need to start documenting your side of these accusations," I said. "Eric may be head librarian but there is a board. And the city hires the specialty library workers. Think about it. They could make sure you got another job elsewhere in the city and then you wouldn't even lose your seniority. Besides, even if it doesn't help you, it might help the next person."

My mother had often told me that when I complained about something, I probably wasn't the only one complaining. Not everyone will step forward, so I ought to do so. Even if nothing happened, the next time someone else complained, the people in charge might listen. I didn't know if that was true, but it both supported Trinity in her belief that saying something would do nothing, but it also didn't alienate Natalie and get everyone in a huff.

This was, after all, my relaxation time and I meant to use it to enjoy my friends. If that meant I listened to Trinity's troubles, then I listened. But I did not want to end up in a fight.

"That's a good point," Natalie said, seizing on my idea. "You really do need to say something."

That's not exactly what I said. I had said Trinity needed to document things.

The bell over our door rang and I looked up to see Tom Alsez, one of Waverton's police officers, come in. He was in his full black uniform and sweat was already starting to bead on his hairline. Tom was stocky and solid and good-looking in an earthy way. My sister Julia had gone out on a few dates with him and really enjoyed his company. That was about all I knew about him, which always threw me.

Tom hadn't grown up in Waverton like so many of us.

I waved. It was always good to make sure the police know you support them when you run a business. Tom waved back. That distracted Natalie who also gave him a wave and a big smile.

For Natalie, that isn't flirting. That's just being herself. I know it can drive other women insane thinking she's interested in their partners, but she's not. I knew for a fact that she found Tom a bit annoying. Like most men, he'd definitely noticed Natalie and they'd had a few lunch dates but, to my sister's good fortune, things hadn't exactly clicked.

Trinity looked over and gave Tom a small wave as well. Tom nodded at everyone and continued to wait to get his order in. I felt a bit guilty that my employees weren't working as fast as I'd like, or so it seemed, but I wasn't giving up this particular break.

While I keep low instrumental music on in the café, something that pleases the felines, I still heard the static of his radio when he got a call.

So did Trinity and Natalie. We both looked over as he answered the call, his expression turning serious. Normally, not much happens in Waverton, but clearly, this wasn't a normal day.

Mason yowled from the feline section. I pushed Natalie's chair out of the way as I rose from the bench to find out what was going on. Through the glass, I noted that none of the ordinary people visiting had moved. The older woman with Jelliane on her lap was still there, petting the calico.

Mason was on his favorite perch near the ceiling but he wasn't laying comfortably. He was standing up, looking from cat to cat.

Jelliane had her eyes closed and her ears flattened as if she wasn't at all comfortable with what she was hearing.

I slipped into the room and headed over to Mason who leaped down into my arms. He rarely does that. The shelf is high, barely in my reach and Mason isn't a small cat.

Once there, once we were touching, I let my mind touch his.

"What's going on?" I asked him telepathically. Not all witches can communicate quite as easily with their familiars, but I had a knack, particularly with Mason.

"I felt the presence of an angry, displaced spirit," Mason said. "He had a familiar feel as if he's been here before. I believe someone in town has died an unnatural death."

I rubbed his fur, which was standing on edge, to calm him, even as an unsettling chill crept down my back. Mason's term of unnatural death no doubt meant someone had been murdered. Right here in Waverton.