Hot flashes, aching joints, and visions of murder. For Nora Black, this midlife mystery is just beginning..."
Renee George is a USA Today Bestselling Author who combines her passion for whodunit puzzles and supernatural lore by writing paranormal mysteries and romances. Magic & Mystery is the first project I've worked on with Renee, and I am looking forward to many more. Her eye-catching covers initially caught my attention, but when I dug deeper, her engaging prose made me a believer.
Paranormal Women's Fiction is a relatively new but breakthrough genre that enjoys growing popularity as readers discover it. Nora Black, the fifty-one-years young heroine of Scents & Scent Ability, is a small business owner and an amateur sleuth. She has a psychic nose that she puts to good use, literally sniffing out clues. It's a race against time to catch a killer and clear her best friend's name of murder.
Scents & Scent Ability is the first of five books in the A Nora Black Midlife Psychic Mystery series. – Melissa Snark
"Sense and Scent Ability by Renee George is a delightfully funny, smart, full of excitement, up-all-night fantastic read! I couldn't put it down. The latest installment in the Paranormal Women's Fiction movement, knocks it out of the park. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy today!"– Robyn Peterman, NYT Bestselling Author
"I'm loving the Paranormal Women's Fiction genre! Renee George's humor shines when a woman of a certain age sniffs out the bad guy and saves her bestie. Funny, strong female friendships rule!"– Michelle M. Pillow, NYT & USAT Bestselling Author
"I smell a winner with Renee George's new book, Sense & Scent Ability! The heroine proves that being over fifty doesn't have to stink, even if her psychic visions do."– Mandy M. Roth, NYT Bestselling Author
The stringent scent of tea tree oil combined with the smoother notes of jasmine was a welcome relief as I stirred the essential and perfumed oils into a large pan of melted glycerin. I inhaled deeply, trying to calm my nerves.
Last night's scratch-and-sniff vision featuring Lloyd the douchebag had really freaked me out. I'd wanted to tell the patrol officers about it, but what could I have said without sounding certifiably insane? Oh, and by the way, Lloyd might have strangled a woman sometime in the past. What does she look like? Red hair. Face, blurry. Eyes, blurry. Any distinguishable marks? You mean other than blurry?
Yeah. Sure. I could totally see my accusation getting the serious attention it deserved. And honestly, I wasn't sure if what I'd seen was real or an overactive imagination.
I waved my hand over the pot, inhaling the calming scents again. Right now, I just wanted to surround myself with delightful smells that wouldn't instigate murderous memories.
Pippa Davenport, my one employee, poked her head into the workshop. "Nora? Why are you hiding out in the kitchen?"
"It's not the kitchen, Pips." I waved my hand around. "No food is prepared here."
Pippa was a thirty-something blonde, willowy, and fine-boned. She was one of the most loyal people I've ever had the privilege of working with. I'd hired her as my personal assistant when I had been the regional sales manager for one of the top beauty suppliers in the country.
After my mom died, I'd used some of my savings to buy Tidwell's Diner and turned it into Scents & Scentsability, a shop that specialized in homemade luxury bath and body soaps, lotions, and oils. When I was nearly ready to open for business, Pippa had been my first call. She didn't hesitate to quit her city job to move down to Garden Cove, which made her just the right amount of nuts in my book. We'd been running the shop together for the past eight months, with her taking on the lion's share of the work for the last eight weeks while I recovered.
Pippa smirked. "Fine. It's not a kitchen. But if I were you, I'd turn off the stove. You heard about the Still River Steakhouse out on 40 Highway, right?"
"No." Still River was one of the few fine dining restaurants we had in the area. They specialized in aged premium steaks and fresh seafood—well, as fresh as seafood could be in the Midwest. Dad used to love going there, but since my return to Garden Cove, I'd avoided the place. Too many good memories knotted my chest with breath-stalling grief, and we'd had wonderful times at Still River. "What happened?"
"It burned to the ground last night. I was getting coffee at Moo-La-Lattes this morning, and I overheard Fletcher Davis telling Greg Spiers that the fire investigator thinks it was an oven fire that got out of hand." She eyeballed my stove.
"That's terrible." I didn't intend to avoid Still River forever, but now, the choice to go there was gone. It felt like another loss on top of all the others.
One of my dad's pals, Lester Blankenship, used to own the restaurant, but he would be in his late seventies now. I wondered if he was still the proprietor or if he'd sold it to someone else. Either way, having your place of business burn down had to be traumatizing. "I hope the owner had enough fire insurance. Was anyone hurt?"
Pippa shrugged. "Not that I heard."
"You're getting to be a real townie, Pips. Pretty soon, you'll be president of the gossip phone tree," I teased.
She clucked her tongue. "And you'll be the town hermit, growing moldy and hunchbacked as you stir your witch's brew."
"Am I a witch or a humpback hermit in this scenario?"
"I think you can pull both off if you try really hard." She stopped smiling, then gave me a once-over. "You look pale, Nora. Are you sure you don't need more time off?"
"Nope. The doctor gave me the thumbs-up to return to normal activity." I hadn't told her about my run-in with Lloyd. She would worry about me even more and would want to get involved with the situation. Despite being younger, Pippa often acted like my second mother. I'd seen her make CEOs cower. The woman was fierce. "Pippa, there's no need to treat me like an invalid."
"I'm treating you like someone who had major surgery two months ago."
"I'm A-okay," I said. My phone beeped a notification.
It was my biweekly reminder to change my hormone replacement patch. No wonder I was feeling a little run down. I always felt more fatigued the third day after putting a new patch on.
"What's that?" Pip asked.
"Just one of the perks of getting rid of your lady parts. Hormone replacement patches." Pippa was staring at me, and I finally said, "What?"
"The bus dropped off a load of tourists at Dolly's Dollhouse Emporium. They'll be at our place shortly. Since you promised Gilly we would pass out samples, I need you to get your A-okay butt out of the kitchen and behind the sample counter."
See? Fierce. "I'll be out there in a sec," I said with resignation. It was the resorts' off-season, so the managers had organized tours every weekend in March to generate extra revenue for the town. Gilly, who was on the tourism board, had made sure my shop was approved as one of the stops. I'd been excited at the prospect of getting on Garden Cove's tourism map because, well, cheap marketing. I hated to admit I was shaken up after last night, and I wasn't looking forward to dealing with the retail end of my business today.
"Come on, Nora. What is going on?" Pippa asked as she put her hands on her hips. She squinted at me. "You're not yourself. Are you pooping okay?"
"Seriously? I don't know why you and Gilly are obsessed with my bowel movements." I put up my hand to stop her from talking. "Do not say a word about straining, unless it's related to making soap."
She grinned and held up her hands in surrender as the dulcimer tones of our door chimes shifted her attention.
"Saved by the bell," I said. "We better get out there."
Pippa wagged her bone-thin finger at me. "We're not done with this conversation."
"Hello," a woman called. I recognized Gilly's voice.
I pushed past Pippa, apologizing as I made a beeline to my best friend. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
Gilly's brown eyes lit up when she saw me. "I volunteered to play tour guide today." Her voice grew quiet. "Besides, Lloyd was in his office today, and this was the easiest way to avoid another confrontation." She wore a white puffy winter coat, black wool pants, and gray and white fuzzy boots. "Though, if I'd known how cold it was going to be, I might have given it a pass."
It was thirty-eight degrees out, but most of the snow from the previous week had melted, so at least people weren't slogging through ice and mud.
"Good. That man is a menace." The farther away she stayed from Lloyd, the better. "Besides, this weather suits you. You look like a gorgeous ski-bunny." I peered out the window at the faces staring from the bus. "How many do we have coming?"
"Thirty-seven on this trip."
"Is that good?"
"They paid four hundred and forty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents each for this weekend event." She grinned. "So, yes, really good."
"Then you're buying dinner tonight," Pippa said to her.
"I'll tell you what," I countered. "As a big thanks to both of you, Pip, for holding down the fort while I was out, and Gils, for bringing in business, I'll take you both to the Pit for dinner." The Bar-B-Q Pit had the best ribs in town. Always falling-off-the-bone tender and seasoned with the tastiest dry rub southeast of Kansas City, Missouri.
"Oh." Gilly rubbed her hands together. "I hope they have burnt ends tonight."
"And don't forget drinks," Pippa added. "Of the alcoholic variety, of course."
"I can't guarantee the burnt ends." I laughed. "But drinks are a given."
Gilly looked out the storefront window. "They're coming. You ready?"
"Send in the clowns," Pippa said dramatically.
I raised my brow at her. "Those clowns will keep us employed."
"Have I told you how much I love clowns?" asked Pippa with a cheeky smile.
"I hope you sell a gazillion soaps and lotions today," Gilly said. She gave me a quick hug as the tourists began to wander in. "I guess I better get to Moo-La's and give Jordy a heads up."
Jordy Hines was the owner of the coffee shop. He had tattoos and was built like a boxer. Pippa liked to make up jobs that Jordy did before he'd landed on barista.
My favorite was handsome undercover DEA agent gets tatted up, infiltrates biker gang, gets injured during the big takedown bust, receives a settlement with early retirement, and uses the money to buy Moo-La-Lattes. If I didn't desperately need Pippa, I'd encourage her to write romance novels. She had a flare for fictional heroes.
I scooted behind the sample counter to man my station. It was filled with tiny soaps and little plastic bottles of lotion I normally sold for two dollars each. I wasn't about to put up samples of my massage oils. For one, I didn't have bottles small enough to make it cost effective. And two, they could get a good feel for all our scents with what I had on display.
There was a sign at the front of my counter that read: 2 Samples Only Per Customer
"Oh, I definitely want the magnolia blossom and the pear and basil," said a woman with black hair, tasteful makeup, and wearing a pink fur-lined coat.
"No problem," I told her. "Do you want those in soap or lotion?"
"Can I have each in both?" she asked.
Inwardly, I groaned. She was neatly put together with simple jewelry, suggesting someone who was frugal, meaning, she was the type of person who wouldn't buy the cow if I was giving the milk away for free. I know the metaphor was usually reserved for sex and marriage, but I always thought it fit retail really well.
I put on my most charming smile. "I'm so sorry. I'd love to give you the lotion and soaps in both scents, but I've only enough samples for two per customer. But you are going to love them. I would suggest the magnolia blossom in lotion and the pear basil in the soap. It's really refreshing."
Her mouth turned down at the corners. "Okay. I guess I'll take those."
"By the way," I said. "You have really lovely skin."
That turned her frown upside down. "Thank you." She automatically touched her face and leaned back to look in the mirror behind me. "I'm thirty-nine."
Middle-aged women tended to give their age when complimented. I wasn't judging her, because I did the same thing when people commented about my appearance. "What do you use?"
She leaned in conspiratorially. "I hate to admit it, but I use an ungodly expensive moisturizer I bought when I was on a cruise two months ago."
I was aware of the beauty scheme tourist traps. If she'd bought into their scam, then maybe she would spend some money for the right product. "Pippa, why don't you show Miss…"
"Darla," the woman supplied.
I smiled again. "Take Darla over to our facial line and let her sample the rose hip and blue tansy face oil." It was mixed with other great oils and really worked. "I use it faithfully day and night. I told her."
"You have great skin, too," she said.
"And I'm fifty-one," I told her in a hushed voice.
She raised her brows then looked at Pippa. "Take me to your face oils."
A man stepped up to the counter next. He had on a pair of dark blue trousers with a gray button-down shirt under a black blazer. Pretty formal for morning attire. "What would you like to try?" I asked.
The corner of his mouth tugged up into a half smile. "I'm not here for the samples, Ms. Black."
His voice was honey smooth, and the way he spoke was almost lyrical. "Are you with the tour?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bi-fold wallet and flipped it open. "I'm Detective Ezra Holden, Garden Cove Police Department."
I wrinkled my nose and spoke quietly when I asked, "Is this about last night?"
"In a way. Can I talk to you alone?" Detective Holden had the brightest green eyes I'd ever seen on a man. He looked to be at least six feet tall, and he wore his sandy brown hair short on the sides and a little longer on top. He had a few creases around the eyes, but not enough wrinkles to put him past his early thirties.
Suddenly parched, I cleared my throat. "I gave the patrol officers my statement. I don't know if I can add any more insight into Lloyd Briscoll. I made my complaint and that's that."
"I'm not here about the domestic disturbance call."
"It wasn't a domestic disturbance. He stalked my friend to my house then threatened to come in after her."
"Then you threatened him," Holden said. His expression and tone never changed. Still honey smooth. "With a gun."
"I have a right to protect myself and my property. I know the law, Detective Holden." I held his gaze but foreboding sat heavy in my stomach. "If Lloyd is trying to press charges—"
"He is," he interrupted. "He filed a restraining order this morning against you."