Guest Post with Giveaway ~ Scene Of The Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes



My answer is it depends. Why? Because readers look for different things in different kinds of mysteries. Thrillers, police procedurals, traditional mysteries and cozies all have their fans, who bring their own expectations to each sub-genre.

Cozies mystery readers probably look for romance the most in their mysteries. Why? Because cozies focus on characters much more than other kinds of mysteries, which is just fine with their fans. They like getting to know the people in a series, watching their lives change, and enjoying the interactions. Some of those interactions are logically going to be romantic—especially if the main character is single (though there can certainly be romance between married couples) and also, but not necessarily, if they are young.

In my Pickled and Preserved series, my main character, Piper Lamb, is single and young. At the beginning of the first book, THE PICKLED PIPER, Piper had broken off an engagement and moved to a small town to start a new life. The only problem was that her ex-fiancé, Scott, didn’t take the break-up seriously. During his travels around the world to “find himself” he sent Piper messages and gifts as though they were still a couple, much to her annoyance and frustration.

The frustration grew as a new man entered Piper’s life—Will Burchett, a handsome Christmas tree farmer who lived just outside of Cloverdale, where Piper had relocated. Local townspeople picked up on the attraction between the two and dropped many sly comments, much to Piper’s embarrassment and consternation, since she had no intention of getting involved in a new romance so soon. Luckily—at least for that particular situation—a murder occurred in Cloverdale that diverted everyone’s attention, but only until the killer was caught near the end of the book. Then interest returned to Piper’s love life, especially when her ex-fiancé announced he was coming to Cloverdale.

In the second book, LICENSE TO DILL, part of the focus was on the gentlemanly tug-of-war between Piper’s former and current love interests, which ramped up as the former fiancé showed signs of having changed for the better. This brought about some emotional confusion in Piper, which she was more than happy to set aside for a second murder investigation. Not that she was happy over another murder, but… well, you know.

In SCENE OF THE BRINE, the just-released book of the series, things heat up a bit. (But since this is a cozy, “heat” comes mainly in the form of hints, and love scenes discretely fade out.) A new murder occurs which hits close to home, quickly pulling Piper into the investigation and taking precedence. But since new-boyfriend, Will, and ex-fiancé, Scott, play important parts in solving this mystery—a poisoning that nearly kills Piper’s pickles-and-preserves business as well—the two men’s ongoing presence in the action means that Piper’s quandary over choosing between them remains in the forefront. Can Scott’s persistence pay off? Does Will’s patience and understanding win out? Is the murder solved?

Which question is deemed the most urgent depends the reader, but my guess is that most cozy fans will see them as deserving equal time. SCENE OF THE BRINE, after all is a cozy. A cozy mystery, of course, but one populated with characters who lead fairly normal lives that are only occasionally interrupted by the inconvenient murder.

Murder, of course, is terrible. And cozy characters deal with it with all the seriousness it deserves. But readers want to see all sides of their favorite characters, and that includes their love lives.

Does romance, then, belong in mysteries? For most cozy readers, and for this particular cozy writer, I’d say the answer no longer depends. It would be a resounding, “Yes!”

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brineSeries: Pickled and Preserved Mystery (Book 3)
Publisher: Berkley (February 2, 2016)
Genre: English
ISBN-10: 0425262472
ISBN-13: 978-0425262474
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


The national bestselling author of License to Dill returns with a dilly of a pickle.

Piper Lamb has to take a break from jarring her delicious pickles and preserves to blow the lid off a poisoner….

Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.

Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself…

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Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy Scene of the Brine to give away.

Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on February 18th


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Winner will have 48 hours, from the time of notification to confirm their win or another winner will be chosen.

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maryellenI’ve always loved to write, working on my school newspapers (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) as well as writing stories for my own enjoyment. But it took a while for me to believe I could turn it into a profession. Along the way I got a degree in Medical Technology at Alverno College, worked in Clinical Chemistry at the National Institutes of Health, married and settled in Maryland to raise two children. But writing continued to tug at me, and one day I sent a 12-line humorous verse (with little hope) to The Saturday Evening Post. To my surprise, they bought it! Seeing my work in print with my name next to it in a national magazine was a huge boost and encouraged me to start sending out short stories. Before too long, some of them were actually published, too!

The next step was to write a full length novel, but I still had much to learn. Joining writers groups like the Maryland Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime, helped immensely, along with participating in critique groups. After a few false starts and much re-writing, my first novel, Resort to Murder, was accepted and published by Avalon. Avalon then published my second novel, A Taste of Death, which featured the same protagonist, a young teacher whose vacations tended to become dangerous.

Having two published books to my name caught the interest of an agent, who encouraged me to create the Craft Corner mystery series. Wreath of Deception, String of Lies, and Paper-thin Alibi were soon published by Berkley Prime Crime. Berkley is also publishing my next series, the Pickled and Preserved mysteries, which begins with The Pickled Piper.

All of this happened, of course, over several years. A 12-line verse is a long way from a 70,000 word novel but it was my first big step towards earning the title of “mystery author.” My journey continues, with ups and downs and the occasional side step, but with plenty of enjoyment and wonderful companions along the way. I’m looking forward with great eagerness to what still lies ahead.

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  1. This sounds like a read I'll be enjoying soon. It's going on my TRL. Thank you for the post.

    Carol L

  2. Thank YOU for the comment, Carol. Happy reading.

  3. Della Williamson says:

    Liked your comment about whether romance belonged in a mystery, or not.  A little is okay.  I prefer it more alluded to than anything.  My sister is just the opposite.  but then she's not a mystery fan.  She LOVES romances.  I think they are cannon fodder for the brain.  Many do have some suspense and a taste of mystery.  But I prefer 'clean' reads.  I love cozies.  But read most all genre's.  Great post!  You and your works are new to me and I look forward to learning more.  The books listed are on my TBR.  I am hoping this will be an early start.  Thank you for thiis giveaway

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