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Best Cosy Books

A Midlife CatAstrophe (PAPERBACK)

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Title

PAPERBACK. Book 2 in the MenoPaws Mysteries, Paranormal Women's Fiction cozy mystery series.

When Nell Darling moves to a small Aussie mountain town after a messy divorce, she decides her life will be purrfect. But life has decided to be no such thing. Nell discovers a body, buys a mysterious bookstore, and starts to suspect she is losing her mind--all because a local cat begins stopping by for a chat.

Yet Nell has no time to paws and reflect. Soon she is chasing her tail to solve the murder. Hot on her heels is the dreamy Detective Caspian Cole, who seems to think Nell is mad fur real. But it doesn't matter what Detective Cole thinks, because Nell is about to discover that menopause doesn't mean her life is put on pause. 

In fact, menopause is a sign that Nell's has finally begun. 

Litter-ally a fun read for women who are coming into their power!

PAPERBACK.

 Paperback 292 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.66 x 8 inches (127 x 16.8 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781922595058
 Publication date  September 2, 2020
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

Twenty-one. I owned sweaters older than my husband’s mistress. What’s more, I couldn’t even feel angry with the glorified child, because the girl wasn’t even my husband’s only mistress. Imagine that, Jack Darling, a man with more fudge in his stomach than stomach, a man with thinning hair, a red, bulbous nose, and pink, plump cheeks had managed to entice multiple women, and they were not even blind.
The other day at the car yard, a man a decade older than I am hadn’t so much as stolen a look at my legs. No, he was too busy salivating over the secretary, who was around twenty, trim, and perky. Not that men looked at me anymore. Why is it, I wondered, as I drummed my fingers against the steering wheel, that my husband hadn’t wanted me to be desirable?
I had wanted to be desirable. I hadn’t wanted my husband of twenty-three years to lust after every woman who glittered in front of him. My husband did not like me being glittery. He liked me wearing good, sensible shoes. He complained when I covered my greys. He liked me to wear dungarees, which was all the fashion with the toddlers on my street.
My old street.
I turned up my car’s air-conditioning. I couldn’t tell if it was another menopausal hot flash or anger, but I supposed it didn’t matter, really. A flash was a flash.
I’d pretended to like so many stupid things in order to please Jack. Like hiking. I was not a hiker. I didn’t even like hiking boots, which our daughter wore so well. And what about camping? Who likes camping? Why leave a perfectly good house with four walls and a roof and a screen door that stops mosquitos to go to the bathroom in the bushland with venomous snakes lurking nearby?
It’s because men have it too easy, I realised. They don’t have to battle pregnancy or getting paid less than their contemporaries for doing the same job. That is why men needed to make life difficult for themselves.
My phone buzzed. “Hello,” I said, speaking loudly so my daughter could hear.
“Mum, are you at Wild Lime Mountain yet?”
It was hard to hear over the air-conditioning. “What?”
“The mountain?” Eliza yelled.
“Not yet.”
Wild Lime Mountain. The place of my escape. My new life.
“Call me when you arrive,” Eliza replied and hung up.
I sniffled. I’d never in a million years seen the divorce coming. How is it that you can plan a life for yourself and commit to that life for twenty-three years, and then, when your husband couldn’t take another day with the woman who stood by him as he built himself up from nothing, you end up homeless and without a husband? Didn’t I get a say? Didn’t my voice count for anything? No, apparently not.
Not when Jack had taken out a mortgage on our house without my knowledge. Not when Jack had a five-year-old child with his mistress of ten years. Ten years ago, I was crying in the car because I’d found cigarettes in Eliza’s schoolbag. Meanwhile, my husband was brushing legs with somebody at work.
Eliza once told me, “Mum, men fall out of love more quickly than women.”
But I knew that wasn’t true. Often men have the money, which means they have the power to leave. They are not dependent on their wives because their wives gave up everything to support their husband’s dream. I could never have left that marriage. I was the homemaker. I didn’t care about the degrading things people said about staying at home. To me, raising my child was more important than working to line the pockets of an already well-lined pocket so that other people could raise their children. Not that I judged working mothers. No, I admired them, the way I admired all women. Jack had agreed I should stay at home.
But what happens when a homemaker is no longer a homemaker? What happens when a woman who raised a child and kept a house no longer has a husband and therefore no longer has a breadwinner? What about the gaps in my resume? No one wanted to employ me, and I could no longer rely on Jack to help. How could a man take pride in himself as a man after he has thrown out the mother of his child?
I shook my head. It is probably why men like having multiple women, so if they fail at being a husband to one, they can simply knock on another door and give it a second try. I had no such luxury.
It was the fortune teller at the markets who had given me the solution. It had been another terrible week. I had a meeting at the job agency, where the twenty-something-year-old spoke in a loud, clear voice as if I were an idiot. He’d explained how the Internet worked—the Internet!—and had asked condescending questions about my reading abilities. He’d snorted when I said I’d chosen to stay at home and raise my daughter. He’d patted my hand condescendingly when I told him I was a quick learner. These people seemed to think that everyone without a job was stupid, but then maybe I was stupid. After all, I had not seen the divorce coming.
“How about a free reading?” the fortune teller had called as I walked through the markets. I had not wanted to talk to anyone. No, I’d wanted to buy organic bananas and local jam in peace before scurrying back to my car, where I planned to eat dark chocolate.
“I don’t think so, sorry,” I had replied. I knew how these fortune tellers worked. They offered a free reading, and when they had you hooked, they charged four hundred, even five hundred, dollars.
“I’m sorry about your husband,” the fortune teller said then.
That staggered me.
“And I’m sorry you need to move.”
“Move?” Now I was really shocked. “I’m not moving.”
“Yes,” the fortune teller replied. “You are. You are moving to Wild Lime Mountain.”
Wild Lime Mountain? I’d heard of it, sure, a beautiful touristy town up north in Queensland, somewhere in the Gold Coast Hinterland. “Why on earth…”
“Because it is where you are going to buy a bookshop.”
“I’m not going to buy a bookshop,” I said, though I was very fond of books. “How could I possibly buy a bookshop?”
“Things are meant to find each other that do,” the fortune teller had said.
And she was right, although more than anything, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Five days later, I had bought a bookshop on Wild Lime Mountain. I wouldn’t have looked at businesses for sale if the woman hadn’t put the idea into my head, but I did, and there it was—a bookshop for sale in Wild Lime Mountain. The ad said the bookshop had a little apartment over it and added that Wild Lime Mountain was a welcoming community. I certainly hoped the ad was right. Maybe life would be different on Wild Lime Mountain.
Still, the price was right, a true shopping bargain, and the divorce settlement had left me sufficient money for the purchase and a little to spare.
I drew my attention back to the road. The road signs warned of steep mountains ahead, but they weren’t as steep or as scary as the ones near where I used to live. Soon, I found myself at the top of the mountain and driving slowly along Lamington Lane, a straight road which was clearly the tourist centre of town. Cute little shops lined both sides of the street. I checked the GPS and kept driving.
I turned up the air conditioner in the car as a hot flash overwhelmed me. It felt as though my very insides were on fire. When it passed, I was shivering, so I turned the air-conditioner down once more.
A wave of apprehension washed over me. Had I done the right thing? Leaving my home and friends to go to another state where I knew not a soul, and what’s more, buying a bookstore. I had never run a business, and I didn’t know the first thing about it. I fought the urge to turn and run.
Now, after seven hours of driving, I was here, looking for my bookshop and a place to park.
I stepped out of my car and breathed in the crisp, clear mountain air. I turned around.
A man blocked my way. “You took my spot!” he screamed at me.
“I—what?” I replied.
“That was my parking spot.” The man was short and pink and huffing and puffing, the way the wolf huffed and puffed to blow the little pig’s house down. But I was not a little pig.
“You were nowhere near this spot when I parked here,” I said, which was true. Besides, the car park was not even full. There were plenty of other places for the man to park.
The man’s face turned a hideous shade of red. “I’ll call the cops if you don’t move your car!”
I was aware I was trembling. I didn’t want to cry. I’d cried for half of the drive to this mountain, and I was tired of my eyes itching.
“Good.” I hoped I sounded firm. “You call the police so I can have you arrested for harassing me.”
The man made a show of removing his phone from his pocket, but before he could speak again, another man approached us. “What now?” I said aloud. Was this a little gang that went around harassing newcomers?
“Put your phone away, Rufus,” said the second man. To me, he said, “I am Edison Chester.” He bent forward in a half-bow. “You must be Nell Darling. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, I would certainly not,” Rufus replied.
Edison chuckled. “Good, because I wasn’t inviting you.” He offered his arm to me. “I think you’ll find your little shop quite charming.”
Rufus called a few words after me that made my ears burn.
As I turned away, I was keenly aware that several people had stopped to watch this little altercation. If it weren’t for Edison, I was almost certain hot tears would be falling down my face. Edison looked for all the world like a storybook wizard, complete with a shock of white hair and a shaggy white beard. Although he looked as old as the hills, he had a sprightly manner about him. A strange scent clung to him. I couldn’t identify it, but I fancied it smelt like ancient herbs.
I looked down to see a fat ginger cat blocking my way. It was staring at me in such a way it unnerved me. Edison stepped around the cat and waved at the bookshop. I gasped with delight.
The façade was painted in hunter green, and the words, A Likely Story, were emblazoned in gold lettering over the top. All manner of books filled the wide bay window. I had seen photos of the building, but they hadn’t done it justice. It looked like something one would see in the cobbled streets of Oxford, on the other side of the world.
The interior was lovely, warm and dusted and cosy, with faded armchairs next to green-shaded lamps and coasters on the windowsills which functioned as tables. I had bought the shop and my apartment fully furnished, and I was happy with the furniture, although it wasn’t quite to my taste.
Edison led me to one of the armchairs. “Your books arrived yesterday. I had them taken upstairs to your apartment. They’re all in the guest bedroom. I hope that was okay.”
“That’s great, thanks.” I studied his face for disapproval but didn’t find any signs. Of course, Edison loved books too. My ex-husband had condemned my passion for books, calling it obsessive. Edison’s voice broke me out of my reverie.
“Lemongrass? Chamomile? I have a nice blend of cinnamon bark, cardamom seed, and ginger root. Or maybe a blend of liquorice root, slippery elm, wild cherry, and orange peel?”
I chose the latter for no particular reason. There I sat as he went to make me a cup of tea and also to attend to customers. The bookshop was not packed with people, but it was comfortably full, with a woman in owl-eyed spectacles pouring over a botany book to my right and a man to my left gasping over an ancient tome about some ancient war. I could not believe this bookshop now belonged to me.
Edison returned to the room carrying a china tray on which were two Royal Doulton Rose Pattern teacups. I recognised the pattern as my mother used to collect antique china.
“Drink up,” Edison replied. “I’d stay for a chat, but I’m in the middle of cleaning.”
I looked at the cobwebs in the corner of the rooms, the dust that coated the windows. “It could use a little scrub, I guess,” I muttered, though I adored the lived-in feel of the shop. “I’m glad the bookshop is in such safe hands. How long have you worked here?”
“Longer than I care to remember. Would you like a tour?”
“Maybe after my cup of tea,” I said. I wanted to enjoy my first experience of the bookshop. This, not Rufus’s attitude, was the Wild Lime Mountain of my dreams.
“He’s awful to everyone,” Edison replied, as if he could read my mind.
“Does he always park in the spot I took?” I wanted to rationalise Rufus’s behaviour.
“Never,” Edison replied. “Drink your tea. You will feel much better soon.”
Another voice said, “Tea is always soothing.” I looked around, but nobody was there.