I'm thrilled to welcome mystery author Hannah Dennison to the Lair today! Hannah and I are book tour buddies and we have so much fun together, it's almost criminal! She's the author of the delightfully clever Vicky Hill mysteries and her latest book in the series, Thieves!, is out this month. Please welcome Hannah!
When Kate invited me to blog on Romance Bandits, I was thrilled. It’s not often I get the opportunity to write about romance, love and—hurrah—never sex. However my initial euphoria soon evaporated. Why would voracious readers of Romance be interested in a British author who writes quirky “cozy” mysteries and her twenty-three year old feisty heroine who is still pure and unsullied?
By definition, a “cozy mystery” is set in a small town with a recurring cast of characters. There is no graphic violence or naughty words—although I did get away with “Bollocks!” exclaimed Pete! in my first book, A Vicky Hill Exclusive! Steamy sex is strictly prohibited and should any cozy characters attempt to get past first base, he or she must be stopped at the crucial moment. Techniques for this can range from an unexpected tsunami—rare in Devon, England where my books are set—to an urgent phone call that personally, I’ve always felt a bit lame.
The Vicky Hill Mysteries are set in the fictional world of Gipping-on-Plym and chronicle the adventures of aspiring investigative reporter Vicky Hill at the Gipping Gazette. Vicky’s experiences are based on my own stint as an obituary writer for a small West Country newspaper in my early twenties. Unlike Vicky’s parents, mine are not criminals wanted by Interpol nor have I ever been involved in a murder case. But as for the rest—we’re remarkably similar. Like Vicky Hill, I was a late starter in the love department as well as a hopeless romantic.
Naturally, I blame it on my mother. As a former member of the Camp Sunshine Nudist Colony, she was determined that no daughter of hers would ever have any sexual hang-ups. She actively encouraged me to “get it over with.” You could say I rebelled. The more I was encouraged to “lie back and think of England” and “it gets better in your forties,” the more I was determined to prove her wrong. My grand seduction would be unbelievably special. I knew what I wanted. A full moon and starry sky featured quite strongly, as did Dom Perignon champagne, Charbonnel and Walker chocolates and Pratesi sheets. I would look like a supermodel and the man in question would be a cross between Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy and Johnny Depp as Roux in Chocolat.
Unfortunately, reality stepped in and that special moment when I “became a woman” passed all too quickly in a haze of Bacardi and coke with a welder called Keith. My mother was right.
It would seem that Vicky Hill’s real chances of finding her Mr. Right in a small town awash with middle-aged farmers is a bit bleak too. True, she has admirers—the plump paramedic whose kisses may be electric but leave her face covered in a rash. The hedge jumping fanatic whose passion for potent local cider far outweigh his passion for Vicky. A handsome naval officer who turns out to be a miser with unusually strong ties to his aging aunt’s apron strings. And sadly, there’s Detective Sergeant Probes—a man Vicky quite fancies, but with her family background, how could she ever be happy with a policeman?
So it’s hardly surprising that when a band of gypsies show up in Gipping-on-Plym with their lovely horses and beautifully painted wagons, Vicky is swept off her feet. The fact that one bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp seems to seal her fate. Will he be the lucky man?
It’s not only Vicky’s heart that’s set aflutter. In Thieves! we discover that romance isn’t just for the young at heart. The reappearance of an old flame threatens to upset the newfound happiness of Barbara, one of Vicky’s favorite co-workers, sending the entire town into a flurry of speculation and gossip. Even a spate of silver thefts and the discovery of a dead body seem to take a backseat to scandal.
Cozy mysteries may tackle murder and mayhem but the underlying universal need for love and romance are always there.
What would you advise Vicky’s friend Barbara, the age sixty-plus receptionist? Should she close the door on the past or give him a second chance? And what about Vicky? Should she pursue her love for the policeman and risk her father’s disapproval?
I’ll be giving away a copy of Thieves! (Berkley Prime Crime January 2011) along with a souvenir postbox tin of English toffees to a random reader comment.