by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of Drop Dead Lola and an interesting interview with Melissa Bourbon. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Drop Dead Lola, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Drop Dead Lola: A Lola Cruz Mystery by Melissa Bourbon
Review by Kathleen Costa
Former cop Manny Camacho manages Camacho and Associates, a Sacramento P.I. firm at which Delores Cruz, nicknamed Lola, is now a fully capable licensed “one of our top” private investigator. She has been assigned various cases that seem simple surveillance, but often has run into a criminal element that has included murder. There are three other investigators in the firm, all varying in personality, manner, and skill: BFF Reilley Fuller (Jill of all Trades), Sadie Metcalfe (professional nemesis), Neil Lashby (tech expert). Along with a huge, supportive, and sometimes quirky immediate and extended Hispanic family to add love, humor, and frustration to her life, Lola has her blue-eyed, devilish-grinned Jack Callaghan who was and is the spark in her life. There is a contentious personal history between Manny and Jack, possibly related to the ideas Manny had feelings for Lola, but when the business and others safety are at risk, they’ll put conflicts aside.
Lola Cruz Mystery series
Living the Vida Lola (2008)
Hasta La Vista, Lola! (2010)
The Lola Cruz Christmas Story (2010–Prequel Short Story)
Bare-Naked Lola (2012)
What Lola Wants (2019)
Drop Dead Lola (2020)
Drop Dead Lola earns 5/5 Margaritas…Engaging Fun!
“Mother’s instinct. If my mother was any proof, that intuition did exist.” —Lola Cruz, Drop Dead Lola
Lola’s cousin Leti is so excited about her upcoming nuptials which unfortunately includes Lola dressed in “hideous” bridesmaid fashion and an out-of-her-comfort-zone bachelorette party, but it’s the new case at work that has brought her more concern. Jack has suggested Marnie Haskell engage Camacho and Associates, specifically recommending Lola, to investigate the issues surrounding the tragic death of her son Philip. Jack’s mother is a friend of Marnie’s, and he knew Philip growing up. Phil had been found having hung himself, and authorities determined his death, of course, to be a suicide, but Marnie knew her son wouldn’t kill himself. So, Manny puts Lola on the case. There’re old girlfriends, many, a new girlfriend, possibly fiancée, and a plethora of buddies. That’s a good place to start. But, an attack on Marnie is set up to look like a suicide attempt, questions about Phil’s state of mind are hard to reconcile, and of course, the second body turns everything upside down.
Brilliant! Melissa Bourbon has penned an entertaining and compelling drama. This newbie was wrong to think starting with book five would be a disadvantage. I easily joined in, even though there are so many in the Cruz family to remember. The family connections, upcoming wedding, Lola and Jack, and dynamic between the people at the P.I. firm are fun to follow, endearing, and humorous, but it’s the compelling mystery about whether Philip’s death was an accident, suicide, or murder that had me eagerly turning the page struggling not to flip to the final chapter to end the suspense. The twists, the uncertainty, additional peril, and the final reveal was a surprise! Melissa’s writing style was very entertaining using a delightful first-person narrative from Lola’s perscpective. She shares her theories, insights, and sometimes snarky fun. Use of descriptive language and expressive dialogue did well to illustrate setting, characters, and personalities. An all-around exciting read…don’t miss it!
Be a Big Mellissa Bourbon Fan!
National bestselling author Melissa Bourbon brings her Latina-by-marriage perspective to this five-book Lola Cruz Mystery series. She also writes the six-book A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, two romantic suspense novels, a light paranormal romance, and co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox, a practical marketing guide for authors. Under the pen name Winnie Archer she pens the soon-to-be five-book Bread Shop Mystery Series. Something for every taste!
Interview with Melissa Bourbon:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Melissa: It’s hard to believe, but it’s been about twenty-three years now since I first started writing. I began with a middle grade book back when I was teaching middle school and had taken a few years off to be home with our kids. I’ve come a long way! I started writing very seriously, with an aim for publication, about seventeen years ago.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Melissa: My first published book was Living the Vida Lola. It came out in 2008 and was recently rereleased with a new publisher. There are now five books in that mystery series. It centers around Dolores ‘Lola’ Cruz, a fledgling PI in Sacramento, California. She comes from a traditional Mexican family and is figuring out how to navigate her culture and life as a Mexican-American woman with a passion for investigation (as well as her old flame, Jack Callaghan). The series is fun, sassy, and “caperish.”
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Melissa: I have always been drawn to writing mysteries and suspense because those are the type of books I love reading the most. I started reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books. All through high school, I read every Agatha Christie book I could. When I felt a calling to write, I naturally gravitated toward mysteries.
I am in the process now, after 18 books, of writing a women’s fiction that isn’t a mystery. It may have mystery elements, but it’ll be a different type of book all together.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Melissa: My latest series is the Bread Shop Mysteries. They take place in a fictional seaside town reminiscent of Capitola or Santa Barbara. I have the Lola Cruz series set in Sacramento, the Magical Dressmaking mysteries, which take place in a small fictional Texas town called Bliss.
For the Bread Shop mysteries, I wanted a setting that was completely different. I’ve always loved the coast and as a native California girl, I went with a coastal town along California’s coast. Ivy Culpepper, the sleuth, lived in Texas for a while, just like I did. I find that all of my main characters tend to have a little bit of a biographical nature to them. Once I had Ivy alive in my head, the rest of the characters followed. She’d lost her mother, which is what brought her back to California, so I knew I wanted Ivy to have other female influences in her life. I love writing about female relationships – mothers and daughters, friends and sisters. Penelope Branford, her octogenarian neighbor, and Olaya Solis, the bread shop owner, fill that void for Ivy.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Melissa: I would say I’m driven by a little of both. I definitely want to entertain, but I also want my readers to feel something, to connect with my characters, and to finish the book wanting more.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Melissa: I write every day, generally speaking. After I’ve finished a book, I tend to need a break. That’s when I do a lot of the business side of things.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Melissa: I outline to a degree. I generally know the beginning, middle, and end of the book, but how I get from start to finish depends upon how the story and characters evolve. It’s kind of like going from California to North Carolina. I know where I want to end up, but there are many ways to get there. If I get stuck, then I know I’ve gone astray somewhere.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Melissa: I am fortunate enough to get to plan my days since I’m able to write full time (I taught middle school but stopped 1 ½ years ago). I usually take my son to school, the do some sort of exercise – yoga or spin or walk- then settle down to write. I usually practice piano in the mornings, too. I took lessons when I was little, then regretfully stopped, but now I’m taking lessons again. It’s challenging! It does feed my brain and creativity in a different way. After lunch, I write for a few more hours before the school day ends.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Melissa: The publishing industry is difficult. I went through the submission process and received lots of rejections, like so many others. There’s a quote that says the difference between people who fail and those who succeed is that the people who succeed never give up. That’s me. I persevered and here I am, twenty books later!
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Melissa: When I first was signed with my first agent, she loved my book (Living the Vida Lola), but she wanted it to be more romance, less mystery. I spent several months revising it to downplay the mystery and up the romance. Needless to say, it did not sell. I ended up leaving her to go with her assistant, who’d gone off on her own. We brought the book back to the way it was with a fairly equal romance/mystery ratio. It sold within two months!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Melissa: I had the release party for my first book, Living the Vida Lola, at my friend’s winery in Plymouth, California. Friends and family, as well as folks who were wine tasting, were there. It was a special event.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Melissa: I have several! The Lola Cruz mystery series is finished, as is the Magical Dressmaking series. I have been contracted to write three more Bread Shop mysteries, I have three books releasing this month (March 2020) that are Romantic Suspense novels and a light paranormal romance, and I’m developing a new mystery series that will be set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Busy! I also want to work on a women’s fiction novel that has been knocking around in my brain.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Melissa: I read all of Agatha Christie’s book when I was in high school. She still amazes me, and I would say that she truly is heroic.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Melissa: Research depends on the book or series. Much of it is series related. For the new Outer Banks series, I’ll be doing, I’ll be spending some time at the beach absorbing life there, the weather, the people, and just experiencing it. If I need to learn or research something, the Internet is my “Go To.”
KRL: What do you read?
Melissa: I’m in an online book club (The Book Warriors on Facebook) and another “real life” book club, plus I participate in a reading challenge, so I’ve always got a book going. I listen to books on Audible, too. I read mysteries, suspense, women’s fiction, historical fiction… I read pretty widely.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Melissa: There are so many great shows! We just finished watching The Hunters, which was so unique and interesting. We also finished The Outsider based on a Stephen King novel. I love series I can really invest in. I loved Nurse Jackie, I’m currently watching Brothers & Sisters, Lost in Space, and Ray Donovan. The choices are endless, and I’m always discovering new things to escape into.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Melissa: Be the one that succeeds; never give up. I had to learn that rejections weren’t personal. Publishing is a business, and although we, as writers, pour our hearts and souls onto the page, we have to separate that creative, emotional part of the process from the business side. We need both to succeed.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Melissa: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my books!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Melissa: Well, I have 5 kids, ages 17-27. I’m finishing up my 200-hour yoga teacher training. I’m not sure yet if I’ll teach yoga, but I’ve loved the process and have grown so much. We’ve moved far too many times, but we are so happy to have settled in North Carolina.
To enter to win a copy of Drop Dead Lolo, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “lola,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 28, 2020. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email and requesting a print copy be sure to include your mailing address in case you win-emails will be deleted when the contest is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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