Tag Archive | Too Hot to Handel

Sheri Cobb South: Waiting Game (John Pickett #5)

quizzing glass copyLast Wednesday marked the release of Too Hot to Handel, the fifth novel in the John Pickett series of mysteries set in Regency England. I’ve so looked forward to this one, for a couple of reasons: it’s my personal favorite and, not coincidentally, it’s the one that finally resolves the romance between Bow Street Runner John Pickett and the widowed Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, whom he first met, quite literally over her husband’s dead body, in the first book of the series, In Milady’s Chamber.

But before there was Too Hot to Handel, there was Waiting Game—a novella that was never intended as part of the series at all, and yet sold more than 1,500 copies in the last month alone.

How did it happen? It’s a long story—no pun intended. Too Hot to Handel was originally scheduled for March 2016, but just before Christmas my publisher, Five Star/Cengage, announced that due to unforeseen circumstances, the entire 2016 publishing schedule was being delayed three months, pushing my March release date back to June. Now, a three-month postponement may not seem like much, but when marketing plans are measured in months, not weeks, every one of those months is crucial. My bookmarks had already been printed with “March 2016” as the release date—and I didn’t even want to think about what the interruption meant as far as ARCs, which would probably go out much too late for the major reviewers such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

But the people I felt the worst for were my readers. I’d left them a romantic cliffhanger at the end of the previous book, Dinner Most Deadly, which concludes with [spoiler alert!] John Pickett recklessly declaring himself to Julia, who is too stunned—and too moved—to respond. I had assured readers they wouldn’t have long to wait for resolution on this, since the next book would be out in only six months, rather than the more typical ten to twelve, and now I discovered that I was wrong. Granted, it wasn’t my fault, but I still felt like I’d lied to them.

I felt like I owed fans of the series something to make it up to them. I’d had some success with a prequel novella called Pickpocket’s Apprentice, so I decided to write a short piece to self-publish in March, something that would fill in the gap in the timeline between the end of Dinner Most Deadly and the beginning of Too Hot to Handel. Ironically, that gap was also three months, from November 1808 to February 1809.

It was a good idea in theory, but I soon realized I’d written myself into a corner. The book’s setting made it practically imperative that the Christmas season be addressed in some way, but I didn’t want it to turn into a Christmas story, given that it would be released in March. Furthermore, since the text of Too Hot to Handel makes it very clear that there has been no interaction between Pickett and Julia during those three months, I somehow had to advance the romance without ever putting the potential lovebirds together.

Waiting Game 001 copyOne of the women in my writers’ group suggested that I let Pickett be actively trying to avoid being seen by Lady Fieldhurst, and it seemed to me that this situation would lend itself well to comedy. Since Pickett had extracted a reluctant promise from his magistrate not to send him on cases involving the aristocracy, where he might encounter Julia, I decided to create a scenario involving the merchant middle class. Of course there would be a marriageable young woman whose advances he would have to rebuff. (There’s always some girl after poor John Pickett; it’s a running gag throughout the series.) Throw in a big dog named Brutus who manages to steal almost every scene in which he appears, and the story practically began to write itself. And hey, since this story involved a linen-draper’s shop, wouldn’t it be fun to include a cameo appearance by a youthful Ethan Brundy, titular hero of The Weaver Takes a Wife, the most popular book I’ve ever written? (After writing three books about the man, I should have known him better than that. He refused to remain a mere bit player, and insisted on assuming a significantly larger role than I’d intended.)

It’s not strictly necessary to read Waiting Game to enjoy Too Hot to Handel, but I do strongly recommend reading at least one of the John Pickett mysteries before reading the romantic denouement. While the mystery will stand alone, the love story will be more satisfying if you’re at least somewhat familiar with the characters’ history up to this point. Besides, romantic resolution, much like book publication, is all the sweeter for having been delayed.

Waiting Game

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Too Hot to Handel

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Win a copy of both John Pickett novellas (Waiting Game and the prequel novella, Pickpocket’s Apprentice) by leaving a comment.

Check out this great offer from Sheri!

Sheri is concerned that the three month delay might have a deleterious effect on sales of Too Hot to Handel to libraries. So… anyone who requests that their library purchase Too Hot to Handel can email a screen shot of their filled-out request form to her at Cobbsouth@aol.com along with their mailing address, and she’ll send them a handy-dandy jar opener and an 8-page coloring book featuring scenes from her novels. See photo below of both prizes. No drawing on this one; anyone who requests that their library purchase the book, and sends me a screenshot as proof, automatically wins.

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About the Author

Sheri Cobb South is the author of more than twenty novels, including the John Pickett mystery series and the critically acclaimed Regency romance, The Weaver Takes a Wife. A native of Alabama, she now lives in Loveland, Colorado.

Sheri Cobb South: Dinner Most Deadly (Giveaway)

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Dinner Most Deadly is the fourth book in my series of Regency-set mysteries featuring Bow Street Runner John Pickett, and in some ways it’s the riskiest. I call it my Empire Strikes Back book, because I still remember how appalled we all were when that movie came out in 1980, and the ending left us hanging: Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Luke’s dead (or so we thought) father, the Jedi hero, is Darth Vader??? And we were going to have to wait three years to find out what happened next?

In the case of Dinner Most Deadly, the cliffhanger involves the Scottish marriage by declaration which was accidentally contracted by John Pickett and Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, in Family Plot. When Julia returns from Scotland restless and out of sorts, her friend Lady Dunnington decides what Julia needs is a lover—and arranges a dinner party with half a dozen male guests from whom Julia may take her pick. But one of the men is murdered, and when John Pickett is summoned from Bow Street, he must not only find the killer, but break the news of their “marriage” to Julia. As with the other books, the mystery is solved, but the romance is more unresolved than ever as the couple must go about seeking an annulment—a process far messier than most romance novels lead readers to believe.

I’ll admit, I was more than a bit nervous about how readers would react. I had braced myself for a big outcry against “sequel-bait,” but to my relief, it hasn’t happened. I hope that’s because readers understand that, because of the enormous social gulf between them, Julia’s mind is not going to leap immediately to marriage. She is, however, appalled at what the annulment process is going to demand of poor John: the only grounds available to them are inability to consummate, and since she was married for six years—during which any such problem would certainly have been addressed—that leaves him to take the fall. She’s never known a man who loved her enough to sacrifice for her, and although she’s deeply moved by his willingness to do so, she doesn’t quite know how to respond. It’s going to take something drastic to force her to confront her own feelings—and that something comes up in the next book, Too Hot to Handel.

Thankfully, readers won’t have to wait three years to find out what happens next, but only about six months: my publisher has scheduled Too Hot to Handel for March 2016.

If you’re new to the series but want to give it a try, I would strongly suggest beginning with In Milady’s Chamber, the first in the series, to follow the progression of the romance as it develops. In order, the books are: (1) In Milady’s Chamber; (2) A Dead Bore; (3) Family Plot; (4) Dinner Most Deadly; and (5) Too Hot to Handel. There’s also a prequel novella, Pickpocket’s Apprentice, which traces John Pickett’s rise from 14-year-old pickpocket to nineteen-year-old Bow Street Runner.

Giveaway: Sheri will award a hardcover, dust jacketed copy of Dinner Most Deadly ($25.95 retail) to one lucky commenter.

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About Dinner Most Deadly

When Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, returns from her sojourn in Scotland restless and out of sorts, her friend Emily, Lady Dunnington, decides what Julia needs is a lover. Lady Dunnington plans a select dinner party with half a dozen male guests from whom Julia may choose a paramour. Emily also invites a potential lover for herself: Sir Reginald Montague, a man whose urbane manner and dangerous good looks hide a host of unsavory secrets.

Alas, Emily’s little dinner is a disaster from the outset. Every gentleman at the table bears some unspoken grudge against Sir Reginald, and then dinner is interrupted by Emily’s estranged husband. He and his lady have a heated discussion which ends with Lord Dunnington’s vowing to put a stop to his wife’s pursuit of Sir Reginald “no matter what it takes.” But the coup de grâce comes at the end of the evening, when Sir Reginald is shot dead.

Bow Street Runner John Pickett is summoned to Emily’s house, where he is taken aback to find Julia. For in addition to investigating the case, he is faced with the awkward task of informing her that their masquerade as a married couple in Scotland (Family Plot) has resulted in their being legally wed. Beset by distractions—not the least of which are the humiliating annulment process and the flattering attentions of Lady Dunnington’s pretty young housemaid—Pickett must find the killer of a man whom everyone has reason to want dead.

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For the first time in the interview, the solicitor’s professional demeanor faltered. “The only possibility that remains is, er, that is, it involves consummation of the union.”

“But you just said a lack of consummation did not constitute grounds,” protested Lady Fieldhurst.

“No, but if either party should be unable to—that is, to be incapable of—” He took a deep breath and started over. “Your ladyship, I must remind you that you and the late Lord Fieldhurst were married for six years. If, during that time, it had come to light that you were—were incapable of participating in the act that might have given your husband the heir he desired so desperately, he would surely have sought such an annulment for himself years ago.” He turned to Pickett. “Such being the case, that only leaves . . .”

As the solicitor’s implication dawned, Pickett flushed a deep red.

Lady Fieldhurst was equally embarrassed, but considerably more vocal. “You cannot ask Mr. Pickett to—to—” Words failed her. She broke off and tried again. “Mr. Pickett may not be married, but I daresay there is a female somewhere who could destroy such a claim simply by coming forward and—and—”

“As a matter of fact,” Pickett said miserably, “there isn’t.”

“There isn’t?” echoed Lady Fieldhurst.

Pickett shook his head and prayed for the floor to open up and swallow him.

“There isn’t,” she murmured, regarding him with new eyes.

“But,” he added hastily, “that isn’t to say I couldn’t—that is, I—I have no reason to suppose that—that all my parts are not—not in good working order.”

“Oh, my.” She snatched up one of the solicitor’s legal papers and began fanning herself with it. “Oh, my.”

About the Author

At the age of sixteen, Sheri Cobb South discovered Georgette Heyer, and came to the startling realization that she had been born into the wrong century. Although she doubtless would have been a chambermaid had she actually lived in Regency England, that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about waltzing the night away in the arms of a handsome, wealthy, and titled gentleman.

Since Georgette Heyer was dead and could not write any more Regencies, Ms. South came to the conclusion she would simply have to do it herself. In addition to her popular series of Regency mysteries featuring idealistic young Bow Street Runner John Pickett (described by All About Romance as “a little young, but wholly delectable”), she is the award-winning author of several Regency romances, including the critically acclaimed The Weaver Takes a Wife.

A native and long-time resident of Alabama, Ms. South recently moved to Loveland, Colorado, where she has a stunning view of Long’s Peak from her office window.