Okay, no, it isn’t a new book. Mirror, Mirror has been available for your reading pleasure for years. It’s also one of my favorites of all I’ve written, so I admit, I’ve been disappointed the last few years when, especially in October, and even when I discounted it, this book just wasn’t selling.
The reviews were good; really good, to be honest, so those who actually did read it loved it. But not very many people were reading it, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Finally, I went to my fellow authors. A group of people who all write similar books, and I asked them. Tell me, honestly, why isn’t this book selling?
Unanimously, they said it was the cover. To be clear: the previous cover is plenty nice enough; it just doesn’t fit the genre. This book is paranormal romcom, or, as it’s also referred to, paranormal chick lit. It’s funny. Wacky. Silly. Lighthearted. (You know, the sort of book one would desire to read during a pandemic…) But the cover, well, it was too subtle. It looked like a contemporary romance cover. If you’re looking for funny paranormal, you aren’t going to click on a contemporary romance cover, are you?
So I took their advice. I reached out to a cover artist known for her paranormal chick lit covers. And this is what she created for me.
And. I. Love. It.
I hope you do too. And your friends. And their friends. And their enemies too. And I know it’s a Halloween book, but it’s still fun to read, anytime of year. So, here’s a little teaser, to prove it:
“This is kind of creepy,” she whispered.
The groups of guests on the dance floor seemed a long way away. Even the noise of the song the DJ cued up was muted. Hesitantly, she reached out and grasped the tent flap, pulling it open and then pausing until a raspy voice snapped, “Get in here already.”
The inside of the tent was bare save for piles of silken material strewn on the floor and an elderly woman who sat in a throne-like chair, a small round table before her. A squat, grinning jack-o-lantern and a fat red candle with a bright, tall flame were perched on the table. The candle and the carved pumpkin were the only lights in the tent, but they clearly illuminated the woman who sat behind them.
The woman who, by Adelle’s judgment, looked to be approximately a thousand years old. Her face was heavily lined, her cheeks sagged, her nose was crooked. She wore a brightly colored scarf on her head, wispy gray hairs sticking out from under the silky material. Her body was covered with the same type of peasant shirt and billowing skirt that Adelle wore, except it was uncomfortably obvious she wasn’t wearing a cleavage-enhancing bra, because her breasts hung somewhere in the vicinity of her knees.
“Quit staring at me, girl. You’ll look like this someday, too, if you’re lucky.”
“Lucky,” the woman said, as if Adelle had repeated the word out loud. “You wanna know how many hunks I had in my day? There’s a reason I look so worn out.” She cackled loudly as she smacked the top of the table, shaking the jack-o-lantern and causing the candle flame to shimmer.
“Are you going to read my fortune or something?” Adelle just wanted this whole scene over with.
“Do I look like I know how to read fortunes?” the old woman shot back. “Nobody can tell the future, you idiot.”
She blinked in astonishment, too shocked to even respond.
“So, Adelle, what is it you think you’re looking for tonight?”
“Wait, how do you know my name?”
“How do I know a lot of things? I listen. I pay attention. I notice what is right in front of my face. You ought to take a page from that book.”
“I listen and pay attention,” she protested. Was this why Nicole had begged her to visit this old woman? Was she supposed to be funny? Comic relief, in the form of spewed insults? This was so not Adelle’s scene.
“Look, I’m going to—” She turned with the intention of leaving when suddenly the tent went completely and utterly dark. She froze, disoriented and unsure of even where the entrance was located.
“What you’re going to do is listen, for once,” the woman’s voice said, echoing as if they were inside a cave instead of a tent. Adelle wrapped her arms around herself and stood there, waiting. She didn’t really have any other option at the moment. She shivered, more from nervousness than the cold. In fact, inside the smaller, closed tent, the temperature was almost uncomfortably warm.
“That’s better,” the woman said, the echo receding, her voice rife with satisfaction. The candle inside the jack-o-lantern flickered to life first, and Adelle blinked. The carved face was no longer grinning. It looked as if it were frowning in disapproval.
“The pumpkin—” Adelle started, but then the candle flickered to life and her gaze was drawn back to the old woman who sat behind it, steadily watching her. Adelle resisted the urge to look over her shoulder at the entrance to the tent.
“W-what do you want?” she asked, hating the way her voice cracked with her nervousness.
“Peace, love, and happiness,” the woman retorted. “But I’d settle for a romp with your date. He’s single, isn’t he?”
“Ben?” Adelle said in surprise. “No offense, but I don’t think you’re his type.”
“Why do people start offensive phrases with the words ‘no offense’?”
The old woman waved a veined, wrinkled hand over the candle flame. The rings she wore on every finger and her thumb glittered in the light, gold bangle bracelets clinking gently on her arm.
“Well, who do you think is his type?” the woman asked.
Adelle furrowed her brow, confused by the woman’s question.
“What’s so damn difficult about my question, girl? You know him, don’t you? He’s your best friend, so you say. If that’s the case, then you ought to know what he likes in a woman. You’ve known him for ten years. That’s almost a third of your lifetime. Answer me,” she snapped.
“I, uh, I…” Adelle stuttered over an answer. How did this obnoxious old woman know anything at all about her and Ben’s friendship? Nicole must have filled her in while she was getting her own fortune read.
Taking a deep breath, she said, “He likes good-looking girls. Blondes, it seems.”
The old woman cocked her head to the side and gave her a considering look. “Well, that puts me out of the running, I suppose. Although a box of ‘golden platinum’ could remedy that easily enough. What else? That boy can’t be so superficial that looks alone would win his heart.”
Adelle snorted. “You’re right on that account. Ben’s awfully picky about women. He can’t stand airheads. Definitely needs an intelligent woman.”
“Golden platinum’s looking more and more tempting,” the old woman mused. “I like a man who appreciates a girl’s brains.”
Adelle cleared her throat. “Er…”
“What about his extracurricular activities? What’s he into? Besides banging brainy blondes. What’s a girl need to know to attract his attention?”
“Banging brainy… Are you trying to set Ben up with someone? Because he’s not exactly a relationship kind of guy.”
“There you go, not seeing what’s right in front of your face again. I told you, I was a real looker back in the day. You wanna know how many men I’ve wrapped these thighs around?” She slapped a hand onto her lap and her skirt jiggled. Her grin revealed that she was missing both incisors.
“I bet I could give that hunk a ride he won’t soon forget. Might even convince him to fall in love with me. Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to me.”
Adelle glanced around the tent. There were deep shadows in every corner. The entrance seemed very far away, and this conversation was getting out of control. “Right. Um, was there anything else? I should probably get back to the reception.”
The old lady shook her head. “You remind me of Nicole.”
“Nicole has dark hair, and I’m blonde.”
“Christ, you’re an idiot,” the woman muttered under her breath. “I didn’t say you look like Nicole. I’m not gonna lie, there was a point when I thought she wasn’t good enough for my Nicky. I had awfully damn high expectations for my grandson’s mate.”
The old woman ignored the questioning tone. “But Nicky was smitten. I suppose she came through well enough. They’ll make me pretty little great-grandbabies, at any rate. This wedding, the theme, you know this was all in tribute to me, right?”
“I thought it was in honor of Nick’s heritage.”
“I’m part of that heritage, aren’t I?” She shook her head. “Kids these days. You know back in my day, marriages were arranged. Our parents told us who we were gonna spend the rest of our lives with. I gotta say, there are times I wish we could go back to that period. I bet your parents would know what to do, wouldn’t they?”
“You mean, pick out my husband?” A laugh burbled out of her. “My mother would marry me off to Ben in a heartbeat.”
The old woman sat there, staring with unblinking eyes.
The laughter died on Adelle’s lips. “Ben? Don’t be ridiculous,” she blustered. “He’s my best friend. We’ve never— He isn’t— I don’t— We aren’t even compatible,” she finally managed. “He loves this kind of stuff,” she said, waving her hand to encompass the tent. “Hocus pocus. Urban legends. Mythical stories. Just ask him. We’re complete opposites.”
“You don’t believe in any of that stuff?”
Adelle shook her head.
“It isn’t real. I believe in concrete stuff. Facts.”
“Love isn’t concrete.”
“Is that why you don’t believe in it?”
“I didn’t say that. I believe in love. Look at Nick and Nicole. I’ve never seen anyone more in love. They’re obviously perfect for each other.”
“All true, but none of that is concrete, and therefore, by your logic, not real.”
Adelle shook her head, trying to clear it. “What are you trying to say?”
The old woman leaned forward. From her vantage point, standing on the other side of the small table, Adelle could see clear down the front of her shirt. As suspected, she wasn’t wearing a bra, and her breasts did, indeed, brush her knees.
“Have you ever heard of the Legend of Bloody Mary?” the old woman asked, her voice low and serious.
“You really are an idiot,” the woman snapped.
“The queen?” Adelle desperately tried again, as if she needed to prove to the strange, insulting woman that she wasn’t an idiot. “From Tutor times?”
“Closer,” the woman said, her tone resigned. “I thought you said Ben liked intelligent women.”
Adelle glared at her.
The old woman sat back in her chair. The candlelight flickered across her features, distorting them, making them appear … younger. Adelle blinked and the impression was gone. The woman was old and wrinkled again, drooping dark eyes watching her closely.
“According to the legend, there’s a certain time of year that if a girl really wants to know, if she is sincere enough about it, she can take a candle and hold it before a particular mirror, and the image of her future mate will appear.”
“Even though I have no interest in going down that path again, the next time I have a candle and a mirror handy, I’ll be sure to take a look,” Adelle muttered. She was fast losing patience with this game. She wanted to get back to the reception, back to Ben’s side. But first, she planned to lay into Nicole for cajoling her into doing this and then leaving her alone with this kooky old lady.
“It works best during the harvest moon.”
Adelle glanced at the entrance of the tent. The curtain was closed, but she knew the moon had risen in the sky by now, was probably hovering over the lake, casting pale moonlight over the reception tent.
“Try it now, if you’d like.” The woman waved her hand to the side. Adelle turned to look in the direction she indicated and then gasped.
“That mirror wasn’t there a minute ago,” she blurted.
“You just weren’t looking,” the woman replied.
“Yes, I was.” She stabbed her finger toward the mirror. “It wasn’t there. The only thing in this tent was you and that candle and that stupid jack-o-lantern.” The jack-o-lantern’s carved face was pensive. How many glasses of wine had she consumed tonight?
The old woman indicated the candle. “Go ahead. Since it’s here now, why don’t you test the old legend?”
“Who put you up to this? Is this some kind of joke, because I’m not laughing.”
“Me neither,” the woman said mildly. “Go ahead. I’m just as curious as you.”
“I’m not curious,” she insisted, but it wasn’t true. She was curious, if only to prove that the woman was as certifiable as she suspected. After the humiliating and disastrous way her relationship with Daryl ended, Adelle had sworn off men—forever.
“Fine.” She reached over and snatched up the candle. The flame shimmered and wavered, and for a moment, Adelle feared it would go out entirely, once again bathing the tent in utter darkness. For some reason, she was certain that if the candle flame was extinguished then the jack-o-lantern would go dark, too. She froze and held her breath until the flickering fire steadied again.
“Go ahead,” the old woman encouraged when she did not move.
Adelle’s breath caused the flame to shiver. She turned and walked slowly toward the tall, oval mirror situated on two wooden legs. Curious hieroglyphics were carved into the frame; it was probably older than the crazy old woman. It was quite beautiful, though— how could she have not noticed it when she first entered the tent?
Ben would like this mirror. He had a thing for antiques, which wasn’t surprising given his fascination with all things strange and unusual and steeped in folklore and legends.
“What do you see?” The old woman’s voice was hushed and sounded as if it were coming from a great distance.
“I see a twenty-eight-year-old blonde woman who was forced to dress up like a gypsy so she could stand up in her friend’s theme wedding.”
“You really are a piece of work, aren’t you? I can see why you and Nicky’s mate are such good friends. Concentrate,” the old woman barked.
“What am I concentrating on?”
The woman made a noise that sounded like a Whoopee Cushion. “The mirror. What do you see? Other than yourself.”
Adelle stared into the reflective glass until the image of herself, dressed in a peasant shirt and flowing skirt, blurred, until all she really saw was the flickering candle.
The flame was abruptly extinguished, and then just as suddenly flared back to life, so brightly that Adelle looked up at the mirror instead of directly at the light. Something in the glass caught her eye and she focused, trying to determine what it was.
The jack-o-lantern was grinning at her again. And slightly to the left, there was Ben, standing next to the glowing pumpkin, his hands thrust casually into the pockets of his pants, a lopsided smile on his face.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.” She heard the relief in her voice as she turned around.
He wasn’t there.