Dangerous Dance cover art

A gothic romance novel set in Louisiana

His whole career, Remy Mistral has fought for reform in a state where corruption is an art form. Now is his chance to quit talking about reform and make his move to change things, but two things stand in his way.

One is a woman, the other a killer.

Dorothy Morgana Merlinn would like some answers but her parents are dead—her father by an assassin’s bullet—so she’ll have to settle for justice. She’ll do what it takes to get it, including making a deal with Remy Mistral, the man who humiliated her ten years ago.

But when she stirs up the Louisiana mud, she gets more than she bargained for, including a romance with the man she planned to put in the crosshairs to flush out a killer.

Greed, corruption and betrayal clutter the board in a complicated chess game with life, death and love on the line…

Excerpt:

Remy Mistral was watching for the opening and still he almost missed it. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the impression of a break in the dense foliage on his left and hit the brakes. There was no one behind—and hadn’t been for the past half hour of driving—so he backed the sleek gray Mercedes, and turned into the even narrower side road with a swaying lurch as his car’s suspension tried to adjust to the sudden downgrade in conditions. Two car lengths along, he found his way barred by a vine-covered gate.

A push of a button silently lowered the tinted window. He rested his arm on the frame as warm, thick air rolled in carrying the pungent scent of growing things. With one finger he pushed his sunglasses down, the better to pierce the green and yellow shadows and vines that prevented him from finding a pattern in the ornate gate’s grillwork.

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Remy shifted to neutral and pushed open the door, letting more humid air rush in and overpower his car’s air conditioning. He slid out and stretched—it had been a long ride from New Orleans—slipped off the jacket of his gray Armani suit and draped it carefully over the seat back. Only then did he approach the gate.

On either side, a thick layer of vines clung to the gate, and a fence marched into shadow in an unyielding line. Remy tugged at the vines at the center of the gate, until he could see the pale, yellow gleam that marked the road through a line of oak and cypress trees dripping with the gray ghosts of Spanish moss. A few more tugs and he found and traced the letters scrolled into metal.

Oz.

The estate had been named to remind Magus Merlinn of the years he spent in Australia, and perhaps the Wizard designation had grown from that. It certainly wasn’t because Magus had Klan associations. It wasn’t even clear if he’d been given the title or taken it. What was certain, he’d been a wizard at creating success out of nothing. Ten years ago, he’d turned his attention to the governor’s mansion, with a run for the White House to follow, but a bullet had stopped the legend. Yesterday, a homemade knife in a prison yard had stopped the Wizard’s killer.

Was it a coincidence that rumors of a revival in Oz had started sometime before yesterday, though no one could quite say when or where they started? All Remy knew for sure was that in the good-old-boy taverns of power, rumors about Dorothy’s return had started to circulate as the first candidates hopeful of replacing the sitting governor started testing the waters. What no one seemed to know was what she intended to do with her father’s power. Would she throw it behind someone or did she plan to run herself?

Remy rarely did a straight news story anymore, but politics were king on his talk radio show and a scoop on Dorothy’s plans wouldn’t hurt his ratings any—or at least, that’s what he’d told himself during the drive to Oz. The crazy plan he kept pushed to the back of his head as he looked at the firmly barred gate. It looked like it hadn’t moved since the Wizard last passed through it in a fancy wooden box. Remy had to wonder about the reliability of his source.

He gave the gate a shake and stepped back. Was it locked or rusted shut? He had some WD-40 in his trunk, if rust were the problem. He checked the closure, but found no chains or padlocks holding it in place and, despite the wads of plant crap on the gate itself, there was adequate clearance between gate and ground.

“Damn.” He shook it again, but couldn’t tell what was the obstruction was. Unless a tornado miraculously appeared and lifted him over it, Oz was going to be tougher to crack than he expected—if Dorothy was even there—

Before he could finish the thought, a shrill shriek broke the silence as the gate pulled from his hold and began to ponderously swing open, exposing the road. Weed-choked and broken in spots, but still clearly yellow, and clearly brick, leading to the heart of Magus Merlinn’s lost Oz.

“I’ll be damned.” With a last, wary look around, Remy slid behind the wheel of his car, engaged the gears and pulled through. Behind him, the gate closed with an ominous clang.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jill Smith on RT Book Reviews wrote:

“Sinister and twisted individuals make this suspense thriller quite the dark and intense read. Jones cranks up the action and danger, as well as psychological suspense. Nail biting fun!”

on Romance Reviews Today:

“I really enjoyed A Dangerous Dance...I found myself drawn into these complicated figures, who all seem to have an ulterior motive...I found the characters to be similar to a chess game, where you draw your opponent into a checkmate. This is a very interesting book that will keep you intrigued to the very end.”

on America Online Romance Fiction Forum:

“A DANGEROUS DANCE is as dark and sinister as a French Quarter alley. Dorothy and Remy are a great team, intellectually and romantically. They realize both of their lives are in jeopardy as they get closer to the killer. This psycho-thriller is full of greed, corruption, danger, and surprising twists and turns. Each of the supporting characters are hiding hateful secrets. Be prepared -- no one is who you think they are!”


The (mostly) true story behind the writing of Dangerous Dance. 

As is typical, I don't have anyone to interview me, but myself, so here we go again.

Myself: Congratulations on your sixth book. Are you as amazed as I am by that?

Me: Oh yes! I mean, I realize that if you keep writing books, eventually one of them will be the sixth book, but it is nice to actually get there. Of course, now that means I need to start working on number seven!

Myself: This book is more gothic than any of your previous books. What do you think happened? I mean, it's not like you set out to write a gothic novel?

Me: I think sometimes the story determines the direction and the tone of a book. I set this book in Louisiana, which can be a bit gothic at times. The story also begins at a mansion that has been closed for a long time. The characters also set the tone for this story. My heroine, Dorothy, is looking for the person who arranged a hit on her father. It's an old murder, but one that isn't over yet. And whenever you venture into the realm of politics, I think it just naturally makes for a darker story.

I also think my stories reflect what is going on in my life, too. The year I wrote this was a challenging year for me personally. We were transferred by my husband's company, after eighteen years in New Orleans. While we're making a good transition to Houston, the act of moving is difficult at best. And there were other things going on in my personal life. I always tend to go darker when life gets interesting. Now that things are settling down, I find myself hungry for a bit humor. 🙂

Myself: Well, we'll talk about what's next at the end of the interview. Try to keep focused!

Me: Oh right. Now who are you again? (get severe look from myself) Sorry.

Myself: Is this story very political?

Me: I think I meant it to be, but it didn't turn out that way. It is a story about power, what people will do to get power, what they will do to keep power and the consequences of those choices. Of course, it all sounds very important, but in the end, its still a murder mystery and a suspense tale and a romance. It's probably a good thing, because even after 18 years in Louisiana, I still don't understand the politics completely. <g>

Myself: Tell us about your hero, Remy Mistral.

Me: Remy is a talk radio host. His subject is the political scene, but he's tired of talking and wants to do something. His problem is, he's made a lot of enemies in the political establishment, so he's going to have trouble getting backing and money. Dorothy has money and a lot of political capital left over from her father, who was assassinated during a run for governor. He approaches her with a deal. He'll help her find her father's killer if she'll fund his campaign.

Myself: Dorothy and Remy have a history, don't they?

Me: Oh yeah! Dorothy has always been a bit interested in Remy, but she wasn't that interesting to him ten years ago. Now, of course, he's very interested. <g>

Myself: Well, he is very sassy. <g>

Me: Now whose having trouble focusing?

Myself: Sorry. Okay, like all your books, people do die.

Me: Yeah, while the violence isn't explicit in my books, this one does deal with some more mature themes, so I'd give it a PG-13 rating.

Myself: Rating duly noted. Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers about A Dangerous Dance?

Me: Just that I enjoyed writing it and hope they will enjoy it as well. 🙂

Myself: Okay, now let's talk about what comes next. What are you working on?

Me: Well, I have a couple of proposals that I'm excited about. One is an action/adventure WWII time travel. I've been wanting to work on it for a couple of years, but had to keep shifting it to the back burner for other projects (and that move). I'm going to finish it, hopefully by the end of the summer and I'm also hoping to get to a cozy mystery series I've been developing.

Myself: Well, I'd like to thank you again for taking the time to talk to me, we?, about your latest book. And as always, if our readers have any questions, submit them via email and we'll address them here!

 

Dangerous Dance
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