Before I describe my life, I should probably mention that I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan firmly believing the town was named after me and it probably skewed my perspective of the world.
My dad worked for the Ann Arbor News (also named after me, or so I thought). He brought home chunks of newsprint and those fat pencils for us and he spent long evenings plunking away at his college Underwood typewriter creating humor columns for the Saturday Evening Post and later, light verse for numerous publications. And so, I came to believe that writing was in my blood.
After a mostly fun childhood (I did not love the gift of twin brothers four years my junior) I endured a self-conscious puberty, then four years of random study at the University of Michigan from which I emerged unqualified for much. Luckily, in those days, editors didn’t seem to mind and I spent the next ten years at the Ypsilanti Press, the Flint Journal and the Ann Arbor News.
Then came the years of marriage and motherhood about which there is much to say but none of it is original. Those occurred in Northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C.
I’ve done various freelance writing jobs for foundations and other nonprofits, for a few magazines. For the Washington Post, I wrote a series of participatory journalism a la George Plimpton for which I spent a punishing Valentine’s Day delivering bouquets for a flower shop, a hair-raising three months as a substitute school teacher and a horrific evening as a Little League Umpire.
After my dad died in 2000, I found myself writing longer, in fact, novels. For someone who has read the six-book canon of Jane Austen at least two dozen times, it was a natural step. I started with romance novels with a touch of mystery and (I hope) a bit of humor, I’ve moved to cozy mysteries with a touch of romance and a bit more of humor. At least that’s the way I see it.
For more of my take on literature and life (at least, my literature and life) please visit my blog on annyostbooks.com. It is called Once Over Lightly.
The late Mrs. Johanna Marttinen intended to donate the old Painted Rock Lighthouse that had been her home to the elderly folks of the Keweenaw Peninsula, unless, that is, her long-absent son, Alex, turned up to claim it. The Prodigal’s unexpected return, in the midst of the mid-summer Juhannus festival and Hatti Lehtinen’s faux wedding to Captain Jack, the octogenarian keeper of the light, unleashes in the close-knit community, a tidal wave of dark secrets that results in a shocking murder.
It is the first murder in decades in a county where the sheriff’s main job is to rescue snow-stranded motorists and Sheriff Horace A. Clump is not up to the investigation. So, Hatti, manager of her stepdad’s bait shop and a recreational knitter, decides to take on the job. Why not? She’s had a year of law school and, besides, she’s married to (albeit separated from) a lawyer. Besides, it was Hatti, along with Larry, the basset hound and Lydia, the poodle, who found the body at the foot of the lighthouse.
Murder under the Midnight Sun…
I whistled for the dogs and began to jog down to the shoreline that outlined a diamond sea. Within a few seconds, a mournful baying sound stopped me in my tracks.
At first I thought it was the old foghorn used on low visibility night, to warn sailors of dangerous shoals in the deep, cold lake. But the lighthouse had been decommissioned for more than seventy years and, besides, the mid-day sky was azure over the turquoise waves. My heart thumped hard as I turned to find my two canines posed, like sentinels, on either side of something crumpled and still, something hideous. Something that had until very recently been vital and alive.
The basset hound bayed again and emotion clogged my throat. A sudden, swift grief for the extinguished life was joined by fear for the living. The conversation in the lightkeeper’s study that I’d overheard from my tiny bedroom leapt into my mind.
“You left her along for twenty years.” The voice was young, raw, accusing.
“I know.” The response contained a hint of amusement.
“So what’re you gonna do about it? What are you going to do for her?”
The amusement in the older voice fled.
“You mean what am I going to do for you?”
A brief silence then as the younger speaker evidently tried to get his temper under control.
“I want you to give her the lighthouse. And the money.”
“I see. And what happens if I don’t?”
“Maybe,” the younger voice raged in a furious whisper, “I’ll push you off the tower.”
With an effort, I forced the memory aside and tried, three times, to punch in the emergency number. When I connected, I hate to wait through about twenty rings. Finally the voice of my onetime Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Iris Touleheto, spoke in a cheery voice.
“Hello? Hello? This is emergency. I am so sorry for the delay. I was down the hall in the little girl’s room. Who is this please?”
“Mrs. Too, it’s Hatti,” I said. My voice sounded unfamiliar to my ears. More of a croak. “I didn’t realize you were the sheriff department’s dispatcher.”
“Just temporary, dearie. Justin Erkkila is up in Embarrass, Minnesota visiting his daughter and new grandson. Speaking of that, I ran into Hilda Aho at the hardware. She says Waino’s current girlfriend is off at Luther League and all he does all day is play video games. You should call him, dearie. Strike while the iron’s hot.”
Mrs. Touleheto, having discovered Waino and me playing spin the bottle during vacation bible school fifteen years earlier, had cherished the hope that we’d someday make a match of it.
“I’m married, Mrs. Too,” I said, wondering how I’d lost control of the emergency call.
“Yes, but Henrikki, a bird in the hand is better than one in the bush. You can’t have a baby with a husband who lives somewhere else. And you’re not a spring chicken anymore. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.”
“I need the sheriff,” I said. “I’m out at the Painted Rock Lighthouse and someone has fallen from the gallery.”
She made a disapproving sound. “It sounds as if you need an ambulance.”
“The victim is dead,” I said, bluntly. “The sheriff needs to come out here. Pronto.”
“Well, dearie, Sheriff Clump’s down at the Lunch Box Diner enjoying his pannukakku.He won’t like to be disturbed. Anyway, he come into work today in the Corvette and, you know, there’s no backseat.”
In other words, Clump wouldn’t be able to transport the body back to our tiny morgue.
I stared at the lighthouse and the dogs and the body on the sand and thought how utterly unprepared we were to handle a serious crime. The Keweenaw might not draw a lot of tourists but it was, in fact, the ideal spot for a destination murder.
When Hatti Lehtinen, owner of a bait-slash-knit shop agrees to take on the role of police chief in her tiny close-knit hometown on the Keewenaw Peninsula, she figures her toughest task will be trying to pry the nickels out of the frozen parking meters on Main Street. It’s the middle of winter and too cold for crime which is a good thing, because Hatti is no Finnish Columbo. She knows worms and yarn, not murder.
But someone wanted lovely Liisa Pellonen dead and when, on the eve of the first annual Christmas festival Pikkujoulu, the body of the reigning Saint Lucy, turns up in the funeral home’s sauna, it’s Hatti’s job to find out who, among the people she’s known all her life, would commit murder.
Twinkle lights crisscrossed Main Street. Shops windows were decked in pine wreaths and a Finnish Christmas carol, Hanki, Hanki, Hanki (Snow, Snow, Snow) blared from a makeshift public address system. A six-foot sign welcomed all to Pikkujoulu, “Red Jacket’s first annual Finnish-American Christmas festival.”
“It looks like the Finnish Christmas fairy threw up here,” I said. “When was the last time there were this many people on Main Street?”
It was an old joke on the Keweenaw Peninsula, onetime hub of the nation’s copper mining industry. Unfortunately, the copper had run out some fifty years earlier and our best, last hope to save a dying economy lay in tourism.
“Think Pikkujoulu will catch on?”
Sofi shook her head.
“Face it, Hatti, there’s a perfectly good Bavarian Christmas Festival down in Frankenmuth with all-you-can-eat fried chicken. Who in their right mind would drive an additional ten hours for smorgasbord and Saint Lucy?”
“Don’t forget snow,” I reminded her. “We’ve always got snow.”
“The Nordic background will appeal to those who enjoy Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which also concern Norwegian Americans.”
Issue: March 1, 2015
Hoping to increase tourism, the residents of Red Jacket, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, are gearing up for the St. Lucy’s Day parade and the Pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) festival, events designed to earn the town a stop on the Keweenaw Snow Train. When town father Arvo Maki picks his protégé, Liisa Pelonen, as this year’s St. Lucy, bypassing the traditional method of choosing a young woman for the coveted position, he angers many in the town. When Liisa is found dead, acting police chief Hatti Lehtinen investigates. However, Hatti, owner of Bait & Stitch, the local fishing and knitting shop, is quickly out of her depth and enlists the aid of her sister, cousin, and good friend, along with her estranged husband, Jace Night Wind, whose half-brother is the prime suspect. Details of Finnish culture and small-town life frame Hatti’s investigation, related in the first person. The Nordic background will appeal to those who enjoy Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which also concern Norwegian Americans. — Sue O’Brien
Being the temporary police chief of Red Jacket, Michigan, is no sinecure. Hatti Lehtinen, separated from her lawyer husband, Jace Night Wind, is running a combination bait and knitting shop. When her stepfather is hospitalized, she takes on his job, …
Secrets, old and not so old, lie just beneath the surface even on Main Street, U.S.A.
Daisy Budd and her sisters expected some opposition when they decided to turn a crumbling mortuary into a fashionable wedding boutique. After all, small towns like Mayville, Michigan, home of Bowman’s Biscuits, were not noted for change. But Daisy’s tolerance turns to terror as she receives a series of threatening letters, finds burned black candles in the cellar and discovers a corpse in the Cupid Fountain. Something is very wrong at Happily Ever After and she intends to find out what even if it means dealing with the Bowman family’s black sheep, the man who broke her sister’s heart.
Nick Bowman, disinherited grandson of the late founder of Mayville’s leading business, Bowman’s Biscuits, Inc., is back in town only long enough to fulfill a posthumous request. Nick’s task, to find and return an unidentified World War II treasure code-named the blue diamond that has been hidden in the old mortuary for more than sixty years. The problem? Somebody else has found out about the treasure – someone who is willing to kill for it.
As Nick and Daisy team up to stop the murderer the sparks
Daisy melted and burned. Heat settled on her like a second skin and she could barely breathe. What on Earth was going on? Malaria? Menopause? Was the house on fire? She tried to twist away from the inferno but when a steel bar clamped across her chest discomfort morphed into panic. She arched backward, her hips slamming into a new barrier, something hard, hot and totally male.
She exploded, skyward with a frantic cry. An instant later she slammed into the unforgiving floor.
Lamplight seared her eyes and she winced.
Her eyes narrowed at the fuzzy voice. How could she be okay? She was sprawled on the floor like a broken piñata. She squeezed her eyes shut, held her breath and waited for the pain in her hip and elbow to subside. Finally, she looked up and her breath hitched in her throat.
Nick Bowman’s dark hair was tousled from sleep, his lean cheeks bristled with dark whiskers, his heavy lids hooded glittering gray eyes.
“Damn you felt good,” he muttered. “ C’mon back to bed, honey.”
Honey? Daisy struggled to her feet, ground her fists into her waist like an angry kindergarten teacher and replied in clean crisp rifle shots.
Get. Out. Of. My. Bed.”
With a slight shrug he rolled to his feet and stood before her, tall, broad-shouldered, a genetic jackpot magnificently unconcerned about either his lack of clothing or his awe-inspiring arousal.
An awful thought occurred.
“Dear God,” Daisy gasped, “tell me we did not have sex.”
Nick glanced down for what surely was an unnecessary reminder.
“We did not have sex,” he replied, dutifully. “At least, not recently.”
A reluctant earl, a determined lady and an abandoned cottage…scandal, anyone?
The heartless Earl of Marchmont is threatening Honeysuckle Watson’s family home . Luckily, Honey has a plan. She will lure the earl from London with tales of an imaginary highwayman on his estate after which she will compromise herself to force his hand.
Reginald Wanstead, a dedicated rake, had never sought the title but now that he is earl he must marry to secure the succession. Reggie selects a biddable young lady who will give him an heir and no trouble and he determinedly avoids the insufferable. titian-haired termagant given to nagging him about his duties.
But even a devil earl cannot control the weather and an ill-timed thunderstorm forces Reggie and Honey to shelter at a lonely cottage. Just as Honey is about to achieve her moment of triumph she falters and is forced to face a most unwelcome question.
Is it possible Honeysuckle has fallen in love with the devil earl?
“My lord?” she said, her brow wrinkled. “I have a question.”
He lifted a brow.
“How do you do that? I mean work your eyebrows independently? It is very effective, I promise you. It makes you look quite –“
“I would say intriguing.”
Intriguing. Was she flirting with him? A jolt of desire shot through him.
“You had a question?”
“It is more of a favor.” Her eyes were huge in the pale face.
Well, damn. A favor. He sighed. ”Is this about Bottomsley?”
“No.” She bit her soft, full, lower lip and his blood surged. “I wonder if you would mind…that is…I have never been properly kissed and, well, I would very much like you to do it.”
She wanted him to kiss her? He gazed at the bitten bottom lip, the small, even, white teeth, and the urge to explore them with his tongue was almost irresistible.
Dangerous. Reggie knew he should warn her but the words remained unspoken.
He slid one hand behind her slender neck and lowered his head. Her scent, lavender? And maybe sage? Jasmine? Whichever it was unique and intoxicating. Her lips quivered as he brushed them lightly with his own. He drew back a moment later, his chest constricted, his breathing heavy.
The clear eyes regarded him steadily. “I thought there would be something more.”
Reggie stifled a groan. He was not used to self-denial. “I must be honest with you, Miss Watson. Honeysuckle. I am afraid of the ‘something more.’ I am afraid I will not be able to stop with a kiss.”
THE ROMANCE REVIEWS
“Ever have a romance novel completely rectify a bad day and leave you smiling? If not, give THE EARL THAT I MARRY a try. I’ll bet your day will improve significantly upon reading. The promise of further formances between the characters has me crossing my fingers that the BRIDES AND PREJUDICE series has a long and successful future.”
TWO LIPS REVIEWS
Ms. Yost created a great heroine in her delightful story. The heroine is not a perfect beauty but strong, smart and devoted to the people of her village. With its charming characters and imaginative plot, THE EARL THAT I MARRY is a lovely tale you won’t want to miss. – Five Lips
“I love this book. Author Ann Yost has mastered the richness and delicious flavor of the language from that time period. Many books I have read use it in dialogue, but Ann carries it through the narrative, which makes for a delightful read that really draws the reader into the story. Add two compelling main characters and sprinkle in a dash of humor and this is a recipe for the perfect read. I highly recommend this book to any discerning regency ready. – Jayne Ormerod, author of THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND
An ex-bride and a divorced loner battle the past, local gossip and industrial-strength personal chemistry when they join forces to unmask an unorthodox small-town killer.
Silent tension filled the truck cab as Luke drove the half-mile to the house and parked in the alley. There was no way to open a discussion of what they’d witnessed without bringing sex into the conversation.
Hell. The damn subject already loomed between them like a big, rock-hard elephant in the room. He shifted in his seat. Hell. He’d never been out of control like that just from touching a woman. If he didn’t know how inept they were, he’d think Mabel Ruth and the girls had cast a spell on him.
It had to be abstinence. Abstinence with a little chemistry thrown in. Okay, a lot of chemistry.
Jessie reached for the door handle. He cursed, quietly. The cab was too high. She’d lose her footing.
“Hang on. I’ll Wait til I come around.”
“No thanks.” She pushed open the door. “I’m tired of being treated like a backpack.”
He clamped fingers around her wrist. Her hair had started to dry and it formed little “C’s” around her head. She looked like an annoyed poodle.
“What’re you talking about?”
“The way you keep slinging me around like a sack of potatoes. I have perfectly good legs.”
“They’re good,” he agreed, “they’re just too short.”
She gaped at him and he thrust his fingers through his hair.
“That wasn’t a criticism. I don’t find you unattractive.” Obviously.
Color stained her cheeks.
“If you’re talking about what happened in the costume closet there were extenuating circumstances. Anybody’d be turned on in the middle of a live porn show.”
He studied the small battalion of freckles that marched across her nose. He wondered why they fascinated him. He’d never been a fan of freckles.
“I see you’ve got it all worked out.”
She nodded. “D’you think they knew we were hiding behind the stable?” He recalled faintly hearing Prendergast’s groans as the feel of Jessie’s sweet butt bumping against his groin blocked out the rest of his senses. His zipper tightened again. He swore silently.
“Not a chance.”
“THAT VOODOO THAT YOU DO” is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging story with twists, turns, mystery, suspense, humor and just about everything else you could possibly imagine – including a dash of magic. This is a definite must-read. The writing is tight, the characters are sharp and the varying subplots will ensure you don’t want to put this one down.” – Fern, Long and Short Romance Reviews
“This was a good solid mystery with a nice dose of romance and a little humor. The setting was fabulous. I’d love to visit Mystic Hollow, minus the murders, of course. There were so many lovable characters my favorite being Aunt Blanche’s canasta club. If you like your mysteries with quaint characters and a nice helping of romance I definitely suggest you read this one.” – Theresa Joseph, The Romance Studio
“With many lovable characters this story is an endearing read. Ann Yost writes an intriguing story that keeps you entertained all the way to the last page.” – Gabrielle, Got Erotic Romance
“Yost pens a story that’s heavy on romance and suspense, but with a comedic flair in the form of some elderly ladies who are convinced they are witches.” – Cindy Himler, Romantic Times.
Basil Outlaw, a veterinarian and confirmed bachelor is so estranged from his family and everyone that he failed to recognize love when it finally caught up to him. It’s Christmas-time in Maine and he wants another chance.
Hallie Scott was once in love with the taciturn veterinarian but she can’t forget that his kneejerk rejection destroyed her last chance to have a baby of her own. She doesn’t care that it’s Christmas. Second chance denied.
While Hallie keeps her focus on her clients including a wounded bat, an anxious poodle and a boa constrictor suffering from ennui, Baz focuses on trying to win her back. He is desperate enough to form an alliance with the father he hasn’t spoken to in two decades but even at that he knows he’s got a tough fight ahead because while Hallie was losing her shot at motherhood, Baz had acquired a baby of his own.
It was Christmas Eve in Eden. Twelve months to the hour from the time Baz Outlaw had rejected Hallie’s plea to give her a baby; twelve months to the day from the moment she decided to leave L.A. and change her life.
Hallie gazed out at the pews from her seat in the small choir loft behind the pulpit. Over the past year she’d come to see the familiar faces with a sense of security. Eden had begun to feel like the home she’d always wanted.
Jolene Thompson, owner of the Pink Poodle Beauty Salon sat next to Hallie in the choir stall. Jo was one of Hallie’s two close friends. She spoke under cover of the rambling sermon. “Why’s the Prodigal Hunk here?”
“Beats me,” Hallie whispered back.
“He can’t stop looking at you.”
She knew. His intense stare was having its usual effect on her even in church. She was so short of breath she’d had to mouth the words to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
Her friend frowned. “I’ll bet you a blimpy burger he’s here to get you back.”
Most of the bets in Rockfield County involved mouth-watering blimpy burgers from Little Joe’s Café on High Street.
“I wish he’d just crawl back to where he came from.”
“He came from here,” Jo reminded her.
Hallie made a face.
“It took a year but maybe he finally realized he missed you.”
Hallie dismissed that possibility. “He never called or wrote. Why would he just turn up on Christmas Eve? That doesn’t make sense.”
Jo shrugged. “Who can understand men?”
“Not me. That’s why I work with animals.”