When Constable Hector Evans returns to Chalmsley Court, he doesn’t expect the violent crime to be the murder of one of Lord Chalmsley’s guests.
His lordship wants a quick resolution, before gossip about the crime’s salacious nature and trap-like killing becomes widespread. With no murder weapon, no identifiable clues, and no eyewitnesses, Hector has little to build a case. He has plenty of suspects, even when he realizes the murderer must be a woman.
Even though other guests could have killed the man, Hector finds himself focusing on the Chalmsley family. Was it compulsive Cordelia? Obsessive Portia? Mad Aunt Beth, who gives him riddling clues as snippets of ballads. Hector would blame George, who grew up tormenting his sisters and torturing small animals, but George left two years ago for a rest-cure in Vienna. He can’t have returned, can he?
Bee Seddars, the girl who broke his heart, is a distraction he doesn’t need, especially as she and her cousins are among those celebrating recent engagements. Bee is as lovely as he once thought her and seemingly the most rational member of the Chalmsley family, but he wonders if a few brief months so many summers ago could possibly give him an understanding of who she is.
Hector can’t get Bee to open up about the Chalmsley family secrets. Unlocking those, he believes, is key to solving the murder. Yet she mistrusts him—while he thought she was the one who broke the trust between them, since she refused to write him after he was sent away to join the Bow Street Runners.
In his first twelve hours on the case, the murder scene is torched and the victim’s journal is burned.
In his second twelve hours, a second fiancé is murdered with the missing weapon. And Hector’s suspect lists remains an ell long and a grief wide.
With madness looking like the strongest motive and only circumstantial evidence to build his case, will Hector find the murderess before she strikes again? Or will he discover his lost love is causing bloody death?
He needs The Key to Secrets at Chalmsley Court.
A cozy mystery of 66,000 words, The Key to Secrets is the seventh entry in the Hearts to Hazard series of Regency mysteries. Each book is a standalone novel, complete unto itself, with loose interconnections of characters.
Constable Hector Evans was first introduced in The Danger to Hearts, the sixth Hearts in Hazards.
Originally published in November 2015, the cover needed updating after M.A. Lee’s HnH books 4, 5, and 6 came out in Spring 2017. Here’s a first look at the new cover.
Giles Hargreaves is hunting a French spy who somehow manages to steal government documents. Josette amuses herself playing whist at salons hosted by her sister-in-law. When Giles and Josette met, they are attracted immediately.
But he believes she is connected to the French spy.
And she thinks he will break her heart.
Giles and Josette have their first serious conversation on a settee under a stairway in the Sourantine house. The cover models perfectly capture that scene from the book.
The cover designer at Deranged Doctor Design combined the old cover with the new in a clever way. The playing cards and the sealed letters from the old cover along with the dominant color image transfer from the old to the new while the focus is on the couple.
Here’s the former cover image. I still love it, but I love the new one more.
After Publishing, What’s Next?
For a writer, it’s freaky hard to go to a site that has THE BOOK for sale, type in the name of the author, and nothing comes up for three or four pages.
A writer with part of my name shows up first in the Amazon Kindle store. And then, oh the ignominy, the other writer with exactly my name shows up before my books do . . . and this after I did research before my first published book to ensure that no other Amazon writer was using my name.
Okay, all is not lost. We can do a search for the title.
Digging into Death . . . Bam! Got it in one.
A Game of Secrets . . . not on the first three pages.
A Game of Spies . . . 2nd page! Yippee!
A Game of Hearts . . . Wow! 1st page.
The Danger of Secrets . . . 1st page. Yippee! Yippee!
The Danger for Spies . . . Success! 1st page, second one listed. Wait, the first book doesn’t even have The Danger for Spies as a title. 🙁
The Danger to Hearts . . . 1st page, first one listed. 2nd Coming of Happiness! Bliss Again!
But my author page doesn’t come up quickly unless you find one of my books and then click on my name.
And you can find the Hearts in Hazard series just by typing “Hearts in Hazard”.
Indie Writers face many challenges long after they have a story they believe is ready for print.
We want to present the best manuscript, one that is polished and as error free as possible. 100% perfection is not possible . . . so we strive for the highest level that is.
Then we can make a cover for ourselves or find someone who can do it at a cost we can afford.
I knew I couldn’t make a good cover. I am artistically creative as well as verbally so, but a professional designer knows to look for things and add things in and use balance and proportion in ways that I never thought.
Plus, a professional designer knows the photoshop program they are using. I would have a huge learning curve. Shouldn’t I spend my time writing?
It took me 18 months to find a cover designer that fit my aesthetic. I found Deranged Doctor Design by sheer luck . . . for a “God wink”. They are life savers, believe me. During my 18-month search, I worked on other books, which enabled me to put out three books back to back, October and November and December in 2015: my first three books, the first three in the Hearts in Hazard trilogy, a one-two-three punch.
DDDis the BEST! I love working with them. Their covers are lovely, no matter in which genre they are working. They provide options and previews, and they are willing to switch things around. They are clear in what they can and cannot do. DDD works within a time frame that I understand. They have a great template that pulls from the author the information they need to work with. DDD is brave for working with Indie Writers.
After the writing and the editing and the cover designer, the job of an Indie Writer is not over. Marketing comes next. I am still working on this one.
Discoverabilityis now on my ToBeRead list. By Kristine Kathryn Rusch, it discusses what a writer needs to know about getting their works to the audience in the current state of the reading marketplace.
Getting the book out there, getting the name out there, attracting attention with the right cover and the right blurb and the right audience, these are the five essentials for all Indie Writers.
But I’ll keep writing, and hopefully the “God wink” will happen soon. 😉
In Spring 2017 M.A. Lee released the second three books in the Hearts in Hazard series, The Danger of Secrets,
The Danger for Spies, and The Danger to Hearts.
The first three books in HnH are ~ A Game of Secrets, A Game of Spies, and A Game of Hearts.
All of the books are loosely connected with some characters repeating. However, the plot is completed within the book rather than carried into the next one. Readers can finish one suspenseful without having to wait for the publication of the next one to discover the end to the mystery . . . and the romance.
The designers at Deranged Doctor Design developed wonderful covers for the three new books. At M.A. Lee’s request, they used different models for each one. Response to these new covers was wonderful.
However . . . .
The new covers didn’t keep the branded look for the first three HnH novels.
So, new covers for the first 3 are a must.
Here’s the first look at the new cover for the first Hearts in Hazard book, the first book published by M.A. Lee. (3 Firsts!)
A Game of Secrets
Hearts in Hazard, 1
Tony Farraday and Kate Charteris collide on a street. Kate continues her flight from a nefarious cousin while Tony stays to receive his orders to find a French spy.
They meet again, without a collision, at the seaside inn where Kate has found a job and he has discovered smugglers who may be working with the French spy.
Soon they are deep into stolen government documents and smugglers’ suspicions as they fall in love.
In the first cover, the designer found an image of a period pistol as well as closely written papers and a feather quill. The deep crimson background represented the dangerous game both Tony and Kate found themselves in, pretending to be innocent when they were deep in an investigation into smugglers and spies.
The designer used the same images and color for the second cover, bringing in the elements we loved with the models for Tony and Kate. (Isn’t he handsome?)
We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how the designer incorporated the old cover with the new one.
Now released is the fifth Hearts in Hazard book. The Dangers for Spies, on Amazon Kindle, has the special introductory price of a penny less than a dollar.
The sixth book in the Hearts in Hazard series ~ The Dangers to Hearts ~ will publish in April.
D4Spies brings back the character of Toby Kennitt from A Game of Spies while D2Hearts brings back Jess Carter from A Game of Secrets.
The Dangers for Spies
Past actions cause present dangers.
The French spy, a double Agent
Eugenie DesChamps thinks she is safe, hidden in the English village of Little Houghton. She paints landscapes to supplement her income. She embarks on a flirtation with Charles Audley. To her the world seems radiant, so very different from eight years ago.
No one knows that she once was a toast of Paris, a pretense she used to acquire information to pass on to English spies. Eugenie hated the corrupt French government that had caused the deaths of her family. Then a French agent discovered her double game. She barely escaped with her life.
The English Spy, Undercover
Eight years ago, Tobias Kennit worked with Eugenie, stealing information about Napoleon’s troop movements. Then their operation crashed. He fled, believing that Eugenie was executed as a traitor to her home country. Toby abandoned his undercover spying and became a gamester and a rake.
Yet now the English spycatcher Roger Nazenby has approached Toby once more. He wants him to protect a cryptographer living in the village of Little Houghton. French spies have infiltrated England to capture Charles Audley and return with him to France. Toby agrees to the assignment only because the woman he wants to marry (Melly Ratcliffe) lives in that village.
The Master Cryptographer
Charles Audley returned to his home village for peace and quiet after stressful years in London developing a series of ciphers for English agents. His latest ciphers led to English victories in the Peninsular War.
In Little Houghton, he is charmed by Eugenie DesChamps, a mysterious French artist. Their flirtation distracts him from his cryptography, but he feels no guilt whenever he is in her company.
When Toby sees Eugenie, he is shocked. Eugenie is not dead, and he wants answers from a woman he thought was a double agent. Is she in Little Houghton to help kidnap the cryptographer? She convinces him that she is not—but who is the threat to Charles Audley? And can they protect Audley when they do not know when or where the attack will strike?
And Danger Returns
French agent Didier Poulaine has spent eight years weaving together the snippets of threads to help him locate the only two spies who ever escaped him: Eugenie de la Croix and an Englishman masquerading as a French military officer. He tracks them to Little Houghton, the location of the cryptographer he came to England to kidnap—or kill.
Poulaine’s threads have woven together. Three lives intersect again and involve a fourth. Blood will be shed before the past is purged. Whose blood?
The Dangers for Spies is a romantic historical suspense set in Regency England, part of the Hearts in Hazard series. While this novel and The Game of Spies have interconnected characters, D4Spies is a complete work on its own. However, readers will have a richer experience if they have also read The Game of Spies.
M. A. Lee has released the next book in the Hearts in Hazard series. The Dangers of Secrets just published on Amazon Kindle. On sale for the introductory price of a penny less than a dollar.
The fifth and sixth books in the Hearts in Hazard series ~ The Dangers for Spies and The Dangers to Hearts ~ will published in March and April.
D4Spies brings back the character of Toby Kennitt from A Game of Spies while D2Hearts brings back Jess Carter from A Game of Secrets.
Secrets of family. Secrets of hearts. Secrets of blood and pain.
Secrets can kill.
Maddy Whittaker, on the shelf for years, never expects the man of her dreams will be the one she once called a stick in the mud.
Banished from a country party so she won’t ruin her sisters’ chances in snaring husbands, Maddy is sent to visit a cousin named Simon Jespers, who is hosting his own Valentine’s party. She expects three weeks of boredom.
Gordon, Lord Musgrove, expects he will propose to a biddable lady and live unhappily ever after.
He escapes his mother’s country party (where the dowager Musgrove expects her only son to snare a wife) for one last bid at freedom. He decides to retreat to his friend Simon Jespers. Gordon never expects that his friend will be hosting a Valentine’s party. He does expect days and days of boredom.
Secrets of Hearts
On arrival at Jespers’ country manor, Maddy and Gordon meet for the first time. A quick flirtation finds them well matched in mind and soul, and the flirtation changes into romance.
Yet a secret from Maddy’s past threatens their future.
And a serial murderer threatens Maddy’s life.
Can Gordon overcome past secrets and present dangers to marry his perfect match?
The Dangers of Secrets is a romantic Regency suspense of approximately 56,000 words.
A Game of Spies, published in the fall of 2015, introduced the character of Gordon, Lord Musgrove.
Warning: While the romance is sweet, the murders have been described as sordid. Unwanted memories of abuse may be triggered. Please be cautious.