I am so thrilled to be hosting this list stop on PM Briede’s tour for the first book in her fabulous new Empathy Delacroix series, Death of a Chorus Girl. I will include my review at the end, and will encourage you all to join her fan group/street team and become one of her Adorkables with me!
And now, on with the show!
When Detective Richard Giordano walks onto the Broadway stage, he expects to find a young, dead chorus girl. Having the show’s choreographer so intricately tied to the victim, and now his case, is something else altogether. What quickly becomes even more troublesome is balancing his attraction with his gut instincts.
The choreographer, Empathy Delacroix, is no stranger to death. Emotional scenes from the past suck her in and force her to play critical roles in the events. They often culminate in her experiencing the victim’s demise. It’s a secret she can’t confide in the police, even if she knows how the chorus girl’s life really ended.
Time ticks by and New York’s vilest players come out of the shadows, not only threatening to detour the case but also Detective Giordano’s and Empathy’s entire lives. The bonds of death and love push them closer together and into the path of a killer, leaving both unsure of what their future holds.
Had I known the smile Em gave me by the statue was the last one I would see that afternoon, I would have taken more time to memorize it. We are on our way to our fourth address. Each time she enters that frightful trance it is as if I watch her die. Her body quivers uncontrollably until she collapses in my arms. Her breathing grows shallower until it stops. At that point, all the tension seeps out of her, and she becomes lifeless. Then she blinks, begins gulping the air as if it is water, and clings to me like I am her anchor to reality.
So far, we haven’t talked about what is going on, short of her outlining in specific detail how my victims spent their last living moments. I’m confused and alarmed about what I’m witnessing, and even a little scared of her. And yet, as confounding and outrageous as this all is, I refuse to walk away. I can’t leave her to deal with it alone. Whatever this is, it is a part of her. The burgeoning love I feel isn’t diminished by it. If anything, it grows. Now there is something I can be for Em, her anchor. She may go through the experience alone, but I am determined to never again let her deal with its aftermath that way.
The time between each site is just as bad as the sites themselves. She won’t talk to me except to insist that we continue on this madcap quest. I hear her whimpers as she fights back the emotions resulting from her experience. The tears never fall but sit heavy in her eyes as she shivers next to me. She looks battered and broken, though there isn’t a bruise marring her perfect skin. I try multiple times to comfort her but she pushes me away, saying it isn’t time for that now.
Needless to say, when she grabs my arm and shouts, “Where are we going?” I’m shocked.
“Battery Park, Em. We don’t have to do this anymore…”
“Stop the car!” she demands, cutting me short. “Stop the car, Richard! Stop it now!” We are in the middle of New York City traffic. I can’t just stop, but glancing at her, she looks green and terrified. The tears are falling and her free hand claws at the door. “Let me out! Please, Richard, I have to get out!”
I flip on the lights, directing us into the far-right lane to park the car. In an instant, she is out and racing to a trash can. By the time I join her, she’s violently emptying her stomach contents. I am at a loss for what to do as I watch her beg for water between her heaves. I don’t have any and I can’t leave her to get some. She is barely holding herself up.
“I need water!” I holler and flash my badge. “Em, stay with me.” Please don’t have this madness she’s been putting herself through steal her from me. Thankfully, a food vendor hands me a bottle.
I help her to the ground and feel helpless as she guzzles about half the bottle before pouring the rest over her head. I look at the vendor sheepishly as I fish a ten out of my wallet. He waves it off and offers to bring me more water if she needs it. I’ve come across enough burn victims suffering from dehydration to recognize the symptoms of fire damage in the woman cowering on the pavement in front of me. She needs more water. I press the ten into his hand and gratefully accept his offer.
I give her my full attention while he is gone. “What happened? What do you need?” Her eyes aren’t completely clouded over, as if we are on the edge of another trance.
She focuses through the fog and for the briefest moment, she is completely back. “Get me out of here. I can’t be in Lower Manhattan.” The words shake with her fear. Her body convulses again as it fights the wretched trance threatening to sweep her away from me. Something about this instance, though, is much worse than all the rest. I’m afraid it may actually kill her.
There aren’t many options. I don’t want to leave her, and I can’t leave the car. She can’t be in Lower Manhattan, but getting her out requires taking her deeper into it first. It pains me to take the only move I have. The vendor returns and I waste no time before ordering him to stay with her. I race to the charger, flip on the lights, and quickly maneuver through traffic to get turned back towards uptown. By the time I get back to Em, I was gone about fifteen minutes but it was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.
The vendor is still by her side and from the number of bottles on the ground it looks like he was very generous to her. “You should probably get this one to a hospital, officer,” he comments with sincere concern.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll take care of her from here.” The vendor walks back to his cart as I turn back to Em. The convulsions have stopped but she is soaking wet. I kneel before her and cup her face to bring her eyes to mine. There are hints of that damned fog in them, but it hasn’t taken her over yet. “Em, I’m here. The car’s at the corner and I’m going to get you out of here. Can you walk?” She shakes her head, and I don’t hesitate to scoop her up into my arms.
About PM Briede:
I am a lover of all things artistic. I grew up surrounded by the performing arts both as a spectator and performer. That love of creation and design is the fuel for my writing now. Being able to create and entertain is a dream come true.
The imagination is a powerful thing, able to take you places you never dreamed. I write realistic fantasy. The idea of the possible having impossible explanations fascinates me. That idea is the driving force behind the Charlotte Grace series.
And, because I can’t resist – and hope she doesn’t mind – I am going to add another excerpt as well. She gave me the option of two different ones, and I simply couldn’t make a decision so you get twice the motivation to read the rest!
The hand shaped burn on my bare shoulder tells me who is behind me. A smile lifts my cheeks as I turn to face Richard. But the man standing behind me isn’t whom I expect. This is not the man who swept me away into a passionate dream. He looks the same, but this man is cold, hard, and distant.
This stranger takes my hand roughly and silently leads me to the dance floor. Stiff arms fold around me as we begin an awkward dance. I look into eyes that are void of all emotion. “Is there something wrong, Richard?” Is it possible someone caught him coming out of the room?
“You tell me, Ms. Delacroix,” his flat voice answers. Oh, now that cannot be good. I am desperate to figure out what has happened between our interlude and now that so changed his demeanor but find myself at a loss for what to say. “What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”
I melt back into his arms, relieved. There is nothing to be concerned about. He reverted to a professional exchange because we are in public. The tension resulted from his internal fight against his longings. Alright, remember there can’t appear to be anything between us. But I can’t help but smile as I gaze into his eyes. “What did you have in mind?” I saucily inquire.
“Can you come down to the precinct?” the emotionless voice demands more than asks. “We need you to talk to our psychologist about what you may have seen the afternoon of Annie’s death.” A pit falls into my stomach. There has always been a playful timbre to our interactions, which puts me at ease, but now something is amiss.
“Um, sure. If you think that will help,” I reply apprehensively. I take a deep breath and shift to move closer to whisper in his ear. In response, his hand squeezes mine and the strength in his arms maintains the distance between us. Panic grows inside me and tears sting my eyes. “Why?” If it turns out to be the as bad as you think, you can’t let him see how upset you are.
The old Richard shimmers in front of me for the span of one heartbeat. His body softens and his eyes warm. He is still there. What happened? Then in the blink of an eye, he is gone and this robot wearing his flesh is back. I don’t stop him from bringing his lips to my ear. His voice is tight when he begins.
“Because, Ms. Delacroix,” the way he says my name is a knife through my chest, “you seem to know more than you should about what happened to Annie.” I close my eyes to keep the tears from falling. This doesn’t surprise me; I had just expected it sooner. “And given the performance I just overheard, I’m not so sure you’ve been upfront about it all.”
Surely, this is some cruel joke I will make him pay for later. The wheels in my mind run rabid. Did he get what he wanted from me in the dressing room? Is it possible he played me?
“You can’t be serious,” I gasp but when I pull away, the truth is in his eyes. What he felt for me less than thirty minutes ago is gone. I’m angry that I fell victim to whatever game he is playing; angry that I am now a toy he has grown bored with. I pack away every ounce of whatever it is I am starting to feel for him. I’ve been a fool, but I won’t be any longer. “Alright, Detective Giordano, if that’s what you truly think.” I pause hoping my Richard will break through and end all this nonsense. He doesn’t. “You have my number. Text me the time. I’ll be there, but afterward you’ll only be allowed to contact me through my attorney.”
And for my review:
Whether you want to call it a romance with a side of mystery or a thriller with a romantic side you have a 5 star story in both genres.
I will start my review with a notation that I am not a big fan of “paranormal” but PM Briede weaves the paranormal aspects into this so seamlessly that you will forget that there is anything extraordinary here besides the author’s ability to spin an edge of your seat, cannot put down tale with enough twists and turns to make you keep the dramamine handy.
The core of the story revolves around Broadway choreographer Empathy Delacroix and Detective Richard Giordano. The chemistry between the two jumps off the pages from the moment they meet no matter how much each of them try to deny it. The tagline on the cover, “How Do You Start a Romance with a Murder in the Way” is absolutely perfect. Rich is on the case of the death of a chorus girl in one of Em’s productions. Quickly ruled a homicide, and not being able to immediately remove Em from the suspect list is definitely not the easiest way for them to start a relationship. The secrets and baggage they each carry also interfere with the natural progression. The overlaps of their seemingly very different lives seems less coincidence and much more simple fate. Again, the chemistry between them is palpable, and amazingly well written through every obstacle they encounter.
The murder mystery is very intriguing, with no shortage of sleezy, unlikable suspects, but no easy solutions to the whodunit side of the story. I love a good thriller/mystery and this not only delivers, it exceeds any in recent memory of such a large pool of suspects I would like to be the guilty party simply because they are so brilliantly dislikeable. Dastardly, skeevy, despicable, diabolical and downright disgusting – she has done such an impressive job of presenting suspects you want to fry, without solid evidence to convict any of them.
For mature audiences for violence and sexual situations. Not overly explicit, but not anything I want my teenagers reading. However since they are not the target audience, this should not be an issue. This is the first in a series, and I am sure your first reaction when finishing this one will be much like mine….emailing the author about how long we have to wait for the next book in the series. If you hate being left with a cliffhanger, this may not be the book for you. However, in kind of a unique style, this author does not release the first book in the series until the entire series is complete, so she won’t leave you hanging too long. There are a few errors that another run through by the editor should easily fix, but I truly feel the strength of the story far outweighs any inconvenience those cause.
Very highly recommended. This is my second read of this author’s and I will definitely be catching up on the rest of her works while impatiently waiting for the next in this series.
I hope this little tour stop has inspired you to get to know PM and her works a bit better. She really is an amazing author who thrives on interaction with fans, and has a fantastic sense of humor! Go forth and be adorkable!