A Wicked Welcome to Laurien Berenson **plus giveaway**

by Julie seeing the students coming back in Boston

Laurien Berenson and I shared a book birthday last week, and I’m delighted to welcome her to the Wickeds to help celebrate!

When I first started writing my cozy mystery series back in 1994, I knew it was going to be about dogs. At the time I was immersed in the dog show world as a breeder and exhibitor of Miniature Poodles. Not only did I see the dog community as a potentially fertile setting for mayhem, but I also wanted to introduce readers to a sport that many people know little about.

My main character is a woman named Melanie Travis. When the series opened she was a struggling single mom, with a young son and a boyfriend who’d just eloped with a Las Vega showgirl. Melanie had never owned a pet in her life. Back then, she’d have told you that she didn’t have the time, the money, or the desire to own a dog.

Enter Melanie’s Aunt Peg, who showed up on the scene and changed everything. Peg Turnbull, now in her seventies, is a force of nature. She’s smart, opinionated, irascible, and she loves to tell people what to do. She’s also a Standard Poodle breeder and a dog show judge. By book 2 in the series, Melanie had her first black Standard Poodle. Now, in book 26, she and her family live with 5 of them. It was all Aunt Peg’s doing.

When I first introduced her character in A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, the series debut, I didn’t see Aunt Peg as a minor character precisely, but I also didn’t envision that she would move in and take over the series. While I—the writer—am rooting for Melanie to prevail in their frequent interactions (okay, arguments) most of the readers I hear from are definitely on Aunt Peg’s side. I can’t really blame them. Along the way, she’s become a favorite of mine too.As every author knows, it’s fun when a character suddenly steps up and tells you what they’re going to do next. But when they make a habit of it, sometimes they need to be reined in. I’ve tried with Aunt Peg. I really have. But with age comes wisdom, and she is the one character who’s been able to outsmart me at every turn. She became a mentor to Melanie, introducing her to the fun and excitement of the dog show world, and now Peg won’t be satisfied until she’s running all the other characters’ lives too.

Over the years, one of my biggest challenges in writing a long running series has been keeping the characters fresh and interesting. I never have that problem with Aunt Peg. I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she causes next.

Question: Do you have an Aunt Peg in your life—someone who drives you crazy but you adore them anyway? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll choose one person to get a copy of Howloween Murder, US only please. The recipient will be chosen on Thursday! **WINNER IS TORI**


Laurien Berenson is the author of the Melanie Travis mystery series, set in the world of dog shows. There are 26 titles including HOWLOWEEN MURDER. The series has won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, and was nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. She and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by dogs and horses.


With just a few days left before Halloween, everyone at Howard Academy is anticipating the guaranteed sugar high they’ll experience from gorging on Harriet Bloom’s famous marshmallow puffs. The private school’s annual costume party revolves around the headmaster’s assistant and her seemingly supernatural batches of gooey goodies. So, it’s a shock when Harriet’s elderly neighbor is suddenly found dead with the beloved dessert in his hand. In a snap, police start questioning whether Harriet modified her top-secret recipe to include a hefty dose of lethal poison . . .
Melanie knows her tenured colleague would never intentionally serve cyanide-laced puffs to a defenseless old man. But as explosive neighborhood gossip reveals a potential culprit, it also brings her closer to sealing her own doom. Because on an evening ruled by masked revelers, bizarre getups, and hidden identities, Halloween might just be the perfect opportunity for a cold-hearted killer to get away with murder once again—this time sending a nosy, unsuspecting sleuth to an early grave!

71 Thoughts

    1. I love a woman with strong opinions–as long as she isn’t running roughshod over me.

    2. I’ve known many strong women in my life, and they are wonderful–as long as they aren’t running rougshod over me.

    1. Thank you, Edith! 26 books has been a long journey. I am in awe of authors who can juggle multiple series at the same time.

  1. Congratulations on the new release, Laurien. Book 26 – I am in awe.

    Aunt Peg sounds like my best friend’s mother – we called her the velvet steamroller.

    1. Thank you! I had an Aunt Peg (she is unfortunately deceased now) and she taught me so much. It’s been years, but I still miss her.

    1. Absolutely! They have more freedom than other kinds of characters do because they just say whatever they want.

  2. I have several people that would qualify for an Aunt Peg. I think I am drawn to that type or maybe they are drawn to me! They can sweep in and take over your life if you let them lol!

    1. Although, depending on how busy you are, sometimes letting someone else take over for a while can be a good thing. 😉

  3. Yes, I had an Aunt Peg in my Aunt Bonnie, my father’s sister. Strong woman and I loved her dearly. I was very sad when I lost her in 2012, but her memories constantly linger in my mind and I share her with my friends and family now.

  4. Congrats! I have been reading your books every night before bed since I started the series. I don’t have an Aunt Peg in my life but I wish I had someone as knowledgeable as her that can push me to succeed.

    1. Thank you for being a longtime reader of the series! Yes, having an Aunt Peg can definitely be useful at times.

    1. Hi Sherry! Westies are great dogs. My sister used to have several and I always enjoyed seeing them. They’re a wonderful breed. I have to confess, however, that although the cover of the book is adorable there aren’t any Westies inside. (An earlier book in the series, The Bark Before Christmas, also has a Westie on the cover–and a Westie named Kiltie plays a pivotal role in the plot. :))

    1. Barbara, that makes me jealous. Because I would LOVE to be an Aunt Peg. (The only way I qualify is that I’m getting close to her age-wise, LOL)

  5. I want to say I love the Melanie Travis mysteries. I also have had an Aunt Peg in my life but she is no longer with us.

    1. Laurie, I know that’s tough. I’m right there with you. Thank you for reading the series.

  6. I can’t think of anyone like that in my life, which is a good thing. I think we’d have major issues if there were someone like that.

    1. There are definitely pluses and minuses to having an Aunt Peg in your life. And often both occur at the same time. It sounds like you are much better off without one.

  7. Had a great aunt who was a hoot most of the time, but opinionated and troublesome on occasion. She would be the closest to an Aunt Peg.

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Howloween Murder”. Most definitely on my TBR list. Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, I’m glad my book is on your TBR list. I hope you get a chance to read it soon.

  8. I love Melanie and Aunt Peg. My mom was an Aunt Peg. She passed away 5 years ago, and I miss her every day.

  9. My wife is the one that keeps the family hopping. Just don’t let her know you have free time or you soon won’t.

  10. ALL of my aunts on both sides of the family were Aunt Pegs! My mother had three sisters and my father had five sisters and they were all positive that what they had to say was the most important thing you would ever hear. I loved their bossy ways and tender love my whole life, but sadly I only have one aunt still living…she is in her late 80’s. Aunt Peg is my next to favorite character in your books. I like Melanie the best!

    1. Judy what is it about aunts that make them the mostly like family members to play that role? The closest I came to have an Aunt Peg in my family was my mother’s sister who had the improbably unassuming name of Bunny. She was an army captain who had served in the Korean war–and boy when she talked, everyone listened. 🙂

  11. Laurien Berenson. Have a friend so much like Aun Peg. Have read an enjoyed all 25 of the series. Hope win this time a copy of Howloween Murder. Thank you again for your writeing. September 1st 1:18 pm

    1. Doreen, thank you for reading the books–and for sticking with my series for such a long time. I appreciate that so much! Hopefully one of these days your number will come up in a giveaway.

  12. Congratulations on your new release, I really like your books.

    My sister would be my “Aunt Peg”, she drives me crazy but is still my best friend. Thanks for the chance.

    1. Thank you! And that’s precisely the kind of relationship I was talking about Best thing about is that it is never boring.

  13. I always love reading/reviewing your series. It never disappoints me. The fact that I’m originally from Fairfield County, Connecticut, adds to the fun for me. Congratulations on another terrific book. Aunt Peg is my Idol! If I ever grow up, I want to be just like her.

    1. Susan, thank you for reading and reviewing my books! Though I live in Kentucky now, I spent most of my life in Fairfield County. It was where I was living when I started writing the series. So now my use of that area as a setting in the books is definitely tinged with nostalgia.

  14. One person, no. Three people, yes!
    All three of m mom’s sisters are pretty unique and fun loving. They are the best to get into trouble with.
    The oldest, Aunt Dorothy, is a wonderful singer. We can be in the middle of a crowd of strangers and she just starts singing as if she was on a stage. Aunt Barb is the best hugger! Days later, you can still feel her hugs. She has one of those contagious laughs that gets everyone laughing. She is so much fun to be around. Ant Mary is the youngest aunt. I gained weighed to safe m wardrobe! 🙂 She loved my full length slip but I needed it for the dress for a cousins wedding and I couldn’t find until I made a phone call. She also swiped my lighthouse cardigan and t-shirts. You think you are loosing your mind but Aunt Mar just went shopping through my closet. I put on weight so I let her take what she wanted before I donated the smaller sizes.

    1. Your descriptions of your aunts made me laugh. I cannot imagine having one of my older relatives come in and steal clothes from my closet! But I would adore your Aunt Barb. She sounds like an absolute treasure.

  15. I don’t currently have an aunt peg in my life but I have met people like her 😂😂

    Congrats on the book birthday!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Mallory! (and the emojis on you Aunt Peg comment say it all.)

  16. I don’t have an Aunt Peg in my life, but your describing dog shows and how the judges do things and stuff like that has helped me be able to talk somewhat intelligently to a friend who is a handler and shows French Bulldogs! So thank you!

    1. Pam, I’m glad my explanations have made dog shows easier to understand. I love Frenchies. They are so cute. 🙂

  17. I have two…my mom and my sister. I love them dearly but they drive me crazy.

    1. Lou Malcangi is the Art Director at my publisher and he always does a great job with my covers. You’re lucky if you’re the Aunt Peg. She always the smartest person in the room. 😉

  18. Not exactly. I had a crazy aunt but she only drove her sister crazy. Always warm she never wore a coat. She had little money but her cats had to have canned cat food.

    1. It can actually be kind of fun if you can watch the craziness without having to be part of it. 🙂

  19. Not exactly. I had a crazy aunt but she only drove her sister crazy. Always warm she never wore a coat. She had little money but her cats had to have canned cat food.

  20. All my aunts have passed on, but I do have a sister-in-law who is like that. Loving the cover of this book. Thanks for your great generosity.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you like the cover. My publishing company does a great job with the covers for my series.

  21. I don’t have an Aunt Peg in my life, but I’ll bet some of my younger family members would say that I fit the Aunt Peg description pretty well! Thanks for a chance to win.
    digicats {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

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