I’m so excited to welcome Tara Lush to the blog! Her first in a new series book, Grounds for Murder, A Coffee Lovers mystery, is set in Florida! Tara has coined a term for cozies set in Florida, but you’ll have to read the post to find out what it is. She’s also offering a very generous giveaway that you can find at the end of the post!
By TARA LUSH
Many people think of quaint English hamlets and twee New England villages when they crack open a cozy mystery novel.
Me? I’m looking for something a little closer to home: Florida.
I know, I know. We’ve all heard and read the “Florida Man” jokes. They’re hilarious. They’re shocking. They’re a staple on every news outlet. As a journalist, I’ve even written many of those stories. Political corruption, horrific crime, alligators, naked people with machetes, cockroaches ending up in unmentionable places…nothing shocks me anymore in this sunny place for shady people.
But in my cozy fiction, I like to imagine a less-dysfunctional tropical paradise. Sometimes too much reality is, well, too much. (Especially in 2020).
It’s why I set my debut cozy series in Florida. I call my books — and those like Sherry Harris’ excellent From Beer to Eternity — “tropical cozy.” Elaine Viets and Lucy Burdette also write Florida-set stories, and I highly recommend their books, too.
Tropical cozies are crime fiction tales set in Florida. They lack the dangerous edge of hardboiled mysteries. There’s a drop of desperation and a murmur of malfeasance, but nothing as terrible as real life. They’re the less cynical cousins to the fictional worlds of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. Tropical cozies have characters that you’d like to drink a latte with, not shower in rubbing alcohol after you meet them.
When I first decided to write a cozy, I’d been reading Kathy Reichs’ Deja Dead. Although I loved it, I couldn’t imagine myself writing something so dark. Along with weird Florida, I’d covered a lot of awful and tragic stories as a reporter.
I knew I wanted to write crime fiction that was softer, something with a little romance and a twisty murder… something gentle. But yet, quirky. Like Florida.
So I created the world of Devil’s Beach, a fictional island in the Gulf of Mexico where gossipy old hippies mingle with reformed mafiosos. Where the local newspaper writes stories about chicken nuggets shaped like manatees. Where a handsome Instagram-famous barista is found dead and no one bats an eye when a laid off journalist tries to figure out how the barista spent his final hours.
Settings are supremely important in cozies, and Devil’s Beach turned into another character. It’s loosely based on Sanibel, a stunning island in the Gulf of Mexico. I had a blast writing my first cozy, and it’s turned into a series published by Crooked Lane Books.
Most of all, I’m thrilled that I can show the world the quirky, eccentric, and gentle side of my home state. This winter, join me in reading a tropical cozy — it’s like a vacation for your brain.
READER QUESTION: What’s your favorite beach-themed book?
ABOUT GROUNDS FOR MURDER: Barista Lana Lewis’s sleuthing may land her in a latte trouble as Tara Lush launches her new Coffee Shop mysteries.
When Lana Lewis’ best — and most difficult — employee abruptly quits and goes to work for the competition just days before the Sunshine State Barista Championship, her café’s chances of winning the contest are creamed. In front of a gossipy crowd in the small Florida town of Devil’s Beach, Lana’s normally calm demeanor heats to a boil when she runs into the arrogant java slinger. Of course, Fabrizio “Fab” Bellucci has a slick explanation for jumping ship. But when he’s found dead the next morning under a palm tree in the alley behind Lana’s café, she becomes the prime suspect.
Even the island’s handsome police chief isn’t quite certain of her innocence. But Lana isn’t the only one in town who was angry with Fabrizio. Jilted lovers, a shrimp boat captain, and a surfer with ties to the mob are all suspects as trouble brews on the beach.
With her stoned, hippie dad, a Shih Tzu named Stanley, and a new, curious barista sporting a punk rock aesthetic at her side, Lana’s prepared to turn up the heat to catch the real killer. After all, she is a former award-winning reporter. As scandal hangs over her beachside café, can Lana clear her name and win the championship — or will she come to a bitter end?
BIO: Tara Lush is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award winning journalist. For the past decade, she’s been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics.
She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations under her real name, Tamara Lush. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast.
GIVEAWAY: I’d like to give all the readers of Wicked Authors a free novella! GIVE ME CHILLS is set on Devil’s Beach, in the same location as Grounds for Murder, but about a different heroine. Here’s a link to download the book: https://BookHip.com/MAQSRL
Tropical cozies is a great term! The last one I read was from Lucy Burdette’s Key West series. It’s a fun series.
That was such a fun series! My recent read was Key Lime Crime!
I’m so glad you decided to write a tropical cozy. Loved Grounds For Murder. Looking forward to next book in the series. Sherry Harris and Lucy Burdette’s series are great tropical cozies.
Thank you, Dru! That means a lot, coming from you!
Tara, welcome, and congratulations! I love the term “tropical cozy” – it’s perfect. I look forward to enjoying Grounds for Murder.
You are an Amtrak Writing Fellow? I think I applied for that, way back when I heard about it. I love taking the train, and the thought of days traveling and writing seemed like a dream. Tell us how it was!
Hi Edith! Yes, the Amtrak journey was incredible! I actually finished one of my romance novels while on the train — I spent a total of two weeks off and on the train, all around the country. The best part was the Chicago-San Francisco leg, through the snow-covered mountains. It was magic!
Hi Tara! I was fortunate to read an ARC of this book–you might even see a quote from me on it. I loved everything about it–the setting, the hot detective, the hippie dad, Stanley… I highly recommend it!
You were so wonderful in reading the early ARC! Thank you, Joyce!
Tropical cozies is a perfect description! My favorite tropical cozies are Lucy Burdette’s Food Critic series, and the new series by Sherry Harris.
I love both of those series!
I don’t think I have ever read a tropical cozy! I will change that immediately 🙂 and thank you for the novella- I have downloaded it and will read it ASAP.
Aww thank you! I really appreciate that! Hope you enjoy.
Tropical cozies! You are a genius. I have so many favorites it’s hard to pick one. John D. MacDonald doesn’t really qualify, but his are the first Florida situs books that got me hooked. As a full-time Florida resident since 1979, I had many occasions to recall the meaning of the dreadful lemon sky.
I’m looking forward to getting to know your crew.
Awww thanks! And yes, MacDonald doesn’t really qualify! He gets a little bleak. I also think about Edna Buchanan but she’s too gritty for tropical cozies!
Welcome, Tara! I can’t wait to read Grounds for Murder and thank you for joining us today!
Thank you for having me!
Grounds for Murder sounds like so much fun, Tara! I adore the idea of tropical cozies. My all time favorite beach-themed books are Jimmy Buffett’s Tales from Margaritaville and Where is Joe Merchant. Cheers!
Ohhh that is a good one, Tales from Margaritaville! Jimmy Buffett cover bands are often mentioned in my books 🙂
Welcome to the Wickeds, Tara. I am a huge fan of Sherry Harris and Lucy Burdette. My husband and I spend January through March in Key West every year. Grounds for Murder sounds like a book I would love.
Aww yaay! I love Key West — I spent a week during Hurricane Wilma there! Hope you enjoy the book 🙂
Florida is a fun location. I love the beach, so this sounds like a great debut. Congrats!
Can’t beat reading about the beach in the winter!
Your new series sounds great! Congrats.
Aww thanks! Hope you enjoy!
Tamara, your book sounds like one I would enjoy reading and thank you for the download! There is just something about books set near water that touch my soul…and coffee…well, how could a book including coffee ever be bad? Best of luck with the series.
Coffee is always the answer!
I love the term “tropical cozy.” And I’m jealous of the Amtrak trip!
It was so much fun — I highly recommend it as a post-pandemic trip!
Thank you for the book!
You are so welcome!
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