Tag Archives: Elizabeth Perona

A day in the life with Francine and Mary Ruth by Elizabeth Perona

the missing ingredient for a good first date

“Only you would schedule a blind first date at a cooking class,” Francine said, shaking her head as she and Mary Ruth navigated the narrow aisles of the local Sur La Table. They scouted the faces of the shoppers more than the kitchen items. “Do you even know what he looks like?”

Mary Ruth fluffed her auburn hair, which Francine knew had recently been highlighted. “Well, on the dating website Tyler is tall and thin, has chestnut eyes, a Tom Cruise smile, and a Clint Eastwood chin. Good ingredients, at least for a first date.”

“How can you be sure he didn’t fake the photo?”

“I can’t.” Her head swiveled as she passed a guy with a vague resemblance but was shorter and had a gap-toothed smile. More David Letterman than Tom Cruise. “I can’t even be sure his real name is Tyler.”

“Did you use your real name and photograph?” Francine pressed.

“Of course.” She ran her hands down the curves of her hips. “Did I mention I’m down to a size ten?” Francine admired her friend’s transformation. It had started a year and a half ago when their first Bucket List adventure gained national notoriety on a slow news day. Mary Ruth, a caterer in her seventies, had given up unhealthy habits, slimmed down, and now occasionally appeared on Food Network. “And it was his idea to meet here.”

“I wonder why he suggested it.”

She shrugged. “It’s neutral territory. Plus, we’re both foodies, divorced, and we love scones. Though I wouldn’t have chosen Garrett for a teacher.” Garrett Stone, a “Next Food Network Star” competitor, was known as the king of scones because of his award-winning flair with biscuits. He was now touring as an instructor. Mary Ruth had a not-so-happy history with him. “Your role is to be my way out of this date if I need one.”

Francine looked at her watch. “We should head to class. Maybe we’ll see him back there.”

They were the first ones in. Francine scouted the name tags on the table. “I don’t see anyone named Tyler,” she said sotto voce.

Mary Ruth slipped the white apron over her head with practiced ease and looped the strings around her waist. “You’re right. The only male name is Kenneth. Maybe I’ve been stood up.” She stuck her lip out.

More people scurried in behind them and snatched up aprons and name tags.

Garrett entered the room and everyone hushed. “Good evening, all!” he said with energy. “I’m Garrett Stone, the King of Scones, and today we’re going to learn how to make those British delights and more.” He passed by them and gave Mary Ruth a playful nudge.

“He’s cuter than on television.” Francine said.

“He’s full of himself.”

“Have you noticed he’s tall, has chestnut eyes, and a chin that could be described as Clint Eastwood-esque?”

Mary Ruth seemed stunned. “You’re right!” She fumbled with the measured-out ingredients. “He does kind of look like Tyler. You don’t suppose he lured me here for a date, do you? Well, if he did, he’s got another thing coming. All I want is revenge!”

Garrett winked in their direction. “I’m delighted to see that I’m joined today by Chef Mary Ruth Burrows. When I found out I was going to be teaching in Indianapolis, I was hoping we’d have a chance to meet again. Let’s hope today goes better than our first date did on “Cutthroat Kitchen.””

Francine remembered the episode on the cooking competition show that caused the dustup. Garrett stuck her with a sabotage causing her to be bombarded with cream pies. She was eliminated that round. Garrett’s losing the next was no consolation. Obviously, she was still angry.

“There won’t be a second date, that’s for sure,” she retorted, eliciting chuckles from the class.

He blanched and proceeded with class instructions.

“Do you believe that comment about a date?” Mary Ruth said to Francine. “Like we actually had one! I think he set this up. I think he’s Tyler.”

Garrett was rapidly dictating what to do. Mary Ruth dumped the flour and butter into a bowl. Francine was about to hand her the pastry blender when Mary Ruth began to rub the butter into the flour, creating a breadcrumb-like mixture.

“Class!” Garrett announced loudly, startling Mary Ruth. He had come up behind her while she was working. She spilled half the flour/butter mixture on the table. Francine used the scraper to get it back in the bowl.

“Instead of using the pastry blender as I demonstrated earlier,” Garrett continued, “the classic way to integrate the butter is with your fingers, as Chef Mary Ruth is doing here. Can you gather round?”

“I’ll kill him,” Mary Ruth muttered under her breath.

“Time to kick into ‘star’ mode,” Francine advised.

“I’ll kick him in his star mode.”

Mary Ruth beamed a high-wattage smile. She tilted the bowl toward her classmates with one hand and used the other to demonstrate.

“While we’re here,” Garrett asked, “would you please add the sugar, eggs, and baking powder?”

The class watched as Francine dutifully added them to the bowl and Mary Ruth stirred them with a wooden spoon.

“Now add about half the milk,” he said.

Mary Ruth complied and stirred.

“You want it to be a soft, wet dough. Add enough milk until it gets to that state.” He dumped the contents onto the work surface and bumped her out of the way. “Now I’ll demonstrate how to ‘chaff’ the dough.” He folded the dough in half, turned it ninety degrees, and folded it again.

“Garrett,” she said sweetly, “are you sure this has enough milk in it?”

“Quite sure. If anything, it looks a bit sticky.”

“Really? I think you should take a closer look.”

He bent over. Mary Ruth pushed the back of his head down, planting his face deep into the dough. “That’ll teach you to play me for a fool! And I will never date you, ‘Tyler.’”

“And you’re crazy if you think I would ever date a kitchen witch like you,” he said nasally, rushing from the room to clean his face.

A tall, thin man looking very much like the date Mary Ruth described earlier bumped into him on the way out. He grabbed his name tag as he hurried over. “I’m Kenneth. You know me as Tyler. Sorry I’m late. I ran into traffic.”

“Tyler?” she said, stunned.

“We can still have our date, can’t we?”

“Not here,” she said. “We need to leave, and quickly.”

“What about the scones? Should I grab the ingredients?”

“The only real ingredient we need for our first date is a getaway car. Let’s go.”

They fled, leaving Francine to finish the scones.

That night she had a successful evening on e-Bay. She sold a baked good bearing the facial features of the King of Scones for $100. Who’d have thought?


You can read more about Francine and Mary Ruth’s adventure in Murder at the Male Revue, the third book in the “Bucket List” mystery series.

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas enjoy a male stripper show . . . until it gets too hot to handle and nearly goes up in flames.

When Mary Ruth’s company is hired to cater a fundraiser fea- turing the Royal Buckingham Male Dance Revue, the ladies see the chance to cross another item off their bucket list: helping divorcée Joy McQueen get over her decades-old fear of men in the buff. But when fundraiser sponsor Camille Ledfelter is stabbed to death, the women must uncover the naked truth about who wanted her dead.

Proving who did it, however, will require dodging a persistent stripper-for-hire, surviving the American Legion Bingo, drinking high-end cognac, searching for a certain 3-D printer, and laying bare the motives of a dangerous killer.

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About the author
Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Liz Dombrosky and Tony Perona. They write the “Bucket List” mystery series. The third in the series, Murder at the Male Revue, was published in July by Midnight Ink. This short-short story introduces two of their sleuths from the series.

All comments are welcomed.

The Perils of Texting after Midnight by Elizabeth Perona

Murdered Under the Covered Bridge“So, should I be worried?”

Francine stared at her friend Joy McQueen who’d lobbed the question at her over breakfast. The two septuagenarians sat at Joy’s black counter-height kitchen table that looked straight out of Pottery Barn’s current catalog. The welcoming smell of baked biscuits was in the air, and the sound of a morning television news program could be heard in the background.

Francine held Joy’s cell phone in her hand, its red leather wrap soft against her fingers. She reread the text Joy had seen when she’d retrieved the phone from its overnight charge. It had been sent just after midnight this morning, February 13. The message was short: “Sorry I can’t be with you tonight especially will miss the heat sugar.” The sender was Joy’s boyfriend, Roy Stockton, former sheriff of Parke County, now a detective.

“And you haven’t heard from him since?” she asked.

Joy shook her head. “I’ve called and called, but he doesn’t answer. We didn’t have a date for tonight. And we haven’t—you know—done it yet. So it’s not like I’m generating any heat he’ll miss. And he never calls me ‘sugar.’” Her voice cracked with emotion on the last word. “This was sent to me, but he meant it for someone else.”

Francine had to admit, it looked bad. “Has he said anything to you that would make you think he’s trying to break up?”

“No, but the alternative is just as bad. Rockville’s an hour from Brownsburg. He could be two-timing me and I’d never find out. I’ve made him wait too long, and now he’s moved on.”

Francine looked into her face for a moment. Joy’s worry lines always seemed more pronounced when she wasn’t smiling. Today she was definitely not smiling.

Joy’s ex-husband Bruno had left her for another man a long time ago. Joy had never quite gotten over it. She’d sworn off men and dating, and for a long time kept to that. But Roy Stockton had changed her mind. Francine grimaced to think how it would affect her if this relationship ended badly, too.

“Maybe he’s been called to a crime scene. He could be too busy to answer the phone.” Francine knew from experience if Roy were in a rural part of Parke County, he might not have cell reception.

“I thought of that. I checked with their dispatch center. He’s not on assignment and not on patrol.”

Francine halved the biscuit on her plate and bit into the top half. She savored the delicious buttery flavor. It had a nice salty touch, but it needed something else. She added a dollop of honey to the bottom half and handed it across the table. “Eat. Honey makes everything better.”

Joy took a bite and seemed surprised. She looked at the unlabeled squeeze bottle Francine had used. “This isn’t honey,” she said. “It’s maple syrup. I got out the wrong bottle.” She took another bite. “Still, it tastes pretty good on the biscuit. Nice and sweet.” Her mouth turned down. “It may be the last present I’ll get from Roy.”

Francine squeezed a little of the syrup on her fingertip and licked it off. “Sweet like sugar.” A thought formed in her mind. “When did he give you this?”

“Two days ago.”

“Doesn’t he have a maple syrup camp set up in his woods?”

Joy nodded.

“And isn’t the Maple Syrup Fair coming up?”

“I suppose,” she said, hands upraised in exasperation, “but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Work with me for a minute. Does he punctuate sentences correctly?”

“What?” she asked, still puzzled.

“I mean, when he texts you.”

“No,” Joy said, thinking. “He’s terrible at it. Lots of run-ons.”

The doorbell rang. Joy jumped up to get it, but then the door opened and someone walked in. The women looked at each other in alarm. They lived in a good neighborhood, but few people would walk in a house unannounced.

“Are you in there, darlin’?” Roy asked. He strode into the kitchen, black Stetson hat in his hand.

Francine wasn’t sure if Joy’s reaction was one of pleasure or terror.

“What are you doing here?” Joy asked.

“Didn’t you get my text?”

There was a pause. “Yes,” she said testily. “I got your text. And I’m not sure what it means.”

Roy seemed surprised by her negative reaction. He shrugged. “I thought I was pretty clear.”

“It wasn’t clear at all,” Joy continued. “Who is this ‘sugar’ whose date you had to cancel?” She thrust the phone in his face.

He backed the cell phone away so he could read it. His forehead wrinkled with confusion. “This isn’t what I texted you. I knew you had today off, so I said I was coming with early Valentine sweets for my sweetheart.” He held out a gift bag with white and red tissue paper coming out of the top.

Joy took the bag. She hunted through it and pulled out a box of homemade maple sugar candies and a see-though container of maple sugar.

“I made them for you,” Roy said sheepishly.

“Can I guess what happened?” Francine said, interrupting. “You weren’t calling anyone ‘sugar.’ You meant you’ll miss the heat of the sugar shack where you boil the maple syrup and the taste of the sap as you boil it down.”

Roy nodded. “Exactly.”

“But who was that text intended for?” Joy asked.

“My son Jay,” he answered. “He helps me tend the sugar shack. Do you know how close “Joy” and “Jay” look after getting off work at midnight?”

Joy laughed in relief. “So if I got his text, did he get mine?”

Roy checked his phone. “Here’s his response. I had dropped off another box for my grandkids before I left Rockville.” He showed them the phone.

Roy’s young grandsons, 8 and 5, sat on the floor. They looked like chipmunks whose cheeks were stuffed with acorns. Between them lay with an open candy box. The box was nearly empty, and little paper wrappers were strewn all over the floor. “Your sweethearts already found their early present,” Roy read. “And they’ve decided they like candy for breakfast.”

Everyone laughed.

Mystery solved, Francine made an excuse to leave so the real sweethearts could be alone.


Murder Under The Covered Bridge is the second book in the Bucket List mystery series, published by Midnight Ink, July 2016.

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas Bare All When their Pinup Calendar Shoot Goes Terribly Wrong

Working on a television taping to promote the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, the ladies decide to use their access to the Roseville Bridge to cross #39 off Charlotte’s bucket list: Be a Sexy Calendar Girl. But the photo shoot is interrupted by gunshots and Francine’s cousin William stumbling down the riverbank followed by a man with a gun. William sustains life-threatening injuries, but is it attempted homicide?

Francine and Charlotte go into detective mode to uncover the secret William knew about the shooter. Their success, however, depends on surviving two arson events, a séance, a shortage of Mary Ruth’s wildly popular corn fritter donuts, memory-challenged nursing home residents, and a killer who refuses to go up in flames.

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About the author
Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Liz Dombrosky.

Tony is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy, and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be Murder and Hoosier Hoops & Hijinks. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters-in-Crime. In his day job, Tony is currently serving as the Assistant Town Manager for the Town of Plainfield, Indiana.

Liz Dombrosky graduated from Ball State University in the Honors College with a degree in teaching. She is currently a stay-at-home mom. Murder on the Bucket List was her first novel, and Murder under the Covered Bridge is her second.

Connect with them at www.elizabethperona.com.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Murder Under the Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona

Murder Under the Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona is the second book in the “Bucket List” mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, July 2016

Murder Under The Covered BridgeWorking on a television taping to promote the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, the ladies decide to use their access to the Roseville Bridge to cross an item off Charlotte’s bucket list: #39) Be a Sexy Calendar Girl. But the photo shoot is interrupted by gunshots and Francine’s cousin William stumbling down the riverbank followed by a man with a gun. William sustains life-threatening injuries, but is it homicide?

Francine and Charlotte go into detective mode to uncover the secret William knew about the shooter. Their success, however, depends on surviving two arson events, a séance, a shortage of Mary Ruth’s wildly popular corn fritter donuts, memory-challenged nursing home residents, and a killer who refuses to go up in flames.

The item on their bucket list – being sexy calendar girl lands the gang in another caper that kept me entertained throughout all the exploits they found themselves involved in, albeit, crossing another item off their bucket list. The pacing was good, making it easy to follow along with the plot. I like how the author set-up the mystery with each character’s role moving the story forward. With a few twists and turns and a few surprises, this was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait to see what next items the gals cross off their bucket list.

Blog Tour with Francine McNamara by Elizabeth Perona

Murder on the Bucket List“You can’t be serious, Charlotte. You would really buy a boat?”

Francine McNamara heard the grandfather clock in the hall chime the Westminster Quarters for the hour and then three bongs. She and Charlotte Reinhardt took tea at a round Crate and Barrel table on the patio just outside the kitchen of her house. An open umbrella in the middle of the table provided shade. The two septuagenarians often had tea about this time, but unlike the English, they had theirs iced. The hot August day in Brownsburg, Indiana was making the ice disappear. Francine could feel trickles of sweat dribbling into the front of her white t-shirt.

“If I could get this baby, yes.” Charlotte handed Francine a page she’d torn out of a commercial real estate magazine featuring a photo. The boat she was interested in purchasing was located on the White River canal in downtown Indianapolis.

Francine paused to consider what Charlotte had said. She’d emphasized the word baby. That must mean the word held significance. She couldn’t see the listing very well because she was wearing dark sunglasses. Like her indoor glasses, they had large round lenses that made her look wiser than she thought she was. She slipped them off to examine the listing.

“You get carsick riding from Rosedale to Bridgeport. What makes you think you’ll fare any better on the canal?”

Charlotte wiped her forehead with her napkin. Her gesture moved her wig of silvery curls slightly askew. “This one comes with a gondolier who sings opera in Italian. You know how I love opera.”

“That’s only half-true,” Francine said. “You like opera. What you love are mysteries.”

“So, work with me for a minute,” she said, a mischievous gleam in her eye. Charlotte paused to take a large bite out of her peanut butter chocolate chip muffin. Francine had picked up two of them at Mary Ruth’s Fabulous Dessert Shop, owned by their friend Mary Ruth Burrows, when she’d stopped by to place a special order around noon.

A few stray crumbs fell onto Charlotte’s lap. “This boat was owned by Diva Vita,” she said, picking up the crumbs.

Francine gave her a puzzled look. “Diva Vita? Do we know her?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Here’s a photo of her in the boat.”

Francine was certain she didn’t know anyone named Diva Vita. Must be another clue. She took hold of the picture Charlotte offered her. A sturdy black woman stood in the gondola. She wore a flowing white robe and her mouth was open as though she were holding out a long note. A butterfly was embroidered on her robe. She held a scepter in her hand. The scepter was black and looked like wrought iron. It was topped by some figure. The gondolier stood next to her. “I hope you’re not planning on singing a duet. Even you will admit you can’t sing.”

“No, but I do think I could carry off holding the scepter.” She picked up her purse and pulled out a black iron rod. The top of the rod was shaped like a butterfly with painted plastic panels inserted into the wings to give the figure dimension. Charlotte thrust it into the air as though she were Lady Liberty.

Francine could see that turning out to be a disaster. Charlotte had a bad knee and wasn’t necessarily steady on land, let alone water. She’d need a gondolier who doubled as a lifeguard.

“What would you think if I named the gondola after the Diva?”

Francine took the scepter in one hand and the photo of Diva in the other. She eyed her friend. “Why would you do that?”

“Because I like the way it sounds,” she said, as though inviting Francine to continue.

Francine set the photo on the table. She bit off a piece of her muffin and thought on the situation Charlotte had presented. She held up the rod with the iron butterfly. “So this must be a clue.”

“Yes,” Charlotte answered, almost giddily. “It’s a clue.”

Francine again nibbled on the muffin. It had just the right amount of sweetness, capped off by sugar crystals crusted on the top to give it slight crunch. A rich, nutty, peanut butter taste came though, complimented by the milk chocolate chips mixed in. “I need more to solve the riddle.”

“So if I named the boat after her and got in, where would I be?”

In something? Francine thought. In Diva Vita’s gondola? She’d emphasized the word “baby,” too.

“Say it aloud,” Charlotte suggested.

“I would be in Diva Vita’s gondola. Baby?”

“How would they say it in Europe, if they used only her last name?”

Francine puzzled over that. They would put the name after the boat because adjectives come after.

“In the Gondola Vita. Baby.” She laughed. “Iron Butterfly. In-a-godda-da-vita, baby! The song you and Philip were married to!” Philip, Charlotte’s late husband, had said he wouldn’t marry anyone who didn’t want to recess down the aisle to “In-a-godda-da-vita.” Charlotte had been just the rebel to join him in that.

Charlotte clapped her hands in delight, but then tears streamed down her face. “We would have been married 45 years on Saturday,” she said.

Francine leaned forward and put her hand on Charlotte’s. “I remember, and the special order I placed with Mary Ruth today will help us celebrate on Saturday. It’s a white cake with a red raspberry filling and topped with butterflies. Just like at your wedding.”

“You’re a good friend, Francine.”

“I try to be,” she said. She cued up Iron Butterfly on her iPod.

The End


You can read more about Francine and Charlotte in Murder on the Bucket List, the first book in the NEW “Bucket List” mystery series, published by Midnight Ink.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on July 15 for the chance to win a print copy of Murder on the Bucket List. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.

Meet the author
Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Liz Dombrosky. Tony is the LizPeronaauthor of the Nick Bertetto mystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy, and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be Murder and Hoosier Hoops & Hijinks. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters-in-Crime.

Liz Dombrosky graduated from Ball State University in the Honors College with a degree in teaching. She is currently a stay-at-home mom. Murder on the Bucket List is her first novel.

You can connect with Elizabeth on Facebook.