Monday, December 12, 2016

Feliz Navidead by Ann Myers | Blog Tour with Excerpt, Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway

Ann Myers, the author of Bread of the Dead and Cinco de Mayhem, is back!

The Blurb

Holly, jolly, and downright deadly — the third Santa Fe Café mystery 
unwraps surprises both naughty and nice..

It’s the most picturesque time of the year in Santa Fe, and Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Café hopes the twinkling lights and tasty holiday treats will charm her visiting mom. Rita is also planning fun activities, such as watching her teenage daughter, Celia, perform in an outdoor Christmas play.

What she doesn’t plan for is murder.

Rita discovers a dead actor during the premier performance but vows to keep clear of the case. Sleuthing would upset her mom. Besides, there’s already a prime suspect, caught red-handed in his bloodied Santa suit. However, when the accused Santa’s wife begs for assistance — and points out that Celia and other performers could be in danger — Rita can’t say no. With the help of her elderly boss, Flori, and her coterie of rogue knitters, Rita strives to salvage her mother’s vacation, unmask a murderer, and stop this festive season from turning even more fatal.

Feliz Navidead by Ann Myers
Series: A Santa Fe Café Mystery, #3
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Culinary Mystery, Christmas  
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow / HarperCollins
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-10: 0062382314
ISBN-13: 978-0062382313
e-Book File Size: 969 KB
Publisher: Avon 
Amazon | B & N | Kobo | Google Play | BAM! | iBooks | HarperCollinsGoodreads

The Excerpt

Mom stopped mid-stroll, thumping one hand to her chest, gripping a hip-high adobe wall with the other. “I need to catch my breath, Rita,” she declared, rather accusatorily.

I murmured, “Of course,” and issued my best good-daughter sympathetic smile. I did, truly, sympathize. At seven thousand feet above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico, can literally take your breath away, and my mother had flown in only a few hours earlier from the midwestern lowlands. Adjusting to high altitudes takes time. About a week, the experts say, although I’ve called Santa Fe home for over three years and still blame the paltry oxygen when I pant through my morning jog and puff under overladen burrito platters at Tres Amigas Café, where I’m a chef and co-amiga. I’ve even postulated that the thin air makes my thighs look larger. Lack of atmospheric compression, that unscientifically tested theory goes. The more likely culprit is my steady diet of cheesy chiles rellenos, blue corn waffles, green chile cheeseburgers, and other New Mexican delicacies.

Mom took deep breaths beside me. I wasn’t too worried. If Mom was at risk of anything, it was overacting. I strongly suspected she was making a point, something she likes to do indirectly and with drama. Things Mom doesn’t like? High altitudes, dry climates, hot chiles, and disturbance of her holiday routine. I knew she wasn’t thrilled to spend Christmas away from home. My goal was to win her over, and lucky for me, I had Santa Fe’s holiday charm on my side.

I leaned against the wall, enjoying the warmth of solar-heated adobe on my back. A group of carolers strolled by, harmonizing a bilingual version of “Feliz Navidad.” String lights and pine boughs decorated the porticos along Palace Avenue, and piñon smoke perfumed the air. To my eyes, the self-proclaimed “City Different” looked as pretty as a Christmas card. Once Mom got over the initial shock of leaving her comfort zone, she’d come around. I hoped . . .

Mom reached for a water bottle in her dual-holstered hip pack. “Hydration,” she said, repeating a caution she’d first raised nearly two decades ago, when I embarked for culinary school in Denver and its mere mile-high elevation. In between sips, she reminded me that proper water intake was the key to fending off altitude-induced illnesses ranging from headaches to poor judgment.

She tilted her chin up and assessed me through narrowed eyes. “You’re not drinking enough, Rita. I can tell. Your cheeks look dry. Your hands too. And your hair…” Mom made tsk-tsk sounds. “Perhaps a trim would keep it from getting so staticky. You do look awfully cute when it’s short.”

I patted my shoulder-length locks, recently cut into loose layers that emphasized my natural staticky waves. I could use a drink. A tart margarita on the rocks with extra salt would do. My mouth watered. Behave, I chastised myself. It wasn’t even two in the afternoon, way too early for tequila. Plus, I loved my mother and her cute silver-flecked pixie cut. Most of all, I was delighted that she’d come to visit me and my teenage daughter, Celia. It was nice of Mom. No, more than nice. The visit bordered on maternal sacrifice.

As far as I knew, my mother, Mrs. Helen Baker Lafitte, aged sixty-eight and three quarters, of Bucks Grove, Illinois, had never left home for Christmas before, nor had she wanted to. Mom is a retired high school librarian, a woman of card-catalog order and strict traditions, otherwise known as doing the same thing year after year. Under usual circumstances, Mom keeps our “heirloom” artificial Christmas tree perpetually decorated and stored in the garage until the day after Thanksgiving, when she takes it out, dusts it off, and installs it to the left of the living-room fireplace. She places electric candles in each front window, hangs a wreath on the door, and wraps the holly bush in tasteful, nonflashing white lights. All of her holiday cards are mailed by the twelfth of December.

Food traditions are similarly strict. The Christmas Day lunch begins promptly at noon and is typically attended by my Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, Aunt Karen, and younger sister Kathy and her family. Kathy’s husband, Dwayne, watches sports in the den, while their three kids hover between completely exhausted and totally wired from their morning gift frenzy. My mother and aunts whip up a feast of roasted turkey and stuffing, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole with mini-marshmallows, Tater Tot hot dish, amazing monkey bread, Aunt Sue’s famous (or infamous) Jell-O surprise featuring celery and cheese cubes, and my favorite dish: pie, usually apple, mincemeat, and/or pumpkin. It’s a lovely meal, which I truly miss when I can’t attend. However, I also love Santa Fe and want to make my own traditions here.

“That’s one benefit for your sister,” Mom said, polishing off her second water bottle. I swore I heard her stomach slosh. “The beach is at sea level.”

“Yep, that’s the beach for you,” I replied in the perky tone I vowed to maintain for the rest of Mom’s visit. “Kath and the kids must be loving it. What a treat! A holiday to remember!”

“I warned Kathy about jellyfish,” Mom said darkly. “Rip currents, sharks, sand, mosquitoes. . . . It simply doesn’t seem right to be somewhere so tropical for Christmas, but Dwayne went and got that package deal.” Mom’s tone suggested Dwayne had purchased a family-sized case of hives.

I gave Mom another sympathetic smile, along with the extra water bottle she’d stashed in my purse. Of course she was out of sorts. Once the kids learned that they’d get to open their presents early and go to Disney World and the beach, Mom and the holiday hot dish hadn’t stood a chance. I, meanwhile, saw my chance to get Mom to Santa Fe.

I employed some of the guilt she usually ladled on me, telling her truthfully that Celia and I couldn’t get away this year between my work and Celia’s extracurricular activities. Mom, the master of loving manipulation, countered with how much my Illinois relatives would miss us. I was also single, she needlessly pointed out, implying that I could easily uproot. Furthermore, I lived in a casita, a home with tiny in its very name. She wouldn’t want to put me out, she said. Mom then played her wild card, namely Albert Ridgeland, my junior prom date. Wouldn’t you know, Mom had said. She’d recently run into Albert and he was divorced just like me, and with his own successful dental clinic and a mostly full head of hair and he sure would love to catch up.

Mom might be indirect, but she’s never subtle. Ever since my divorce from Manny Martin, a policeman with soap-opera good looks and accompanying philandering tendencies, Mom’s been after me to move back “home.” She sends me clippings of employment ads and monitors eligible bachelors. Peeved that Mom had dragged a divorced dentist into the debate, I went for the guilt jugular, reminding Mom that she was retired yet hadn’t visited in nearly two years. My tactic worked, possibly too well. Mom was staying for nearly three weeks — to get her money’s worth out of the flight — and I’d feel terrible if she didn’t have a good time.

I looked over and saw Mom eyeing a brown paper lunch sack perched a few feet down the adobe wall. The bag was open at the top and slightly singed on the sides. I could guess the contents. A votive candle nestled in sand.

Mom stepped over to peek inside.“It’s a wonder this entire state doesn’t burn down,” she declared. “Remember when your middle school band director, Mr. Ludwig, put on that world Christmas festival in the gymnasium? He almost set the bleachers on fire with one of these . . .” She paused. “What do you call them?”

“A farolito,” I said, proud to show off my local knowledge. “Some people call them luminarias, but Santa Feans are very particular about terminology. Here, luminaria refers to small bonfires. Farolitos are the candles in paper bags. There are electric farolitos too. You’ll see a lot of those along the rooflines of hotels and businesses. They’re pretty but nothing compared to the real ones on Christmas Eve. You’ll love it, Mom. You’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mom shuddered, likely imagining Santa Fe bursting into a spontaneous inferno rather than aglow with thousands of flickering lights. I decided not to tell her about the amazing three-dimensional paper lanterns I’d once seen soaring above the adobe city, lifted by the energy of the candles burning inside them. I needed to work on Mom before I exposed her to flying flames or peppers for breakfast.

Mom was rooting around in her hip pack. “I thought I had a granola bar. This time change and the lack of air are making me light-headed. You need to keep eating too, Rita.”

Eating, I always had covered. I also had a better idea than a squished fanny-pack snack. “It’s the holidays, Mom. Let’s get some pie.”

The Review

I just read a really good book, y'all Feliz Navidead, by Ann Myers. Let me tell you a little about it. 

[If you haven't already read the previous books in the series, Book #1 Bread of the Dead (reviewed here) and Book #2 Cinco de Mayhem, you can read Feliz Navidead as a standalone. Author Ann Myers has included enough backstory so that you won't be lost. I suspect that, after reading about the zany antics of Flori and her "gang" in Feliz Navidead, you'll be dying to read the first two books also. You'll want to learn about all the mayhem and mischief that Flori gets Rita and the others embroiled in, prior to Feliz Navidead.]

Feliz Navidead, the third book in the Santa Fe Café Mystery series, is an outstanding cozy mystery, one that was truly enjoyable to read. Each entry in the series takes place around the time of a Hispanic holiday  Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, and Feliz Navidad. Feliz Navidead is Author Ann Myers' best Santa Fe Café Mystery yet! 

What makes Feliz Navidead so outstanding? Let me count the ways.
  1. A wonderful cast of returning characters, headed by protagonist Rita Lafitte, teenage daughter Celia, boss and co-sleuth Flori, romantic interest Jake Strong, and ditzy new-age neighbor Dalia. These characters are interesting, likable, and well-rounded. 
  2. A great array of new characters, who add a lot to the plot of Feliz Navidead. A group of British tourists add some fun scenes to the book. Rita's mom makes some unexpected changes, and saves the day several times. Flori's cohorts of fellow senior citizens are fleshed out, as the reader learns how their spy ring works.
  3. The non-human cast of Mr Peppers, Sidekick, and Hugo, who sometimes steal the scene from their co-stars.
  4. Recipes! Six of them! And all the yummy-sounding food that Author Ann Myers writes about in Feliz Navidead.   
  5. Whodunnknit? Flori and her gang are no longer into Tai Chi. Now they're yarn-storming as guerrilla knitters. Under the cover of darkness, they sneak their knit graffiti onto public statues and fixtures. You'd think they'd want the vandalism to be anonymous — but you'd be wrong. Flori and company sign their work!
  6. The romance between Rita and Jake is heating up. They're actually dating now! Even though things are moving slowly, Jake thinks it's a big improvement, since Rita vowed in Bread of the Dead that she (a new divorcée) was through with dating. [By the way, in an interview during this blog tour, Author Ann Myers picked Bradley Cooper as her choice of actor to play Jake Strong. Now you know who to imagine as you're reading. Mmmm....]
  7. I learned more about Las Posadas because of Feliz Navidead. I had heard about these traditional Mexican and Mexican-American celebrations, but hadn't known details (for example, about the devils in the plays) until now. 
  8. There's a first-rate mystery to be solved in Feliz Navidead. Author Ann Myers has included plot twists and turns, and several red herrings, which added to my interest and enjoyment.
  9. Other reasons, which I will leave for you to discover, as you are reading Feliz Navidead.       
I recommend Feliz Navidead to all cozy mystery fans, especially fans of Christmas cozies, Las Posadas, New Mexico (particularly Santa Fe), knitting, yarn-storming, and fans of the other Santa Fe Café Mystery books by Ann Myers. 
I really enjoyed Feliz Navidead by Ann Myers, and hereby grant it Four Kitties!
Four out of five kitties
Note:  I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of Feliz Navidead.  
All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Author Guest Post

A Day in the Life of Rita Lafitte

Hi, I’m Rita Lafitte, and today I accomplished something pretty incredible. I feel like I should celebrate. I could cozy up by my kiva fireplace with a mystery novel and my cat, Hugo. That counts as a celebration in my book, especially if I add hot cocoa to the mix. Plus it’s a frosty December evening here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I was on my feet all day as a chef at Tres Amigas Café.

I can’t rest now, though. I’m bursting with too much excitement, and I have tons to do. Cleaning, organizing, list-making… You’ll probably think I’m overreacting. My teenage daughter, Celia, sure does. But this is big. Just a few hours ago, I convinced my mother to come visit Celia and me for Christmas. To my knowledge, my mother, Mrs. Helen Baker Lafitte, has never left our hometown of Bucks Grove, Illinois, for the holidays. Nor has she wanted to.

Mom has a strict holiday routine. She retrieves our “heirloom” artificial Christmas tree from the garage the day after Thanksgiving. She places electric candles in each front window and wraps the holly bush in tasteful, non-flashing white lights. Her holiday cards are in the mail by the twelfth of December.

Food traditions are similarly enforced. Her holiday table must always include turkey and stuffing, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole topped in melted mini-marshmallows, tater-tot hot dish, amazing savory monkey bread, and Aunt Sue’s infamous Jell-O surprise (the surprise is both celery and cheese cubes).The Christmas meal is eaten promptly at noon.

But now, thanks to my loving bullying, Mom will be coming to Santa Fe for two weeks. Things are done a little differently in “The City Different.” I love it here, especially during the holidays. I hope Mom will too…

Among my favorite things are the farolitos, votive candles glowing in paper bags. I’m sure Mom will view these as fire hazards. Luckily, many of the farolitos lining rooftops these days are what my octogenarian boss, friend, and sleuthing partner, Flori, calls “electrolitos.” Her family tree has grown here for generations. She’s sniffy about newfangled electric flames. I think all the decorations are pretty and can’t wait for Mom to see the Christmas Eve celebration. She’ll enjoy it, right? How could she not?

On Christmas Eve, Santa Fe glows with thousands of candles and bonfires. It’s magical, especially with snow icing the adobe walls. Snow would also help calm Mom’s burning-down-the-desert worries. My beloved mother, if you haven’t guessed, is a bit of a worrier.

I have to admit, I’m a little worried on the culinary front. Mom can’t handle anything spicy, and Flori is notorious for spiking her holiday gravy — and most other dishes — with hot pepper. Flori also serves up mountains of sweet and savory tamales, big vats of posole, and melt-in-your-mouth bizcochitos. Bizcochitos are New Mexico’s official state cookie, a tender shortbread flavored with anise. Flori adds extra flavor to hers with a dusting of cinnamon sugar and powdered red chile. But Mom and I can make her traditional recipes, and maybe she’ll try some of my new favorites too.

I should add to my list. Make non-spicy holiday cookies. Find mold for Aunt Sue’s gelatin surprise (minus the surprise!). Tell Flori we will not be involved in any amateur sleuthing! None! There. Underlined. Emphasized. Mom will have a holly, jolly, crime-free Christmas.


That’s Celia. Hugo’s on her shoulder and they’re both eyeing my list.

Now the cat is yawning, and my daughter is flat out scoffing. “No sleuthing? Right! I’ve heard that before, Mom.” 

% % %

Thanks so much for having me and Rita as guests!  – Ann M.

The Author

About Ann Myers

Ann Myers writes the Santa Fe Café Mysteries. The first book in the series, Bread of the Dead (2015), introduced café chef and reluctant amateur sleuth, Rita Lafitte. Rita and her friends stir up more trouble in Cinco de Mayhem (March 2016) and Feliz Navidead (October 25, 2016). 

Ann lives with her husband and extra-large house cat in southern Colorado, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, and cozy mysteries.

Find Ann on the web at

Follow the tour, to read other reviews and Guest Posts, plus Author Interviews.

Click here to view the 'Feliz Navidead by Ann Myers' Tour Participants

The Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours 
for Ann Myers and HarperCollins. There will be five (5) randomly drawn winners 
(US only), each winning one (1) set of Ann Myers' 
The giveaway begins on November 18, 2016, and runs through January 3, 2017.

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