Friday, June 21, 2019

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass - An Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Heather Day Gilbert to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Heather writes the Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery series. BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS is the first book in the series and will be released next week.

Kathy: Belinda Blake is an exotic pet-sitter. Although I currently only have pet cats I have had what some might call exotics. I had pets rats for over 20 years. Do you have any "exotic" pets?

HDG: I've never had any exotic pets—just dogs, cats, and goldfish! But I really enjoyed learning about ball pythons for this book. I frequently consulted my critique partner Becky Doughty, who grew up with a boa constrictor (she was a missionary kid), to get my python scenes right. For the second-in-series (BELINDA BLAKE AND THE WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING), I loved learning about wolf-dogs and wolves' behaviors. This series has been a real blast to write, as I've been learning about exotic pets right along with Belinda!

Kathy: In BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS Belinda has to care for a pet python. I don't mind snakes, although I think their food makes better pets. Have you had any dealings with pet snakes?

HDG: I haven't—my dealings with snakes have been of the more violent sort, like when I've encountered them in my yard near my kids. ;) But after doing the research on ball pythons, I think I'd feel quite comfy picking up one of those snakes. Another "pet" I've considered writing about for this series is a tarantula—I've had one walk across my hand and I actually didn't find it freaky at all. But I'm thinking readers might REALLY dislike that idea...

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

HDG: Two words: Agatha Christie. You'll see Belinda loves to read Agatha's mysteries, too. ;) I truly love how unpredictable Agatha's mysteries are, and I strive for that element of surprise in mine, as well. I also love the idea that some of the most creepy criminals appear to be normal, small-town people.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

HDG: I have written three Viking-era historical novels, based on real Viking women who sailed to North America. I've also written two books in a romantic suspense series and three traditional mysteries, and both those series are set in small-town West Virginia, which is where I live. Finally, I've written a nonfiction Indie Publishing Handbook, for those seeking to publish their own books. Although I love the Viking era (since I'm allegedly related to Eirik the Red), I am always pulled back to mysteries, since that's what I tend to read.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

HDG: In the Exotic Pet-Sitter cozy mystery series, readers will be pulled into the big city/small town world of pet-sitter Belinda Blake, who rents a carriage house in the upscale own of Greenwich, Connecticut. Throughout the series, Belinda will commute into New York City for many of her pet-sitting jobs, but she will also travel back to see her parents in a small town in Upstate New York, thus giving the series a unique big-city and small-town feel. Romance is another element you'll find as Belinda works on finding herself throughout her adventures.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

HDG: Oh, yes, I surely do have one in the Exotic Pet-Sitter series, but I can't tell you, because it might spoil the romance angle. Let's just say the dude I like best is a lot like my husband. But I also love Belinda's bold psychologist sister, Katrina, as well as her quirky, off-grid momma and her veterinarian dad.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

HDG: Actually, the titles kind of steered this series as I tried to come up with exotic pets for Belinda to sit. And characters started to flesh out as I wrote them and got to know their backstories and motivations. I had also lived in all the areas featured in this series—NYC; Greenwich, CT; and upstate NY (I was in Western NY).

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

HDG: I've indie (independently) published eight of my books thus far, and I have one traditionally-published book (outside the Exotic Pet-Sitter series, published by Kensington this year and next). Both have been great experiences, and it's been lovely finding loyal readers along the way. I love entertaining readers with mysteries I truly hope they can't figure out.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

HDG: Oh wow, that's incredibly hard! I'd definitely invite Agatha Christie, as well as Daphne du Maurier (author of REBECCA). I'd also invite Thomas Hardy just to see what he's like (one of my fave books is FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD). And to keep things really interesting, I think I'd invite Edgar Allan Poe.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

HDG: FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN by Morgan Busse (YA fantasy), WHOSE WAVES THESE ARE by Amanda Dykes (Christian historical fiction), and I really want to read THE WHISPERED WORD by Ellery Adams soon, as well as catch up on my Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache) series.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

HDG: Much like Belinda, I do play video games to unwind, only I'm not NEARLY as fantastic a player as she is. I also love working in my flowerbeds. I look forward to dates with my hubby—I'd say he's my main interest. ;)

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

HDG: Tea bags (for brewing sweet tea), butter, milk, and Swiss cheese. I guess I really love dairy products! *grin*

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

HDG: I have three books releasing in the Exotic Pet-Sitter series in 2019/2020. I'd love to write more, but that's up to my publisher and depends on the demand from readers, I suppose. I do have about 4-5 other ideas for mystery series rolling around in my head, and we have some out on proposal with publishers.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

HDG: The act of writing, as well as hearing from readers when they enjoy my books. That helps keep me going.


Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn't done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers. Find out more on



The First Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery

Belinda Blake has moved from NYC to a carriage house apartment in tony Greenwich, Connecticut hoping to garner some new clients for her exotic pet-sitting business. With her current charge, a ball python named Rasputin, Belinda meets the hunky son living in the mansion next door. Her next encounter isn't nearly as pleasant, as she discovers the dead body of a young woman in her flowerbed! Now Stone Carrington the fifth is bringing Belinda with him as he tries to find more details as to what happened to the woman. Is Stone trustworthy, or is he more of a snake than Rasputin?  

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Belinda and the quirky characters of BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS. From a homesteading mama, to a New York City artist, the blue bloods of Connecticut, and a book club running dairy farmer, Belinda Blake deals with them all. A snake is Belinda's steady companion in her first adventure. Although I think snakes' food make better pets, I really liked Rasputin, the ball python. Although quiet, he's steadfast, funny, and ultimately heroic.

The first Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery has a lot to do with growing up, including the growing pains that come along with it. Belinda Blake is determined to prove herself and be on her own while still having the loving support of her family. In many ways she reads even younger than her late twenties, but she remains reliable, responsible, and smart. I look forward to watching her grow as the series continues.  And as the plot develops we see that Belinda's not the only character who is forced to grow.

BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS is a uniquely themed mystery that proves a great start to a new series.


Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (An Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery) by Heather Day Gilbert

About the Book

Cozy Mystery 1st in Series  
Lyrical Underground (June 25, 2019) 
Paperback: 192 pages
When exotic pet-sitter Belinda Blake moves into a carriage house in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, she’s hoping to find some new clients. Instead she discovers a corpse in the garden—and a knack for solving murders . . .
Pet-sitter Belinda Blake doesn’t rattle easily, but move-in day has been eventful, to say the least. The python in her care tried to slither to freedom—just as she met Stone Carrington V, her landlords’ disarmingly handsome son. With the constrictor back in its cage, she heads out to the garden, only to discover a designer shoe poking out of the boxwood hedge—attached to a woman’s dead body.
The victim, Margo Fenton, was a Carrington family friend, and no one in their circle seems above suspicion. Between client trips to Manhattan and visits to her family in upstate New York, Belinda begins to put the pieces together. But though she’s falling for Stone’s numerous charms, Belinda wonders if she’s cozying up to a killer. And soon, daily contact with a deadly reptile might be the least dangerous part of her life . . .

About the Author

Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn't done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers. Find out more on

Author Links 
Facebook Author Page:  
Twitter: @heatherdgilbert  

Purchase Links: Kindle: Nook Kobo AppleBooks Google Play

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  1. Thanks for the chance to win. What a great giveaway!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book! Thanks for the chance to win.

  3. I really enjoy cozies. Thanks for this opportunity.

  4. Thank you so much for the lovely review and for the fun questions for your blog today! Looking forward to finding out who wins the giveaway! :)

  5. I just love this cover and cozies are one of my favs. Good luck with the tour and hope you get a lot of new readers. Peggy Clayton

  6. This sounds like a fun book with a fun cover.