Bookstore owner Harlow Hathaway buys forty boxes of books, some rare and some not, at the estate sale of a man who recently died. With the help of her best friend Cooper Callaway, she begins to inventory her purchase and finds a complete set of signed novels penned by her favorite author of all time, Alistair Winslow. Winslow is a reclusive writer who spins his tales from a secret hideaway. Most assume that Alistair Winslow is a pen name and not a given name, but while many have tried, none have been able to unmask the man and reveal his true identity. At the bottom of one of the boxes is an envelope with what looks to be pages from an unpublished manuscript. Harlow is sure the manuscript was penned by Winslow and that the novel, which is much different than his other work, holds the secret to his true identity. Harlow and Coop take to the road in search of answers relating to the reclusive author and his relationship with the reluctant heir who appears to have been his friend.
Release date: November 7, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 153
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1)
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Harlow: A Road to Romance Mystery
Harlow Hathaway paused after opening the front door to the farmhouse where she’d grown
up. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and—she took in a deep breath—ginger. Dixie must have made her spice
pancakes for breakfast. Based on the sound of laughter coming from the kitchen, it seemed she
wasn’t the only Hathaway sister whose intuition had sent them home for breakfast this morning.
Harlow smiled as she let the perfection of the moment warm her heart. Of all the Hathaway
sisters, she was by far the most sentimental, and she figured she was the one who most cherished
these impromptu family meals.
Dixie winked at Harlow as she entered the room. Harlow smiled in return. Beneath the
throwback-to-the-sixties, hippie vibe Dixie presented to the world, she was as sentimental a soul
as her second-youngest granddaughter. She opened her arms in greeting, her long, white braid
dipping over the shoulder of her sunny yellow peasant top. “I was wondering if my pancakes
would bring you by.”
Harlow stepped in for a hug that was even better than the pancakes. “Of course. You know
that I can always sense when you make spice pancakes with warm fruit compote and freshly
“You have to try the boysenberry,” Harper, the second oldest of the five Hathaway sisters,
said from the chair that had always been hers at the huge farmhouse table. “I was only going to
have a bite, but so far I’ve eaten four pancakes.”
Harlow paused to smile at Bella, Harper’s year-old toddler who was in the process of making
a mess with her own tray of food.
“Personally, the apple is my favorite,” Haven, the youngest of the five and the only sister
with blonde hair rather than brown, countered. “Although these fresh strawberries from the
hothouse are pretty darn good.”
Harlow sat down at the table in the chair that had always been hers, next to her middle sister,
Haley. “I guess I’ll need to try one of each flavor, although peach and apricot are my favorites.”
“I hope we get apricots from the trees this year,” Haven commented. “I’ve been thinking
about making jam.”
“As long as we don’t get a late frost, we should get some fruit,” Dixie answered. She looked
at Harlow. “How is the garden at the bookstore coming along?”
“It’s too early to plant, but I have things cleaned up and ready to go once the threat of frost
has passed completely. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping busy.” She turned to Harper. “Are
you still coming by this afternoon to help me sort through the new inventory?”
Harper was currently embracing the role of full-time mom to Bella and wasn’t working
outside the home, so she often helped out when Harlow needed her. It worked out well for
everyone since Harlow’s dog Maggie loved playing with Harper’s dog Bosley.
“I am planning to come by for a few hours. Michael is busy with Ben today, and Bella is
going over to Holly’s to play with the new toddler she’s fostering, so I’m free the whole
afternoon.” Ben and Holly Holiday were good friends of Harper and her husband Michael’s and
the couples got together often.
“You have new inventory?” Haley asked.
Harlow took a bite of the delicious pancake and nodded. “Coop and I went to an estate sale
this past weekend,” she said, referring to her best friend, Cooper Callaway. “We managed to buy
forty large boxes of books from the library of the man who died. Some of the books are trade
paperbacks, which I’ll set out on the dollar table, but I came across a first edition of The Great
Gatsby in one of the boxes, which made me realize I really needed to take my time to sort
through everything rather than dumping the whole lot on the used-books table. Coop helped me
get started last night, but I still have half of the boxes to sort through.”
“Wow, a first edition of The Great Gatsby is quite a find,” Dixie commented.
Harlow grinned. “I thought so. But The Great Gatsby isn’t even my best find to date.”
Haley raised a brow. “Okay. I’m hooked. What has been your best find to date?”
“Signed copies of every single book ever written by my favorite author of all time, Alistair
Harper whistled. “That is a find. Alistair Winslow is a total recluse and never does book
signings. Most readers don’t even believe he is an actual person. How on earth did the man
whose books you purchased manage to end up with a signed copy of every book written by a
man most consider to be nothing more than a ghost?”
Harlow shrugged. “I have no idea, but from the personalized messages, I suspect Winslow
and the man who owned the estate were friends. I guess I’ve never stopped to consider the idea
that Alistair Winslow might have friends. As far as I know, there isn’t a single person on earth
who knows who he really is. It’s rumored that even his agent only communicates with him via
“Are you sure the signatures are authentic?” Haley asked.
Harlow frowned. “Actually, no. But I hope they are.”
“What sort of things did he write in the books?” Haven asked. “Did he just sign his name, or
were there personal messages?”
“Personal messages,” Harlow answered. “And they are specific.”
“Specific?” Haley asked.
“There are mentions of ‘their time at the lake’ and ‘the gang on Baker Street.’ He mentions
someone named Dora, and how one of the characters in the book is loosely based on her. One of
the messages referred to Art’s place, and another said something about ‘Tessa’s cookies being
used for bait.’ Things like that. I really think that Alistair Winslow and the man must have been
“So who was the man whose estate you purchased the books from?” Dixie asked.
“His name was Theo Emerson. He lived in a huge house, which I would probably refer to as
a mansion, on a private lake northwest of here. I heard about the estate sale from a friend who
owns an antique store in Bemidji. She was interested in furniture and dishware rather than books,
so she called to let me know about the sale.”
“Do you know anything about him other than where he lived?” Haley asked. “His age,
occupation, personal history?”
“No,” Harlow admitted. “But after finding the books signed by Alistair Winslow last night, I
find that I am interested in learning what I can about the guy. I feel like I might have stumbled on
to a real mystery. I can’t help but wonder if finding out more about Theo Emerson could lead to
discovering the true identity of Alistair Winslow.”
“You’d best not tell Hayden about your find,” Haley cautioned. “She’ll show up and take
over your investigation before you know what hit you.”
Hayden was the oldest of the five Hathaway sisters, and the most driven. She currently
worked for a local television station operating out of Minneapolis but had plans to make it to the
big time before she turned thirty-five. Unfortunately, she was presently thirty-four, and her
inability to meet her goal was causing her to be almost manic about finding the one story that
would turn out to be her big break. Harlow had no doubt that if Hayden knew she had a lead that
might unmask the elusive Alistair Winslow, she’d be on the highway north immediately. Harlow
loved Hayden and wanted to see her succeed, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to unmask
Winslow, even if she could put together the clues left in the messages from one friend to another.
“While we are on the subject of Alistair Winslow, did any of you happen to notice the
dedication page of his latest novel?” Haley asked.
Harlow frowned. “I did see it, and it was odd for a dedication. In fact, it really wasn’t a
dedication at all.”
“What did it say?” Harper asked.
“‛An unfolding story becomes complete when, like a circle, beginning and end meet.’”
Harper raised a brow. “Seems mysterious.”
Harlow bit her lip. “Yeah, I thought so as well. I’m not sure if there is a hidden message
there, but it sure does feel like it. I’d say it’s really very odd.”
“Alistair’s entire career has been really odd,” Haley pointed out. “Some guy no one has ever
heard of publishes a novel that is an instant best seller. He immediately becomes a household
name, and everyone wants to claim a piece of him, yet his identity has been so well guarded that
not even his own publisher knows what he looks like.”
“I heard he even turned down Oprah,” Haven added.
“What could be so bad that he’d be forced to lie about who he really is?” Harper asked.
“He hasn’t actually lied,” Harlow pointed out. “He just hasn’t said who he is. I’ve wondered
many times what he might look like. Based on his strong but elegant writing style, I’ve always
pictured him as a distinguished and sophisticated man. Someone who is both educated and well
traveled. Someone who is physically attractive in a cultured and refined sort of way.”
“Sounds like someone has a crush on the mystery man,” Haley teased.
“A crush, no,” Harlow defended herself. “But I am fascinated and intrigued by him. I
suppose if the real Alistair Winslow is vastly different from the persona he’s created, that might
be the reason for hiding his identity. It does seem to me that if he turned out to be a seventy-five-
year-old grandmother, it might affect book sales.” Harlow looked at Dixie. “No offense.”
Dixie laughed. “None taken. I’ve always imagined Alistair Winslow to look a bit like Sean
Connery. Rugged. Handsome. Distinguished.”
Haley wrinkled her nose. “I’ve always pictured him as being younger. He’s only been
publishing for about ten years. He could totally be in his thirties. I agree that he is most likely
hot. I’m thinking thick black hair, short and neat. And dark eyes, chiseled features, and maybe
just a hint of an English accent. His name does make it seem as if he is British by birth. And I bet
he is probably the sort to easily seduce women. His books are so emotionally raw. I bet he knows
exactly how to worm his way into the heart of any woman he might desire.”
“I bet he has long hair,” Haven countered. “And blond. Blue eyes and a sexy grin. I agree
about the Casanova vibe. His writing does seem to possess the perfect blend of strength and
“Short hair with just a touch of gray around the temples,” Harper jumped in. “I figure he
might be around fifty. Mature, but still adventurous and physically fit. And ditto on the art-of-
Harlow found the conversation interesting. The fact that everyone at the table pictured him
differently said a lot for Winslow’s decision to maintain his anonymity. She supposed the fact
that he could literally be almost anyone had done a lot to add to his overall mystique.
“If Winslow was childhood friends with this Theo Emerson, I suppose that at the very least
that would provide his actual age,” Dixie pointed out. “It seems like a worthwhile investigation
Harlow realized that Dixie was right. “I’ll talk to Coop about it this afternoon when he comes
by. He is a private investigator. I’m sure he can dig up whatever we might want to know about
Haley took a last bite of her pancake. “As fascinating as I find this conversation, I need to get
“Are you still working on that bathroom remodel?” Dixie asked.
“I am. And the guy is so happy with my work on the bathroom that he has decided to have
me do the kitchen as well.”
“That’s great.” Haven grinned. “That should keep you busy for a couple of months.”
“I’m hoping that it will work out so I can finish the kitchen in time to jump right into the lake
house I have lined up for the summer.” She stood up, then pushed her chair in behind her.
“Which is why I need to run.”
“Don’t forget that your mom wants us all to have supper on Sunday,” Dixie reminded her.
“Two o’clock, so don’t be late.”
“I’ll be there,” Haley promised. “Where is Mom this morning?”
“She had an emergency,” Dixie answered. “A dog was hit by a car early this morning.”
Harlow placed her hand on her chest. “Oh no. I hope the dog is going to be okay.”
Dixie tossed her braid over her shoulder. “I hope so too, although your mom wasn’t sure
when she left.”
Haven, who often worked as an assistant in the veterinary clinic, stood up as well. “I hadn’t
heard about the dog. I should head to the clinic to help out.” She looked at her grandmother.
“Thanks for breakfast. I’ll be sure to plan to be home for dinner on Sunday.”
Harper pushed her chair out after Haven left. “I need to get going.” She looked at Harlow. “I
should be by around lunchtime. I’ll bring sandwiches.”
“That would be great. I’ll take a veggie on wheat.”
Harlow looked at Dixie after her sisters had cleared out. “I’ll help with the dishes.”
“I can get these,” Dixie said. “Seems to me you have a mystery to start digging into.”
Harlow felt her heart begin to race as it always did when there was a good mystery to solve.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to take a look into things to see what I can find. It’s not like I have to do
anything with the information I find. But it would be fun to take a peek behind the curtain that
Alistair Winslow seems to be hiding behind.”
“Again, I wouldn’t mention this to Hayden,” Dixie cautioned. “She’d have it on the nightly
news by the end of the day.”
“Don’t worry. Alistair’s secret will be safe with me.”
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