Welcome to my stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Devil’s Kiss: A Small Batch Mystery by Michelle Bennington. Stop by each blog on the tour for interviews, guest posts, spotlights, reviews and more!
Devil’s Kiss: A Small Batch Mystery
by Michelle Bennington
Devil’s Kiss: A Small Batch Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Kentucky
Level Best Books (May 31, 2022)
Paperback : 278 pages
Rook Campbell is broke, divorced, jobless, and in desperate need of steady employment, which is hard to come by in the small town of Rothdale, Kentucky.
With the help of her friend and neighbor Bryan, she lands a good job at the Four Wild Horses Distillery and meets an attractive co-worker with lots of dating potential. Her life is finally headed in the right direction until a co-worker dies under suspicious circumstances and a shipment of rare small-batch bourbon goes missing. Worse, her personal life begins to unravel as her beloved grandmother falls ill. Normally she can depend on her ex, Cam, for help, but his new fiancée’s jealousy is getting in the way.
As the body count rises, Rook becomes ensnared in discovering who’s committing the crimes—or she might be the next to die.
Guest Post from the author: What’s In a Name?
I’m fascinated by names and and their meanings and often wonder how much our names affect our lives or our destinies. For instance, if I had been named Jessica or Jennifer would I have been a member of the cheerleading squad in high school? Would I have been treated differently and therefore developed into a different person than I am today? Probably not, but it’s fun to think about.
But names are important. They contain elements of our culture, or our lineage, or can be used as a way of honoring someone important in our lives. Sometimes, names are simply a matter of personal taste or what’s popular in the wider culture during a particular historical era. Every time I read a book, I think about the names the author chose, why they chose them, what meanings the names might convey, and I consider how well they fit into the story, as if the name itself is a part of the cast of characters.
For instance, when I first read Game of Thrones, I was taken aback by a few of the name choices George R. R. Martin chose. He developed some unusual names that fit well with his fantasy universe: Arya, Cersei, Daenerys,Tyrion, and so forth. There were a few “common” names among the cast like John, Ned, and Cat, but the name that stood out like a red bird in the snow was the name Jamie. I was taken aback that the Kingslayer, the most bold, brave, and talented knight in the kings guard was named Jamie. No offense to anyone named Jamie. It’s a perfectly fine name. But, I expected a dashing name to match a dashing character: Lance or Gawain or some such. Over the course of the series, I did eventually come around to accept the name, but it did shatter my expectations.
This is why I work diligently to pick the right name for my characters. For Devil’s Kiss, I wanted names that evoked a sense of place or culture, as well as a sense of their internal character.
Rook Campbell, for instance, has multiple layers of meaning. My own maternal grandmother loved playing the Rook card game. So, that was a personal connection for me. Also, the character’s description is dark hair and dark eyes, like the dark feathers of the bird. But I wanted to go further to ensure that the name “Rook” truly fit the character. So, I looked up the characteristics of the rook bird.
I discovered that rooks, like other corvids such as crows and ravens, are social birds that live in a close community. They’re intelligent and adept at problem-solving. Rooks haven’t been observed to use tools in the wild like crows do, but in captivity, rooks can learn to use tools and can be trained to complete tasks. Further, they are hardy birds that can live in most environments, though they prefer agricultural areas with tall trees for their nests. Nests are built by both sexes and rooks life-bond with their mates. If I simmer all these qualities to their most basic components, I get a bird that is intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, family-oriented, and loyal—and that describes Rook Campbell perfectly.
But Rook wasn’t the only character name to receive such close attention. Another character, Primrose “Prim” Vertrees, Rook’s grandma, needed a name that suited her, too. I imagined her as being a petite, fragile-looking elderly woman with a strong-will and a take-no-guff attitude. The Primrose flower seemed to fit her character well because its colors are bright and bold, like Prim’s personality. Like Prim, the flower may appear to be quite delicate, but it’s actually a robust, adaptable flower that can thrive in bright sun or partial shade. And Prim, for all her delicate features, is strong, stalwart, woman adaptable to her environment, too.
Another important character in the book is Rook’s ex-husband, Cam. I felt the meaning of his name should not only make sense, but fit the southern vibe of the Devil Kiss’ setting. His first name, which is rarely mentioned, is Porter. This name has several layers of meaning. First, it’s family name on my husband’s side, so it has that personal, real-life connection. Also, it tangentially relates to his career as a bar owner if you consider that port is a type of wine that he might sell in his bar Tangled Up in Brew. Also, the deeper meaning of the name Porter means “gatekeeper or doorkeeper.” I think he lives up to his name because he is in many ways the “gatekeeper” of Rook’s heart. Even though they’re divorced, they still care for each other deeply and, as such, he’s still protective of her.
Finally, his last name, Campbell, has a deep personal connection. The origin of Campbell is Scottish, relating to one of the largest and most powerful Highland clans in Scotland. Kentucky has deep Scots-Irish roots, so I wanted to give a nod to my family’s Scots-Irish ancestry. Campbell also reminds me of my beloved father-in-law who was born and raised in Campbellsville, Kentucky, who, unfortunately, didn’t live to see the publication of Devil’s Kiss. So, I wanted to make a connection to him in the book.
As for all the secondary characters in Devil’s Kiss, many of the names have a personal connection to my life, since I’ve used the names of family and friends. Or, where I didn’t use names familiar to me, I used names that I felt evinced “Kentucky” qualities. Sometimes, the names I’ve used are from an older, more traditional generation (like Harlan, which is also the name of a county in Kentucky). Granted, those older names aren’t typically a part of contemporary Kentucky culture, but I felt that anchoring to the past helps to give a stronger sense of place and culture in the book.
About Michelle Bennington
Born and raised in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky, Michelle Bennington developed a passion for books early on that has progressed into a mild hoarding situation and an ever-growing to-read pile.
When she’s not creating contemporary or historical fictional worlds full of mysteries, she obsesses over all things British and historical. In rare moments of spare time, she can be found engaging in a wide array of arts and crafts, dance, and attending ghost tours.
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Devil’s Kiss TOUR PARTICIPANTS
August 10 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST
August 10 – Books Blog – SPOTLIGHT
August 11 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 12 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – GUEST POST
August 13 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
August 13 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 14 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
August 15 – Cassidy’s Bookshelves – SPOTLIGHT
August 15 – Baroness Book Trove – REVIEW
August 16 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 16 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT
August 17 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
August 17 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
August 17 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 18 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
August 18 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST
August 19 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
August 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
August 20 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
August 22 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT
August 23 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT
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