Release Day Blitz for Adele Gossling Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-3!

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Title: Adele Gossling Mysteries Box Set 1: Books 1-3 (Adele Gossling Mysteries Box 

Series: Adele Gossling Mysteries

Author: Tam May

Genres: Historical Cozy Mystery

Release Date: November 25, 2023

Can a forward-thinking woman help the police solve crimes in a backward-thinking town?

“Great new series!”

Smart, inquisitive, and a firm believer in Progressive Era reforms, Adele Gossling seeks a new life after the devastating death of her father. She flees San Francisco for the town of Arrojo, planning a life of peace and small pleasures. But both elude her when she and her spiritual sidekick, Nin Branch, get involved in helping the local police solve the case of a dead debutante, a poisoned schoolteacher, and a family matriarch who may or may not have left a generous will.

The Carnation Murder: Adele Gossling has barely been in Arrojo for a week when she discovers her neighbor’s dead body in her gazebo. Can Adele and Nin solve this puzzling case involving a striped carnation, a diamond ring, a note, a muddy pair of boots, and a broken promise?

A Wordless Death: Millie Gibb, the new teacher at the local girl’s school, is found dead and everybody in town assumes the homely, unmarried spinster committed suicide. Can Adele and her clairvoyant friend Nin prove Millie’s death was foul play based on a cigar stub, a letter fragment, and a cigarette lighter before the case is closed for good?

Death at Will: When the affluent Thea Marsh dies unexpectedly, the trail of suspects leads to Thea’s beloved and favored eldest son, Theo. Will Adele make a case against Theo’s guilt for the police out of a stained teacup, a fountain pen nib, ashes that should have been in the fireplace, and daisies that should have been fresh?

Pick up this box set of the first three Adele Gossling Mysteries and immerse yourself in turn-of-the-century Northern California in all its dynamic and chaotic glory for a fun and cozy read!

You can get your copy of this box set at a special price at the following online retailers.


About the Author

Writing has been Tam May’s voice since the age of fourteen. She writes stories set in the past that feature sassy and sensitive women characters. Tam is the author of the Adele Gossling Mysteries which take place in the early 20th century and features suffragist and epistolary expert Adele Gossling whose talent for solving crimes doesn’t sit well with the town’s more conventional ideas about women’s place. She has also written historical fiction about women breaking loose from the social and psychological expectations of their era. Although Tam left her heart in San Francisco, she lives in the Midwest because it’s cheaper. When she’s not writing, she’s devouring everything classic (books, films, art, music) and concocting yummy plant-based dishes.


Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tammayauthor/

Instragram: https://www.instagram.com/tammayauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tammayauthor/ 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tam-May/e/B01N7BQZ9Y/ 

BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tam-may

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16111197.Tam_May

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Fun and Mischief: Halloween in the Early 20th Century

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It’s Halloween in the United States today, and if you live in America, you likely already have bags of candy stashed on the front table near your door, expecting little nippers to come knocking and calling “trick or treat!”

Halloween these days is a relatively tame affair where fun is the name of the game. It means dressing up in costumes, taking the kids door to door to get candy, and for some, attending a party or settling on the couch to watch spooky movies (I already have my collection of Val Lewton films geared up). But in the early 20th century, kids had a very different idea of what constituted “fun” for Halloween. Mischief and mayhem were the order of the day (or, I should say, the night).

What do I mean by mischief? Watch this clip from the 1944 classic film Meet Me in St. Louis. The film is set in 1904 and gives a pretty accurate glimpse of how kids celebrated Halloween in the early 20th century. In the scene, kids build a bonfire, throwing into it anything flammable they can get their hands on (and one suspects some of the chairs they’re throwing in might have been ripped off neighborhood porches). Then, they huddle together, trying to figure out who they’re going to torture with their bags of flour (yes, knocking on someone’s door and throwing flour in their face was a thing back then). That was the turn-of-the-century’s idea of Halloween fun.

Photo Credit: A non-grotesque and non-creepy Halloween costume of a witch, 1910: jamesjoel/Flickr/CC BY ND 2.0

Another thing about this scene is that it shows how kids dressed up for Halloween over one hundred years ago (and if you’re curious to see more costumes from this era, you can look here). Unlike today where we’re more likely to see cute costumes on smaller kids and spooky-fun costumes on older kids, kids used whatever they could find around the house. The results were creepier and, in some cases, even grotesque.

Trick-or-treating is a largely organized affair in the 21st century, as in my neighborhood in a small Ohio town, where the local newspaper designates specific days (not necessarily October 31) and times when trick-or-treaters can go around town. In the early 20th century, things were a lot more chaotic. Kids would go trick-or-treating in parades and they could become quite unruly. And did they get candy? Not always. Until the mid-20th century, kids got whatever was lying around. That could be a toy or a game the child of the house didn’t want anymore or some non-candy goodies or fruits or nuts (which would make many moms and dads very happy today).

But what really characterized early 20th-century Halloween was mischief. In addition to the bonfire and the flour-in-the-face, it wasn’t unusual for kids to vandalize the homes of people in town they didn’t like or even steal things off their lawn or porch (in the film clip above, one of the adults warns her children to make sure and return a neighbor’s hammock after they steal it). I remember when I was a kid, Halloween meant you were at risk of being “egged” (having kids throw rotten eggs at your house) if you didn’t open the door and give out candy. Thankfully, that practice has largely gone out of style. 

Want to have even more Halloween fun this year? Come solve a mystery with the protagonist of my Adele Gossling Mysteries series as she helps search for a missing child from the community Halloween party! You can get this story (plus a novella and other goodies) only if you sign up for my newsletter here. And to check out my Adele Gossling Mysteries series, you can’t do any better than the box set for the first three books in the series! That’s on preorder right now at a great price, so pick it up here

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A Survey of Women’s Issues: Revisited

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Women’s Equality Day is this month (on August 26). Women’s equality is central to so many of my books, including the Waxwood Series and the Adele Gossling Mysteries. A friend of mine recently posted a quote on her Facebook page from a well-known author who claimed that every book is a political act. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but for myself, while I don’t see each book of mine as a political act, I do incorporate in my books the things I’m most passionate about. And if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, subscribe to my newsletter, and/or read my books, you know I am passionate about women’s equality and women’s rights. 

Why? There are several reasons. I was born in 1970 just as the second-wave feminist movement was beginning to pick up steam. I came of age in the 1980s when third-wave feminism was picking up. 

But even more so, I sadly did not grow up in a household that valued women’s equality. My parents were born in the mid-20th century and my mom grew up with June Cleaver values (though she was not raised in America). Our house was very patriarchal. My father went to work and earned and took care of the money. My mom, though she had several careers in her lifetime, took care of my dad, my siblings, and me above all else, sometimes to the detriment of her own identity. Even the careers she had were of a more “traditional” vein (nurse, electrologist). I don’t begrudge this, though, as it was what led me to want more as a woman and to discover feminism in college.

In light of my recent blog post about disassociative feminism, there is perhaps no better time to ask the question: Do we still need feminism?

It seems some of the younger generation would answer a firm “no” to this question. A while back, photos began appearing in my Facebook feed of young women holding up signs reading “I don’t need feminism.” These young women claimed admitting we still need feminism creates a victim mentality and demonizes all men, encouraging man-hating among women. As someone from an older generation who writes about women’s oppression, this was deeply disturbing, to say the least!

Women have had a lot to fight for: in the 19th century and 20th and (dare I say it?) even the 21st. It’s not the fight that has changed but the nature of the issues.

In the 19th century, organized suffragism was born of a group of brave women whose names are branded in history like Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During this time, suffragists focused first on getting society to recognize women were equals to men (with limitations dictated by the separate spheres, of course — no use rocking the boat too much). But later, their focus shifted to one solitary goal: to win women the right to vote. Why was this so important? Suffragists were smart enough to realize that without the right to vote, they would never be able to implement changes into public policy that would carry through to future generations. 

When progressive movements took center stage at the turn of the 20th century, suffragism continued with women such as Jane Addams, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells. Women achieved success when the 19th Amendment was ratified in the United States in 1920. The Progressive Era made many women more aware that equality wasn’t just about the right to vote. It was also about psychological freedom and throwing off the shackles of 19th-century femininity that limited what women could and could not do and be. In that light, the New Woman was born: active, athletic, and freer in body and spirit than her mother and grandmother.

After the fight for suffragism and breaking the stereotype of the Victorian “angel in the house”, the post-World War” II generation brought back a more modern version of the angel. Betty Friedan labeled her “the feminine mystique”. Magazines, advertisements, and doctors advocated for a woman’s place in the home, and her identity became tied to her relationships with others rather than her identity in and of itself. Friedan found these women in American suburbs living a life that fulfilled this destiny, but they were not happy because they suffered from The Problem That Has No Name. These women felt discontented and frustrated, as if something was missing from their lives but they couldn’t define what it was.

Friedan’s book inspired others to speak out about their frustration and disillusionment, eventually leading to second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s with activists such as Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Bell Hooks, among others. These women, whose slogan was “the personal is political” went further into the political sphere than their 19th and early 20th-century sisters. They zoomed in on social and personal oppressions, including issues such as domestic violence, rape, and reproductive rights. 

This meme is from a Tumblr site called “Confused Cats Against Feminism” and is meant as a tongue-in-cheek attack against the anti-feminist movement of the 21st century. You can read more about it here

Photo Credit: Meme from the Confused Cats Against Feminism, taken 27 July 2014 by Jym Dyer: Jym Dyer/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0

But the question still remains: Do we need feminism in the 21st century? My answer would be as firm as the “I don’t need feminism” movement: YES!

Why? Because we’re still fighting many of the issues 20th-century feminists were fighting. To give one example, 20th-century women fought for women’s reproductive rights, including a woman’s right to choose whether to have children or not. In 2022, the supreme court overturned the law (Roe vs. Wade) that legalized abortion. Whether you’re on the side for or against it, there is a deeper issue here of taking away women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies. That freedom is one women have been fighting for for years and will continue to fight as a basic human right.

If you want to read about women fighting for equality, go to my Adele Gossling Mysteries! Book 1, The Carnation Murder, is free on all bookstore sites. And Book 6 is coming out soon, so pick up a copy at a special preorder price here

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy my novella The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers and you can get it here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!

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The Lady in the Pond: The Case of Hazel Drew

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I love books and films that are “inspired by true events”. I actually like these better than biopics or fiction that tries to portray the life of a real-life person based on historical evidence. Stories inspired by true events are about creating another story that readers know isn’t supposed to be true but had its inspiration in truth. For me, fiction that tells the story of a real person’s life is almost speculation no matter how much it is based on real documents, and is like putting words into a dead person’s mouth.

This is why I chose to write Book 6 of my Adele Gossling Mysteries inspired by true events from a real live unsolved mystery. I love watching YouTube videos about historical crimes so I was really taken by the story of Hazel Drew for several reasons. The murder happened in 1908, just around the time frame of the Adele Gossling Mysteries, when modern life was starting to hit America in the face and the Progressive Era brought about many changes in the nation, not all of them positive. Unsolved cases always intrigue me and this one, as of now, is unsolved, even though there are several theories about who could have killed Hazel Drew. And after more research, I discovered the murder of Hazel Drew inspired another creative work that went on to become a cult classic in the 1990s: The hit series Twin Peaks.

Hazel Drew was, in many ways, one of the era’s modern women. She was a working girl who wasn’t confined by the shackles of the separate spheres. She liked to go out and have fun when and she loved elegant things. There is evidence she wanted to move beyond her position as a domestic servant (something that Victorian era ideology, with its rigid social boundaries, wouldn’t have allowed), though what that would have been, no one knew. And, like many New Women of the day, she was an enigma.

And here maybe lies the most fascinating thing about this case. Hazel Drew seemed to present herself as one thing but digging into her life after being murdered, police found evidence of an entirely different person. For example, interviews with family members and friends reveal Hazel didn’t have a beau and didn’t seem much interested in men. But police found in a suitcase she left at the train station on the day of her death dozens of letters from different men (most of them unidentified) who professed undying love and devotion to Hazel. These letters painted a picture not of the modest, church-going young woman people in Sand Lake where she lived had known, but a vivacious, bubbly person who loved expensive trinkets and restaurants and sojourns to New York City, none of which were exactly within a domestic servant’s budget. Many in her more conservative and backward hometown thought her “too big for her britches” – owning jewelry and clothes her maid’s salary could ill afford and working for some of the most prominent families in the city, including its treasurer and a prominent businessman.

Photo Image: Postcard of Sand Lake, NY, where Hazel Drew lived and worked and was killed, 1910, eBay store: Amg37/Wikimedia Commons/PD US 

Why, then, was she found face-down in Teal’s Pond one summer night in 1908, dead from a blow to the back of the head, and her face so mangled from being in the water that only her dental records could identify her? Who might have had it in for this harmless maid (another disposable working girl, which I talk about here? And why, after months of searching for the killer, did the local police simply give up where the case remains unsolved today?

These are questions I’ll be tackling in my newsletters next month, so if you’re interested in finding out more about Hazel Drew and her connection to The Case of the Dead Domestic, be sure to subscribe here (and get yourself a free novella while you’re at it!)

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The Dispensable Working Girl: Murder at Moose Lake

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Working girls didn’t have it easy in the early 20th century. Employers exploited them shamelessly because they were cheaper labor than men, and they could get them to do the dirtiest work for less money (see my blog post here about the wage gap). They worked long hours in very dangerous conditions for employers who skirted safety laws to save money and had no regard for their workers’ safety. They were, in a sense, dispensable labor, more so even than men.

This was never more obvious than in the rise of crimes against working girls in the early 20th century. There were several cases of working girls who came to a bad end. I was browsing YouTube last year and came upon a miniseries made in 1988 about the murder of Mary Phagan in 1915. In my newsletter last year, I talked about a case in 1908 of a schoolteacher in Upstate New York who was murdered by her former student. There is also the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy which I wrote about here

Photo Credit: Photo of Grace Brown, date unknown, author unknown: King Rk/Wikimedia Commons/PD US expired

But perhaps the most famous Progressive Era murder of a working girl was the tragedy of Grace Brown. This case became famous for two reasons. First, author Theodore Dreiser was so deeply touched by it that he wrote a fictional account in 1925 under the title An American Tragedy. Second, this story was turned into a film in 1951 that marked the first of three collaborations between lifelong pals Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.

The story begins in 1905. Chester Gillette, a young man born to ultra-religious and poor people, took a job at his wealthy uncle’s skirt factory in New York. There he met an attractive girl named Grace Brown. Despite the strict factory rules that working men were not to socialize with their female coworkers, Gillette and Brown had a relationship that ended up with Brown becoming pregnant in 1906. This was still a time when the separate spheres were honored which meant a woman who had a child out of wedlock was shunned and disgraced. To avoid this, Brown wrote letters pleading with Gillette to marry her so she wouldn’t be a social outcast. He avoided responding to her for as long as he could.

Gilette finally agreed to take a trip to Moose Lake in the Adirondacks where Brown thought they would get married or at least engaged. But instead, he took her out on the lake and, knowing she couldn’t swim, made sure she drowned. The case became a sensation as Gillette was caught, tried, and convicted in 1908 and died by the electric chair.

The sixth book of my Adele Gossling Mysteries, The Case of the Dead Domestic, is also based on a case of a disposable working girl in the early 20th century. Rather than factory work, Hazel Drew was a domestic servant, and her death, unlike Mary Phagan’s and Grace Brown’s, remains unsolved. If you want to find out all about this unsolved classic true crime (and how it inspired one of the 1990s hit TV series), consider signing up for my newsletter here, as I’ll be doing a series of emails all about this case before the book comes out in August. Plus, you’ll get a free book as a gift just for signing up!

And you can preorder The Case of the Dead Domestic at a special price here

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