New Release – Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine by M.S. Spencer #CozyMystery #RomanticSuspense #NewRelease #BooksToRead

Their story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Thank you so much, Christina, for allowing me to tell your readers about my new release Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine. In it, the hero uses a book called The Secret: a Treasure Hunt as a guide for his students. The book exists, as does the treasure hunt.

Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city.

Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.

Barnaby has each student take a potential site for the hidden treasure to study. They search the Castillo de San Marcos, the Oldest House, and other historic sites of St. Augustine. Barnaby and Philo check out one such site, the Black Raven, a pirate ship. It does not go well.

Excerpt: the Black Raven

Across Avenida Menendez lay the city marina. At the end of one of the floating docks a ship was ablaze with red and green lights. Philo tugged Barnaby’s sleeve. “That’s the Black Raven. Let’s go have a dekko.”

They walked carefully down the dock, compensating for the slight sway caused by the incoming tide. Just as they reached the ship, the lights winked out, leaving the marina in darkness except for the feeble glow of the gibbous moon. Next to the galleon, tied up stern in, was the Queen Anne’s Revenge. “That’s Blackbeard’s flagship.”

“So, do the pirates board the Black Raven and have their way with the wenches?”

“The only wenches on board are pirates too—Lady Red and Georgia Fury—and they aren’t exactly attractive.”

“You mean, no man in his right mind would rip their bodices?”

“Something like that.”

“Darn. I hope there’s at least a mock skirmish.”

Philo tried to remember what the young man had told her. “I’ve never actually gone on the treasure voyage, but—”

“Treasure? Fantastic! Now who did I assign this to?” He snapped his fingers. “Lincoln, that’s it. They have a cocktail cruise, which seemed to attract his notice.”

She looked over the ship. “How do you suppose they have a proper swordfight if everyone’s drunk?”

“ ‘Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk.’ Sir Francis Chichester.”

Anyway.” Why do I even attempt to have a normal conversation? “Blackbeard arrives on the Queen Anne’s Revenge and boards the Black Raven. He steals their treasure chest and makes off with it. The captain orders the crew—which consists of a couple of college kids on summer break and the paying passengers—to chase him and retrieve it. Which they do.”

“And what happens to the redoubtable Blackbeard?”

“I think they make him walk the plank. Or…” She stopped to think. Behind her came a splash. She whirled around. “What was that?”

“It came from the port side.” Barnaby walked past the ship’s stern and peered into the water. “Probably just a fish jumping.”

“It sounded awfully big.”

“A big fish then.”

Philo scanned the deck. “Someone’s up there. I saw a shadow against the moon.” She yelled, “Hi there!”

There was no answer, but they heard a bang and another crash. Barnaby ran around to the starboard side. Philo caught up with him. He stood, facing the darkness. “Nothing.”

They waited for a few minutes, but all was still. Finally Philo said, “Must be a crew member preparing for tomorrow.”

“Okay. Come on.”

As he took her hand, she pulled back. “There it is again!”


“The shadow.”

Before Barnaby could respond, a whistling noise rent the air. A large iron ball attached to a thick rope came swishing down from the mast and crashed at their feet. The entire dock vibrated. Barnaby jumped to one side, but he must have slipped on the decking, for he fell, landing hard. As Philo reached for him, he slid off the slick surface and into the dark water. “Barnaby!”

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About the Author

Librarian, anthropologist, Congressional aide, speechwriter—M. S. Spencer has traveled the globe. She has published fifteen romantic suspense or murder mystery novels, with two more on the way. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

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