Monday, April 1, 2024

Character Interview & Giveaway ~ THE WITLESS PROTECTION PROGRAM by Maria DiRico

The Witless Protection Program (Catering Hall Mystery, #5)
by: Maria DiRico
Series: Catering Hall Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: March 26, 2024
Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Mia Carina has steered her Italian-American family’s Astoria, Queens, catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor, into becoming the borough’s premiere party site, and nothing could make her happier—except her boyfriend proposing. There’s just one presumed-dead obstacle in the way...

A strong, independent woman and respected entrepreneur, Mia never imagined she’d pine for a marriage proposal. Yet lately, with her beloved Shane, she’s on tenterhooks. It’s especially surprising, considering Mia’s first husband, Adam, was a philandering grifter, assumed lost-at-sea after a boating disaster. But everyone knows what happens when you assume...

While working a huge wedding expo in Manhattan, Mia is shocked to spot the man who nearly destroyed her life. The one who’s supposed to be sleeping with the fishes. But she loses him in the crowd. And when it happens again the next day, it’s time for an emergency meeting with the family—and the Family. Because if Adam is alive, Mia is still married...

Everyone wants Adam dead. Everyone except Mia. She’s dealt with enough police for a lifetime. Mia needs to be a divorcée, not a widow. But someone out there disagrees, and if Mia doesn’t discover who, she may never be free to marry Shane—or anyone else...

Italian recipes included!

Hi Mia. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?

I’m great! At least I think I am. There’s a rumor my presumed-dead adulterous husband Adam Grosso isn’t so dead after all.

Oh. That sounds interesting. Before we get into all of that. Let’s backtrack a little. It’s been a while. Before we get started, can you please re-introduce yourself to readers?
I’m thirty-one, I’m the senior event planner at Belle View Banquet Manor, which is a legit business run by my father Ravello for his boss of all bosses, Donny Boldano Senior, head of the Boldano crime family. But the Family is going full-on legit now, thanks to me pushing them in that direction. In terms of my interests, it’s my job, my cat Doorstop, my parakeet Pizzazz, and the love of my life, Shane Gambrazzo.

A lot has happened since I last spoke with you while promoting Long Island Iced Tina. What have you been up to?
I’ve been building up Belle View into one of the premiere party destinations in the Queens borough of New York City. I’ve also been dipping a toe back into the relationship waters – okay, diving into the deep end!! – with our most recent hire, Shane Gambrazzo. Oh, and saved Christmas on 46th Street Place, (It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder), been the on-set caterer for a cheesy reality show, “The Dons of Ditmars Boulevard” (Four Parties and a Funeral), and solved a few murders in the process.

You’ve definitely been up to a lot. Who are some people we’ll meet in your latest story, The Witless Protection Program?
Of course, my beloved pets are front and center, as is my nonna’s mutt, Hero. You’ll re-meet some fun characters from past books, like Cimmanin (Here Comes the Body) and Larkin Spaulding (Long Island Iced Tina). Once again Pete Dianopolis of NYPD will take all the help he can get in solving a murder or two. And you’ll also come up against a weird cast of fanboys and girls obsessed with Dan Fee, the reclusive creator of the cartoon character, Circusman. It turns out he lived across the street from my nonna Elisabetta, who bought his house sight unseen when he died. Who knew?

Tell me more about Shane?
OMG, where do I begin???? He’s a former male model, who hates the fact he’s one of the handsomest men on the planet. Like me, his father was a mobster, so we share very similar backgrounds. He’s completely dedicated to his position as our operations manager and I adore working with him. I also adore when we’re not working, if you catch my drift, wink wink.

I don’t mean to be insensitive. But Adam, your husband, showed back up. What was it like realizing he was still alive? 
$#%$#^&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That sonuva#$%@%!!!!!!!

Oooookay. How much does “the family” get involved in your life?
More than I’d like, but I’ve learned how to manage them. In fact, I do it so well that… Nope! Not gonna give away the ending.

I mentioned Adam showing back up. What else can readers expect from The Witless Protection Program?
Oh, there’s so much going on! They can expect multiple murder investigations, protests to make cartoonist Dan Fee’s house a landmark, circus murals on walls, more than one wedding… and more than one birth. 😉

Sounds great. What’s next for you?
A honeymoon! Preferably murder-free.

Nice. Mia, thank you so much for your time.

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Maria DiRico is the pseudonym for Ellen Byron, author of the award-winning, USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. Born in Queens, New York, she is a first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side and the granddaughter of a low-level Jewish mobster on her father’s side. She grew up visiting the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls, which were run by her Italian mother’s family in Queens and have become the inspiration for her Catering Hall Mystery Series. DiRico has been a writer-producer for hit television series like Wings and Just Shoot Me, and her first play, Graceland, appears in the Best Short Plays collection. She’s a freelance journalist, with over 200 articles published in national magazines, and previously worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Ellen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.

Places to find Maria DiRico:

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