Suspense and romance take center stage in new YA mystery from Sisters in Crime author
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Coming this summer from author and former dancer Lynn Slaughter is Leisha’s Song (June 22, 2021, Melange Books/Fire and Ice), a coming-of-age novel that explores the challenges of growing up when teens’ passions and dreams clash with parental expectations, as well as the role the arts play in building powerful connections that transcend racial and social class differences.
Leisha knows something’s wrong. Her beloved vocal coach at boarding school would never have resigned and disappeared like this in the midst of preparing her prize students for a major vocal competition. Leisha’s determined to find her, make sure she’s okay.
Cody, a sensitive cellist, insists on helping her. Sparks fly, clues multiply, and romance blossoms, despite the disapproval of their families.
Leisha’s desire to be with Cody and pursue music rather than medicine puts her on a direct collision course with her grandfather, the only parent she’s ever had. But an even more immediate threat looms—because as Leisha draws closer to the truth about her teacher’s disappearance, she puts her own life in grave danger.
Lynn Slaughter | June 22, 2021 | Melange Books/Fire and Ice
Young Adult Contemporary | Paperback | 978-1-953735-34-8 | $13.99
“I heard you yesterday playing one of the Bach suites when I was leaving practice. It was… awesome.” Okay, that was lame.
“You can’t get the full effect out in the hallway. Want me to play it for you now?”
He reached for his cello.
From the opening moments, I was drawn in—to the beauty and sadness of his music, to the way he swayed as he drew his bow back and forth across, the look of rapture on his face. It was like he was singing and dancing with his cello.
When he finished, I was so moved I felt like I couldn’t even trust my voice to speak.
“Well?” he said. “What did you think?”
I pulled my shirt sleeve up. “See these goose bumps? They’re from listening to you play!”
He reached over and rubbed my arm. “Can’t have that.”
I knew I should remove his hand immediately, but oh, its warmth felt so good. I took a deep breath and let his hand linger there. “Thank you for playing that for me. You made my day,” I told him. And he had.
“You’re definitely my favorite audience.”
I bit my lip and forced myself to remove his hand from my arm.
He wrinkled his nose at me. “Of course, you do remind me of a skittish filly every time I get within two feet of you.”
“Hey! No comparing me to a horse.”
“But I’m thinking of a really beautiful horse.”
“Very funny … Now what were you going to tell me kept you awake last night?”
He rolled his eyes. “You sure you want to hear the latest installment of my family soap opera?”
I touched his arm, then drew my hand away. “You know I do.”
“Well, it’s just the same old same old. Got a call from my old man last night after Ainsley talked to him. He laid into me about getting involved in ‘delinquent behavior.’”
“With your new delinquent friend? The Black scholarship girl from the Bronx?”
“Of course not!” he said. But the crimson red that swept over his face betrayed him.
“You’re a terrible liar,” I said.
He shrugged. “Don’t ask me to defend my parents. I figured out a long time ago the way they see the world is like this”—he held his hands up, palms facing with barely an inch between them, “and the way I see the world is”—he opened his arms wide. “I guess you could say there’s a definite disconnect.”
“She’s what my dad calls ‘the chip off the old block’—she should have been the son, not me.”
“I can’t picture you as a girl.”
“I’m glad,” he said with a leer.
I swatted him. “So, what else went down when you talked to your dad?”
“When he told me I couldn’t afford to do anything to derail my chances of getting into Harvard—where he went—I told him Jody’s the one who belonged at Harvard. I was looking for a college with a stronger music program. Well, that did it. He went into his usual spiel about how music was fine as a hobby, but “Harringtons”—at this, he made quote marks with his fingers, “give to the arts—we don’t make a career out of them.”
“Sounds a lot like my grandfather—well, not the giving to the arts, but the part about not wanting me to do music as a career. We should get them together.” Then the image of what that meet and greet would be like hit me. “On second thought, that’s a terrible idea,” I said with a grin.
Cody didn’t smile back. “How could your grandfather not want you to go into music? You have the soul of a singer. It’s so clear.” His forehead furrowed, as though I’d just presented him with a calculus problem that made no sense.
“Gramps has his heart set on my being a doctor. And anyway, I could ask you the same question. How could your father not want you to go into music? You have the soul of a cellist.”
“Point taken.” He leaned toward me and his dark eyes twinkled. “And here you’ve been telling me we have nothing in common, and it turns out we have the same issue with our parental units.”
“Point taken,” I mimicked.
“And then there’s the obvious. You’re in love with making music, and so am I. See? It’s a match made in heaven. What did I tell you?”
“Stop! Remember our deal,” I said, as much to myself as to him. “Let’s head for the cafeteria, and I’ll fill you in on my conversation with Randall.”
“Oh, this should be good.”
After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn Slaughter earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2016. She writes coming-of-age romantic mysteries and is the author of It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; While I Danced, an EPIC finalist; and Leisha’s Song (June 22, 2021, Fire and Ice). Her short story, Missed Cue, appears in Malice Domestic’s 2020 anthology, Murder Most Theatrical. She lives in Kentucky where she’s at work on her next novel, Deadly Setup, and serves as the President of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Tell us about your involvement with Sisters in Crime.
Sisters in Crime is a wonderful organization dedicated to the advancement, recognition, and professional development of women mystery writers. I’ve been an active member of my local chapter since 2016 and this year, became President. We offer constructive feedback and encouragement to one another on our current works-in-progress and host a variety of guest speakers on mystery writing-related topics. The national organization also offers a host of resources and classes for members.
What attracted you to writing young adult fiction rather than books for adult readers?
Teens have always been my favorite age group to work with. I formerly chaired the dance department at a performing arts high school and spent several summers counseling students at a residential program for high schoolers gifted in the arts. In addition, I’ve been a lifelong lover of young adult fiction and have been inspired by such luminaries in the field as Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Sarah Dessen, and Angie Thomas.
Adolescence is such a formative time of life. Teens are trying to sort out issues of identity — who they are and who they dream of being. It’s an emotionally intense time, full of angst and conflict, as well as humor. They are coming of age in an increasingly diverse society where they are grappling with the fallout from systemic racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. As author Gayle Forman points out, YA novels are wonderful “empathy-delivery devices,” and in our polarized world, I think cultivating empathy and understanding of one another is crucial.
What is something about you that’s not in your bio and might surprise your readers?
In my 60s, I sang vocals for a local rock band! My husband and I still love making music together. I sing, and he plays the guitar. We enjoy composing our own original music.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on another coming-of-age romantic mystery, Deadly Setup, in which the 17-year-old daughter of a New England heiress fights to prove her innocence when she goes on trial for the murder of her mother’s fiancée.