Mari Manning is the author of several contemporary romances and three romantic suspense novels set in the Texas Hill Country. Stranger at My Door is the first in her A Murder in Texas series. The second, Stranger in My House, later this year. Learn more about Mari and her books at her website.
How Tarot Cards Ended Up in My Latest Romance
attended one of those old Catholic colleges located in the middle of a large Midwest city. For a restless suburban girl whose most traumatic experience was watching her Siamese cat murder the chick she’d just brought home from biology class, living in a down-at-its heels neighborhood on the edge of a major downtown was an adventure.
On a side street near the campus, I found a little occult shop one day. I was a good Catholic girl who did not subscribe to ghosts, Ebenezer Scrooge not withstanding. Still, I hesitated to poke my head inside although I was curious. So I walked past. A few days later I strolled by the shop again. I did not go in. The third time I approached, a beautiful girl came out. Tall and slender, jean shirt, paisley scarf tied in her long hair and college knapsack hanging from her shoulder.
I went in.
Lots of books, lots and lots of rocks, incense and tie-dye. Ordinary stuff, but I kept my arms at my sides and touched nothing. At one point, I had the urge to make the sign-of-the-cross, but restrained myself.
A girl with black hair and makeup and wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt stood at the counter.
“Can I help you?”
“Just looking.” That never sounded so stupid. I realized I wasn’t afraid of the stuff in the shop, I was afraid of connecting with the people in the shop. Magic was hocus-pocus. I knew it. Nevertheless, now that I had been discovered, I began to meander purposefully toward the door.
She held up a small red box. “Tarot cards,” she said. “Lots of fun at a party.” She cracked a smile. Literally.
“How much?” I was an impoverished student.
Was it those mysterious rocks or the patchouli-drenched air or her pale eyes peering at me through a thick circle of eye shadow? I don’t know. But I plunked down my beer money and bought them.
She was right. They were fun. But they were also revelatory. People open up when you guess at their lives. When you face them one-on-one and say, “Let’s talk about you,” it is universally agreeable.
Were the cards magic? Not in the way you might imagine. But, if you can sense a melancholy air, you might guess someone is sad or preoccupied. A man who is older than the other students and limps might be a veteran. A girl with a Polish accent might have had a rough journey. You hint at those possibilities, and they see a chance to explain themselves or share what they cannot say elsewhere. The cards establish an intimacy, and I’ve treasured all the stories I’ve heard while “reading” tarots.
After college, as I began to write, I found my muse returning to that box of cards and the lives it opened up for me. I gave some of my characters the same gift. Dinah Pittman in my recently released romantic suspense, Stranger at My Door, reads tarot cards. I have started a mystery series in which my sleuth, Lousann Linkous, is a tarot card reader who lives in an old house and has a neon sign in her front window. A character in my second romance, Angel Without Wings, is based on the veteran I met at a party in college.
I’ve never been back to the occult shop or entered another one. I never saw the beautiful girl again, although she must have gone to my college. I’ve passed other shops and always thought, No need to stop. I got what I wanted the first time.
Stranger at My Door
The only thing standing between Dinah Pittman and disaster is a man she can’t trust …
As far as Dinah Pittman is concerned, men can’t be trusted. Especially cops. Her own father was a cop and a convicted felon who stole a small fortune before dying in prison. The best part? No one knows where the money is…and someone is willing to kill off everyone who knows anything about it.
And Dinah is next.
Rafe Morales left the Dallas police force to settle down to a simpler life in the small Texas town of El Royo. Instead, he finds himself protecting an infuriating, tough-as-nails, oh-so-sexy victim—and driving himself crazy with a thoroughly unprofessional desire.
But as the body count rises, Rafe and Dinah must find a way to trust each other…before they both end up dead.