NJ Litz is a former journalist and communications director. Her books combine mystery with romance and feature strong women who get justice for those who can’t get it for themselves. No Bed of Roses, her second novel, launches April 23. Learn more about NJ and her books at her website.
The Inspiration for No Bed of Roses
When I started writing fiction rather than news stories and corporate communications, which were my career, I followed the adage, “Write what you know.” Having spent two-thirds of my life in the St. Louis area, I tapped into one of its revered institutions—the Missouri Botanical Garden—for my second romantic mystery.
You might be surprised to know that the Missouri Botanical Garden, or MOBOT, is the oldest botanical garden in the United States. (I was expecting that honor to go to some place on the east coast since it was settled earlier.)
I’ve visited MOBOT since I was a child for field trips and summer camps, but really came to appreciate it when I grew older. Having lived in Boston and Chicago as well as St. Louis—all of which have winters that can be both frigid and snowy—I crave color by February every year. Between my need for color and with MOBOT providing a visual feast for the eye and soul, it’s not surprising that I became an avid gardener.
If you’re a gardener, too, you know what it’s like to be seduced by all the choices at your local nursery at this time of year, then realize when you get home that you’ve bought way too many flowers, and it will take you the entire weekend to plant them. And then you go to another nursery the next weekend and do the same thing!
One of the things that made MOBOT perfect for a mystery is that the 79-acre garden has more than 30 specialized or sub-gardens. These include a garden for the visually impaired that relies on plants with texture and scents; a maze; a garden designed to attract birds; a geodesic dome for tropical plants, and a Japanese garden devoted to harmony. Plus, there are numerous gardens devoted only to roses, daylilies or irises.
Think of all the places to hide something!
To solve the mystery surrounding the death of her research assistant, my botanist heroine Bree has to decode the clues the assistant left as part of a treasure hunt in MOBOT she had planned for her lover. Bree suspects he’s the killer.
In addition to the physical beauty of the Garden, Bree’s quest is also complicated by the need to decode the “language of flowers”. The use or arrangement of flowers conveys special meanings. For example, a peony represents good fortune and a happy marriage. Did you know that the pink rose expresses platonic love and friendship? A red rose plays an important part in the romance between Bree and Nick, the slacker journalist who partners with her, in solving the mystery.
No Bed of Roses
Feisty botanist Brianna Kincaid reluctantly teams with hard-partying journalist Nick Mancini to find the killer of her research assistant. Initially, the assistant’s death appears to be an accident. However, she has a unique substance in her body that Bree identifies as a poisonous plant. Bree also learns her assistant, Megan, was pregnant.
Bree discovers Megan planned a treasure hunt for the mysterious father of her child in the lush Missouri Botanical Garden. Bree is convinced the clues identify the father, whom Bree believes murdered Megan.
When Bree and Nick succeed at decoding some of Megan's clues, the hunters become the hunted as the killer tries to stop them.