top of page

Welcome to

Mary's Tavern

Learn about me, my books, enjoy photo galleries from my travels, view the blog, and stay up to date regarding news and events.

Spotlight #NewRelease "Kissing Kin" by Karen Hulene Bartell

Please make welcome to the tavern the lovely and talented Karen Hulene Bartell! We're celebrating her new book release, Kissing Kin! The cover is gorgeous, and the story is on my reading list. Grab a glass of champagne and let's hear what Karen has to say about the inspiration for her story...


Kissing Kin’s Inspiration –

The earliest idea for the paranormal romance first came to me during 2020 because of the striking similarities between Covid and the Spanish Flu of 1918, but publishers convinced me that no one wanted to read about pandemics. Time passed. My manuscript languished.

Then I noticed a handmade cookbook my grandmother had constructed during the 1930s depression. It’s made of two cardboard flaps reinforced at the edges with duct tape and held together by two metal ring binders. Originally given as a Christmas present to her oldest daughter, I inherited it decades later. That modest book inspired me. (In fact, I used some of its recipes in Kissing Kin: Simple Sponge Cake, Mother’s Soft Gingerbread, and…a formula for the treatment of chicken lice with nicotine-sulfate.)

The general tone of the cookbook was chatty, reading more like a journal than a collection of family recipes, but it motivated me to begin drafting a five-generation story of forgotten diaries and a haunted cabin with ancestors that have bones to pick.

Maeve Jackson is starting over after a broken engagement—and mustering out of the Army. No job and no prospects, she spins out on black ice and totals her car.

When struggling vintner Luke Kaylor stops to help, they discover they’re distantly related. On a shoestring budget to convert his vineyard into a winery, he makes her a deal: prune grapevines in exchange for room and board.

But forgotten diaries and a haunted cabin kickstart a five-generation mystery with ancestors that have bones to pick. As carnal urges propel them into each other’s arms, they wonder: Is their attraction physical…or metaphysical?

A sneak preview from Kissing Kin ~

Grandma’s bedtime stories echoed through my mind as I sped west on I-10. At an early age, family history had merged with myth until the name Fort Lincoln was as legendary as Avalon or Middle Earth.

But when the snow-covered peaks loomed closer, their reality was undeniable. Maybe her stories weren’t tall tales…

And what about her proverbs? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I winced. No job and no prospects. Mustering out after a five-year Army stint, I had to ask myself: What next? Where next?

Cody slipped into my thoughts, but I dismissed him, refusing to romanticize our breakup.

A troop of cavalry soldiers galloped toward me from the nineteenth century, but a second glance proved the images were metal cutouts--two-dimensional illusions that resembled an officer and guide leading two columns of cavalrymen.

The silhouettes evoked tales of my great-great-grandfather, Ben Williams. Beginning his military career as a scout, he’d been field promoted during combat, then commissioned as Second Lieutenant at Fort Lincoln.

I smiled, proud of our similar career paths. Maybe Grandma’s stories influenced me more than I realized.

Leaving the Interstate, I turned south. Road signs noted towns that sounded familiar from family stories but seemed as mythical as Camelot or Tintagel Castle.

Closer now, the mountains’ features came into view. No longer mere outlines on the horizon, each craggy palisade and butte towered over the highway.

Fluffy hoarfrost transformed the landscape into an icy spectacle, with flaky, crystal shards overlaying each leaf and every blade of grass. A frozen fairyland! Just the way Grandma described it. Inspired by the raw beauty, I straightened my shoulders. Maybe I’m viewing my discharge the wrong way. Instead of adrift, maybe I’m free…

Available from these online retailers ~


Meet the Author

Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, as well as Kissing Kin, Fox Tale, Wild Rose Pass, The Keys: Voice of the Turtle and more, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, IT technical editor, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life. She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories steeped in the supernatural. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Texas Piney Woods with her husband Peter and her mews—three rescued cats and a rescued Catahoula Leopard dog.

Connect with Kare here ~


bottom of page