Posted On January 29, 2016 by Print This Post

Come for the Murder, Stay for the Romance by Kathi Daley

Mystery and romance are my two all-time favorite book genres. When the two genres are combined, I consider it a win-win. Author Kathi Daley shares her take on blending the two, as she likes to do. Scroll down for details about Kathi’s giveaway!

The first book I wrote was a fluke. I didn’t plan it. I just had a thought that I jotted down, that thought was followed by another thought, I kept going and a week or so later I had Halloween Hijinks, Book One in the popular Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery Series. I uploaded that first book 28 months ago and since then I have published 40 mysteries. While the first book was a whim, and I’m not a plotter and do tend to let the characters tell the story, I have stopped to consider the basic elements that make Zoe Donovan so popular.

After some consideration, I believe the success of this series boils down to the idea that as writers we must engage both the readers mind (the mystery) and their emotions (the romance.)

While every book has a murder mystery for Zoe to solve, I believe it is the romance that has kept readers coming back for more.

In the case of this book specifically, we meet Zak Zimmerman in the second chapter of Book One. We are immediately informed that Zoe is not a fan of the very successful man she sees as her rival. The following scene comes into play when he shows up at a meeting she is attending after having moved away several years prior.

““Hey, squirt.” My arch nemesis, Zak Zimmerman, walked into the room and sat down beside me.

“What are you doing here?” I wasn’t pleased at the unexpected arrival of our local computer genius and all-around pain in my ass.

“I ran into Levi at The Pub last night and he encouraged me to join your little group.”

“Terrific,” I groaned.

My disdain for Zak is one of long-standing, with historical roots planted as far back as the seventh grade. In retrospect, I guess the incident, which led to months of uncontrolled sobbing and persistent feelings of self-loathing on my part, wasn’t entirely his fault. He beat me quite soundly in the mathathon, for which I’d been studying relentlessly for almost three months. Yes, I was humiliated when I discovered that he’d only just found out about the event the previous day, indicating that he had spent virtually no time wallowing, as I had, in academic angst. Yes, I’d invited my maternal grandparents, a scary couple I’d met only a handful of times yet still inexplicably wanted to please, and yes, miracle of miracles, this untouchable couple, who valued achievement above all else, actually agreed to come to this lowly competition after being assured by my overachieving mother that I was the brightest student in the class and would win by a landslide.

“Perhaps your time would be better spent on one of the other town committees,” I suggested. “I hear they always need volunteers for litter control.”

“Is that your way of saying you missed me?”

The ying and yang of Zak and Zoe’s relationship continued as the series unfolded, which I believe is directly responsible for its success. The road to commitment was a long and winding one on Zoe’s part. We realize in Book One that Zak is totally committed to this little spitfire he’s been smitten with since the day he met her, but Zoe is riddled with commitment issues even after she realizes that she really is in love with this man she thought she hated.

Zak and Zoe finally married in book 14 and I did worry about what an end to the ying and yang in Zak and Zoe’s relationship would do to the popularity of the series. I wondered if the readers would continue to be drawn in once the issue of will she or won’t she was answered once and for all. I’m happy to say that I’m getting ready to publish book 20 in the series and so far my readers are still in love with Zak and Zoe. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m thrilled to be along for the journey.
I believe that I hit upon a winning combination quite by accident with the Zoe Donovan series, which I now use as a formula of sorts for all the series I write. In every one of my six series the protagonist has two close friends, one male and one female, that she shares the ups and downs of her daily life with. These friends also serve as her main sleuthing partners. Additionally, each protagonist is involved in a romantic relationship which doesn’t come easy, and each protagonist has complicated family issues which are explored throughout the series. In other words, I try to make my characters three dimensional. I want my readers to both laugh and cry with my characters as they navigate the joys and sorrows of their lives.
I also like to end each book with a feeling. As I type that final scene I remind myself that it is important to give my readers something to feel as we say goodbye until the next book in the series publishes. Obviously the mystery is important in a mystery novel, but I believe it is the feeling they are left with that keeps the readers coming back for more.

ss kathi




How important do you believe relationships, whether romantic relationships, family relationships, or friendships, are in a mystery? 

On Monday, guest Amy Lynch’s topic is “Self-Confessed Bridezilla!”

GIVEAWAY! Kathi is going to give away a copy of Shamrock Shenanigans: Zoe Donovan Book 19 and Zimmerman Academy: The New Normal to one of today’s commenters. Either paperback or Kindle – non-US winners, Kindle only.

shamrock try againShamrock Shenanigans: Zak and Zoe travel to Ireland for their first Valentines Day as husband and wife. They have been invited to attend a murder mystery weekend in a real haunted castle. During their first night at the castle, they find one of the guests dead. Really dead. As they delve into the murder they begin to see that not only are things not as they appear, but several of the other attendees are not who they claim to be. During the course of her investigation Zoe discovers a secret about herself that is more than just a little shocking.


the new normal try againZimmerman Academy: The New Normal: This series of novellas is a spinoff of the popular Zoe Donovan Mystery Series. In this first short story Zoe’s best friend Ellie receives some bad news, meets a new man, and helps to solve a murder while Zak and Zoe are out of the country.





Kathi Daley lives with her husband, kids, grandkids, and Bernese mountain dogs in beautiful Lake Tahoe. When she isn’t writing, she likes to read (preferably at the beach or by the fire), cook (preferably something with chocolate or cheese), and garden (planting and planning, not weeding). She also enjoys spending time on the water when she’s not hiking, biking, or snowshoeing the miles of desolate trails surrounding her home.
Kathi uses the mountain setting in which she lives, along with the animals (wild and domestic) that share her home, as inspiration for her cozy mysteries.

Kathi is a top 100 mystery writer for Amazon and she won the 2014 award for both Best Cozy Mystery Author and Best Cozy Mystery Series.

She currently writes five series: Zoe Donovan Cozy Mysteries, Whales and Tails Island Mysteries, Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mysteries, Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mysteries, and Seacliff High Teen Mysteries. Stay up to date with her newsletter, The Daley Weekly.

Books by Kathi Daley
Come for the murder, stay for the romance.
Buy them on Amazon today.

Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery:
Halloween Hijinks
The Trouble With Turkeys
Christmas Crazy
Cupid’s Curse
Big Bunny Bump-off
Beach Blanket Barbie
Maui Madness

Derby Divas
Haunted Hamlet
Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies
Christmas Cozy
Alaskan Alliance
Matrimony Meltdown
Soul Surrender
Heavenly Honeymoon
Hopscotch Homicide
Ghostly Graveyard
Santa Sleuth
Shamrock Shenanigans
Ashton Falls Cozy Cookbook

Zimmerman Academy Shorts

The New Normal

Paradise Lake Cozy Mystery:
Pumpkins in Paradise
Snowmen in Paradise
Bikinis in Paradise
Christmas in Paradise
Puppies in Paradise
Halloween in Paradise

Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery:
Romeow and Juliet
The Mad Catter
Grimm’s Furry Tail
Much Ado About Felines

Legend of Tabby Hollow
Cat of Christmas Past
A Tale of Two Tabbies – February 2016

Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery:
Murder at Dolphin Bay – March 2016

Seacliff High Mystery:
The Secret
The Curse
The Relic
The Conspiracy
The Grudge

Road to Christmas Romance:
Road to Christmas Past


Kathi Daley Blog: publishes each Friday
Facebook at Kathi Daley Books –
Kathi Daley Teen –
Kathi Daley Books Group Page –
E-mail –
Twitter at Kathi Daley@kathidaley –
Amazon Author Page –
Pinterest –


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15 Responses to “Come for the Murder, Stay for the Romance by Kathi Daley”

  1. Good morning, Kathi – thanks for joining us! I fell in love with mysteries when I was eight years old. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized my favorite mysteries included romance. (It took another few years before I became a diehard fan of the romance genre, and I didn’t become addicted to historical romance until I was in my fifties.)

    In your books, do you have a rule of thumb about how much the romance is allowed to impact the mystery? I’m thinking of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, where I’d guess a lot of readers are hooked by the romance storyline as much or more than the mystery.

    Would you say your books are primarily mystery with a touch of romance, or would you say the romance is as strong as the mystery?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 29, 2016, 10:08 am
    • My books are very much mysteries but I have no doubt that it is the characters and relationships that keep readers coming back for more. I guess if I had to guess I probably have a 50/50 mix between my emphasis on the mystery and relationships.

      Posted by Kathi | January 30, 2016, 8:11 am
  2. I love this post. You’ve put into words what I’ve been been feeling and trying to do myself. I write mysteries for a primarily lesbian audience. For the most part, they prefer romance with their mysteries too; it’s what makes it lesfic after all and not just another cozy or women sleuths with main characters that happen to be lesbian.

    I too was worried when my leads married off that I’d lose my ‘romance’ readers but I’ve managed to keep them so far by finding ways to keep the fire alive between my two leads and by introducing the potential for romance between recurring secondary characters. Still, I like your ‘formula’ of sorts and, if you don’t mind, I’ll be borrowing it for my own use.

    Posted by Anne Hagan | January 29, 2016, 12:42 pm
    • Please feel free to borrow it. I am about to publish my 20th book in the Zoe Donovan series so I have added novellas which are focused on romance and relationships and told from the perspective of the minor characters between the Zoe novels. Everyone loves them and I think it keeps readers interested in the series as a whole.

      Posted by Kathi | January 30, 2016, 8:16 am
  3. Hi Kathi,

    Your post made me think about what keeps my head in a series. I’m drawn to characters I can relate to. When I come across a character I don’t like, they must be intriguing enough for me to keep reading.

    A character’s relationship with his family and friends is so important because, as you stated, it adds dimension to the character.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 29, 2016, 1:40 pm
  4. Hi Kathi, I love the formula for your books. I discovered your books about 7 months ago and I’m trying to catch up. Zoe Dovovan series is probably my favorite if I would have to choose, but please don’t make me because I love them all. I’m glad to see a spin off so I can be up to date on one. LOL I love mystery with romance books. I think that’s why I enjoy your books. I didn’t know what cozy books were. I’m glad I stumbled upon your books.

    Posted by Mari Hinton | January 29, 2016, 4:33 pm
  5. Hi Kathi! Your books are fun and I look forward to reading as many as I can get my hands on!

    Posted by Star | January 29, 2016, 5:43 pm
  6. I enjoy reading mysteries but romance is my first love so combining the two is win, win.

    I think relationships are important because for realistic characters. Very few people have zero friends or family.

    Posted by Carol Opalinski | January 29, 2016, 6:42 pm
  7. This sounds like a great series!! I’ll check it out!!

    Posted by Traci Krites | January 29, 2016, 8:21 pm

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