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Murder on the Chopping Block–movie set turns violent

Murder on the Chopping Block

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the Chopping BlockThe Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is always open to new adventures because the main character, Penelope Sutherland, is the owner of a catering company that provides meals and snacks for movie productions. So, Penelope and her crew have to travel to wherever the setting for a film is. In Murder on the Chopping Block, they are in Salacia Beach, California, near Monterey. 

Author Shawn Reilly Simmons really knows how to move a cozy mystery along. She uses fairly short chapters, but they end up making you want to jump into the next one. This book has just the right amount of character focus, intrigue, and action combined with a little romance and settings that range from cliffs along the Pacific to beautiful homes of the wealthy. A fun character in this cozy is Mirabella, a cat with an important role.

When a shot rings out on the movie set, the blood is not fake, and Penelope jumps into action. She also overhears a domestic incident that later leads to violence. She picks up on  a lot of clues that others might miss by being observant when she is in the right place at the right time. When others notice her perceptiveness, however, things get dangerous for her.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone as this plot is not dependent on understanding an extensive character background.

Publication:   September 17, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Come on, sweetie,” Penelope said in a soft voice. Mirabella stared at her, acting like she wasn’t going to follow, then rose up on stiff legs and strutted toward the gate as if it was her idea in the first place.

“I never even thought about what happens to animals after…” “The unexpected happens,” Brice finished her thought. “You know how it is. A lot of people have pets. Even criminals have pets. When stuff goes down, these guys are impacted too. Kids and animals, they suffer the most, if you ask me.”

“Forgiveness is its own reward,” Joey said. “It’s easier and healthier to forgive than it is to carry around a grudge forever.”

Lassoed by the Would-Be Rancher–capturing a cowgirl’s heart

Lassoed by the Would-Be Rancher

by Melinda Curtis

Lassoed by the Would-Be rancherShane Monroe wants so badly to save the little town of Second Chance for both selfish and unselfish personal reasons. He wants to put his expertise in business to work with creative ideas to attract tourists to the area. Shane encounters local resistance; and while he works to smooth things over, he meets Franny, a widow with three children who owns the Bucking Bull Ranch. Franny and Shane share an attraction and admire each other’s skill sets, but are sure that a relationship would have no future.

This romance is packed with danger in the form of massive, feral bulls. It has likable characters who struggle with parent/adult child relationship issues. There is somewhat of a mystery too as Shane tries to establish a basis for historical significance for the town. Is the tale of Merciless Mike Moody a myth? Is there really gold buried in the mountain?

Franny’s children are typical video-game loving boys, but they have learned early, from living on a ranch, that country living requires taking on a lot of responsibility from an early age. We meet several more of the diverse group of Monroe cousins in Lassoed by the Would-Be Rancher.

I had a great time reading this book and learned a lot about bulls and rodeo. The ending is very sweet but don’t skip ahead or it won’t make sense. “Good things come to those who wait.” That is good advice for me as I anticipate the next book in the Mountain Monroes Series.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance (Clean)

Notes: #4 in the Mountain Monroes Series but works as a standalone. There is a chart showing the family relations and the author provides any background from previous books that is needed.

Publication:   January 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

Her eyes…They were a soft gray. The gray of baby rabbits, chubby ponies and funeral melancholy.

On Grandpa Harlan’s road trips, they’d stopped to help more strangers than Shane could count. Flat tires. Engine trouble. People caught short, asking for gas money to get to the next town. Grandpa Harlan didn’t discriminate or judge. He treated everyone as if they were trusted equals.

The wind rattled the windowpanes. His gaze rattled her.

Rescued by the Perfect Cowboy–cowboy appeal

Rescued by the Perfect Cowboy

by Melinda Curtis 

Rescued by the Perfect CowboyWhatever the natural appeal of kids, double it when you encounter twins. That is certainly true of Alex and Andy, the “adorable little heathens” whom their mother Sophie Monroe describes as “rambunctious, but lovable.” Sophie has relocated to Second Chance with her four year olds after her divorce and losing her job as curator of the Monroe art collection. If you have journeyed this far in the Mountain Monroes Harlequin Heartwarming series, you can easily predict that romance is in the wind, but that predictability does not take away the fun of watching the romance progress with more than a few hitches along the way.

The plot is filled out with local history, the antics of the twins, quirky local characters, and highfalutin Monroes. The central characters are Sophie and Zeke, a cowboy recuperating from a truck accident, who has a big secret to hide. In the background is the continuing search for a way forward for Second Chance and its residents. We meet new characters, both locals and more of the Monroe clan. The two groups provide quite a contrast: hard working versus the privileged. Can they manage to work together for everyone’s benefit?

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance (Clean)

Notes: #3 in the Mountain Monroes Series but works as a standalone. There is a chart showing the family relations and the author provides any background from previous books that is needed.

Publication:   October 1, 2019—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

Snow cradled Zeke’s fall in its chilly arms. It wrapped its icy fingers around his neck and over his ears. It packed him tighter than a crystal vase being shipped by a fancy department store at Christmas.

“I’m your cowboy nanny, unless you still want to fire me.” How could she fire him? He was the Wild West version of Mary Poppins, fixing problems she didn’t think could be fixed.

“If it’s art you love, that’s what you’ll study. And if you decide to change course, who’s to judge? Look at me. I’ve reinvented myself a half dozen times. Trust your feelings.”

Snowed in with the Single Dad–twins and more twins

Snowed in with the Single Dad

by Melinda Curtis

Snowed in with the Single DadLaurel, who frequently acts as a double for her famous actress twin Ashley, takes her role too far on a date with handsome actor Wyatt with some lasting consequences. She escapes to Second Chance where she meets Mitch, a lawyer who is managing the inn and his just turned teenage daughter Gabby who has perfected eye rolls. Laurel is a creative dress designer, but she always puts the needs of others, especially her sister Ashley, ahead of her own. Among the locals, the quirky but artistically talented sisters Odette and Flip are mainstays in Second Chance and are instrumental, along with Mitch, in helping Laurel find her own dream as Second Chance lives up to its name in this sweet romance. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance (Clean)

Notes: #2 in the Mountain Monroes Series but works as a standalone. There is a chart showing the family relations and the author provides any background from previous books that is needed.

Publication:   June 1, 2019—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

She’d seen Mitch smile before. Kind smiles. Polite smiles. Rueful smiles. But never a smile like this. A smile of pure, unapologetic joy. That smile. It reached into her chest like a heart-to-heart hug. It said everything was going to be all right.

He laid his cell hone faceup on the table, the sure sign of a man who considered whatever might happen in the world more important than the person they were dining with.

Her mother was a master manipulator. She recognized the dead end they’d come to and took on a new attack as smoothly as a shark circled back for the kill.

The Mountain Monroes–series summary

The Mountain Monroes

A Heartwarming Harlequin Series by Melinda Curtis

Series Summary:

Grandpa Harlan left the Monroe grandchildren out in the cold by stipulating in his will that their parents, in order to inherit, must fire the grandchildren  from their current jobs.In addition, the cousins must all agree on the disposition of Second Chance, the mountain town they inherited. Meanwhile, the residents of the remote town, who hold leases for one dollar per year, are held to non-disclosure agreements for one year after Harlan’s death. A shrewd multi-millionaire, he has managed to remain in control even after his death.

I recently had the opportunity to read books 2-4 in the series and couldn’t have been more delighted.

The first book in the series is Kissed by the Country Doc and my review can be read here. 

Reviews on books 2-4 will be posted sequentially in individual reviews. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. They are, indeed, “heartwarming” and clean in terms of language, violence, and sex.

Let It Snow–love, snow, and family

Let It Snow

by Sue Moorcroft

Let It SnowCome along for a peek at a British view of Christmas and snow with side trips to Switzerland where Lily and the Middletones, a motley crew of adults and teens, really experience snow with accumulated depth. They embark on a trip that displays the musical talents of the informal singing group as well as Lily’s work as an exhibition artist at a Swiss Christmas Market in Sue Moorcroft’s Let It Snow.

There are lots of complex relationships to watch develop. The back story is critical as Lily and Zinnia are sisters with two “mums,” Patsie and Roma, a situation that caused them grief from classmates as children and later from other adults. Zinnia’s biological father was an anonymous sperm donor, but Lily discovers as an adult that her conception was the result of a heterosexual affair between her mother and a much older man. Her desire to meet her other family upsets both her mothers and her sister, and she is fearful of how her brothers will respond to meeting her. Lily’s family situation gets tied into the pub she works at part time and her business endeavors in Switzerland. Lily has a romantic entanglement with Isaac, the temporary manager of the pub. Their relationship gets complicated when Isaac’s ex re-enters the picture.

I enjoyed watching the intermingling of lives and surprising conflicts that prove to make the story even more interesting. Moorcroft is a master of enticement with setting and mood. I really wanted to be at that Swiss Christmas Market with expensive cuckoo clocks and chocolates. I had visions of hot chocolate, bratwurst, and fondue (but not all at the same time) transferring to my tastebuds. When Lily stood up for herself, I was proud. When she was in physical or emotional pain, I felt for her. Lots of good outcomes make for a happy conclusion, but this tale is close enough to life that not everyone experiences a fairytale ending.

An added bonus to this story is the inclusion of some excitable kids—it is Christmas, after all. An equally enthusiastic Dalmatian named Doggo  accompanies his humans to Switzerland and is quite accommodating to whatever adventures come his way.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Avon Books (U.K.) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 26, 2019—Avon Books (U.K.)

Memorable Lines:

Feelings don’t always take account of right or logic or justice. They come from inside and sometimes they’re all that matter.

As they reached the car park, fresh flakes of snow began, stinging skin like love bites from the Snow Queen.

‘Pretty,’ Lily breathed, eyes reflecting the thousand lights suspended like stars in the night sky above rows of stalls like little red chalets with snow on the roofs. Each stall glittered with stars and lanterns so the entire market seemed luminous.

No Room for a Pup–Mia doesn’t agree!

No Room for a Pup

by Elizabeth Suneby and Laurel Melk

illustrated by Laurel Melk

no room for a pupWant to read a book guaranteed to put a smile on your face? Read No Room for a Pup by Elizabeth Suneby and Laurel Melk. 

Mia lives in a small apartment in a big city and desperately wants a dog. Her mother is certain their apartment is too small for a pet. Mia has a clever idea and teams up with her grandmother and various friends to show her mother that their home is not too small to share with a puppy.

Children will enjoy predicting the direction this scheme will take and may even guess the ending as depicted showing the puppy grown up. Short, with likable characters and appealing illustrations, No Room for a Pup will be a reread request!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Age: 4-7

Grade: Preschool-2

Publication:   October 1, 2019—Kids Can Press

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