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In Cold Camomile
by Joy Avon
Callie Aspen and her great-aunt Iphy, who own the book-themed tea shop Book Tea, are managing a Valentine-themed fundraiser for lovely Haywood Hall. Callie is supervising the whole event with its many volunteers, and Iphy is providing her beautiful tea creations.
Unfortunately, there is a murder at the tea, and a long lost acquaintance of Iphy’s is a major suspect. The book includes several mysteries. Iphy is quite secretive about her relationship with the baritone guest singer. There are a pair of women overheard plotting revenge. No one seems to like the murder victim.
Callie risks her relationship with Ace, acting sheriff, to insure her aunt’s safety. Both ladies act rather rashly and contrary to Ace’s advisement as they investigate.
I enjoyed Joy Avon’s In Cold Camomile but never quite felt the thrill of the investigation. It is clear that Callie and Iphy are overstepping their bounds and that there will be negative consequences. This mystery is diverting, but not gripping. I look forward to the next book in the A Tea and a Read series as several personal relationships are at the cusp of transition.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the A Tea and a Read Mystery Series
Publication: February 11, 2020—Crooked Lane Books
The wind played around them, and the darkness seemed to squeeze just a little tighter. Sometimes happiness seemed just out of reach, so tantalizingly close and yet too far away to ever grab hold of.
Callie had the unpleasant sensation that everyone was different that day than they usually were, and not in a good way.
She didn’t feel like eggs and yogurt with walnuts and honey anymore. Her stomach seemed too full to eat anything. Full of murder and manipulation, with no clear clues leading her anywhere.
A Springtime to Remember
by Lucy Coleman
There are times, like today, when I wonder why I would pick a romance off the virtual bookshelves. Then I read a book like A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman and understanding strikes again. I am hit by a combination of the beauty of Versailles, the ostentatious audacity of the aristocracy of days gone by, a passion for history, the mystery of family relationships, and ultimately the gentle magnetism of two hearts drawn into one.
Lexie, a TV presenter, wants more professionally; it is not enough to be the pretty face in front of the camera. She also has to prove her value to her successful brother, Jake, who very publicly fired her. Lexie is combining forces with cameraman Elliot Nielson to produce and financially back their own mini-series of documentaries. Their first project takes them to France to focus on the Palace of Versailles. Their futures are ironically fixed in the past: Lexie has an added interest in Versailles as her grandmother, an avid gardener, spent a year working in the Versailles gardens immediately prior to her marriage. Mysteriously, she never discussed that year with her family.
Indulge in this clean romance with its appreciation for natural beauty and historical context. You will be treating yourself to lots of smiles and a few tears in the midst of a well-told tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Boldwood Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publication: December 26, 2019—Boldwood Books
“Versailles holds so many secrets. The more you uncover, the more you realise the surface has only just been scratched, even after all the years of intense scrutiny.”
I nod my head in agreement, thinking that every family has their problems, they’re just all very different. It’s how you resolve them that counts…
“I’ve learnt that the nature of life is that everyone’s journey is different and, therefore, no one should ever stand in judgement of another. Not least because they have not travelled that same road. Instead, it’s wise to feel grateful if one’s own road is less arduous, or one is simply better equipped to deal with the harsher realities of life.”
I have read, enjoyed, and reviewed all of the cozy mysteries in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series. May brings an opportunity to purchase some of them at a reduced price. They will make great pandemic “stay at home” reading fun. Enjoy!
Have a Deadly New Year
by Lynn Cahoon
Today was a great day to read a novella—short and complete in one sitting. Lynn Cahoon’s Have a Deadly New Year found Angie Turner and her staff of chefs at The County Seat restaurant offsite at a combination catering event and retreat. After providing a fancy multi-course meal to kick off a famous band’s reunion, the chefs were looking forward to a week’s working vacation in the huge, glamorous mansion. Complications arise when one of the band leaders is murdered and no one can go anywhere. The house is in a remote area, a blizzard strikes, and they are mandated to stay until the police return from another emergency. Are they under lockdown with a murderer and who might it be?
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: This is a Farm to Fork novella. I love this series, and I normally find Lynn Cahoon’s books effective as standalones. I would not recommend it for this novella, however. It is just too short to comprehensively make all of the connections necessary for full enjoyment.
Publication: December 3, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
“I have a personal motto that it’s all about me.” “You’re the leading man in your own play.”
“I suppose you’ll be doing New Year’s resolutions during your week? Make sure they’re about you and not what others think you should do.”
“Negative energy never produces a positive outlook.”
Thanksgiving in Paradise
by Kathi Daley
The gang is all back in the township of Serenity located near Paradise Lake when danger explodes, quite literally, in the town hall. Tj, a P.E teacher who helps her family run a resort, and her wealthy, tech savvy boyfriend, Kyle, team up with Deputy Roy Fisher to get to the bottom of the mystery. Was the explosion aimed at the building or at an individual? How was the bombing achieved? There are certainly more questions than answers as the shady side of quiet Paradise comes to light.
The plot elements are well done, and I enjoyed reading Thanksgiving in Paradise. I had two issues which I was willing to overlook as I do enjoy the series. One problem arises from the ease with which Deputy Roy shares information with Tj and Kyle, who then share it with family and friends. I had to keep reminding myself that they are close friends, it is a small town, and the deputies are shorthanded. Although skeptical, I must admit that the team effort pays off. Another minor irritation is the number of times author Kathi Daley tells the reader that Tj pauses giving herself or the person she is talking to time to gather their thoughts. Otherwise, Thanksgiving in Paradise is a fun read with a complicated plot and a successful resolution.
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.
Notes: Could be read as a standalone, but be advised that it is #10 in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series.
Publication: October 8, 2019—Henery Press
I’m the worst person ever,” I said to Jenna two hours later after we settled in at her kitchen table with cups of coffee. “The worst person ever? Wow, that’s quite a claim. I imagine you have some sort of evidence to back up such a grandiose statement?”
I knew that I was doing what I have a tendency to do, which was to make things a lot more complicated than they needed to be.
It’s rare for the entire staff of a high school to be a fan of the principal, but in Greg’s case I can’t think of a single staff member who doesn’t admire and truly like him.
Snowed in with the Single Dad
by Melinda Curtis
Laurel, 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.
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
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 Subject of Malice
by Cynthia Kuhn
An academic like Lila Maclean is highly suitable to detective work; many of the same skills are required to interview witnesses, deduce events from clues, and analyze situations as she employs in her profession. It doesn’t hurt that Lila has a propensity for finding dead bodies thus putting her on the scene where all the evidence is.
In The Subject of Malice by Cynthia Kuhn, the police chief actually recognizes the valuable contributions Lila has made in the past and gives Detective Lex, her boyfriend, the nod to include Lila as a consultant. As an English professor, Lila’s focus on the genres of gothic and horror brings her to a convention as an organizer, presenter, and participant. The ugly side of the academic world is on full display as professors compete for publication which in turn helps them achieve tenure. In fact, the atmosphere turns nasty and downright deadly. As the convention winds down, the complications, both personal and professional don’t. With interesting characters and dramatic plot twists, Kuhn creates a story you’ll want to keep at all the way to solving the murders and a surprise twist.
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.
Notes: #4 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series; works well as a standalone
Publication: July 23, 2019—Henery Press
“Merrie’s the dearest friend—“ Simone mused, sweetly. She said most things sweetly, which was a misdirection of epic proportions.
“There has to be more to it than that. He doesn’t look like a cheater.”
“What does a cheater look like?”
Sometimes I forgot who she’d shown herself to be and trusted her again. Which usually didn’t turn out very well. She had a tendency to shift behaviors right when I’d let down my guard.
Killer in the Carriage House
Lisbeth invites her friend Kate to Asheboro to try to save the town. The only industry, a shovel factory, has long since closed its doors. Kate’s only work experience has been in managing large hotels, but she thinks she could possibly turn the town into a replica of a Victorian village. The source of the idea is the Victorian mansion left to the town by the deceased factory owner.
There are many unanswered questions involved in this project. Kate needs to get the townspeople, especially the shopkeepers, on board. She needs to research the history of the period and develop resources to help put the plan into action. Meanwhile, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers the body of a young man she encountered the day before at the library. She also wants to learn more about the factory owner and his connections with both Clara Barton and Thomas Edison.
The storyline of Killer in the Carriage House is acceptable, but I had a hard time with the main character Kate. She isn’t believable to me as a project manager. She wastes a lot of time just waiting for things to happen and then complains that there are so many things to do. She also says that in her former position she was told what she had to do and was never in charge of initiating events. That does not seem in line with a hotel manager’s responsibilities. Her personal relationships are weak and not well defined.
The plot is better developed than the characters. I liked the plot resolution but was surprised that certain characters’ presence in town hadn’t been questioned earlier.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Although this book is the second book in the Victorian Village Mysteries, it is the first book in the series for me. It was easy to pick up with the plot and characters and move into the tale.
Publication: July 9, 2019—St. Martin’s Press
But to have someone—or in this case, something like an entire town—hand the whole unwieldy mess to me and say, “Here, make this nice, and don’t spend too much money”? I was left floundering.
“So, are you going to tell me about this new murder?”
“You mean the body in the library? Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but unfortunately it’s true.”
“You got tossed into a difficult situation, one that kept changing about every ten minutes. You did the best you could.”
A House Divided
by Jonathan F. Putnam
I was surprised to find myself trudging through A House Divided by Jonathan F. Putnam, an author with an outstanding legal and historical background. This is the fourth book in this series, but I did not feel that my not having read the previous books was a hindrance. There just seemed to be a disjoint between the history and fiction of the tale. None of the characters were fleshed out with emotion for me, and so I did not identify with any of them. I really wanted to like this book, but it was difficult when the characters’ motives were rarely disclosed. Lincoln and his friend Speed are competitors for the affections of Mary Todd, but even Mary’s character holds no depth.
The mystery was interesting and based somewhat on history, although the narrator Speed, a major actor in the story, was actually not a part of the real events of the crime and trial. Perhaps that alteration of the facts added to the difficulty of creating an interesting work of historical fiction. Perhaps the problem lies in timidity in assigning thoughts and feelings to major historical figures. Authors may find that easier to do when the main character is either a minor figure on the historical stage or the creation by the author of a composite character based on what a person in that role at that time of history would be like.
I did appreciate the author’s efforts to include the plight of Irish workers and their families. They were caught in the middle of a web of corruption and greed on the part of politicians and bankers. Another positive of the book is the writer’s style which is appropriate to the period.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Notes: #4 in the Lincoln and Speed Mystery Series
Publication: July 9, 2019—Crooked Lane Books
The Globe…As a feeding station for hungry village residents or residence for travelers, it was inferior in every respect to the sparkling new American House. Its only advantage at this point was familiarity, like a pair of shoes that slipped on easily despite worn-away soles.
Springfield…But citizens hoping to find entertainment that did not arrive in a bottle or cask were destined to be disappointed. Except when the circuit court was in session to adjudicate the county’s legal disputes. Then, the entire human condition, comedy and tragedy alike, was on display and free for all to watch.
Every turn in the road, every little rise of the prairie, might reveal a clutch of deadly and determined men, ready to hazard their own lives and reckless to mine.