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Mums and Mayhem–Bellewick’s famous fiddler returns

Mums and Mayhem

by Amanda Flower

Fiona Knox transplanted herself from Tennessee to the east coast of Scotland when she inherited Duncreigan, a very small cottage with its magical garden, from her godfather Ian. She became Keeper of the garden and is learning how to care for it through trial and error. She also owns a floral shop in the little town of Bellewick where she has made a number of friends despite some animosity against her as an American.

In this mystery, world famous fiddler Barley McFee has returned home for a concert, but there are complications to his visit. Fiona’s parents have also come to Scotland for a visit. She plans on pinning them down on the identity of her biological father. Fiona and her sister Isla also want to introduce them to the men in their lives. Complications added into the plot are disputes in Barley’s backup band, a historian who wants access to the magic garden, a businessman who wants to restore a tumbling manor house, a fire at sea, vandalism in the magic garden, and a murder.

With so much going on in the little village, Fiona is stretched to her limits, but her boyfriend, Chief Inspector Neil Craig, her friend Presha, and her Scottish Fold cat, Ivanhoe, are a constant source of support.

Amanda Flower’s Mums and Mayhem is a cozy mystery with a Scottish flair and a sprinkle of magic of the whimsical variety. Fiona is desperate to restore the magical garden and the conclusion not only reveals the murderer and resolves the personal conflicts with her parents, but also shows Fiona regarding the garden in a new light.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Magic Garden Mysteries, but can be read as a standalone allowing the author to fill in any needed background information.

Publication:  July 7, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The American tendency is more and bigger and better and new. We don’t always buy into that in Scotland. We appreciate old and tradition.

My heart sank. I wanted to grab the words out of the air and shove them back into my mouth. But it was too late for that.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. It feels right, in any case, and when dealing with the garden, I have learned that going with my gut has always been the best choice.”

Montana Dreams–secrets within the family

Montana Dreams

by Anna J. Stewart

The five Harrison sisters were abandoned by their father, Thomas Blackwell, when the oldest, Peyton, was eight years old leaving a hole in her heart that could not be filled. For reasons to be discovered in Montana Dreams by Anna J. Stewart, Peyton, ostensibly close to her sisters, has kept the girls’ biological roots a secret. She is the only one aware that Rudy Harrison, their devoted father and a retired Navy admiral, is actually their step-father.

Their world is turned upside down by Big E, the girls’ grandfather they never knew existed; the discovery impacted none of the girls as much as it did Peyton who has tried to fill the hole in her heart with work. Because Peyton, a Vice President in the company she works for, has a stalker, her boss has hired Matteo as her bodyguard. Big E convinces the boss that his ranch in Montana is the safest place for Peyton to be.

In many romances that include childhood family issues as part of the conflict, the background of the main character figures predominantly into the plot. In Montana Dreams, however, both Peyton and Matteo have issues, past and current, that need to be brought to the forefront and dealt with. Their secrets are unwrapped with care, and their romance is depicted with ups and downs and highs and lows that keep the reader in anticipation of possible resolutions.

The devotion Matteo has for his understandably confused six year old son is heartwarming. Well integrated into the plot are characters you might have met in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series. Although I would love to have had the characters from that first series have more interaction in this book, I realize that would not be possible within the scope of this novel. As it is, the plot is full of twists and turns. Each one of the books in The Blackwell Sisters focuses on a different sister as each meets her welcoming Blackwell cousins and their spouses and learns about the positive sides of Montana ranch living. They also acclimate to the idea that their mother and step-father had presented a false narrative of their family to them as children. Meanwhile, the subplot of their manipulating grandfather Big E plotting to reunite his Blackwell family while searching for Thomas Blackwell, his son and the girls’ father, with Rudy Harrison, the girl’s step-father, continues on with a little progress and more clues in each book.

I would like to extend my thanks to Anna J. Stewart and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes:  #3 in The Blackwell Sisters series, but the author provides the necessary support if you want to read this clean, heartwarming romance as a standalone.

Publication:   October 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

She scrunched her toes in her shoes, trying to keep a hold of whatever traction she had on her life.

The very idea of stepping foot on a ranch—any ranch, let alone an isolated one in the middle of Nowhere, Montana—shot Matteo straight back to a childhood that held zero appeal.

Somehow holding his son made the pain and loneliness from his own childhood fade to where it couldn’t hurt him anymore.

Rudy’s face split into a grin so wide Big E swore he saw his back molars.

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.

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