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Snowflakes over Holly Cove–reconciliation

Snowflakes over Holly Cove

by Lucy Coleman

Snowflakes over Holly CoveTia is facing her first Christmas without her mother. She also has a painful distancing from her brother Will and his family. She is returning to her job as a journalist after a breakdown, but as we see her take on a feature assignment in isolated Holly Cove, she is depicted as a strong and resilient woman.

As Lucy Coleman’s Snowflakes over Holly Cove unfolds, Tia finds herself in the middle of other familial dysfunctional relationships that include Clarissa, her successful but manipulative boss, and Nic, the owner of the house she is renting. She also meets Max, a reticent retired Navy officer who is her temporary neighbor. Everyone has secrets, and some of those secrets might tie the characters together.

There are many interesting, vying, plot threads as Tia interviews couples for her feature articles and tries to sort through what makes a relationship sustainable. The story ends with some surprising action scenes and lots of genuine moments of compassion and reconciliation. This is a novel that rises above the typical Christmas feel-good story; readers will appreciate its depth.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Aria

Memorable Lines:

Strangely, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the window to marvel at the hostility of the sea. It’s a top to bottom, wall-to-wall steely greyness, that is like a blanket and it’s hard to see where the water ends and the sky begins.

“Money and possessions, I came to appreciate, create mistrust and envy. They bring out the worst in people.”

I truly believe that the spirit of Christmas is embodied in this room, today. It’s not about the gifts, or the amount of money you have to lavish on the occasion. It’s about the desire to make it special for other people and in doing so, it makes it special for you, too.

Corned Beef and Casualties–St. Paddy’s Day novella

Corned Beef and Casualties

by Lynn Cahoon

Corned Beef and CasualtiesHow about a quick and easy read? Corned Beef and Casualties is good for St. Patrick’s Day or any day you want a brief distraction. It is a fun little novella from one of my favorite cozy mystery authors Lynn Cahoon. It is part of the extensive Tourist Trap Mystery Series.

Cahoon does a great job of making the novella into a standalone with necessary information about the characters relayed succinctly. We witness  unusual cooperation between the main character, Jill, who owns a bookstore/coffee shop and Darla, the proprietor of a winery and also a reporter for the local paper. Be ready for a surprise ending!

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. A Tourist Trap Novella

2. Cheesecake recipe included

Publication:   February 5, 2019—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“You need to stop worrying about her and get on with your life.” The look he gave me was filled with such love and sadness I almost teared up. “Miss Gardner, that sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Unfortunately, the heart isn’t logical.”

“Some couples just fight…I see couples at their worse. They get a few too many into them, and every slight becomes a big deal.”

Darla was always preaching about the free press and her responsibility to the newspaper-reading public, but deep down, she knew not to release something that might ruin someone’s life. Especially if he was innocent.

Kissed by the Country Doc–snowed in romance

Kissed by the Country Doc

by Melinda Curtis

Kissed by the Country DocThe Monroe family is the center of this new Heartwarming Harlequin series The Mountain Monroes. The first novel, Kissed by the Country Doc, by Melinda Curtis, opens with the reading of Grandpa Harlan Monroe’s will. Full of surprises for the Monroe heirs, the will sends some of the younger generation of Monroes off to Second Chance, a small mountain town in Idaho. One of them is Ella, a Monroe by marriage, but widowed for two years, with an adorable two-year old. What will happen when Ella, after a childhood of foster homes and seeking a love that will last, encounters Dr. Noah Bishop, whose successful career as an orthopedic surgeon was crushed in an accident?

As snow strands the four Monroes in Second Chance, we learn more about them, the inhabitants of the town, and its mysterious history. In fact, we discover just enough to pique curiosity about the origins of the town and why Grandpa Harlan left the town to his grandchildren. The Monroes are divided about what should be done about the town—sell it off, try to inject new life into it, reinvent it as a high-end tourist destination, or some other solution. Their inheritance could be a blessing or a disaster, and perhaps the hardest part will be to get all of the grandchildren to agree on a decision.

Since sixteen relatives of Harlan Monroe are shown on the handy family tree included in the book, I feared I would have trouble distinguishing and remembering all of the characters. That actually is not a problem as only four of them, plus Ella, are characters in this book.

Ella is a very likable character as is her daughter Penny. More of a puzzle is Dr. Noah Bishop who struggles with his identity as a former surgeon whose hand injury keeps him from what he and his family view as his full potential. The author cleverly helps the reader understand the dual nature of Noah as he struggles to disassociate the man who falls hard for Ella and her daughter from the jaded, self-loathing failure, Dr. Bishop, by sharing the reactions of both. For example, “Dr. Bishop fell off his stool in a dead faint. Noah’s reaction was equally shocking. His mouth dropped open and his waffle-loaded fork hung in midair.” Both Ella and Noah have issues to overcome to be able to give and receive love. Read Kissed by the Country Doc for a sweet romance in a snow-covered mountain setting. Add in a lovable two year old and an injured dog and hang on to your heart so you don’t lose it in Second Chance. I am looking forward to more stories about members of the Monroe clan and the fate of this little town and its residents.

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, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #1 in The Mountain Monroes series

  2. Clean and heartwarming romance

Publication:   February 1, 2019—Heartwarming Harlequin

Memorable Lines:

“My four sons are too old to unlearn the privilege of the silver spoon, too busy to enjoy the priceless beauty of a mountain sunrise, too calloused to appreciate the comfort that comes from loyalty, or the joy that love for love’s sake can bring.”

“Don’t get attached to people. They always leave. And when they go, they take a piece of you with them until you feel like you’re dying inside.”

The dog did what Ella and Noah couldn’t. Penny’s sobs subsided. She snuffled and buried her hands in Woof’s fur, her lower lip trembling.

Death by Committee–a mastiff mix takes center stage

Death by Committee

by Alexis Morgan

Death by CommitteeLooking for an exciting cozy mystery? Death by Committee has more action than is normally found in a cozy mystery. It is for sure a page turner.

Death by Committee by Alexis Morgan features likable characters with some depth to them that makes you want to get to know them even better. Its setup has potential for lots of variety in future stories. Main character Abby McCree, recently divorced, inherits her aunt’s house in a small town. She finds herself landlady to Tripp, a handsome veteran who lives in a cottage on her property. Abby has plenty to do sorting through her aunt’s possessions, but Aunt Sibyl’s elderly friends expect her to step into her aunt’s shoes as head of the quilting guild and as a civic leader.

A body is found buried on Abby’s property wrapped in a quilt. This gruesome discovery leads to her informal and unsanctioned investigation to clear her aunt’s name, but there is more intrigue to follow. A side mystery involves the disappearance of thirteen quilts. The quilts are valuable, but are they worth the penalties for theft? 

My favorite character is the huge, slobbery Zeke: a mastiff cross who is Abby’s best buddy and defender. He is a constant throughout the story providing interest and humor. Zeke adores both Tripp and Abby (and treats) as much as the pair loves him. The book is filled with humorous repartee as Tripp and Abby struggle to understand each other, and fireworks of various kinds fly.

I did figure out before the reveal who the murderer is, but not the motive. I think this was intentional, making the final scenes even more dramatic. Abby put herself in danger sometimes through her own actions, but it does make for an exciting story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. This one did not change my world, but it is a lot of fun, and it left me with a satisfied smile and wanting more.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #1 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series

  2. The cute cover doesn’t depict what actually happened in the book.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If she didn’t know what a sweetheart he was, she might have been just as leery of a dog of his size, too. The truth was, the only real threat the bighearted fellow presented to the world was his ability to produce an excessive amount of drool, which often left behind an icky trail of mastiff goo wherever he went.

The day hadn’t gone well at all, and her reward was a crushing headache. For now, she wasn’t going to think about anything more complicated than what flavor of tea would go best with ibuprofen.

“Don’t worry. We’re fine, boy. Just out for a drive.” Okay, that was a lie, and not even the dog was buying what she was selling.

The Rancher’s Twins–romance in Montana

The Rancher’s Twins

by Carol Ross

The Rancher's TwinsA combination of the tangles that both city and country life can bring, a sweet romance, a heroine trying to do what is right, adorable twins, and a handsome cowboy—that’s a winning formula for a non-formulaic Harlequin Heartwarming novel by Carol Ross. In the first book of the series, Return of the Blackwell Brothers, Ross introduces a plethora of characters and the many connections inherent in a small town. Because I was not reading an ebook version, with its built in search function, I took some notes on the characters and their relationships. It seemed like a good idea because, I assume, many of these characters will be in the books which follow in the series. (My desire for notes surely doesn’t relate to the creep of age!)

I absolutely loved The Rancher’s Twins. As an educator, I found myself nodding approval as the main character, Lydia, applies practical techniques to teaching the almost kindergarten age twin girls, known to be a handful. She verbally prepares them for events, sets expectations, and makes learning fun and active.

Lydia is running away from a situation in Philadelphia that could cost her her life. Jon Blackwell is expecting a ranch-experienced nanny. When a city girl arrives on his doorstep, he can’t help seeing her through the distortion of pain left by his ex-wife. Lydia has no expectations of, or desire for, romance; she just wants safety and anonymity temporarily in Montana.

I kept turning pages in this book as fast as I could with some “oohs” and “ahs,” lots of nodding and smiles, a few chuckles, and, at the end, a few tears. Lydia is strong and nice and quite capable in many areas. What she doesn’t know, she is willing to learn. I never got bored watching Lydia grow into her position on the ranch and interact selflessly with her new acquaintances in town. Meanwhile, her boss, rancher Jon Blackwell, needs to come to grips with his own emotions as he decides whether or not to ask Lydia to stay on as nanny after a two-week trial period. As the storyline progresses we learn the backgrounds of Jon and Lydia that helped shape their characters.

I highly recommend The Rancher’s Twins and am looking forward to reading the next book in this series: The Rancher’s Rescue by Cari Lynn Webb. Just thinking about The Rancher’s Twins makes me smile. In this rough and tumble, stressful world, I think that is awesome!

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Carol Ross, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. Thanks to Laurie at Cozynookbks (https://cozynookbks.wordpress.com) for recommending Harlequin Heartwarming books and connecting me with the authors of this series.

  2. Clean in terms of language and sex; the romance is not syrupy. 

Publication:  August 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

He knew it was far from poetic, but he and the girls were like the parched ground after a long drought, eager and hungry to soak up every bit of life-giving water they could get. And this nanny… This nanny was the rain.

Wrangling a pair of out-of-control twins and sparring with their irritable father seemed like a cake-walk compared to what she was running from.

“…hurricane-force winds don’t blow as fast as gossip in this town.” 

Deadly News–small town editor with big city roots

Deadly News

by Jody Holford

Deadly NewsIn Deadly News, the start of a new series by Jody Holford, Molly Owens accepts the editor’s job at the Britton Bay Bulletin. Owner Alan introduces her to the staff: old-timer Vernon with an insulting attitude and nothing good to say, reserved and polite Elizabeth, lecherous Clay, and enthusiastic intern Hannah. It is immediately obvious that it will take some time to fit in, but Molly is determined.

One of the staff members is murdered and Molly feels responsible. She also thinks it is important to follow up on that reporter’s last assignment. The waters get muddied quickly as Molly follows various leads, and someone in town makes it clear she is not welcome there.

The characters are interesting, and the mystery provides a challenging puzzle to solve. Romance is thrown into the mix in the form of Sam, whose dazzling smile attracts lots of attention. There is even a cute stray dog who plays an important role in directing Molly to a clue. Molly is likable and you’ll want to see her succeed in her job…and in staying alive.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Britton Bay Mystery Series

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Word of mouth was the fastest form of communication in any place with less than a dozen stoplights.

Sam’s smile made her feel like she’d just snuggled into a warm jacket on a cold day.

“We should do something fun this weekend. Do you like to camp?” Molly scrunched her nose up. “Only when I’m pretending I can’t afford a night in a hotel.”

Bear Witness to Murder–teddy bear themed cozy

Bear Witness to Murder

by Meg Macy

Bear Witness to MurderBear Witness to Murder is set in little Silver Hollow where Sasha Silverman, owner of Silver Bear Shop and Factory, is one of a number of local entrepreneurs trying to survive through foot traffic, bulk sales, and special  events like the village’s Oktobear Fest. This is a town where gossip reigns and the locals are family or longtime friends. Generally this is a quiet and peaceful place to live—until Sasha’s childhood nemesis Holly returns bringing her nasty attitude, a shop in direct competition to two others, and an assistant who is suing the mayor during his re-election campaign.

Meg Macy has a chatty style to her writing and sets the background well so that we are surprised along with Sasha when she discovers a dead body. The mystery centers on this event, but swirling around it are family and romantic entanglements as well as Holly’s backstabbing efforts against the Silverman family. Other characters that play a major role are Sasha’s sister Maddie, and the girls’ boyfriends Kip and Jay. All three are artists and contribute their efforts to the festival.

I like this book. As a teddy bear enthusiast, I found the theme charming. I also appreciate the main characters, who are fairly well developed.  There are, however, a lot of minor characters, and I found myself referring back to review their relationship to the main characters. The ending is surprising, startling even, but does not provide satisfying closure for Sasha and Maddie.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery Series, but it is good as a standalone.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It seemed to fit with my memories of Holly’s personality. Sweet to your face, but ready to change in an instant or stab you in the back.

He had a true gift, seeing an animal or object hidden within wood, and then bringing it into clear focus with such talent and skill.

Alpha Alpine–serial killer or local shenanigans?

Alpha Alpine

by Mary Daheim

Alpha AlpineI was amazed when I saw the list of books Mary Daheim has written in the Emma Lord Series. She has already been through the alphabet once with titles in ascending order and has started again. I know I would have enjoyed the book more had I read the previous 26 books because there must be a lot of back story to Alpha Alpine, but Daheim does a great job of cluing the reader in on the many characters mentioned and how they relate to each other and to the current story. In fact I would say she is a master at making the book understandable and interesting to the new reader without being redundant.

Emma Lord is the editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper in Alpine, Washington, where if everyone is not related to everyone else, they are at least all related to Vida who is the House and Home editor and makes it her job to know everyone’s business. Emma is married to Sheriff Milo Dodge, giving her an inside edge and also causing friction when Dodge can not disclose information she wants. This mystery contains the murder of young girls, an unexpected assassination attempt, an explosion, domestic abuse, and a visit by Dodge’s brother in his Texas sized RV. All of these events keep both Emma and Milo quite busy in their jobs and at home.

The paper has an interesting staff, and the story is also fleshed out with deputies, townspeople and visitors, but despite the large number of characters, I never felt overwhelmed by them. The setting is well defined as mountainous Alpine seasonally moves from hot to cooler weather.  Along with Emma and Milo, the reader is continually evaluating characters and their motives as new information and more crimes come to light. When you get to the end, you will be happy with the resolution, but you may find yourself wanting to know more about Alpine and its inhabitants.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #27 in the Emma Lord Series but works well as a standalone

Publication:   December 12, 2017— Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

But promises are flimsy things and easily broken.

She’d been bitten by the need-to-know bug. Sometimes that bite can be fatal.

I knew when to shut up, focusing instead on Hercule Poirot grooming his elaborate mustache while exercising his little gray cells. Ten minutes and a second murder later, my eyelids felt heavy. Milo turned off the light. I curled up next to him and fell asleep in the sanctuary of his arms.

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