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Murder in Waiting–hit and run?

Murder in Waiting

by Lynn Cahoon

If you’re looking for a good cozy mystery, you can’t go wrong with one written by Lynn Cahoon. Her Murder in Waiting fulfilled my expectations. Jill Gardner, former attorney, owns South Cove’s combination coffee house and bookshop. She has several employees and loves taking the first shift as it gives her time to read. She lives with Greg King, the lead detective for the local police. With each having a prior marriage, neither is anxious to make the big commitment again.

Jill’s friend Amy, however, is ready to tie the knot and manipulates Jill into planning her bachelorette party. The book devotes some time to the upcoming nuptials, but the author might have a surprise tie-in to the mystery itself. Jill witnesses a hit and run fatality, and it is up to the local police to determine if it was an accident or murder. 

Meanwhile, Jill is being bombarded with two personal issues. A developer wants the land her cottage is built on, and various individuals keep approaching her to try to convince her to sell. Some are rather threatening. Jill provides space and refreshments for a local business group’s monthly meetings. In the absence of the leader of the group, a member starts an unfounded smear campaign on Jill claiming their membership dues are rising because of Jill.

Besides the nitty gritty of the suspicious and murderous happenings, there are fun things going on in South Cove too. Deek, a “super dude” barista, not only has great marketing ideas, but is also trying to write his first book. Jill and Greg’s comfortable relationship takes them further along without high pressure expectations. Jill’s Aunt Jackie and her boyfriend Harrold are important characters in the story. Emma is Jill’s dog who loves nothing better than a run along the beach or handouts and pats from her human friends. There is a lot of food talk, but it is not over the top.

With its sunny California setting and the small tourist town vibes, South Cove opens its heart and Diamond Lille’s diner to welcome you to stay and visit. As Greg and Jill work through the many plot threads, you’ll be glad you dropped in. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #11 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

  2. Recipe included for Easy Low-Carb Egg Muffins

Publication:   June 30, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Relationships. They were as bumpy as a road filled with land mines.

If my employees weren’t emotional eaters before they joined the staff, I tended to train them to become one by modeling the behavior.

Family. You had to accept them as they were because you weren’t going to change them.

Til Death–another fantastic Zoe Chambers mystery

Til Death

by Annette Dashofy

If all mysteries were as good as Til Death, readers would be glued to their easy chairs and no work would get done. Annette Dashofy continues her series with main character Zoe Chambers being promoted to Chief Deputy Coroner and giving up her job as an EMT. This is a huge change with lots of responsibilities, a big learning curve, and people and events that challenge her.

The story opens with County Coroner Franklin Marshall collapsing in the autopsy suite—and not out of a squeamish response to the procedure. The action takes off from there and doesn’t stop until the last period. There are several deaths, a cold case, attacks on law enforcement, and berserk ex-wives. Among all the cases could there be more than one criminal? There are three modes of murder, so maybe? Or do they all somehow tie together? 

Philandering Dustin Landis is released from prison when a judge overturns his conviction. The D.A. is going to try him again. Dustin has always insisted on his innocence. Now pieces are coming to light that indicate a serial killer was operating in the area at the time. When Franklin’s most recent ex-wife explodes on the scene, chaos follows her. She tears Franklin’s office apart, apparently in search of a document, and summarily kicks out Zoe and the Coroner’s Office with her.

Zoe’s attention is divided as she and Police Chief Pete Adams are getting married in two weeks, an event that brings seemingly inevitable family drama to the forefront. A staff romance in the Vance Township Police force causes a crisis of a different sort. Meanwhile Zoe and Pete have to work together and independently to fit all of the puzzle pieces together with the goal of solving all those mysteries simultaneously.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #10 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 16, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

If Loretta Marshall’s dark hair had been half white, Zoe would’ve warned her friends who owned Dalmatians.

“Good old Dr. Davis. Politician first. Forensic expert second. Human being? Somewhere way lower on the list.”

Zoe collapsed onto her stacked boxes, staring out the dirt-streaked window, thoughts and emotions racing inside her skull like deranged bumper cars.

Marshmallow Malice–wedding complications

Marshmallow Malice

by Amanda Flower

From a chunk of burnt hair to drunken accusations to murder on the doorstep of the church, disasters just keep happening on Juliet Brody’s wedding day, and she is depending on her “possible” future daughter-in-law, Bailey, to help her out. Bailey is a chocolatier who is working in her grandmother’s candy shop in the Amish/Englisch town of Harvest. She is also dating Juliet’s son, Sheriff Deputy Aiden Brody.

Amanda Flower’s Marshmallow Malice is a fun cozy mystery with new problems arising from all directions as Bailey is encouraged by locals to help solve the murder case and act as a go-between for the Amish with the Englisch law enforcement. The humor comes into play with Jethro, Juliet’s adored and adorable polka-dotted pig that gets into lots of mischief. There is also light-hearted teasing between Bailey and her visiting New York friend Cass. At times the plot turns to danger as Bailey advances on moonshiners in Harvest Woods. Serious themes take the forefront with alcoholism, secrets from the past, and hints of domestic violence.

Marshmallow Malice is filled with likable characters. Bailey’s grandmother Clara whom she calls Maami is Amish to her roots and in her everyday living. Although she follows her bishop’s rulings precisely, she is practical and accepting of Bailey’s activities as an Englischer. Cousin Charlotte works with Bailey in the shop, and her life gives the reader insight into the dilemma of the young Amish as they decide whether to join the church or not. Shunning is also explored as the method the Amish use to try to get a member to abandon sin. Flower’s depiction of characters from both cultures is fair in that criminals and those with personal problems are drawn from both Amish and Englisch societies. This is a cozy mystery series with an Englisch main character; it is not an Amish romance. As such, it adds both humor and complications to what might be the basis for a typical Amish story. Don’t label this story as a sweet Amish tale. It is not dark, but it does have depth. It is well-written and leaves me eager for more in the series.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #5 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series. The author throws you right into the storyline, so it would probably be best (and also a delight) to read the first books in sequence.

2. Recipe included for Charlotte’s Easy Marshmallow Sticks

Publication:   May 26, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“She looks like a cotton candy machine exploded, doesn’t she?”…”Well…” Aiden trailed off as if he was dumbstruck by my appearance. Then he said, “It’s the kind of outfit that makes you believe there just might be unicorns out there.”

“The celebration will be a hit,” I said. “I know it will be,” Margot said. “I won’t allow anything less.” With that, she patted her curls and bustled out the door.

“The Amish look down on pride, but at the heart of it, we are a very proud culture. Our pride doesn’t come from material things. We take pride in how gut we are.”

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes–Christmas wedding

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

by Jessica Redland

A sweet holiday tale with some sibling troubles, an upcoming wedding, PTSD, and friends who could be so much more. Those are the threads found in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes by Jessica Redland, Carly started a cupcake business four years ago. Her much younger sister Bethany has been working for her, but she is klutzy and prone to mistakes that are costly. Carly and Bethany are both wondering if the cupcake shop is a good place for Bethany, but Carly is driven to take care of her sister who is also second-guessing her upcoming marriage. Meanwhile, Carly starts to realize that her very long-term best friend, Liam, on a tour in Afghanistan, is possibly the love she has been denying herself.

There are several unexpected twists as the countdown to the wedding and Christmas draw closer. You’ll enjoy watching the tangled threads unravel as you read this charming story and root for the likable characters to solve their problems.

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.

Rating: 4/5

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

Publication:   August 13, 2020—Boldwood Books

Memorable Lines:

And there it was—the exact moment I realised I’d been in love with my best friend for years. Nobody else I’d met had held my interest because Liam already held my heart and I’d never even realised it.

As I stepped out of the front door, I inhaled the delicious aroma of chimney smoke. I loved that smell. There was something about real fires that was so intrinsically Christmassy. I paused for a moment to look up at the white lights strung between the shops, like stars in the inky sky. It was the beautiful simplicity that made them so enchanting to look at.

I felt a pang of guilt again that I’d worked beside her for months and had been too busy to notice when the laughter had ceased until it became too late. 

Montana Wedding–great finale

Montana Wedding

by Cari Lynn Webb

Georgie Harrison has always been singularly focused. She has a plan to honor her mother’s memory by discovering a cure so that other families would not have to experience premature loss of a parent as she and her sisters had. As a medical doctor she has turned her talents to research and has landed the job of her dreams in London. Now she just has to convince her dad and four sisters that this is a positive move. She convinces a friend and work colleague, Colin, to be her pretend date for her sister’s wedding at the Blackwell Ranch. Unfortunately, Colin doesn’t make the flight. Seated next to her on the plane, however, is handsome rodeo star Zach. He would fit right in with the Blackwells, the cousins she is about to meet, but what could possibly motivate Zach to assume the role of boyfriend?

Zach has his own family issues and dreams, but he loyally supports Georgie as promised. Since this is a Harlequin Heartwarming romance, you can be sure the couple will fall in love. The journey down the path to love is what is interesting, and the plot has several surprising twists, as in “I didn’t see that coming!” Author Cari Lynn Webb gives the viewpoint of both Zach and Georgie as they battle their growing attraction, giving the reader empathy for them in a situation neither sought out. The Blackwells are wonderful people who stand by each other with integrity, love, and quite a bit of teasing. They are the family Zach always dreamed of. Montana Wedding’sbackdrop of a Christmas wedding at a Montana working guest ranch will put you in a holiday mood regardless of the season. It is the perfect finish to The Blackwell Sisters series as it includes all the major characters from that series and from The Return of the Blackwell Brothers. It will leave you with that pleasing feeling of closure for the series and a satisfied smile on your face. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Cari Lynn Webb 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: #5 in The Blackwell Sisters series. It could be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the whole series.

Publication:   December 6, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

His mother had offered disregard and indifference as naturally as other mothers offered their children support and reassurance….His mother’s accusations had always been followed by those same two words, given in the same dull, detached tone: Go. Away.

He’d learned the truth during Cody’s final battle. Time refused to slow. There was no freeze button. And minutes were wasted wishing for impossible things. Life had to be enjoyed in the now.

“Hope is a powerful thing.” Every patient, every family member of a sick loved one relied on hope. Hope the medicine would work. Hope the doctors found the right treatment. Hope the surgeons removed every last cancer cell. Hope the damage wouldn’t be permanent. Hope that tomorrow would be brighter, better, pain free.

Montana Wishes–romance in Montana

Montana Wishes

by Amy Vastine

Along comes another romance as the Harrison girls get slowly pulled back to their biological Blackwell roots and their Montana cowboy origins. In the first of the Blackwell Sisters series, Lily Harrison is a runaway bride who finds herself, a new vocational passion, and a handsome cowboy fiancée in Falcon Creek, Montana. 

In Montana Wishes, the second book in the series,  Lilly sends for her identical twin sister Amanda to help her plan a second wedding as well as move all her belongings to Montana. Amanda enlists her best friend Blake to help her make the drive. The timing could not be worse as Blake has just proposed to Nadia whom he has dated for only two months. Amanda is grieving the loss of her best friend, reeling from the impact of a medical decision, and angry about the intrusion into her life of a grandfather and a set of cousins she didn’t know she had. But, being Amanda, she steps up to the plate and tries to make everything right for everyone else. 

I like this book and its characters. Just as I thought the romantic situation was going to get stagnant, the author of Montana Wishes, Amy Vastine,  would throw in a twist or surprise that moved the plot forward and kept me turning pages. As we watch the interactions of Blake, Amanda, and Nadia, theoretical questions about love and friendship take on a personal meaning. 

Can men and women be best friends? 

Should you marry your best friend? 

Should your spouse be your best friend? 

There is also a question of the importance of fertility in a relationship. Although it is handled well, that issue may be an unintentional trigger for some readers. All in all, it is a fun read that segues into the third book in the series, Montana Dreams.

I would like to extend my thanks to Amy Vastine 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: 1. #2 in the Blackwell Sisters series, but could be read as a standalone as the author provides plenty of background information to bring the reader up to speed.

2. Clean and heartwarming romance

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

(Song lyrics): In the distance he sees what he never saw. Laughter ringing like wind chimes in a summer storm. Across rocky tipped horizons and cloudless skies. And just like that he knows…the sounds of home.

The worst thing in the world was disappointing Amanda. She was just so good. To the core. She did everything she could to do no harm, put others’ needs above her own and brighten the world around her. People like her were rare. When you were someone she loved, you wanted to be good, too.

“Just because we have a tiny bit of the same blood in our veins does not make us family. Family is the people you’ve created memories with, the people who have cared for you and let you care for them. It’s the people who are there for you when you need them…”

Under the Radar–extreme bullying

Under the Radar

by Annette Dashofy

Under the RadarWith a full-time job with the Monongahela County EMS and a “part-time gig as deputy coroner,” Zoe Chambers has reason to be on the scene when bad things happen. In Annette Dashofy’s Under the Radar, murders abound. Zoe’s friend from high school, the much bullied Horace, turns himself in for the murder of long-time tormentor Dennis Culp. Did Horace snap under the continued violent harassment?

Under the Radar contains lots of twisty paths in the criminal investigations with several major surprises along the way. In addition to murder and burglaries, there are personal issues as Zoe plans her wedding to Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams. She somehow manages to become involved in a deadly scenario while trying to track down a half brother she has never met. There is a little comic relief via Zoe’s interactions with her mother Kimberly and a “girls’ road trip.” Local politics works its way into the story as Zoe’s boss has to compete for his job, and the election results could also affect Zoe’s employment. 

The books in this series are page turners and Under the Radar is no exception.

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: #9 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone because the mystery is the strong part of the plot and much background information is supplied at the beginning of the book.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Pete didn’t need to tell Horace to stay close. If he’d been any closer, he’d have been in Pete’s back pocket.

He hated to wish ill on anyone, but he hoped someone requested assistance or needed an officer for something—anything—minor. Paperwork sucked.

Kimberly had two large suitcases, a massive carry-on, and what Zoe guessed was a makeup bag big enough to stock the Dior counter at a department store.

Much Ado About Nutmeg–senior athletic competition

Much Ado About Nutmeg

by Sarah Fox

Much Ado About NutmegThe Golden Oldies Games have come to Wildwood Cove, and Marley, owner of the pancake house aptly named The Flip Side, anticipates and receives a bustling crowd as tourists and participants and their families converge on the beach town. Marley has excitement in her personal life too as she prepares for her wedding to Brett.

Sarah Fox’s Much Ado About Nutmeg has an interesting plot with several crimes and lots of suspects. Marley’s natural curiosity pulls her into investigating, mostly by interviewing, but that propensity draws her some potentially deadly attention. An enjoyable read, the book’s downside is a little too much description of Marley’s walk on the beach and to work, what she had to eat, and her attentions to her pets in her spare time.

This cozy mystery did not hold a lot of suspense, but its ending was a surprise. I’ll be back to discover how Marley’s life changes with marriage and if it dampens her enthusiasm for sleuthing.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #6 in the Pancake House Mystery Series, but the author provides background information so it is good as a standalone.

  2. Recipes included for scones and waffles

Publication:   January 14, 2020—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

I floated on my back for a few minutes, rising and falling with the waves. For the first time since I’d learned Yvonne was murdered, I relaxed and my racing thoughts slowed down. That was the magic of the ocean and Wildwood Beach. No other place brought me such peace.

Her determination was eerily familiar. I’d have as much luck keeping her out of the investigation as I would keeping myself out of it.

“We both know my reputation. I would have ended up looking into things even if you hadn’t asked me to. I’m drawn to mysteries like a moth to a flame.”

Murder with Cherry Tarts–tearoom delights throughout the mystery

Murder with Cherry Tarts

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cherry TartsWhat a delightful cozy mystery! I enjoyed Murder with Cherry Tarts by Karen Rose Smith from beginning to end. It has interesting characters including Daisy Swanson, a widow and co-owner of Daisy’s Tea Garden with her Aunt Iris. Daisy is at the center of the book’s many threads. There is, of course, a murder mystery which Daisy tries not to get involved in, but her kind nature won’t allow her to stand by while an innocent man is railroaded by a detective with a chip on his shoulder. That chip is connected to Daisy’s boyfriend Jonas, a former detective. Other tensions include a homeless man and his daughter and an elderly antique shop owner possibly being cheated by a family member. Also, Daisy has continuing relationship issues with her mother, preparations for the upcoming wedding of her pregnant daughter, and the struggles of her youngest daughter, who is adopted, to connect with her biological mother. It is a busy story!

The setting is Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Although Daisy is not Amish, there are a sprinkling of references to horse and buggy transport and other Amish customs as Willow Creek is a seasonal tourist town.

Despite the various focuses on relationships, the mystery is still key. There are several suspects with plausible motives, but when the murderer is revealed in a scene replete with danger, the surprise ending is stunning.

The author follows up with an epilogue that provides a promisingly happy conclusion to the relationship threads as well as the murder investigation. There are, however, still developments to look forward to in the next cozy in this series.

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. #4 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works very well as a standalone. The characters’ backgrounds  are skillfully woven into the first chapter.

2. The book concludes with recipes, including one for Daisy’s famous cherry tarts that everyone raves about.

Publication:   November 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Sharing tea with a friend is a calming experience. I think it has to do with just taking time out of your day to talk and to share. It doesn’t matter the type of tea or if you use sugar or honey or milk. It’s just the experience of sipping it that counts.”

That was exactly what grief felt like, a hole that could never be filled up.

The photographs would never reveal the tension that always bubbled up within her family. But that was the point of happy photos, wasn’t it? To remember the good times and cherish them.

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

by James J. Cudney

Mistaken Identity CrisisI am sure that I have not read a more complex cozy mystery with regard to characters than Mistaken Identity Crisis. Author James J. Cudney had my head spinning with all of the intricate relationships in his story. Fortunately, he includes a categorized list of characters with brief descriptions for support if you get confused. To my surprise, I only referred to it a few times as the characters appear multiple times and Cudney puts them in context with references to their relationships and backgrounds. Therefore, they rapidly take on unique identities for the reader.

Along with an emphasis on characters, Cudney has devised a complicated plot with more than one mystery. Hop aboard the campus cable car to find a dead body, intrigue with stolen jewels, and symbolic black calla lilies. Kellan, a professor at Braxton, comes closer to resolution with his presumed dead wife Francesca and two warring mobs. Feisty Nana D takes office as the new mayor, and Kellan sees a new side of April, the local sheriff.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, and I recommend reading this series in sequence.

  2. Includes a helpful map and list of characters

Publication:   June 30, 2019—Creativa

Memorable Lines:

I could only conclude that he was a bit of a chameleon, depending on the situation and balance of power in the relationship.

You are right, Kellan. I’ve been giving you mixed signals,” April said, offering one of the rare concessions I’d usually witness only during full moons in a leap year once a millennium.

Stress and fear plummeted inside me until they knocked my body out of balance and sent me careening against the stone pillar in the Stanton driveway.

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