Friday, January 11, 2019

A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

It's 1957, and the famed theater critic A. S. Crystal has come to the British seaside resort of Brighton with something other than the local production of A Shilling in the Meter on his mind. Sitting in the Brighton Royal Theater with Constable Twitten, Crystal intends to tell the detective the secret he knows about the still-unsolved Aldersgate Stick-Up case of 1945. And yet, just before Crystal names the criminal mastermind involved, he's shot dead in his seat.

With a new murder case on his hands and a lazy captain at the helm of the police department, the keen and clever Constable Twitten and his colleague Sargent Jim Brunswick set out to solve the decade-old mystery of the Aldersgate Stick-Up. As the partners venture deep into the criminal underworld that lies beneath Brighton's holiday-happy veneer, they begin to discover a criminal conspiracy that dates back decades. But will Brunswick and Twitten be able to foil the mastermind, or will Crystal's death become just another unsolved crime in this seemingly peaceful seaside city?

I loved this book right up until the end, but ultimately was disappointed with the finale (I won't say more because I don't want to be a spoiler!) Well-written and fast-moving, this book was a delight to read. I loved the tone, the vocabulary, and the interesting cast of characters populating this Brighton book, and will likely pick the next installment to see how things go for the brilliant yet unlucky Constable Twitten.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Eloise by Judy Finnigan

"She was a daughter, a wife, a mother. She was my friend. But what secrets did Eloise take to her grave?"

After her best friend Eloise dies from breast cancer, Cathy is devastated. But then Cathy begins to have disturbing dreams that imply Eloise's death was not all it seems.

With a history of depression, Cathy is only just recovering from a nervous breakdown and her husband Chris, a psychiatrist, is acutely aware of his wife's mental frailty. When Cathy tells Chris of her suspicions about Eloise's death, as well as her ability to sense Eloise's spirit, Chris thinks she is losing her grip on reality once again.

Stung by her husband's skepticism, Cathy decides to explore Eloise's mysterious past, putting herself in danger as she finds herself drawn ever deeper into her friend's great - and tragic - secret.

I wanted to like this book but it was just too all over the place to make for a good read. Though the background story of Eloise and her family was quite engaging, Karen and Chris were just too unbelievable as characters to carry the story. I know the author was trying to call up the atmosphere of classics like Wuthering Heights and Rebecca but that effort failed. Karen's thoughts and emotions vacillated so wildly and unpredictably that I was unable to grasp her as a character, and Chris' reactions to Karen made it impossible to believe he could be a mental health professional. The drama of it all was just too much to be realistic even for a gothic style novel. 2.5 stars.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as sole beneficiary of Vivian's estate, he travels there to settle her affairs. As Mark tours his aunt's house for the first time, the doorbell rings.

Days after graduating medical school, Dr. Emily Davis drives north, struggling with her illicit rendezvous on Mackinac Island. She never makes it--on the highway near Manistique, her car collides with a deer, shattering the car's windshield. Stranded for the night, Emily is directed to a nearby bed and breakfast.

Maybe it's a heady reaction, the revelation that his aunt, an international aid doctor, ran a bed and breakfast in retirement. Or perhaps he plainly feels pity for the young, helpless doctor. Regardless, Mark decides to play host for one night, telling Emily that he's merely stepping in temporarily while his aunt is away.

As a one-night stay turns into another and more guests arrive, the ersatz innkeeper steadily loses control of his story. And though Emily opens up to Mark, she has trouble explaining the middle-aged man who unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep looking for her.

Will these two strangers, holding on to unraveling secrets, remain in town long enough to discover the connection between them?

This was a delightful read- by turns both funny and poignant. Though the central truth of Vivian and Mark's relationship is obvious to the reader long before it is to Mark, that doesn't have any impact on the reader's enjoyment of the story. This book is just a quietly satisfying read. Mark and Emily are fantastic characters with an enjoyable rapport. The descriptions were wonderful- made me feel like I was right there on the Upper Peninsula with Mark and Emily. The cast of secondary characters are both quirky and poignant in just the right amounts to be endearing rather than aggravating. Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Closed Circles by Viveca Sten

It’s a beautiful day for a regatta—until one of Sandhamn Island’s most prestigious residents is killed aboard his sailing yacht.

Oscar Juliander was a rich lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. While at first his death seems like a tragic accident, there is evidence of foul play. Police detective Thomas Andreasson teams up with local lawyer Nora Linde to investigate. As they work to uncover clues, they face resistance from an elite world where nothing but appearance matters.

When the rich and powerful inhabitants of Sweden’s idyllic island getaway come under scrutiny, Thomas and Nora must work closely and secretively to seek justice.

This excellent mystery is the second in a series by Swedish author Viveca Sten. It works as a standalone but is better if read as part of the series. I enjoyed the story so much I have since gone out and purchased the whole series. The author (and the translator) do a wonderful job pulling the reader into the unique world of Sandhamn island just outside of Stockholm. The excellent descriptions of the scenery and lifestyle, the witty dialogue, and the deft use of language make these books a joy to read. The crimes crime are complicated but not as dark as many other Scandinavian mysteries which I appreciated. For any true mystery fan, this whole series is a must-read.

The Earl of Sunderland by Aubrey Wynne

He’s inherited the title of rake. She hides behind her independence... Fate accepts the challenge.

Grace Beaumont has seen what love can do to a woman. Her mother sacrificed her life to produce the coveted son and heir. A devastated father and newborn brother force her to take on the role of Lady Boldon at the age of fifteen. But Grace finds solace in the freedom and power of her new status.

Christopher Roker made a name for himself in the military. The rigor and pragmatism of the army suits him. When a tragic accident heaves Kit into a role he never wanted or expected, his world collides with another type of duty. Returning to England and his newfound responsibilities, the Wicked Earls’ Club becomes a refuge from the glitter and malice of London society but cannot ease his emptiness.

Needing an escape from his late brother’s memory and reputation, Kit visits the family estate for the summer. Lady Grace, a beauty visiting from a neighboring estate, becomes a welcome distraction. When the chance to return to the military becomes a valid possibility, the earl finds himself wavering between his old life and the lure of an exceptional—and unwilling—woman.

Though I liked both Grace and Kit as characters, it was hard to fully fall into their love story. The Wicked Earls club made no sense- if members are kicked out when they get married/fall in love, how was Carson able to remain a member? And Kit himself? I also had a difficult time with Grace's breakdown after her friend's birth. Though I think the book would benefit from a strong edit because the pace was uneven, the writing was good and the main characters relatable. All in all a quiet read. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

King of Hearts by Eileen Putman

Not for nothing is Gabriel Sinclair known as the King of Hearts. This rootless scoundrel won't be tamed. His wit beguiles, his charm seduces, and he's never met a woman he couldn’t captivate. As for family? He's seen enough madness in his own to last a lifetime. He shuns hopeless causes, deeper emotions, any whiff of permanence.

Widowed Louisa Peabody tolerates no man's touch. Her past has shown her men are seducers and abusers. She devotes herself to helping women in need, but her clumsy efforts often end in disaster. After she accidentally saves Gabriel’s life, she persuades him to help her stage a daring rescue from a prison hulk in the Thames.

But it’s a devil’s bargain: Can she protect herself from that wild, reckless fire in his eyes? Can he care for anyone but himself?

This well-written Regency was awash in delightful secondary characters and more than its fair share of adventure. Gabriel is a great hero- strong but vulnerable, clever but kind, and he has a wicked sense of humor. Louisa was less successful for me- though her passion for justice was appealing, her blinding naïveté about how to go about saving women in need was off-putting. She jeopardized everyone with her determination to right injustices, ignoring the responsibilities she had to the women she had already helped which I found very aggravating. I almost preferred Violet who had a much more rational view of her life and her expectations- thankfully she finds her happy ending as well. I could have done without the subplot of Louisa's brother-in-law as it didn't advance the story in any way, and I certainly find it hard to believe Maitland could have so lost control of a situation it turns out was entirely of his own making- hard to then accept him as an intelligence mastermind. Regardless, these were small quibble with an ultimately entertaining and enjoyable read. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Duke's Holiday by Maggie Fenton

The cold, precise Duke of Montford demands things his way: neatly ordered, in place, and adhering closely to the rules. So he is furious when he learns that the tenant of his ducal estate has been dead for a year, and a stranger has been running the Honeywell business—which, by contract, is now Montford’s. When he arrives in Yorkshire to investigate, he discovers that the estate is being run by an unruly, tomboyish woman—and a bluestocking at that!

Fiery redhead Astrid Honeywell is independent and educated. She’s been handling the Honeywell family business for years. And she’s not about to relinquish it to anyone—not even Montford—because of some archaic contract.

Montford and Astrid have an instant hatred for one another…and an undeniable, unspeakable attraction. They must resist this improper desire—after all, Montford has a fiancée in London. But when Astrid’s life is placed in terrible danger, Montford finds he may be willing to risk everything to save her.

This story was indeed a romp- with recalcitrant children, a wig-wearing grand-dame of an aunt, a crooked castle, and a runaway pig, not to mention a hero and heroine who have nothing at all in common except their desire to steer clear of one another. As Astrid learns her judgement isn't infallible and Montford learns his perfect life isn't a life at all, they battle well-meaning friends and an evil-minded suitor before finally finding their way together. This book introduced a colorful cast of characters and had some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. I for one enjoyed it enough to seek out others in the series.

Sweetest Regret by Meredith Duran

At a house party in the countryside, the joyful spirit of the Christmas season threatens to sweep Georgiana Trent under the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue who broke her heart two years ago. Little does she know that Lucas Godwin has no intention of leaving until he has reclaimed her as his own.

This sweet Christmas-themed novella is a quietly enjoyable read. Georgiana and Trent are both nursing a broken heart, but watching them try to work together to avert a diplomatic crisis while coping with that pain makes for a great story. As they find their way back to each other despite the chaos of a weekend holiday party, they also share some of the magic of an old-school English Christmas. My only wish is that this book had been a full length novel rather than novella- I didn't get to spend enough time with this lovely couple.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Of Risk and Redemption by K.J. Jackson

A wary widow.
No stranger to love, Lady Desmond is well-versed in the heartache that can accompany it. Burned by her traitorous heart again and again, Cass has determined her life will include only what she can control—and has made her work as the proud proprietress of the Revelry’s Tempest gaming hall her sole mission.

A reluctant viscount.
Inheriting an English title was not something American Rorrick Trowlson wanted in life, nor was the mess that came with the estate. His brother’s mess. A mess he now has to clean up. But to do so, he needs a tract of land his brother flippantly lost in a stupid bet at the Revelry’s Tempest.

A past that needs to be righted.
After he mistakes her for a madam of a brothel, Cass wants nothing to do with the brash American—until she realizes he may be just the key to righting her deepest regret. She strikes a bargain with Rorrick—take her to America and she will sign the land back to him.

As the spark between them quickly turns into a flame, Cass resists, as she had sworn long ago to never be careless with her heart again. Once, twice, she had been a fool—but three times would be the death of her. But can a brazen American with a new title batter down the stalwart defenses of a widowed countess?

This story is the third in a series, which I didn't realize until I really got into it. Regardless, it works very well as a standalone novel, though I confess after i read it, I did go back and buy books one and two because I wanted to read those stories as well. I liked both Cass and Rorrick, and found their story compelling. I enjoyed their adventure to America and the reason behind it, though it did seem that Cass was extremely naive for a person who runs a gaming hell in London. Watching Cass work through her terrible past experiences and start to trust Rorrick made for a lovely read. Highly recommended.

A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford

Brash and Handsome
Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him-no matter what her parents say.

Beautiful and Shy
Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman-timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It's not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious-intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She's the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory...

This story is very sweet, as young Margaret finds herself as a result of her interactions with Justin. I confess I found Margaret incomprehensible at the beginning of the story, but upon reflection it seems likely that sheltered girls of her time truly were that out of touch with reality. Watching her grow and develop her own ideas was lovely, though I do think that she seems to have undergone her utter transformation very quickly. That quibble aside, I very much enjoyed the story, though I do think Justin was very forgiving given the manner in which Margaret caused his injury. Still, an enjoyable sweet read.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Enchantment of Emma Fletcher by L.D. Crichton

A young woman desperate to outrun her nightmare reluctantly falls straight into the arms of the one boy who might be able to wake her up in this sweet and sexy debut about finding love while confronting your demons.

After Emma Fletcher is viciously attacked and left for dead, she flees to her old childhood hometown where she’s confronted with bitter memories of her damaged past and alcoholic mother. Emma is determined to make her stay temporary and get out with minimal emotional damage. What she doesn’t count on is Tristan Banks: auto mechanic, coffee addict, and town hottie with dark secrets of his own.

Tristan’s track record of saving girls has historically led to failure. The last thing he needs is trouble in the form of a leggy brunette with an attitude, but when he starts to fall for Emma, Tristan realizes the only way he can save her is to help her save herself.

The premise of this book is good, but sadly the execution is lacking. Emma and Tristan are ok characters but lacked the depth necessary to truly pull me into their story. I thought that the attack was dealt with very poorly as well, and was turned off by the seemingly shallow way the entire situation was handled. All in all I was disappointed with this book which held such promise but failed to live up to it.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Perfect Duchess by Erica Taylor

Andrew Macalister, oft regarded as the Stone Duke of Bradstone, hates his annual birthday ball tradition. He dislikes facing those around him who only see him for his title, and has given up on a chance to live a normal life. That is, until he spots Lady Clara Masson across the ballroom. Clara's twin sister is the woman who infamously jilted Andrew at the altar five years ago, but little does Clara know, Andrew had been smitten with her since childhood, and he finds her presence a ray of sunshine in a dreary dukedom.

When Clara's life is threatened by her evil brother, Johnathan, Andrew must do the only thing he can think of to save her: propose marriage. Between Clara's trust issues and Andrew's battle with societal norms, two find romance under dangerous circumstances.

This book had a strong premise and decent plot in the beginning, but unfortunately as the characters developed they became less appealing to the reader. Lady Clara vacillates entirely too much- one day she loves and trusts Andrew, the next she doesn't. Rinse and repeat for more than half the novel. Andrew in the meantime is entirely too caught up in the image of who he thinks he needs to be- it seems unlikely one so privileged would be so unable to express himself to get what he wants/needs. I also had a very hard time with the whole plot with Jonathan the evil brother- his actions 5 years ago make little sense given that his father was still alive, and in the present day, it seems it would be a lot easier to dispose of an unwanted sister by murdering her in the country rather than staging a loud public fight in London then planning to have her kidnapped off the street. I was also unhappy with the final motivation for his actions though I won't say more in order not to spoil that element of the story. All in all, a sadly disappointing read.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Color Me Murder by Krista Davis

By day, Florrie Fox manages Color Me Read bookstore in Georgetown, Washington D.C. By night, she creates her own intricately detailed coloring books for adults, filling the pages with objects that catch her eye. There’s plenty of inspiration in her new apartment—a beautiful carriage house belonging to Professor John Maxwell, Florrie’s boss. He offers the property to Florrie rent-free with one condition—she must move in immediately to prevent his covetous sister and nephew from trying to claim it.

When the professor’s nephew, Delbert, arrives, he proves just as sketchy as Florrie feared. But the following morning, Delbert has vanished. It’s not until she visits the third floor of the store that Florrie makes a tragic discovery—there’s a trap door in the landing, and a dead Delbert inside. The esteemed Professor Maxwell is an obvious suspect, but Florrie is certain this case isn’t so black and white. Doodling clues, she begins to consider other colorful characters on the scene, all with a motive for murder. With a killer drawing closer, Florrie will need to think outside the lines . . . before death makes his mark again.

This delightful cozy mystery features a few of my favorite things- a bookstore, adult coloring, and the lovely Georgetown neighborhood of DC. Florrie and her cast of family and coworkers are a delight (except for Norman- he's a putz) as they try to solve the murder of a man no one seems to grieve (apart of course from his mother.) There were a lot of connected subplots, and though I wish Florrie could simply tell Norman to go away, he rest of the story really works well. The various threads are all pulled together perfectly in the end without feeling contrived, and I was happy not to have guessed the murderer before the big reveal. I'll be on the lookout for more from this author.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

Fifth in the Rules for the Reckless Series
By Meredith Duran
Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
ISBN: 9781501139024
Price: $7.99

Trapped in the countryside, facing an unwanted marriage and the theft of her fortune, Jane Mason is done behaving nicely. To win her freedom, she’ll strike a deal with the most dangerous man she knows—a rising star in politics, whose dark good looks mask an even darker heart.

The bitter past has taught Crispin Burke to trust no one. He’ll gladly help a lovely young heiress, provided she pays a price. Yet when a single mistake shatters his life, it is Jane who holds the key to his salvation. And in a world that no longer makes sense, Crispin slowly realizes that she may be the only thing worth fighting for...

It has been a while since I read a new book by Meredith Duran, but this one was certainly worth the wait! Jane is a delightful heroine- strong and intelligent and committed to social justice. Although pre-accident Mr. Burke is definitely no hero, Crispin is an excellent foil and wonderful partner for Jane. Watching him rediscover himself while she takes on both their families made for an engaging and enjoyable read. Duran is always an excellent writer but this book is a stand out. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down until I finished. This book is a highly recommended read!

Check out the rest of the blog tour for other reviews and to enter a giveaway for a chance to win your own copy:

Reading Frenzy – Spotlight
Bookish - Giveaway

Tuesday, March 7th
Bookworm2bookworm – Spotlight, Excerpt, and Review
Celtic Lady’s Reviews – Spotlight

Wednesday, March 8th
Fresh Fiction - Spotlight

Thursday, March 9th

Friday, March 10th

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Ugly Teapot: Volume 1 by Fred Holmes

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world. To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp that Hannah found most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special. Then...six months later...the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do. She took out that teapot and gave it a rub...

This middle grade adventure story has great bones and moments of real excitement, but in the end I never felt a real emotional connection to Hannah. The story presented the great love Hannah had for her father, but it quickly became clear he was a neglectful parent at best. Hannah's mom and brothers were introduced but never fleshed out as characters which felt like a missed opportunity. The end, though not a surprise, was disappointing. There were other elements that didn't gel for me- the telepathic dog didn't add enough to feel like an essential plot point, and it never made sense that Hannah's dad would never have taught her anything about photography given how the relationship between them was presented. I also thought Hannah's thoughts and actions painted her as younger than 14. The writing was good and the adventure part of the story moved quickly, I just wish there had been more character development to make me more invested in the story.

3.5 stars