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Monday, July 21, 2014

Guest Author - Anna Lee Huber and Giveaway

This week we have a wonderful guest post from the author of the Lady Darby historical mystery series.  Ms. Anna Lee Huber graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Psychology, but she had been interested in writing since she wrote her first story at ten years old.  She shares an interesting post with us today.

Plus, we have two books for a giveaway. 

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An Interview with Lady Darby

For this post, I turned to my readers, asking them what questions they would pose to my heroine—Kiera, Lady Darby—if they had the opportunity to interview her. So without further ado, let’s settle down for a cozy chat.

Anna Lee Huber: Thank you for joining us today, Lady Darby. I know you were hesitant to speak with us.

Lady Darby: Yes. I’m not really accustomed to such things. (She fidgets in her chair.) Perhaps it would be best if you spoke with Mr. Gage instead.

ALH: Maybe later. But we really want to hear from you.

LD: I see.

ALH: The last time we heard from you (in Mortal Arts), you were leaving Edinburgh to stay with your brother at your childhood home in the Borders region of Scotland. You were quite distressed. Did you find what you were looking for?

LD: (She hesitates.) Yes and no. I was glad to escape the bustle of the city and the meddling of certain loved ones. (Her eyebrows lift significantly and I nod, understanding she refers to her sister.) But I’m afraid the peace I sought has eluded me.

ALH: You’ve dealt with and survived a significant amount of turmoil in the recent past, which has somewhat freed you from the traditional path and expectations of an aristocratic lady. Where do you hope to find yourself a year from now? Five years from now?

LD: (She glances down at her lap.) I’m not sure. I suppose comfortably situated, painting portraits. Maybe sharing my life with someone. (She blushes.) Really I just hope to be content, happy.

ALH: Considering the harsh judgments and gossip that have surrounded you since your husband’s death, I must say you’re admirably optimistic. What advice do you have for women who fall from society’s good graces? How does a lady rise above it?

LD: I’m not certain you truly can. I think perhaps the key is to accept responsibility for your actions, but not those of other people (she stresses), and then forgive yourself and try to build a life that makes you happy and fulfilled. Perhaps you will never have society’s approval—they can be appallingly hypocritical—but the people who really matter will never abandon you.

ALH: If you had to do your life over again, where would you start? What is the pivotal moment or choice?

LD: (She considers the question carefully.) I would like to say that I wouldn’t marry Sir Anthony (her deceased husband). But had I not, then certain people might never have entered my life. (She contemplates the question further.) I do wish I had stood up for myself sooner instead of cowering in fear and hiding away at my brother-in-law’s castle.

ALH: Do you regret asking your father to find a husband for you? Do you feel that he failed you?

LD: (Her face closes off.) It’s complicated.

I realize I’ve miss-stepped, so I end with a lighter question.

ALH: You are a gifted portrait painter. Why do you choose to paint portraits instead of, say landscapes, especially when so many in society still treat you with disdain?

LD: It’s what I’m drawn to. Capturing that essence of what makes a person unique, be it in the twinkle in their eye or the quirk of their lip. I can’t help it really. I just seem to see more than others do. Landscapes and still lifes simply don’t hold the same

THANK You Ms. Huber for this delightful visit with the heroine of your series!

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Entry for giveaway lasts until Sunday July 27th, 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.  The publisher will ship one copy of A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber and one copy of From Fear to Eternity by Michelle Rowen to a second winner.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower or email subscriber) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.  Please leave your contact email address.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until Sunday July 27th, 2014.  I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your physical mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.  BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

If you mention this and provide a link on your Facebook or Twitter to share with friends, please note that in the comments and you will get an addition entry for the giveaway!


 Thank you for following and enjoy your reading adventures!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review - A Grave Matter

I have been a fan of this series since I reviewed the first book, The Anatomist's Wife (click here).  I have also reviewed #2 Mortal Arts (click here) and was honored to interview the author (click here.)  Now for the next book in this fascinating historical mystery.

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: July 2014 (Berkley) 432 pgs

Series: 3rd in Lady Darby Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Lady Kiera Darby, an accomplished artist,widow, and social outcast

Setting: 1830, Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

After the events in the previous book (Mortal Arts), Kiera returns to her childhood home to grieve the loss of her friend.  Her brother Trevor is the master of the home now and she enjoys her time with him.  But while most of Scotland is celebrating Hogmanay Ball (New Years) with lavish parties, a cemetery caretaker is murdered as theives rob a grave of a nobleman's bones for ransom.  Inquiry agent Sebastian Gage is called in and Kiery must face the complicated relationship between them while enraveling who has been ransoming nobleman's skeleton's around England.  But, then it becomes clear there may be an underlying reason why those particular noblemen's graves are targeted. Bonnie Brook, the leader of the largest Resurrectionists gang, demands that Kiera find his sister who was lured away by one of the men involved in the ransoming scheme...or else.

Lady Kiera Darby faces much of her inner demons in this addition to the series as her relationship with Gage becomes more emotionally vested.  The damage emotionally and psychologically from her deceased husband plagues her with certainty, fear, and doubt about Gage while they investigate.  Sebastian Gage, the son of a London investigator, is fighting his own battles, with his father arranging a marriage for him and his own self doubts while trying to catch the thieves who have bested him before.  Trevor, Kiera's brother, is a welcome new character who expresses the mental anguish her family experienced when they realized something was wrong with her marriage to Sir Anthony Darby.  Trevor is a devoted brother and struggles to help her find her way.  Mr. Stuart, the Frenchman in demand at parties around England had far more to him than you initially think.  Even Bonnie Brook has a few surprises.

Dryburgh Abbey ruins are a great and eerie setting for the New Year's grave robbing and murder.  The book continues from there with a trip to Edinburgh and then back to the English/Scottish border.  The basic plot idea is pretty simple in that there is somebody robbing nobleman's graves of their bones, which the prevalent thinking was the person's soul was then put in jeopardy.    The pacing moved along steadily between the murder case and the tensions between Kiera and Gage, although their relationship comprises more of the story than in the prior two novels.

The climax was built up to and delivers good tension that is logical when chasing a paid ransom, what happens at the end of the line!  The wrap-up left me wanting more.

This novel provides a bridge from Kiera helping with investigations because it directly impacts her, to her wanting to sleuth.  I like how she is included in the investigation without constant censuring or pestering about the danger.  I enjoy historical mysteries and this is one of my favorite series. 

Ratings: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Author Interview Highlights- Michelle Rowen

I reviewed the first book in this series, Blood, Bath and Beyond (click here) and the second book: Bled and Breakfast (click here), and the newest release From Fear to Eternity (click here).  The backstory to the mystery series began in a paranormal romance that I felt compelled to read after this latest book.  

So I read the 2008 book Bitten and Smitten, which takes us to Sarah Dearly and Thierry de Bennicoeur's meeting.  It was called Immortality Bites series as a romance and has kept that series name so fans can follow their favorite vampires from their early romance to their mystery solving adventures.  I am really not into romance novels at all, but I have to say I really enjoyed it and particularly loved understanding how a 600 year old master vampire came to be with a newbie vamp. 

Ms Rowen writes paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and young adult fantasy. She was the winner of the 2007 Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the 2009 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award for Vampire Romance. Michelle also writes YA high fantasy as Morgan Rhodes.  Michelle lives in Southern Ontario.  Besides the Immortality Bites series, she writes the Falling Kingdom series, Nightwatcher series, Demon Princess series, Nightshade series, and Living in Eden series.  She is a busy, busy writer.

This interview is provided by the publisher and is an abbreviated version of my full interview with Michelle (click here).  Ms. Rowen gives us a little insight into her writing process, so please enjoy.

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim, or the plot? 
The heart of my mystery series is my main character, Sarah Dearly, fledgling vampire. Everything that happens plot-wise in the books stems from her, so she’s where I start. What hasn’t she experienced? What does she need to learn? What “creature” do I want to focus on? In BLOOD BATH & BEYOND I stuck with vampires to establish the series. In book 2, BLED & BREAKFAST, I shifted over to ghosts and witches. In book 3, FROM FEAR TO ETERNITY, there’s a djinn on the loose, and enchanted objects up for sale at an exclusive auction. The mystery and the plot seem to evolve organically from there.

Do you outline a book before sitting down and writing?
I do outline before I write, and I usually gravitate to the three act structure. I like to know generally what’s going to happen and especially how everything is going to end (key in writing a mystery), so I spend a lot of time brainstorming and working on essential plot points before I even think about starting to write.

What is your process for developing a character like Sarah Dearly? I’ve been working with Sarah for ten years now and she was the star of my original non-mystery paranormal romance series Immortality Bites, so I know her pretty well by now. She is unique to any character I’ve ever written since she developed herself without much input from me. My original notes on her wanted her to be a bookworm who hadn’t experienced much from life until her transition to vampire. As soon as I started writing her, however, she turned into a sarcastic trouble-magnet who’s led by her heart and gut (sometimes, unfortunately for her, more so than her brain). This is a bit more Urban Fantasy than a typical paranormal cozy. What attracted you to this middle ground for a mystery series? I like to think that the Immortality Bites Mysteries defy categorization. It’s a bit mystery, a bit paranormal romance, a bit chick lit, a smidge of horror, and a whole lot of urban fantasy. “Cozy Mystery,” to me, means that it’s an amateur sleuth who’s doing the mystery-solving. Sarah definitely fits that bill. A cozy will also have a dead body early in the story. Everything else is up to my imagination and I sometimes do like to paint outside the lines and let my characters do whatever they like without being overly defined by genre.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book? 

When I’m writing first drafts, I like to immerse myself in the book and characters. They are constantly in my thoughts as I work out scenes and pesky plot points. I would describe myself as a binge writer, since when I write first drafts I like to do between 10-20 pages a day consistently until I’m done. If I have time, I let the first draft sit for a few days, then I’ll read it over and start my second draft, which usually takes me longer to write than the first one since I’m going slower and looking closely at the details. On my current schedule, I can finish a book (not including the initial brainstorming or the copy edits, etc.) in 3-4 months.

In literature, who is your favorite mystery/suspense character and who is your favorite paranormal character? Tough question… so many I love – Victoria Laurie’s Abby and M.J. J.D. Robb’s Eve. Evanovich’s Stephanie, Jim Butcher’s Harry, Karen Marie Moning’s Mac and Barrons. They’re all so much fun to read… I can’t pick a favorite!

Are paranormal mysteries here to stay or are they a current fad in publishing?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of being a published author, it’s that I have absolutely no idea what’s the future of publishing. For me, I absolutely LOVE paranormal mystery and the freedom it gives authors to write whatever their imaginations offer up. I love the fun, the romance, and the whimsy that’s accepted in this sub-genre. And I hope very much that it’s something that’s here to stay! 

For more info about Michelle and her books, follow her on:

Twitter: @michellerowen

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review - From Fear to Eternity

I reviewed the first book in this series, Blood, Bath and Beyond (click here) and the second book: Bled and Breakfast (click here), plus we were fortunate that author Michelle Rowan gave us an interview (click here).  Today I review the newest release in this unique series. 

Author: Michelle Rowen

Copyright: July 2014 (Penguin Group) 334 pgs

Series: 3rd in Immortality Bites Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Sarah Dearly, newbie vampire and recently married to a master vampire 

Setting: Modern day, Beverly Hills Mansion

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Sarah and her husband Thierry attend an auction run by an unidentified vampire, with the hint that the Jacquerra Amulet containing a genie is up for bid.  There have been murders of key leaders of the Ring, a powerful and shadowy Vampire council, and suspicion is running high.  Thierry is asked by some Ring leadership members to secure the Amulet and keep even the head of Ring from getting hold of it for possible murderous intents. What should have been a few hours of work turns into a long night full of vengeance, evil magic, and several dead bodies.  In the midst of this, Sarah and Thierry's trust is tested more than ever before.  Can they survive the night alive...and still together? 

Sarah Dearly is still a bit impulsive and tenacious, but her loyalty to Thierry will be tested in this adventure with political landmines and a dangerous spell.  Thierry de Bennicoeur, the 600 year old master vampire has to face his past come back to hunt him and Sarah seeing a less pleasant side to him.  Veronique, Thierry's ex-wife, is bold, condescending, and a thorn in Sarah's life.  Sebastian, the long missing vampire Thierry sired, shows up to complicate everything.  The troublesome genie of the coveted amulet is a surprise character...that is all I can say without any spoilers.

The Beverly Hills mansion is vast and has great gothic suspense touches, making it feel like a medieval castle.  It was not only a creepy setting, but added to the sense of being trapped.  The mansion was utilized so well that the pacing kept going in-spite of the entire book occurring in one location.  The plot was deftly handled with some good twists and plenty of shadowy motives.  The climax was icing, delivering some good suspense.  The wrap-up left me wanting more. 

This series doesn't disappoint, with another exciting addition and it keeps getting better.  The characters are developing, the plots are meaty, and the action is hair-raising. I love this light urban fantasy that supplies just enough "grit" while keeping upbeat touches.

Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Review - Muffin But Murder

The first book in the series, Bran New Death (click here) and we were fortunate to have interviewed the author, Victoria Hamilton (click here).  The second book in the series is out and I looked forward to reading it since I enjoyed the debut book.  Be warned, I got into a muffin making craze after reading the first Muffin mystery!

Author: Victoria Hamilton

Copyright: July 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in in Merry Muffin Mystery

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Merry Wynter, former Plus size model and stylist, recently inherited a castle

Setting: Modern day, Upstate rural NY (Autumn Vale)

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Merry Wynter can't afford to keep the castle she inherited, so she is giving a Halloween party and inviting friends from the NY modeling world to get input on the place and get the word out it is for sale.  Mr. Cranston claims to be another heir to the castle and property who is at the party and a pain in Merry's life.  Before the party is over, somebody is found dead. It is hard to track who was there, since several people slipped in. 

Merry Wynter is finding she would like to put down roots in Autumn Vale, but can't find a way to pay for the castle. She is surprisingly finding healing after eight years of mourning for her deceased husband.  Shilo, Merry's dear friend is getting a second lease on life in this book.  Pish Lincoln, a financier is another good friend and gets the finger of suspicion leveled at him.  Sheriff Virgil Grace is the potential love interest that seems distant but interested in Merry.  Jack McGill is the easy going realtor who has fallen hard for Shilo.  Zeke and Gordy and the local lads who bungle most things they touch while helping around the castle.  Cranston, a man who claims to be Uncle Melvyn's long lost grandson and heir to the castle and property is revealed for who he really is.

The castle interior is used to great effect for the party and renovation efforts.  The neighboring Ridley Ridge is more economically depressed than Autumn Vale and makes a dreary setting for a few scenes.  The plot was involved enough to keep my interest with a few twists.  The climax had some good tension and action.  The wrap-up dangled a carrot to keep the reader wanting the next installment.

This second book in this new series is a great cozy with varied and interesting characters, nice plot with a few twists, and a good main character who has some bagagge to work through. 

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

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