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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review - The Counterfeit Lady

I reviewed the debut novel in this new series, The Vanishing Thief (click here), and was so fortunate to get an author interview (click here) as well.   But, in this book Georgia must break out of her comfort zone for an undercover assignment with the Duke of Blackford.  

Author: Kate Parker

Copyright: August 2014 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Victorian Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Georgia Fenchurch, antiquarian bookseller and member of the Archivist Society

Setting: Victorian era - after 1851, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Georgia has a good friend, Lady Phyllida Monthalf, whose cousin

A cousin of Georgia’s dear friend, Lady Phyllida Monthalf, is murdered in her home.  It is suspected the murder occured during the theft of blueprints of a new battleship designed by her husband.  Kenneth Gattenger, the husband is now accused of her murder…and treason. The Duke of Blackford helps the government in this situation and he in turn enlists Georgia and the Archivist Society to assist in the investigation. But the twist, Georgia gets to go under-cover as the Duke's new Society lady conquest.  


Georgia moves among the upper echelons of London’s elite to uncover a master spy and recover the stolen ship plans.  The other society ladies make sure that Georgia knows she isn't titled and thus the Duke could never actually marry her.  Sadly, in the course of the clandestine investigation, the Duke and Georgia grow closer, but Georgia always has the cloud of the difference in their societal positions hanging over her.  Besides Lady Phyllida's cousin being killed, there is another murder as well.  Additionally, at one point in the investigation, Georgia spots the man who murder her parents over a decade ago and she is torn between staying the course with the undercover investigation or following the man.  She also frets over leaving her bookstore without her guidance, afraid that her business is in jeopardy.

Georgia, a middle-class trades-person who is bright, brave, determined, loves her mundane bookstore is endowed with a methodical mind.  Emma, her best friend, whose former life made her very street-wise and good with a knife, plays her lady's maid in the investigation.  Lady Phyllida Monthalf must leave the bookstore and face her troubled past to provide Georgia her society cover story.  The Duke of Blackford is dangerous and perhaps a touch conniving.  Naturally, there is a cast of suspects and a few twists to keep things interesting.

I love Victorian England in this series, not too grimy nor romanticized. The sense of propriety in public is shown as a thin veneer over affairs and indiscretions.  I feel this plot was even better than the first book, and pacing that kept me turning the pages.  The climax was well concieved and executed.  The wrap-up was heart wrenching and definitely left me wanting the next book immediately. 

This second novel in the series is gripping and sweeps the reader into a heady mix of intrigue, murder, high society manipulation and game playing, with just enough romance to tantalize.  Well played Ms. Parker.

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



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Monday, August 18, 2014

Guest Author Post - Eileen Goudge

Eileen Goudge is a New York Times best selling author, traditionally published and even making money.  She, and increasing more traditionally published authors, are going the Indie publishing route and leaving the "Big 5" publishing houses behind.  Along with her decision to take the Indie jump, she has written her first mystery, which I shall review next week, titled "Bones and Roses".  She graciously wrote a guest post for us today.  Please welcome Eileen!


GONE FISHIN’
By Eileen Goudge

I’m a type-A person. No getting around it. I’ve learned to accept, and even embrace, my borderline OCD you-ness. As I tell my husband, whenever he urges me to put my feet up, “Sorry. My model didn’t come with an ‘off’ button.” When I do put my feet up, it’s usually when I feel I’ve earned it after a long, hard day of writing that may or may not include a workout at the gym. My ‘off’ button only works for the hours when I’m asleep. Do I wish I had more than one speed? You bet. I’d probably live longer and certainly I’d have more time to play.

I suspect I’d also get more done. Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but in my experience creative bursts are more likely to occur during your downtime than at your desk.

Some of my best ideas come when I’ve allowed my mind to drift. Like with clouds scudding across the sky, random thoughts become formations. I’ll be in the shower or washing dishes and an idea for a novel will pop into my head, or I’ll see a way out of a plot snag. This is why I bake as a hobby. Kneading bread dough or making a cake doesn’t require much brain power, leaving my imagination free to roam. Too much dreaming and not enough doing isn’t good—you risk becoming one of those people I dread meeting at cocktail parties who, upon learning what I do for a living, proceed to bore me to tears with a lengthy description of the book they plan to write someday (and almost certainly never will)—it’s all about striking a balance.

I’m working on it.

The other day my friend Phil, who lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a fly-fishing enthusiast, sent me a set of homemade fishing flies. He’s hoping it’ll improve my luck when I go to the lake in Wisconsin where I vacation every summer. I’ve never caught a fish bigger than my thumb, but this year I’m determined to catch something sizeable enough to eat. I’m a drop-a-line-in-and-hope-for-the-best kind of fisherman, but I realized I needed to be not quite so lackadaisical if I wanted a decent catch. Or one decent-sized fish.

There’s a greater likelihood I won’t haul in a damn thing. But I’m pretty sure I won’t walk away with nothing. Because what better activity is there for letting one’s mind drift than sitting on a dock or in a boat, pole in hand, for hours on end waiting for a nibble? I suspect that’s the real purpose of fishing. My friend is mainly a catch-and-release fisherman, so he’s not fishing for supper. Maybe he’s fishing for quiet time and peace of mind. Me? I’m fishing for what lurks in the cloudy depths of my subconscious. Book titles. Plot twists. Characters. So what if the fish fry supper I’d envisioned turns out to be hot dogs and baked beans? I’ll have landed something bigger and better than the 5-lb. striped bass I’d hoped to catch: inspiration. My new novel, Bones and Roses, came out August 5th and is the first book in my Cypress Bay mystery series. Here’s what it’s about. I hope you like it. Much of it derived from the cakes I baked and the fish I didn’t catch.

From home invasions to cheating spouses, Rest Easy
Property Management owner Leticia “Tish” Ballard thought she’d seen it all. Almost four years sober after flambĂ©ing her real estate career in an alcohol-fueled blowout, she’s finally in a good place in her life when the discovery of skeletal human remains rocks her world and plunges her headlong into solving a decades-old crime. Now she must delve into the darkness of her own past, including the one-night stand gone horribly wrong with Spence Breedlove, who happens to be the lead detective on the case. When the truth comes out at long last, Tish finds herself pitted against an enemy who will stop at nothing in a fight for her own life.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Eileen for sharing how you let your creative side bubble to the surface through the quiet contemplation accomplished during fishing.  I will never look at fishing the same way!



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Review - Fleur De Lies

This is my first book in the Passport to Peril series.  Here is a list of the prior books in order: 1-Alpine for You, 2-Top O'the Mournin' 3-Pasta Imperfect, 4-Hula Done It? 5-G'Day to Die 6-Norway to Hide 7-Dutch Me Deadly 8-Bonnie of Evidence and this newest set in France.  I liked the idea of different vacation spots for the story setting. 

Author: Maddy Hunter

Copyright: May 2014 (Midnight Ink) 312 pgs

Series: 9th in Passport to Peril Mystery series

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Emily Andrew-Miceli, Travel Agency Owner and Seniors Tour Escort 

Setting: Modern Day, Normandy to Paris France

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

When Emily Andrew-Miceli escorts her band of smart-phone addicted offbeat seniors on a cruise down the Seine River in France, she hoped for a murder-free vacation.  Also on the cruise are the owner of a cosmetics company (Mary Kay-like) with his wife and competitive blond sales ladies and a group of morticians embroiled in casket vs. cremation rivalry.  During their visit to Normandy, one tourist will find an old flame while another will be murdered.  Additionally, the story of a World War II traitor against the French resistance reaches out to be solved. There are plenty of suspects, but motive seems to be elusive, then the murderer strikes again. 

Emily is a nice woman who enjoys caring for the seniors she escorts on foreign travel.  She doesn't set out to sleuth, but is observant and curious.  The blond sales reps are Bobbi, Dawna, and Krystal who are very blond and very Texan. These three characters are snotty, ignorant, and brash.  The owner of the cosmetics company is Victor and his wife Virginia who snipes at the blonds relentlessly.  It is a miracle that Victor and Virginia are still married with his indulging his girls while his wife despises them.  Then there is the mortician Woody who is always harsh on his son, Cal, who will take over the business yet prefers cremation.  I could have used a listing of the recurring characters to keep them all clear. Here is the regular cast of Iowa seniors that Emily is escorting: Emily's Grandmother Marion known as Nana, Alice, Osmond, Helen, Margi, Dick Stolee, Dick Tieg, Bernice, Lucille, Grace, George, and Tilly.  They are a quarrelsome and cantankerous group which offers some chuckles...or irritation, depending upon your sense of humor.  I wonder about having the exact same group in each story though. Emily's ex-husband Jack...now Jackie is working for the cosmetics company and is on the cruise.  FYI for fans, Emily's husband Etienne isn't in this book.  Characters were a bit exaggerated for the most part, which is acceptable in a cozy.

This book takes you from the Normandy beach, through medieval alleyways of Vernon, to Monet’s famous water-lily garden at Giverny, and finally to Paris.  The descriptions were fascinating, incorporating tidbits of history that added to the experience without overwhelming the mystery.

The plot is nicely conceived and carried out, on par for a cozy mystery.  The pacing stays easy and breezy, perfect for a light read when you don't want a heavy or gritty book.  This series is known for its puns and quips, While I found parts funny, others might not. It is tough to tell until you try it. There is a killer reveal and confrontation that worked well.  The wrap-up was smile-worthy.  This is a fun, breezy mystery with plenty of quirky characters in exciting settings, feeding the armchair sleuth and traveler in one book.

Rating: Good - A fun read with plenty of humor, but check to see if it coincides with your humor. 

Have you read any of this series?  If so, what did you think of the changing setting?  Of the gang of senior recurring characters?

Here is a short video with highlights of a river cruise that stops at the same places as the book to set the mood of the book.

 
 


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Giveaway

You can read the reviews I have done of the previous books:  #8 Queen of Hearts (click here,)  #7 Heirs and Graces (click here), #6 The Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here,) #5 Naughty in Nice (click here,) #4 Royal Blood (click here,) and I was tickled to get an author interview with Ms. Bowen (click here.)  Today we have a giveaway for the most recent hardcover book, Queen of Hearts.


Entry for giveaway lasts until Sunday August 17th, 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.  The publisher will ship one copy of A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell and one copy of Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen 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 August 17th, 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!









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Friday, August 8, 2014

Review - Queen of Hearts


This week is the newest of the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen.  You can read the reviews I have done of the previous books:  #7 Heirs and Graces (click here), #6 The Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here,) #5 Naughty in Nice (click here,) #4 Royal Blood (click here,) and I was tickled to get an author interview with Ms. Bowen (click here.)




Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright: August 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 8th in Royal Spyness Mystery series

Sensuality:  kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Character: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line for the throne

Setting: 1933, Ocean Liner and Hollywood CA

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Georgie's mother Claire makes a surprise appearance at Kingsdowne Place where Georgie has been staying (following the events in Heirs and Graces).  Her mother wants company in going to Reno for a quickie divorce from a long-ago hitching in which the other party doesn't believe in divorce.  Claire is approaching marrying her rich paramor Max and wants nothing to stand in the way.  Georgie jumps at the opportunity.

While aboard the five day ocean cruise, movie studio head Cy Goldman insists on casting Claire in his next picture and Claire decides to stop in Reno for the divorce on the way to Hollywood.  While on board the ship, there is a  robbery of an expensive ruby and Georgie runs into her kinda-sorta fiance Darcy trying to capture the "gentleman thief."

Hollywood sees Georgie getting attention from famous movie actors like sexy Craig Hart and scoundrel Charlie Chaplin.  When everybody is invited to Cy's lavish castle in the hills for the weekend, nobody expects murder among the antiques and wild exotic animals roaming the grounds.

Georgie is slowly becoming more worldly, and even speaking her mind occasionally.  Darcy O'Mara isn't developed much further, and seems a bit flat and just a usual fixture filling his duty of dangling the carrot of something more for Georgie.  Claire Daniels is completely self-centered and mostly ignores Georgie, until Georgie gets male attention...then she is caty to her own daughter. Stella Brightwell, old show business acquaintance of Claire's and former silent film star is Cy's mistress.  Stella had more to her than first assumed.  Cy Goldman, head of Golden Studios is rendered as nearly larger than life and with cash to burn.

The change of venue from England or Europe to the cruise and then Hollywood had mixed results.  It lost some of its charm, but picked up some old Hollywood nostalgia...so fans may have a hard time with the change.  Apparently Cy's large monstrosity of a castle is based on the Hearst castle, and Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Productions inspired Cy Goldman and his movie studio for the second half of this novel.    

I hate to admit this since I really enjoy this series, but it is getting formulaic.  Each story has: Georgie given an opportunity that will provide food and a place to live so she doesn't starve; Darcy somehow shows up on assignment but never has much quality time for Georgie and thinks he must wait to give her a proper life...no matter if she is going without food in the meantime;  Belinda, her friend will somehow miralously wrangle an invitation to the gravy train; and Georgie's mother is always so self absorbed that Georgie scrounging for money or lodging doesn't even register.  I do have to admit that Georgie is finally standing up to the impossible maid, Queenie - at least a little.

The killer confrontation had dire consequences that produced some nail-biting excitement, nice job with that.  The wrap-up leaves us with some faint hope for Georgie, again, and with a vague notion that Darcy will show up eventually. 

For the ardent fan, this is a good addition to the series.   The American lifestyle produces some humor for the rigidly raised royal girl.  Georgie gets to flex her sleuthing muscles since she is the only one rising to the challenge.

Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. If you are a fan then you don't want to miss ongoing developments.  If you are new to the series, this isn't the best book to start with.  Best to begin with earlier books, or at the beginning.







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