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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: A Toast to Murder by Michele Scott

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I have managed to read a second book this week to post...yea!  I am trying to get through that stack.  I hope you are enjoying the extra reviews.  This is a book that was released April 6th.  Enjoy.

Author: Michele Scott

Copyright: April, 2010 (Berkley); 267 pgs.

Series: #6 in A Wine Lover's Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild references 

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Nikki Sands, once starred in a short lived TV series but now manages a vineyard

Setting: Current day in Napa Valley on the Malveaux Estates/Vineyard

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review



In book one Nikki gives up the last of her dreams of being an actress in Hollywood and takes a job at the Malveaux vineyard working for Derek - the owner.  Throughout the books there has been increasing romantic tension between Nikki and Derek even though both were dating other people.  Can you tell I have read most of the series?  Most significantly Nikki was dating the manager of another vineyard, Andre and Derek briefly dated Renee Rothschild before coming together - and both Andres and Renee are back in this installment.
The property was acres and acres of rolling vineyard.  On the highest peak, with a fantastic view of the valley, sat the hotel and spa, done in an old-world Tuscan  style that was intended to make guests feel as if they'd really stepped out of the hustle of life and into luxury and relaxation.  Farther back from the hotel was the winery where wine tastings were held daily.  Connected to the winery were the offices where Nikki and Derek worked.  Back behind the offices stood the warehouse and large metal wine vats.  And about half a mile from there stood the old mansion where Derek had grown up and which now served as home to Simon, Marco, and Violet.  Derek and Nikki's home was a smaller ranch style that was located just behind the front gates and to the side of the entrance of the property, set against a lovely pond that a handful of ducks had made their home.
The story begins with introducing Violet, the newly adopted toddler of Simon (Derek's brother) and his partner Marco.  Violet falls asleep with Nikki and upon waking finds gum stuck in her hair.  Only a few days before her wedding to Derek (that's right - they are tying the knot) the gum must be cut out and Simon gets the hairdresser to turn Nikki into a platinum blond while he is at it.  That evening Nikki meets Derek's old college friends for the first time.  Derek's friends seem nothing like the Derek she knows, catty, mean and a bit scandalous.  The fact is established early that Nikki has been receiving notes, even text messages with the theme "Do you believe in fate?" and signed with the Greek words Moros Apate Thanatos (Doom, Deceit and Death) and that morning she had received a newspaper clipping of Derek's first marriage notice to Meredith (first book - she is now in jail and Nikki helped put her there).

To add to the complications to Nikki's life and approaching wedding, Patrice, Derek's step mother, comes back uninvited and moves in claiming this is her home.  Patrice was in the first book and hated Nikki then and probably still does.  The stess mounts and Nikki is trying her best not to be a Bridezilla.  The wedding day seems on track and Simon is walking Nikki down the aisle when Simon takes a bullet in the arm that was likely intended for Nikki.  Then one of Derek's college pals is found dead and the sleuthing begins.  In past books I got tired of Derek's never ending demands that Nikki stop her snooping but this time Derek joins her (partly to protect her and also to speed things up so they can get married.)
Could anyone have a stranger couple of days leading up to their wedding? Not only had all the crazy stuff happened, but now it seemed like all the ghosts of Nikki's past were coming back to haunt her. First Patrice and now Andres and Renee. The even stranger part was that two out of three of the ghosts from Nikki's past had both used the word "fate" when speaking to her.
Nikki still makes a few misteps (she always does) that as a reader you are yelling "No, take Derek with you - don't see Andres alone!"  Nikki is a likeable main character who seems to have a judgement error at least once in each book.  They aren't usually tragic but they do tend to complicate her life and throw some drama in.  As a main character Nikki is well thought out and well rounded with a flaw her or there.  I felt that Derek was portrayed more fully in this book.  In past books I would have a hard time with this character but I liked him in this one much better. 

The story kept moving and the plot was just intricate enough.  I honestly have to say that there were so many viable suspects in this story that my suspicion kept shifting.  It has been a good while since I have been fully stumped as to the killer even though the clues were there. Kudos Ms. Scott. 

The newly introduced characters are nicely brought to life and the drama they all created well done.  The supporting cast of Simon and Marco continue to develop and they definitely grow on you in the books.  The setting is lovingly cast and I have put Napa on my "must vacation there" list due in large part to these books.

I felt the climatic reveal was a bit rushed - Nikki is checking out a theory and in a paragraph or two wham, killer revealed and show down.  I felt like a few more chapters were needed to lead into the revealing of the killer.  But otherwise it was a suspenseful revealing with palpable danger.  I do have reservations for future books - I like the current arrangement and I fear that if Nikki and Derek start a family, as the book indicates they are trying to do, that much of what I like about the series will completely change and be a different dynamic - essentially a different series. I can easily see there being the "before kids" book and the "after kids" books division taking place. 

A Toast To Murder is a well plotted cozy that has reached maturity and pairs with a comfortable chair for a pleasant reading experience. 

As always in the series there are recipes with wine pairings to enjoy.  In this book the recipes include: Peach Galette with Gouda Cheese with Bonterra Rose; Grilled Pork in Sun-dried Cherry Cabernet Sauce with Bonterry Cabernet Sauvignon; Stuffed French Toast with Mimosas, Pan Seared Scallops, Champagne-Pear Cream  and Chervil with Bontera Viognier; Grilled Ahi with Poblano Cream Sauce with Bonterra Chardonnay; Baked Lemon with Mozzarella and Mushroom Crostini with Bonterra Syrah; and Asian Beef Tip Salad with Bonterra Merlot.

For your convenience, you may purchase your copy here.






 
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1 comments:

Kay said...

This is a good series. I think I've only read 1-4 and have 5 around here somewhere. Nice to know the upcoming and I'm looking forward to catching up with Nikki!

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