Copyright: August 2011 (JSignet) 320 pgs
Series: 1st in Magical Dressmaking Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy paranormal mystery
Main Character: Harlow Jane Cassidy, Manhattan fashion design
Setting: modern day, Bliss Texas
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
Harlow is a descendent from Butch Cassidy and all the Cassidy women have possessed a special gift of some sort. Harlow is returning to her hometown because her great grandmother passed and left Harlow her farmhouse. Harlow quickly turns into her own custom dressmaking boutique on the main floor. Her first customer is her childhood friend Josie who needs bridal and bridesmaids dresses all completed lickety-split. Josie is marrying into the wealthy family Harlow almost did, until the groom dumped her just before the wedding. Returning home drags up some old hurts such as that back which Harlow never wanted to face again. One of the bridesmaids is found murdered in Harlow's front yard. The murder is committed too close for comfor which makes Harlow motivated to figure who did it.
It becomes clear that Harlow has a genius for dress designing - and that Harlow's great-grandmother haunts the house. The pipes will groan or other noises will happen to make gran's opinions clear. Harlow's mother and grandmother are just eccentric enough to make the story a delight to read. Harlow's character just flows from the pages. She is an easy character to warm up to. The teen girl that Harlow gets roped into apprenticing as a seamstress and designer was a great touch.
The plot has enough suspects and the investigation takes place naturally as Harlow questions the bridesmaids during fittings. The killer is not obvious and the revealing of the killer was handled in a seemingly natural way. This book seemed so natural - that seems silly to say but the book never seemed contrived or forced and that made the book a pleasure to read. All the elements meshed. The characters, dialog, plot, pacing, suspects, climax, and wrap-up all came together for a balanced blending that had humor, a touch of romance, danger lurking, and even some old wounds to heal. Miss Bourbon makes this cozy mystery look so effortless. But we know it took skill and finesse to make it look so easy.
I am looking forward to the next book in this series. I have been burned out on books set in small southern towns lately but this one is my exception. If you don't care for paranormal books, this book is primarily a cozy with only slight paranormal touches applied carefully.