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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Review - Murder at Brightwell

This novel was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for best first novel in 2015 and received critical acclaim.  I found the premise fascinating and like to start with the beginning of a series.  So I bring you the first in the Amory Ames mystery series set in the 1930s with a spunky heroine.

Author: Ashley Weaver

Copyright: Oct 2014 (Minotaur) 333 pgs

Series: 1st in Amory Ames Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy/Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Amory Ames, dissatisfied society wife of a playboy

Setting: 1932, Brighton on the south coast of England

Obtained Through: Publisher/NetGalley for honest review

Book Blurb: "Amory Ames, a wealthy young woman questioning her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo, is looking for a change. She accepts a request for help from her former fiancĂ©, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will not only test her friendship with Gil, but also will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the luxurious Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe a disreputable ladies man. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and as the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim."

Amory Ames, hurting from her husband's neglect is developing a jaded view of life after a short time married.  She thinks perhaps she should start living her life apart from Milo and takes this opportunity to not sit at home wondering when Milo will spend some time with her.  She doesn't seek sympathy, rather she starts to live a little.  Milo, the lackadaisical husband who can't seem to stop being the playboy is my least favorite character but at least he gets a smidgen jealous.  Gil Trent, the former fiance has good and bad qualities and is the catalyst for Amory to re-evaluate her situation.  Gil's sister, Emelline reminds Amory of her pre-married self as she is helplessly in love with a man who won't make her happy.  Each of the characters, even Milo, are under suspicion at one point or another. 

Bright and luxurious Brightwell made the mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie's "An Affair at Styles" only more stylish.  It is an excellent setting and used to great effect.  The pace keeps up between looking for a murderer and Amory's dealing with Milo and their complicated relationship.  My interest was carried throughout to the end.  

The climax has a deliciously tense killer reveal and the wrapup ties up threads while leaving just enough about Amory and Milo's situation to be continued in the next book "Death Wears a Mask".

There is wonderful sharp witty dialog, particularly between Amory and Milo.  Amory is a well developed character that you can relate to on many levels.  The running theme that money doesn't gaurantee happiness is under the surface and simply demonstrated.  

Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway - Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

Today we are featuring a giveaway for readers. Berkley publishing has graciously offered one copy of Love and Death Among the Cheetahs (A Royal Spyness Mystery Book 13) to a lucky winner.  The Royal Spyness series is a historical cozy (1930s) with the charming and clumsy Lady Georgiana, or Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in line for the English throne.

About the book:

"I was so excited when Darcy announced out of the blue that
we were flying to Kenya for our extended honeymoon. Now that we are here, I suspect he has actually been sent to fulfill another secret mission. I am trying very hard not to pick a fight about it, because after all, we are in paradise! Darcy finally confides that there have been robberies in London and Paris. It seems the thief was a member of the aristocracy and may have fled to Kenya. Since we are staying in the Happy Valley—the center of upper-class English life—we are well positioned to hunt for clues and ferret out possible suspects.

Now that I am a sophisticated married woman, I am doing my best to sound like one. But crikey! These aristocrats are a thoroughly loathsome sort enjoying a completely decadent lifestyle filled with wild parties and rampant infidelity. And one of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, has the nerve to make a play for me. While I am on my honeymoon! Of course, I put an end to that right off. 

When he is found bloodied and lifeless along a lonely stretch of road, it appears he fell victim to a lion. But it seems that the Happy Valley community wants to close the case a bit too quickly. Darcy and I soon discover that there is much more than a simple robbery and an animal attack to contend with here in Kenya. Nearly everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead and some will go to great lengths to silence anyone who asks too many questions. The hunt is on! I just hope I can survive my honeymoon long enough to catch a killer. . . ."

Entry for giveaway lasts until September 7, 2019 6:00 p.m. (MST). U.S. entries only please.
The publisher will be shipping the book to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be an email subscriber of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on September 7, 2019. I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are an email subscriber of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME an email subscriber of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review - Murder at Morrington Hall

I'm not sure how I heard of this book, but I am so glad to have discovered it. But when I read "You will love this delightful debut novel to what promises to be a winning series... I couldn’t put it down!” from one of my favorite authors, Victoria Thompson, I had to see for myself.  Read on for my assessment of this debut novel in a new series.

Author: Clara McKenna

Copyright: Jan 2017 (Berkley) 298 pgs

Series: 1st in Stella and Lyndy Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Stella Kendrick, America Heiress, thoroughbred breeder

Setting: 1905, Hampshire England

Obtained Through: Personal find

Book Blurb:
"Spring, 1905:  Free-spirited like the Thoroughbreds she rides across the Kentucky countryside, Stella takes adventure by the reins when she’s asked to attend a mysterious wedding in rural England. But once she arrives at the lush Morrington Hall estate, her cold and ambitious father confesses that he won’t only give away his best racehorses as gifts—he has also arranged to give away his daughter as bride to the Earl of Atherly’s financially strapped son . . . 
Stella refuses to be sold off like a prized pony. Yet despite a rough start, there’s something intriguing about her groom-to-be, the roguish Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst. The unlikely pair could actually be on the right track with each other . . . until they find the vicar who was to marry them dead in the library. 
With culture clashes mounting between families, a scandalous murder case hangs over Morrington Hall. Now, Stella and Lyndy must go from future spouses to amateur sleuths as they team up to search for the truth—and prevent an unbridled criminal from destroying their new life together right out of the gate "

Stella Kendrick, free spirited, proud, stubborn, and independant with scars from her father's ill treatment of her.  Mr Elijah Kendrick, Stella's cold hearted father and self-made millionaire, is uncouth and rude.  Viscount Lord Lyndhurst, Lyndy, is the intended groom who is marrying out of duty - until he meets Stella and thinks he may enjoy her company.  The Earl and Lady Atherly, Lyndy's parents, are insufferable snobs that financially have to welcome the unladylike American heiress into the family, but they make their displeasure well known.  Lord Hugh, second son of the Duke of Tonnbridge is Lyndy's best friend, and a prime suspect.  The stiff British nobility clash with brash Americans for many tense scenes throughout.

The setting of New Forest, the former royal hunting grounds for King William the Conqueror centuries prior with its legendary ponies roaming free, is an idyllic setting.  Several scenes contain Epsom Downs Derby and it brings out the excitement of the race.  It all provides the background to spotlight the differences between the rigid social rules of British upper class and the uncultured manners of the Americans of the era.

Of course the simple question of who would kill a Vicar gets more complicated as the story unfolds.  It had to be somebody who could make their way around the mansion without really being noticed much, which narrows the field of suspects.  

The climax highlights Stella's intelligence and independence to prove a point about who the killer was, which replaces a suspenseful killer reveal.  Although I love the tense and suspenseful killer reveal, this creative unveiling was quite enjoyable and well executed.

I loved the characters of Stella Kendrick and Lyndy and how they come to accept and appreciate each other.  The writing style is engaging, drew me in immediately, and had me sympathize with Stella and Lyndy.  The aspect of an unsuspecting heiress essentially being sold off is a great setup for this series - and is based on historical realities such as Consuelo Vanderbilt being in that exact situation.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short video about the marrying off of 
Consuelo Vanderbilt

Here is a short video about The New Forest.

Thank you for joining me!

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway - Death in a Budapest Butterfly

Today we are featuring a giveaway for readers. Berkley publishing has graciously offered one copy of Death in a Budapest Butterfly to a lucky winner.

About the book:
"Hana Keller and her family run Maggie's Tea House, an establishment heavily influenced by the family's Hungarian heritage and specializing in a European-style traditional tea service. But one of the shop's largest draws is Hana's eccentric grandmother, Juliana, renowned for her ability to read the future in the leaves at the bottom of customers' cups. Lately, however, her readings have become alarmingly ominous and seemingly related to old Hungarian legends...

When a guest is poisoned at a tea event, Juliana’s dire predictions appear to have come true. Things are brought to a boil when Hana’s beloved Anna Weatherley butterfly teacup becomes the center of the murder investigation as it carried the poisoned tea. The cup is claimed as evidence by a handsome police detective, and the pretty Tea House is suddenly endangered. Hana and her family must catch the killer to save their business and bring the beautiful Budapest Butterfly back home where it belongs."

The book includes Chicken Paprikas, Dumplings, Stuffed Cabbage, and Dessert Crescents recipes.  I am looking forward to trying them!

Entry for giveaway lasts until August 31, 2019 6:00 p.m. (MST). U.S. entries only please.
The publisher will be shipping the book to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be an email subscriber of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on August 31, 2019. I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are an email subscriber of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME an email subscriber of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have written and published three cozy mysteries - ICED (Resort to Murder #1), Nailed (Resort to Murder #2), and SPIKED (Resort to Murder #3) by Avery Daniels 


"Julienne needs only three things: successfully pull of a last minute wedding relocated to her resort, work out things with her stubborn ex- boyfriend, and solve the murder of a private investigator found with her business card on his dead body. The wedding she can handle, but it comes with a flirtatious brother of the bride who manages to give Mason the idea she has moved on, and the dead PI was playing with fire before he was poisoned leaving a myriad of suspects. Two suspects are part of a scandal waiting to explode and nobody wants to be in the middle of the fallout.

Can Julienne wade through the various suspects while coordinating the wedding and dealing with a handsome amorous guest before her rival on the local paper exposes her connection and thus damages the resort’s reputation? Will she and Mason find their way to each other?"

"This was a thrilling third book from Avery Daniels with Juliette once again taking the lead on another murder investigation... Avery’s writing style is very entertaining with a first-person perspective laying out well the clever plot along with various suspects with motives and twist and turns, and sharing it all with Julienne’s inner thoughts and vivid descriptions. The mystery was delightfully involved with several lines of questioning to incorporate, an insinuation of Julie’s possible involvement, and keeping the “Wow!” ending to the…end. "  King's River Life Magazine

"Another fantastic book. Very entertaining, great characters... Great mix of mystery with a bit of romance ( or almost romance)."  BookHound

"A mixture of danger, humor, and romance set in lovely Colorado Springs, the author writes a perfect cozy mystery with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. " Cheryl Malandrinos

Purchase Links:

Follow Avery Daniels  at the following:

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review - The Jean Harlow Bombshell

I enjoy classic movies and the golden age of Hollywood, so this concept of a biographer and researcher digging up murder mysteries was catnip to me! This first book features Jean Harlow, the first blond bombshell and sex symbol.  She died at age 26.  Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of the Cora Craft's cozy mystery series as well.  Read on to see what my thoughts on this debut book were.

Author: Mollie Cox Bryan

Copyright: May 2019 (Midnight Ink) 336 pgs

Series: 1st in A Classic Star Biography Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Charlotte Donovan, research assistant to Hollywood biographer.

Setting: Modern day, New York City

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "Justine Turner is a world-famous biographer of Hollywood stars. She's also Charlotte Donovan's overbearing boss. So it comes as no surprise to Charlotte when Justine requests an emergency meeting related to her latest in-progress biography. It is a surprise, though, when Justine up and dies before their urgent discussion can begin.

In the wake of such a tragedy, all Charlotte wants to do is finish the Jean Harlow biography that Justine had started. Instead, she finds herself in grave danger—stalked both online and in person by a drop-dead Jean Harlow look-alike. Together with police sergeant Den Brophy, Charlotte uncovers shocking revelations. But will these revelations be enough to catch the killer?"

Charlotte Donovan is an excellent researcher dealing with Lyme disease and a dysfunctional family that she avoids.  She also has a habit of dating cops.  Police sergeant Den Brophy is the investigating officer and provides a challenge to Charlotte's will power because she promised to stay on a police dating diet.  He makes no secret of his growing affection for her.  There are a few other characters, but mainly these two.

Although the story takes place in modern New York, the research is brought alive with a mystery surrounding Harlow's sudden illness and death, effectively bringing Hollywood's golden age into the story as a setting too.  

The plot seemed a simple premise, but the added hint of there being foul play in Harlow's death and then perhaps playing a role in the current death of the biographer was a twist.  The pacing lagged at times, but my desire to see how it would work out kept me reading.  

The climax had some good thrills, but that was the only time I really felt some immediacy and emminent danger.  The Harlow look-alike sightings seemed more an anomaly rather than something sinister.

While I appreciated the diversity of having a sleuth who is dealing with Lyme disease, sometimes that took the focus away from the mystery and created problems for Charlotte that were outside the story.  In one chapter she is dealing with symptoms and then we see her investigating without the handicap of her illness in the next chapter.  That may work for some readers, but for me it pulled me out of the story too much.  

I really liked the details of Harlow's turbulent celebrity and pre-Hollywood life.  The killer was a surprise and made me read up on her death myself. I am looking forward to the next book which I hope to see the plot better developed because it is a great premise. 

Rating:  Good - A fun read with minor flaws, good but not stellar.

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