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Monday, January 25, 2021

Review - City of Schemes

Elizabeth Miles is preparing for her wedding to Gideon Bates, when a menacing shadow from her past threatens to destroy the life she has built for herself.

Today I review the newest in the Counterfeit Lady historical mysteries.  Previously I reviewed the: 

1st in the series "City of Lies" (click here

2nd book "City of Secrets" (click here

3rd book "City of Scoundrels" (click here

Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: Jan 2021 (Berkley) 316 pgs

Series: 4th in Counterfeit Lady Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery, Cozy Con Artist

Main Character: Elizabeth Miles, smart and cunning con-artist using her skills to help people.

Setting: 1918, New York City

Obtained Through: Publisher (NetGalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "The Great War is over, and Elizabeth and Gideon are busily planning their wedding and welcoming home old friends now discharged from the army. One of them, Captain Logan Carstens, the son and heir of a wealthy family, seems less than happy to be home and with good reason.  While Logan was in France, he fell in love with a beautiful French woman named Noelle. He desperately wanted to propose, but he was already engaged and felt bound to honor his commitment.

When Logan receives a letter supposedly from Noelle begging for money to help her flee the terrible conditions in France and come to America, Elizabeth is suspicious. There is no way to verify the letter is actually from Noelle, and she fears that a con man or woman might be trying to take advantage of Logan in his vulnerable state. 

But that is not all Elizabeth has to worry about. Vicious thug Oscar Thornton has gotten wind of her wedding announcement and realizes the woman who conned him is still alive and well. Gideon and Elizabeth have to figure out a way to help their friend while making sure their worst enemy does not destroy their future. . . ."

Elizabeth Miles can't help but revert to a good con to fight injustice.  She is whip smart and resourceful and sees through subterfuge.  Mrs. Bates is an older lady who took Elizabeth under her wing and knows she isn't a legitimate society lady.  Gideon Bates, Mrs. Bates son and a lawyer, is Elizabeth's fiancĂ© and is learning to accept the law can't touch some people, but a con can.  Anna Vanderslice is a kind society girl who has become Elizabeth's best friend and is coming into her own. Mr. Miles, Elizabeth's con man father, is central to helping get Elizabeth safe from Thornton.  

Plot is three fold.  Elizabeth can see that Logan's fiancĂ©, Rosemary Westerly, is an opportunist who is the person who alerted the papers of Elizabeth's engagement - in the gossip column now less. Logan receives a letter from Noelle and he wants to bring her to America, even if he is duty bound to marry Rosemary as he promised.  He asks Gideon for help to bring her and Gideon suspects Logan is being conned.  

Elizabeth and her father end up running three cons 1) turn the tables on who is conning Logan for money, 2) con Rosemary (using her opportunistic scheming) into willingly breaking her engagement with Logan so he can marry the woman he loves, 3) con Oscar Thornton to stop him from ever coming after her again.  With so much going on, the pacing is steady and kept me turning the pages.   

The climax is primarily the Oscar Thornton's con conclusion, since it is the most serious for consequences.  This came together in a most dramatic scene that was pleasing.  The others conclude in gratifying ways as well.  

This has humor and high stakes.  If you like the idea of a 1918 version of Ocean's Eleven, then this is the book for you.

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

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Review - Murder on Cold Street

 I have been a fan of this new series that re-imagines the Sherlock mythos since the debut, A Study in Scarlet Women (click here),  the second book, A Conspiracy in Belgravia (click here),  the third, The Hollow of Fear (click here), and the fourth, The Art of Theft (click here) .  

This is the fifth outing in the series and a high bar has been set with the previous.  Let's see how this one holds up.

Author: Sherry Thomas

Copyright: October 2020 (Berkley) 352 pgs

Series: 5th in Lady Sherlock Mysteries

Sensuality: period refers to affairs

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical mystery

Main Characters: Charlotte Holmes, Charlotte Holmes, disgraced upper class woman who creates the Sherlock Holmes identity

Setting: 1886, London, England

Obtained Through: Publisher (NetGalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "Inspector Treadles, Charlotte Holmes’s friend and collaborator, has been found locked in a room with two dead men, both of whom worked with his wife at the great manufacturing enterprise she has recently inherited. 

 Rumors fly. Had Inspector Treadles killed the men because they had opposed his wife’s initiatives at every turn? Had he killed in a fit of jealous rage, because he suspected Mrs. Treadles of harboring deeper feelings for one of the men? To make matters worse, he refuses to speak on his own behalf, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.

Charlotte finds herself in a case strewn with lies and secrets. But which lies are to cover up small sins, and which secrets would flay open a past better left forgotten? Not to mention, how can she concentrate on these murders, when Lord Ingram, her oldest friend and sometime lover, at last dangles before her the one thing she has always wanted?"

Charlotte Holmes is blond, pretty, very feminine and frilly, too fond of sweets, and far too intelligent for the time period. Essentially the opposite of what the traditional image is of Sherlock.  Lord Ingram Ashburton is a long time friend with an estranged wife and a complicated relationship with Charlotte.  Mrs. John Watson, is a retired stage actress who has become Charlotte's unique and talented sidekick.  Charlotte's adult younger sister, Olivia featured a little but not as much as in prior books.  

As with all the books in this series, the plot seems simple at first but quickly has many levels and nuances. It is a maze that Charlotte is so good at figuring out. The story moves along at a good clip and I was glued to the book well into the early morning hours.

The solving of the case doesn't involve an exciting killer reveal or confrontation, rather a piecing together of the pieces as they race against a clock to save Inspector Treadles from execution. The wrap-up advances the situation between Lord Ingram and Charlotte.

This has many elements that are more the traditional mystery:  figuring out where people were at what time.  But the maze is twisted and Charlotte is the one to put it all together.  It demonstrates the resistance to women in the work place as the situation for Mrs. Treadles is investigated for a motive.  Very well done.  This may not seem as exciting and action packed as prior outings, but it is still a well done mystery and story that kept my attention riveted. 

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

Here is an interview with the author, Sherry Thomas:

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Monday, January 4, 2021

Review - Devils and Details

This series has a unique premise that keeps me coming back for more.  I reviewed the first in the series, Death and Relaxation (click here).  Now to see what I thought of the second in the series.

Author: Devon Monk

Copyright: August 2016 (Old House Press) 308 pgs

Series: 2nd in Ordinary Magic Mysteries

Sensuality: Moderate, some steam

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Police Procedural

Main Characters: Police Chief Delaney Reed

Setting: Modern day, beach town of Ordinary Oregon

Obtained Through: Library

Book Blurb: "Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea...

Police Chief Delaney Reed is good at keeping secrets for the beach town of Ordinary Oregon–just ask the vacationing gods or supernatural creatures who live there.

But with the first annual Cake and Skate fundraiser coming up, the only secret Delaney really wants to know is how to stop the unseasonable rain storms. When all the god powers are stolen, a vampire is murdered, and her childhood crush turns out to be keeping deadly secrets of his own, rainy days are the least of her worries.

Hunting a murderer, outsmarting a know-it-all god, and uncovering an ancient vampire’s terrifying past isn’t how she planned to spend her summer. But then again, neither is 
falling back in love with the one man she should never trust."

Delaney is trying to fill her deceased father's shoes as the chief of police, while still grieving his sudden death.  She is reliable and overworked.  Sister Jean has the intuition ability, sensing when something bad is approaching but sadly doesn't 
get details with it.  She is a bit more adventurous than her two other sisters, dying her hair various colors. She handles calls for the police station.  Sister Myra has great timing, always showing up where and when she is needed and is calm and collected. She handles forensics for the small police station.  Ryder Bailey, Delaney's teen heart-throb is working at the station too and he seems to also answer to somebody else.

Ordinary is a beach town that gets the usual tourists plus various mythical gods wanting a vacation from their duties.  This is a creative concept and Ordinary has the beach town problems (spring break parties) plus the less mundane.  Nicely done.

The main plot starting out is the stolen god powers, which isn't an easy nor simple task to pull off, yet finding the culprit is a nightmare.  Then a local vampire is murdered and the two cases don't seem related, so Delaney has two major investigations at one time.  Then what may seem like a subplot regarding her romantic interest keeping who he works for a secret starts to become a bigger deal.  You could say there is a lot going on. 

The climax of the three plots happens at different times, which definitely kept me flipping the pages.  The god powers climax I can't say much about to avoid a spoiler, but it is interesting.  The revealing of Ryder Bailey's secret adds a significant complication to Delaney's job and life.  As for who killed the vampire... well that is a bombshell that will have repercussions into the next book.

This second entry in the Ordinary Magic series continues to set a high bar.  This is a fun and captivating book with twists and turns without being so strangely paranormal you can't relate to it.  

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I would appreciate if you would do me the honor of your vote for the cover of my thriller, The Society, on AllAuthor.    

Cover of the Month

The Society (Elizabeth Grant Thrillers Book 1)

Hey Everyone,
I’m excited to tell you that my book has been nominated for the "Cover of the Month" contest on This will help me a lot if I could see some votes coming in, so please remember to vote my book.
Vote Now »
Avery Daniels

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Monday, December 28, 2020

New Year, New You!

2020 is on the way out, let's welcome 2021 properly!

I don't know if the propensity to make resolutions for the coming year is a world wide phenomenon or just wide spread in the US.  In either case, each January first we "resolve" to change something in our lives, often more than one thing. But let's face it, 2020 was a rough year all the way around, so let's not start the new year setting ourselves up for failure.  Here is a list of the common resolutions we predictably make each year.

Quit smoking
lose weight
quit drinking
enjoy life more
more family time
get out of debt
learn something new
help others
get organized

I would like to suggest something different and I hope this gives you some inspiration or a new perspective.

Pick only one thing and instead of it being a major resolution, make it a micro change in your life and live this day-to-day.

For instance, rather than the overarching and sometimes overwhelming Lose Weight, how about drink 60 ounces of water a day or do ten minutes on the elliptical 3-5 days a week.  Micro change is the idea of changing one smaller thing within the big picture.  A large component to this is to forgive yourself if you slip up and start again the next day.   This has proven to help people meet those bigger goals when it is simplified into a smaller task.  You gain a sense of accomplishment and build your confidence that you can make this work.

If you have a daily schedule, write it in ahead of time with encouraging words to make it a priority.  You can encourage yourself, not discourage or beat yourself up.  Become your own cheerleader.  This isn't about changing your entire lifestyle all at once, but changing one small behavior at a time.  Plan ahead for everything you will need to be serious about this goal so you aren't procrastinating.  Don't get down on yourself if you slip up (it's bound to happen), just believe in yourself and do your best to set yourself up for success going forward.

Another important aspect is to learn from the outgoing year.  I offer a few journaling prompts to help give 2020 a send off so we can mentally start on the new year without the baggage.  I have been doing this for the last five years and I believe it really aids looking ahead with a positive mindset.  Journal your answers to these questions:

  • What dreams came true in 2020?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • I know myself more now because... ?
  • Even though it was hard to go through, I learned a lot from _______.
  • 2020 led me to ___________________ ?
  • I was transformed by ___________________?
  • I let go of ___________________.
  • I am proud of myself for ___________________.
  • The incredible thing I discovered about myself is _______________.
  • Habits I want to stop ___________________.
  • I am happy because ___________________.
  • Write a page of gratitude, you can do it.
  • Rant page: What do you need to write, journal, or rant about in order for you to clear your life of 2020 ___________________?
I will be journaling my responses to these questions on New Year's Eve.  My micro goal is to consistently write each day.  Some days maybe more overall words written than others, but if I write everyday, then I will complete more books this year.  Excellent.  I don't even have a set number of words, just write everyday. 

I hope this micro-goal setting inspires you and gives you a new perspective on goal setting.  Make it a small goal, not an entire lifestyle change.  

May this new year be a blessing to us all.

Here is a short video on Auld Lang Syne: what it means and where we got it from.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review - A Royal Affair

"It's refreshing to see believable female friends in a historical mystery...Fans of period mysteries by authors such as Ashley Weaver and Deanna Raybourn will appreciate this gutsy duo."  -- "Library Journal"

This is the second in this new historical mystery.  I started with the debut, The Right Sort of Man (review: click here).  I think the second book doesn't disappoint. 

Allison Montclair

Copyright: July 2020 (Minotaur) 326 pgs

Series: 2nd in Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries

Sensuality: mild references

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge owners of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau

Setting: 1946, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "More goes wrong than could be imagined when Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau are unexpectedly engaged to dig into the past of a suitor of a royal princess.

In London 1946, The Right Sort Marriage Bureau is just beginning to take off and the proprietors, Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, are in need of a bigger office and a secretary to handle the growing demand. Unfortunately, they don't yet have the necessary means. So when a woman arrives—a cousin of Gwen's—with an interesting and quite remunerative proposition, the two of them are all ears.

The cousin, one Lady Matheson, works for the Queen in "some capacity" and is in need of some discreet investigation. It seems that the Princess Elizabeth has developed feelings for a dashing Greek prince and a blackmail note has arrived, alluding to some potentially damaging information about said prince. Wanting to keep this out of the palace gossip circles, but also needing to find out what skeletons might lurk in the prince's closet, the palace has quietly turned to Gwen and Iris. Without causing a stir, the two of them must now find out what secrets lurk in the prince's past, before his engagement to the future Queen of England is announced. And there's more at stake than the future of the Empire —there is their potential new office that lies in the balance."

Miss Iris Sparks is single with a highly classified background in the war, probably spying. She seems fearless, relying upon her "unique skill set".  Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge is still grieving her husband's death, but doing better than she had when she was institutionalized by her inlaws for a breakdown during her grief, when they also took custody of her son. 
Iris has a new boyfriend that is on the wrong side of the law and I wonder how long that will last.  Sally is their hired muscle and assistant who writes plays.  I think his character is refreshing and want more.

Post war London is the backdrop and serves well without taking the spotlight.  The plot may have started out as a blackmail case but is revealed as far more as it twists and turns. Iris and Gwen untangle layers of subterfuge.  It took a few chapters to really unfold, but once it did I simply couldn't put it down.

The confrontation is a grand affair with plenty of drama, just superlative.  The wrap up is short but leaves you wanting the next book.

Iris and Gwen cement their friendship further in more than just intrigue, but in emotional growth as well. This is a beautiful example of women in healthy friendships that don't revolve around discussing men, but rather the realities of life.
The hallmark of this series is the snarky banter between Iris and Gwen that is on full display in this novel.

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

Here is a short talk after the first book came out.  Enjoy.

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