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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review - A Murderous Relation

I reviewed the first book, A Curious Beginning (click here), the third in the series A Treacherous Curse (click here),  and the fourth in the series A Dangerous Collaboration (click here).  I am just now getting around to reviewing the newest release in this exciting series.  

Deanna Raybourn

Copyright: March 2020 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 5th in Veronica Speedwell Mysteries

Sensuality: Period adult conversations

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Veronica Speedwell

Setting: 1888, London England

Obtained Through: Library Find

Book blurb: "Autumn 1888. Veronica Speedwell and her colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to stop a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, and the proprietress, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve it from the club before scandal can break. 

Worse yet, London is being terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper—and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.  

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore╩╝s high-class brothel, where a body soon turns up. Secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family—and it is up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it is too late for all of them."

Veronica is larger-than-life, incredibly ahead of her time, stubborn, and highly intelligent with a sharp tongue and wit. In other words - incorrigible and great fun.  Stoker (Mr. Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane) is her sleuthing partner.  He is cranky and reclusive, and believes Veronica is the woman for him, even if she doesn't believe in romantic love or marriage.  Tiberius, Stoker's estranged brother, only has a small part in this outing - but it is enjoyable.  Lady Wellie has more page time in this book and she is hard to like but you begin to understand the weight on her shoulders.  Journalist J.J. Butterworth has a significant role in the story and is a welcome addition. Prince Albert Victor, who has been the subject of a few Ripper theories since around the 1970's, is portrayed well for such a controversial historical figure. Mr. Pennybaker, one of Stoker's taxidermy clients, is a breakout character.

The setting of Victorian London is always so real you can smell the coal smoke in the air.  Madame Aurore's scandalous brothel is atmospheric and titillating without being crass.  The fear over the Ripper murders becomes palpable, and for a brief moment Veronica believes she may have passed the evil incarnate on a foggy street in her adventure.  Very well done.

The plot is revealed as the adventure progresses and brings back a villain from an earlier book to reprise his plot against the throne.  The story veers and swerves as events develop and Veronica with Stoker by her side keep up the chase.  The pacing is well maintained throughout. 

The climax provided delicious tense moments like I adore.  This series sets a high bar for exciting climaxes and this book held up the tradition.  The wrap-up answered many questions and tied up remaining threads.  You will have to read it to find out about Veronica and Stocker's personal relationship - my lips are sealed.

Overall, this is yet another great Veronica Speedwell adventure placing the character in the stratosphere of unique and bar-setting heroines.  I particularly enjoy the characters, although the plots continue to be full of twists and turns.  It's the characters that endure long after the reading.  This isn't a Ripper story, the infamous serial killer is background only which is very effective.  With that said, she gives homage to the victims giving their lives context.

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

Here is a wonderful interview with the author about this book at The Poisoned Pen bookstore.  Remember those?

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Catching up

Hello fellow readers.  A lot has happened in just the past six months!  A pandemic, the U.S. west coast and Colorado are on fire, shootings, demonstrations with some flare ups, and oh yeah - there is a meteor I heard headed for the Earth.  And if that were enough, it is a contentious election year in the US.

Boy, oh boy.  That is a lot going on and a lot of stress-making factors.  Aren't you glad you love to read?  Reading, the healthy escapism, to the rescue.  I know I have been reading quite a lot.  Some guilty pleasures in there too (The Nikki Heat novels that tie into the old Castle series - I know I am really behind the times on that!)  Also, re-reading Discovery of Witches.

But I have been reading a good bit of mysteries too!  I have been tending towards historical mysteries.  I catch myself talking like Victorian era ("They know not what they say, me thinks" was part of a FB post!)  Sadly, I haven't been keeping up with my reviews though.  I hope to start doing better on that.

Since I am still staying home, I am trying to write again.  That got completely sidetracked with everything.  So I am beginning on the fourth Resort to Murder cozy mystery.  Here is a little teaser, it is set at a wellness resort outside Santa Fe.  Sadly, I haven't been able to do first hand research on this.  But I am enjoying getting back into a writing routine.  

Share if you have been reading more during this crazy time and if there are a few guilty pleasure titles in the mix.  :-)  Stay safe folks.

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Announcement: Join My Writing Class

I am teaching a class on pre-planning your novel.  For those who aren't an outline plot person but want a little structure to maneuver within.  

Check it out and join me!!!  
Prices $30- $40

This is a different approach rather than plotting. It is based on a combination of story and character arcs and 8 plot points with key scenes all novels will benefit from having. 

This method provides built-in aspects of pacing to keep from the dreaded sagging middle and some character development scenes in the process of loosely planning your novel. 

This process is a hybrid between full plotting and "pantsing" that gives a modicum of a road map with complete flexibility to adjust on the fly.  It works for all genres and can be employed at any time in your writing process.

Start date:  Sep 28, 2020 at 6:00 AM
End date:  Oct 25, 2020 at 5:00 AM
Registration end: date Sep 30, 2020

Week 1: Introduction of story arc, 8 plot points, and exercise
Week 2: Deep Dive of 8 plot points and exercise
Week 3: Introduction of character arc, key scenes, and exercise
Week 4: Deep Dive of key scenes and summary review.

I am looking forward to seeing you in class!!!

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review - Murder In Belgravia

This is the first in a new historical mystery series and I wanted to start at the beginning. 

"A high-profile murder propels a unique crime-fighting team into the dark environs of London’s underworld—and on a terrifying quest to track a ruthless killer."  Find out what I thought of this new series in the historical mystery genre.

Author: Lynn Brittney

Copyright: March 2019 (Crooked Lane Books) 282 pgs

Series: 1st in Mayfair 100 Mysteries

Sensuality: TW domestic abuse and child prostitution discussed

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical police with amateur sleuths

Main Character: Chief Inspector Beech, head of a special task force

Setting: 1915, London

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

Book Blurb: "London, 1915. As World War I engulfs Europe, a special task force is formed in the affluent Mayfair district to tackle the city’s thorniest crimes against women. When the bobbies and Scotland Yard come up short, there’s only one telephone number to dial: Mayfair 100.

An aristocrat has been murdered, and his wife, a witness and possible suspect, will only talk to a woman. With the blessing of London’s Chief Commissioner, Chief Inspector Beech, a young man invalided out of the war, assembles a crew of sharp, intrepid, and well-educated women to investigate. But to get at the truth, Beech, Victoria, Caroline, Rigsby, and Tollman will venture into the the city’s seedy underbelly, a world where murder is only the first in a litany of evils." 

Trigger warning, the initial setup for the murder is the victim having brutally attacked his pregnant wife and all appearances make it seem she or her maid killed the brute.  First impressions prove to be wrong and it gets complicated from there.

Chief Inspector Peter Beech is an openminded police detective who has the vision of women aiding the police and heads up the unique team.  Victoria is a female lawyer who at one point had been "dating" Beech, but that ended and now they attempt working together.  Caroline is the female doctor on the team.  She is waiting for Beech to see her as more than a friend.  Rigsby is the younger male of the team and the handsome one that women seem to flutter eyelashes at despite a scar from the war.  Tollman is an older and grizzled policeman that knows more about the goings on in London and who to talk to than most anybody else alive.  Tollman takes Rigsby under his wing and begins mentoring him.  Lady Maud is Victoria's mother and provides a large house as the team's headquarters.  Billy Rigby's mom, Elsie, and his Aunt Sissy provide some comic relief and are gems in the story.  

The setting of London provided a sad and seedy backdrop punctuated with brief moments in society houses.  This does have a grittier side with some subject matter, but it also displays compassion (particularly Tillman and Rigby) for those struggling.  There isn't gore, but some harsh realities of life at that time presented with sensitivity.  Also, the first world war with air attacks from Zeppelins and the tensions of the suffragette movement pepper throughout the story.  The British Suffragettes were more confrontational than in America.

Figuring out the who-done-it isn't easy and information is revealed throughout the investigation in order to get any idea of what took place the fateful night of the murder.  The women are aware of their limitations within society in general but in dangerous situations as well.  There are a few subplots at work in the story that keep the pace moving and interest up.  

The killer reveal was rather cut and dry as the police on the team close in on guilty parties, but it still provided a twist or two that made it satisfying.  The wrap-up was heartwarming and paved the way for the team to continue for another case.

I love this new series.  If you like the Sebastian St Cyr series but want something a little less grim, this is for you!  It is just a bit "gritty" without being gory or explicit and had some comedic lighter moments as well.  It does acknowledge the grim realities of life and crime.  The characters are well done and there are layers to their exchanges that make the story rich and memorable.  This leaves plenty of room over the series for the characters to develop and surprise the reader.  The mystery was complex enough to get my interest and keep it throughout.  

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

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review - And Dangerous To Know

I have been following this series since the first book "A Useful Woman" (click here), and the second book "A Purely Private Affair" (click here).  The third book released and I am finally getting around to my review of it. 

Author: Darcie Wilde

Copyright: Dec 2019 (Kensingon) 352 pgs

Series: 3rd in Rosalind Thorne Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Rosalind Thorne, former heiress now on the outskirts of society

Setting: Early 1800s (Regency,) London

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

Cover Blurb: "When the ladies of the ton of Regency London need discreet assistance, they turn to Rosalind Thorne--in these mysteries inspired by the novels of Jane Austen.

Trust is a delicate thing, and no one knows that better than Rosalind Thorne. Lady Melbourne has entrusted her with recovering a packet of highly sensitive private letters stolen from her desk. The contents of these letters hold great interest for the famous poet Lord Byron, who had carried on a notorious public affair with Lady Melbourne's daughter-in-law, the inconveniently unstable Lady Caroline Lamb. Rosalind is to take up residence in Melbourne House, posing as Lady Melbourne's confidential secretary. There, she must discover the thief and regain possession of the letters before any further scandal erupts.

However, Lady Melbourne omits a crucial detail. Rosalind learns from the Bow Street runner Adam Harkness that an unidentified woman was found dead in the courtyard of Melbourne House. The coroner has determined that she was poisoned. Adam urges Rosalind to use her new position in the household to help solve the murder. As she begins to untangle a web of secrets and blackmail, Rosalind finds she must risk her own life to bring this desperate business to an end..."

Rosalind still reminds me of a proper British version of True Grit's Mattie Ross.  The Bow Street runner, Adam Harkness, is smart and surprisingly compassionate.  Lady Melbourne's family are all unique characters and raise suspicions.  Alice and George Littlefield are the break out characters.  They are dear friends of Rose's who lost their fortunes but took to newspaper employment to make their way in life and stay close to Rose. Then their is Devin Winterbourne, a Duke, and early suitor of Rose's from before her family became destitute.  He is an interesting character and I have warmed to him over the course of the three books.

The plot was interesting with the "naughty letters" from Lord Byron that could cause destruction of reputations and a marriage, then the murder added in made this a tantalizing story.  Plus the growing relationship between Rosalind and Harkness with Devin Winterbourne, the Duke of Casselmain, renewing his offer of marriage from years before makes the story fly by.

The setting of London is always expertly painted by Ms. Wilde and transports the reader.  The climax provides some delicious tense moments that I enjoyed and the wrap-up had me wanting the next book immediately. 

This series was inspired by the Jane Austen novels and that is can be seen on every page.  I find the "cop boyfriend" very cliche, but the author raises class tensions between Rose and Harkness as well as high society's fanatical avoidance of even a hint of scandal, so being chummy with a cop is out-of-the-question and introduces a forbidden element to their attraction.  It becomes harder in this book for Rosalind (Rose) to deny she has developed some feelings for Harkness.  This has become one of my "go to" historical mystery series and has never failed to entertain me. 

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

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