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Monday, February 29, 2016

Guest Post - Amanda Cooper

Amanda Cooper is a pseudonym for Victoria Hamilton, the national bestselling author of the Vintage Kitchen and Merry Muffin Mystery series.  The third book in the Teapot Collector Series is out and we are tickled to have the author join us.

Brown Betty, the Modest Queen of Teapots!

When I talked to my older sister at Christmas, in December, she told me excitedly that her husband gave her a Brown Betty teapot, which she knew about from reading my books! How cool is that? Even though she doesn’t drink much tea, she was excited about it.

And well she might, for what she had in a genuine Brown Betty is the descendant of a little piece of tea drinking history.

But why are Brown Betty teapots so popular, and how has the ‘brand’ endured for so long? Here are some interesting facts about true Brown Betty teapots according my research on this website, Tea In England: and others.

1 – A Brown Betty teapot is brown because of the Rockingham glaze. However, the style of teapot also comes in a blue glaze. According to The English Tea Store online, some call the resultant teapot a Cobalt Betty. Doesn’t quite have the same ring!

2 – No one is quite sure why it is called a ‘Betty’. Denise, of the Tea In England website, speculates it is because so many servants, who made the tea, were named Elizabeth and thus ‘Betty’. However… I think it is much more likely that the alliteration just sounded right.

3 – What makes it the very best for steeping tea – I have learned that ‘steeping’ is the correct term, rather than the more common ‘brewing’ tea, as you don’t use heat under the teapot - is apparently the shape of the pot and the red clay from which it is made.

So if you want a piece of tea drinking history, you must have one of these storied pots. However… don’t be fooled by imitations! Not all little brown teapots are Brown Betty teapots. The real deal will say, on the bottom, ‘Cauldon Made In England’, or ‘©Original Betty’.

Happy tea swilling, dear readers!


About The Grim Steeper:

The national bestselling author of Shadow of a Spout invites readers back to the Finger Lakes town of Gracious Grove for more tea and murder... Mid-October in the charming Finger Lakes town of Gracious Grove means it’s time for the annual Fall Fling Townwide Tea Party. The highlight of the festivities is a roaming tea-tasting, which includes a stop at Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House. Sophie Taylor would like to share her enjoyment of the event with her sort-of boyfriend, English teacher Jason Murphy, but Jason’s dean has accused him of falsifying grades to help an athlete at the local college. Steamed and stressed, Jason shows up the night of the party with bags under his eyes. But the dean shows up under Sophie’s Japanese Maple later that night, murdered, and now Jason is suspected of far worse than fudging grade reports. It’s up to Sophie, her Nana, and their friends the Silver Spouts to pore over the clues to find out who really decided to teach the dean a lesson.

Social Media Links: 
Amanda Cooper/Victoria Hamilton Mysteries:
Amanda Cooper/Victoria Hamilton Facebook: Teapot Collector Mysteries Facebook: Pinterest: Twitter: - or - @MysteryVictoria

THANK You Amanda Cooper aka Victoria Hamilton!  Delightful tidbits on tea.  I love teas personally, Earl Gray is my favorite.  

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

So Many Books, So Little Time

I have fallen behind on reading again.  I know I am not alone in this predicament.  I had several books lined up and sadly probably won't get to them.  But I hated the thought of not sharing them with you since they seem great...if I only had the time.  So here are some interesting books that I still hope to get to, but you might want to look into further.

Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent  
"Only a woman with an iron backbone could succeed as an undertaker in Victorian London, but Violet Morgan takes great pride in her trade. While her husband, Graham, is preoccupied with elevating their station in society, Violet is cultivating a sterling reputation for Morgan Undertaking. She is empathetic, well-versed in funeral fashions, and comfortable with death's role in life--until its chilling rattle comes knocking on her own front door.

Violet's peculiar but happy life soon begins to unravel as Graham becomes obsessed with his own demons and all but abandons her as he plans a vengeful scheme. And the solace she's always found in her work evaporates like a departing soul when she suspects that some of the deceased she's dressed have been murdered. When Graham's plotting leads to his disappearance, Violet takes full control of the business and is commissioned for an undertaking of royal proportions. But she's certain there's a killer lurking in the London fog, and the next funeral may be her own. 

Equal parts courage, compassion, and intrigue, Christine Trent tells an unrestrained tale of love and loss in the rigidly decorous world of Victorian society. "

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman (Lady Montford
Mystery #1) by Tessa Arlen  
"Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband's degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son's name.  As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort's close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels."

The Midwife's Tale (Midwife Mysteries #1) by Sam Thomas  
"It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand."

I hope these are interesting to you and perhaps you find another series to enjoy.  They are in my TBR list, but you can jump in now.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Guest Post - Diane Vallere

Welcome the author of The Material Witness and the new Costume Shop mysteries.  I reviewed the debut novel in the new series (click here).  She will share more behind the new series, which I think you will find fun and interesting.

Growing Up With Costumes 

My parents gave me a long brown wig for my seventh birthday. It’s unclear how they knew that this would be an awesome present for a second grader, but I remember being delighted beyond my wildest dreams. One summer day, while my mom and dad were lounging out back of our house, I dressed up in my yellow dance leotard, a yellow, pink, and light blue maxi skirt, the long wig, and my mom’s oversized sunglasses and then went out back to join them.

I was surprised by how hard they laughed.

Throughout my growing-up years, costumes came and went. Sometimes they were in the form of inherited clothes from a great grandparent that were inappropriate for every day but possible for Halloween (a long, full black skirt with layers of netting underneath—perfect for a witch costume, a pair of baggy men’s pants from the forties—perfect for a hobo). Sometimes they were styles that went out of fashion but were relegated to the box of paint clothes (a pair of denim bell bottoms that were printed with seashells). Sometimes they were items made by my mom (a blue and white checkered dress inspired by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). I didn’t play dress up to be someone else, I played dress up because I was figuring out who I was.

As I got older, I started to develop my own sense of style. In the eighties, that meant neon, fishnet, and a punk-meets-preppy vibe. Clothes that others would have thought of as costumey felt completely normal to me. Thrift shop purchases mixed with sweaters worn backwards, two different colored shoes, men’s vintage tuxedo jackets and my mom’s bowling shoes became “me.” I went from being a quiet wallflower to having an identity.

Fast forward to today. Many of my outfits have names: there’s the Amelia Earhart (sage green leather dress with cargo pockets), the Coco Chanel (black boatneck sweater, wide leg pants, tons of pearls and a white camellia), my Chinatown suit (ivory pants and blazer). My black crocheted poncho makes me feel like Batman and I have no less than five dresses to choose from if invited to a luau. Like Margo in A DISGUISE TO DIE FOR, to me, costumes are clothes—or should I say clothes are costumes? Either way, I love getting dressed in the morning!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK you for that great post!

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Special Notice - Non-fiction book of interest

This is not mystery or suspense related, which makes this a "special" notice!  I just wanted to share this new book out in kindle with print book coming soon.  The Little Wine Guide ( for all those who are newbies to wine or get easily confused by all the wine jargon and hoopla.

Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Basic Wine Types
Chapter 2: What's in a Number
Chapter 3: Glassware and Bottle Shapes
Chapter 4: To Chill or Not To Chill
Chapter 5: Wine Store Visit
Chapter 6: Restaurant Wine Presentation
Chapter 7: Wine Lingo
Chapter 8: Throw Your Own Wine Tasting
Chapter 9: For the Casual Dining Wine Server
Chapter 10: Winemaking Overview
Chapter 11: The Vines: A Brief History of U.S. Vineyards
Chapter 12: Fun Tidbits About Wine
Chapter 13: Conclusion
Chapter 14: Further Reading

Order the eBook today on Amazon (click here.)

Here is the book trailer!

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review - A Disguise to Die For

The author of the Material Witness mystery series has a new series and this is the debut novel.  Check out this great concept for a mystery series... a costume shop owner who is more at home wearing disguises than regular clothes.  What a great idea for an amateur sleuth.  Find out more about this new series from an established mystery author.

Author: Diane Vallere

Copyright: Feb 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Costume Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Margo Tamblyn, raised in the family costume shop, Disguise DeLimit.

Setting: Modern day, Proper City, Nevada

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Margo Tamblyn, a Vegas magician's assistant, returns home to Proper City to lend a hand at the family costume shop when her father has a heart attack.  She plans on staying a little while to make sure her dad learns to take it easy, hoping her Vegas job will be there when she returns. Margo quickly gets her first big order. Spoiled, wealthy nuisance Blitz Manners needs forty costumes for a detective-themed birthday bash in 24 hours.  Margo manages to get the costumes together, but in the middle of the party, Margo’s friend and party planner Ebony Welles is caught brandishing a carving knife over a very dead Blitz. 

For Margo, clearing Ebony’s name is critical, since she was the closest to a mother she had growing up. The cute guy disguised as Charlie Chan at the party takes an interest in Margo, but it appears he also has a relationship with the police detective Nichols who thinks Ebony is the killer.  Plus, Ebony seems to have a secret in her past she is fighting to keep a secret. Additionally, we have an "upstart" party planning company that is trying to cut into Disguise DeLimit's business.

Margo is resourceful and gutsy, but what do you expect from a gal who gets sawed in half on stage! She is quirky herself, wearing costumes for her everyday clothes.  Jerry, her father, is a kick and is reevaluating his life after the heart attacked.  Ebony is soft-hearted but very private and her secrets aren't helping her case.  Takenouchi (Tak) Hoshiyama is a unique potential romantic match and I definitely want to see more of his character.  Kirby is the shy kid that works part-time at the costume shop and makes a great addition to the cast.  

Proper City, a small town where costume parties are a competition among neighbors to outdo each other, brings a whimsical touch to the story. The plot is a standard whodunit complicated with the suspects all in disguise.  There was plenty going on to keep the pages turning.  The killer reveal snuck up suddenly I felt, but provided some good tension. The wrap-up provided some closure and feel good moments, but I would have liked something with Tak included at the end.

I enjoyed this debut novel for the costume shop mystery series. It provides an interesting, bright, and quirky sleuth, in an eccentric town with well thought-out plots.  

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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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Guest post- Maia Chance

Welcome national bestselling author Maia Chance, author of mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. Her latest releases are Come Hell or Highball (St. Martin’s Minotaur) and Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna (Berkley Prime Crime). Maia lives in soggy Bellingham, Washington, where she plays laundress and cook to two imperious children and takes secret solace in vintage cocktails. She blogs at and loves to socialize at

Researching a Mystery Novel, Family-Style.

Researching my Fairy Tale Fatal mystery series means reading old travelogues and novels, studying antique fashion plates, poring over period railroad timetables and restaurant menus, and—oh, yeah!—traveling in Europe. My job is SO HARD. (Kidding.)

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is set in 1867 in the Périgord region of France. I always knew the story would concern the “true history” of my all-time favorite fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” but beyond that, I wasn’t sure . . . until, that is, I read about the prehistoric cave art in the Vézère Valley. These caves—the most famous one is Lascaux—are decorated with Paleolithic pictures of animals. Animals, you know . . . as in beasts? Bingo. There was my angle, because the idea of pairing “Beauty and the Beast” with the painted caves seemed so juicy.

Only catch was, I had, um, never been to the Périgord. So I packed up the Fam—my husband, my mom, and my two little kids—and off we went!

Getting There. Okay. Maybe it wasn’t quite simple as “and of we went!” Those of you who have traveled with little kids know what a gigantic production it is. For example: Bring your own car seats OR deal with the caked-on barf of someone else’s kid on the rental car company’s car seat. Buy tons of French snacks, which are inevitably buttery and flaky and which will grease and flake up everyone’s clothing. Oh, and those miniscule, multi-part toys your kids insisted on packing? You lost half of them in the airplane on the way over. (True story: once I retrieved my son’s toy car five rows back on an airplane. You get to know people on the plane when you’re traveling with the Tinies.)

The landscape. So. We managed to get ourselves to the Périgord, more or less in one piece. There was the three-hour stretch on the expressway when my two-year-old daughter wouldn’t stop screaming unless allowed to eat one and only one bite out of every French Pringle in the can, but we are trying to forget that. Oh my word, it is beautiful in that neck of the woods. Rushing rivers, rocky outcroppings, thick forests. It’s beautiful in a near-eerie way, at least for me, with its ruined castles and chateaux melting back into the hills. In fact, more than once my husband, mom, and I argued about whether a heap of stones in the distance was a natural formation or a castle. That not knowing, that magical merging of natural and artificial in the Périgord, was richly inspiring for Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna.

Caves. We visited two caves on our trip, Font de Gaume and Les Combarelles. Font de Gaume is the one I used as a model for the cave scenes in Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, although some of the animal pictures I describe are based on those in Les Combarelles. I cannot adequately describe the breathtaking experience of visiting these caves. This might help: I somehow managed to have a near-religious experience looking at the bison herds in Font de Gaume even though I was lugging 
my daughter in a backpack while she rattled the keys to the door of the cave that the tour guide had given her as a distraction. I think everyone on the tour was a little nervous she’d lose the keys somewhere in the dark. After all, the tour guide had, for security purposes, locked us in.

Architecture. Château Vézère, the Count de Griffe’s ancestral home that is the setting for a good deal of Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, is based on the lovely Château de Veyrignac, although I placed it in a different location (a perk of writing fiction). The fateful ruined castle was inspired by our visit to Château de Castelnaud, although Castelnaud is not a ruin but sturdily rebuilt for tourists in hiking boots. Still, it is so high over the valley and riddled with enough precarious turrets that when I got my rambunctious four-year-old son out of there I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.

Towns. I admit, the village of Vézère is a total fabrication. But the town of Sarlat is very real, and incredibly atmospheric and even exquisite. The center of the town includes a carefully-preserved tangle of medieval streets, and so of course I had to set a dangerous chase scene there. I mean, come on. I don’t want to miss ripe opportunities.

Food and Wine. At some point on the trip, my daughter decided that she hated ANY and ALL sidewalk cafes. I thought sidewalk cafes were the entire point of France, so this was a mind-bender for me. So in Sarlat, instead of dining on the famous mushrooms and local wine and, I don’t know, holding hands with my husband, I was taking a very short girl on endless walks up and down stone-paved streets. We got to know some pigeons and cats. The only thing my daughter would eat in Sarlat, by the way, was terrine de canard, a super-rich duck pâté in little jars that is basically a condiment but which she ate with a tiny spoon like baby food. I considered this an improvement on the Pringles.

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THANK You Ms. Chance for this wonderful post!

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Review - Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna

I had reviewed the debut book in the series, Snow White Red-Handed (click here) and an insightful interview with the author (click here).  Although I skipped the second book in the series, I am jumping back in with this third installment.

Author: Maia Chance

Copyright: Feb 2016 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 3rd in Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series

Sensuality: Attraction, period romance

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Miss Ophelia Flax is a fired New York actress, posing as a wealthy soap heiress

Setting:  1867, France

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Apparently the prior book leaves Ophelia in a bit of a dilemma, she is engaged to the brutish Comte de Griffe in an attempt to irritate her preferred investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.  She fully intends to break the engagement, but her friend Henrietta is trying to marry a nobleman and asks that she keep up the charade during the Comte's  winter hunting party to allow her time to snare a husband.  Bad gets worse when Penrose arrives with his lovely new fiancée, plus a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the Comte’s sprawling château.  

But, the worst strikes when the Count insists on the wedding in a short few days and the ring is stolen preventing Ophelia from bolting for fear of being labeled a thief and the police on her trail.  She frantically is looking for the ring when murder strikes and she already has suspicions.  The murder is made to look like the Beast of Vezere has struck, but Ophelia notices Belladonna berries have played a role.  Scene point-of-view swaps between Ophelia and Penrose which benefits the story. 

Local legends of a half man and large wild boar seem confirmed with an old jaw bone discovery and a cave with petroglyphs.  But who has made a shrine to the legendary beast in the cave?  

Ophelia is resourceful, smart, and worldly but feels trapped by the situation and her feelings.  Comte de Griffe has boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and a habit of prowling away the wee hours is at first thought the beast and Ophelia the beauty, but is there a more real beast?  

Professor Gabriel Penrose is on the trail of yet another fairytale's factual basis, but he finds himself more concerned with Ophelia and the danger surrounding them.  He is similar to Flynn Carson played by Noah Wyle of The Librarian movies, just a bit more of a professor.  Ivy is Gabriel's fiancée, but she seems to be a little too perfect.  Henrietta and Forthwith are schemers and keep things hopping.  The breakout character was Abel Christy, a precocious thirteen year old British noble who was among those stranded by a broken down coach and his escort is the first murder victim.  He has two loves: science and eating.  

The setting is an isolated region in the middle of France with a neighboring village that feels strange and doesn't like visitors, plus the cave with an altar to the mythical beast creates an eerie atmosphere.  The story gets stranger at each turn and the setting adds to that feeling.

The plot has several levels and several twists and turns.  The pacing maintains the interest with varied elements being developed.  This is one of those books where you tell yourself "just one more chapter" and find a few hours have gone by.  The climax is quite a ride, the killer reveal is a surprise, and the wrap up leaves things further complicated between Gabriel and Ophelia.

This series is hitting its stride and hooks the reader, reeling you into Ophelia's intrigue filled world where you won't want to leave.

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

Easy Slow Cooker Black Forest Dump Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and mix with reserved juice from the can of pineapple.  Mix in the cake mix and stir. Set the mixture aside.

Spread the crushed pineapple in a layer on the bottom of a slow cooker. Spoon the cherry pie filling in an even layer on top of the pineapple. Stir the butter/pineapple juice/cake mixture, and pour it over the pie filling.

Set the slow cooker to Low, and cook for 3 hours. Spoon the dessert into bowls, and let cool about 5 minutes to cool the hot pie filling before eating.  Top with whipped cream.

Use a large crockpot because the cake will rise. 

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Guest Post - Monica Ferris

Let's welcome bestselling author of the Needlecraft Mystery series, Monica Ferris.  This month her eighteenth book in the series is released, Darned If You Do.  We are overjoyed to have her virtually visit this little corner of the internet.

Thoughts on her writing

One of the pleasures of writing a series is watching the recurring characters change and develop. Yes, “watch.” Any serious author will tell you that at least half the time the characters in a story will tell the author what they’re doing or thinking or wanting. My sleuth, Betsy Devonshire, has gone through several boyfriends (I really liked Morrie, but apparently she didn’t like him enough); her best friend Jill has quit the police force to get married and have children (we’re up to three); her formerly flirtatious store manager has settled into a healthy relationship with a Spaniard who collects medieval silver English coins (so do I, so that’s a happy way to use something I already know about). Betsy’s current beau wants to marry her, but so far she’s resisting. So while every novel features a new murder for her to solve, there is a stable undercurrent of familiar faces. Sometimes I think my fans are at least as interested in what my characters are getting up to as they are in the crime—which is fine by me, as I’m interested, too.

The title of the newest mystery in my current needlework series is Darned If You Do—a cute title, but not one I came up with myself. I was going to call the novel A Needle Case, because a needle case is an important clue in the story. (It’s a container needle workers use to hold needles.) But my editor asked me to suggest something else. Since my brain was stuck on A Needle Case, I got on my Facebook page, gave a limited outline of the novel, and asked for title suggestions. One faithful reader sent in a list of titles, which I forwarded to my editor. And she jumped on Darned If you Do. She loved it, and said they had never before published a book with that title.

But nothing gets darned in the novel. So create something, I told myself. Thank God for Google. I did a search and came up with a method of knitting a patch over a hole in a knitted sock. It even had a video lesson. I watched it until I was sure I understood how to do it, and then had one of the employees in the needlework shop Crewel World show a customer how to do it.

Joyfully, electronic information abounds in this twenty-first century. In Darned If You Do, for example, the plot revolves around a house full of junk and treasure. There are a lot of reality shows on television that give endless examples of the kind of stuff one can find in attics and basements and even living and bedrooms. Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Hoarders Buried Alive – all feature heaps of extraordinary things found in houses, barns, and sheds. Or, in some cases, the shows discover someone who has allowed his or her habit of never throwing anything away to fill a dwelling to bursting. And there are endless resources on the Internet on valuable antiques and art. So I had all the material I needed to invent an eccentric recluse whose ability to differentiate between what was valuable and what was merely interesting was seriously flawed, and whose house is overflowing with broken bicycles, chipped glass jars, moldy books, radios and record players missing their insides, rusty cans of vegetables – and a cookie jar full of very valuable Morgan silver dollars.

The next book in the series, Knit Your Own Murder, features poison, knitting your own animals, secret hatreds, and an Episcopal celebration of Easter. In this case, much of my research was more direct. For example, I was blessed to be in London this past Easter and attended the Easter Vigil service at Westminster Abbey. I transferred my experience of the service to the Episcopal cathedral in Minneapolis, and sent my heroine and her boyfriend to it – all is grist for my mill!

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THank You Ms. Ferris for this fun post.  I enjoy the series and it keeps going strong.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Review - The Cracked Spine

Paige Shelton is the author of the Farmer's Market, Country Cooking School, and A Dangerous Type Mystery series.  This is the debut novel for her new Scottish Bookshop mystery series. 

Author: Paige Shelton

Copyright: March 2016 (Minotaur Books) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Scottish Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Delaney Nichols, new employee at The Cracked Spine

Setting: Modern day, Edinburgh, Scotland 

Obtained Through: NetGalley/Publisher for honest review

Delaney Nichols just packed her bags and moved halfway across the world to Edinburgh, Scotland to start a job at The Cracked Spine. Her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, has given her the opportunity of a lifetime and Delaney can’t wait to take her spot behind the desk.  The Cracked Spine is filled with everything a book lover could want. 

But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact goes missing, and Edwin’s sister is murdered. Delaney is now part of the family and she jumps in to help figure out what happened to the rare manuscript, and stumbles into more than she bargained for.  Warning, the book has much of the dialog in a scotish brogue.  That is hard for some to follow.

Delaney was raised in Kansas and mustered a lot of courage to move her life for a nebulous job in Scotland.  She brings her outgoing personality to the store and grows on the reader.  Rosie is the mother hen of the bookstore and always has tiny dog Hector in tow. Hamlet is the other employee, a nineteen-year-old actor with a colored past and bright future. Edwin, who is  her wealthy, enigmatic, and mysterious boss. Tom is the bartender from across the street and the potential romantic interest who looks good in a kilt.  Elias is a cab-driver who, along with his wife, take her under their wing and even rent a place to her.  Then there is a cast of eccentric friends of Edwin's who comprize an auction club where they acquire rare items.

Edinburgh is detailed nicely from it's castles to its seedier side.  The plot was fine but the murder was so removed from Delaney that there seemed no real tension for her to get involved to the extent she does.  The story moved along well. although I would have liked a bit more personal investment from Delaney in order for the story to grab a hold of me.

I do have to say that the killer was a total surprise, and I didn't feel there were any clues dropped to suspect this person.  The killer reveal had some good tension.  The wrap-up resolved all the open threads of the story and left the path open for the next book.

This is a fun cozy mystery set in Scotland with a fresh heroine and great setup for many interesting adventures to come.

Rating: Good - A fun read for curling up by the fire or a beach read. 

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guest Post - Delia James

We have a new author in the mystery world and I reviewed her debut novel (click here).  Find out more about who writes cozy mysteries with a touch of whimsy in the Witch's Cat Mysteries right here.  

Introducing Delia James, and the Witch's Cat Mysteries

Hello. My name is Delia James, and I write mysteries. Specifically, I write mysteries with magic and cats with plenty of attitude. This is no surprise to anybody who knows me.

I grew up on mysteries. Summers at my grandmother’s in the country, I discovered her Agatha Christie books and was immediately fascinated by Hercule Poirot. TV was filled with mysteries and we never missed them, Colombo, MacMillan & Wife, McCloud, The Rockford Files, Quincy…and of course I was in love with the Hardy Boys as played by Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson (for the record, I was a Parker Girl, all the way). Of course I could quote Sherlock Holmes, chapter and verse. In college, I got introduced to, and fell in love all over again with, Lord Peter Whimsey.

Despite this, when I started writing, mysteries were not my first choice. I was (confession time) also a major science fiction nerd and it was science fiction I gravitated to first. I don’t regret it at all. Science fiction is fun, and it teaches you a lot about how to build a fictional world along with the characters that fit into it, or don’t. This can be valuable training for a mystery writer who has to construct solid, interesting puzzles the size of small towns, or big bad cities. And of course, along with science fiction, I was also a fan of its sister genre, fantasy, with its elves and hobbits, and witches, and plenty of magic. I learned to read from The Wizard of Oz and had Alice in Wonderland practically memorized.

With all this swirling around in the background, when I got the chance to write a story featuring a witch and a magical cat in New England, you know I jumped at it. And I am having an absolute blast.

First of all, it’s given me an excuse to spend more time in New England, which is one of my very favorite places. I love the landscape, the coast and the rivers. I even love the weather, especially the autumn. I love the old cities and towns and all the history tucked up in their streets and odd (some of them very odd) corners. Of course there are mysteries here. Lots of them, some of them old, some of them brand new.

Cats were another natural for me. I’ve been owned by one cat or another since I was born. From our grumpy old indoor-outdoor tortoiseshell Buttercup, to Isis the Siamese, to our current long-haired gray Buffy the Vermin Slayer, they all at one time or another shared my home, sat on my lap, or curled up on my shoulders, or gotten in between me and…whatever I was doing at the moment. I swear, some of them have in fact been able to vanish and reappear at will, just like Alistair in A Familiar Tail. Of course they couldn’t be kept out of anyplace they really wanted to get into, including the bedroom, the closet, and once, much to everybody’s surprise and embarrassment, the fridge. Again, just like Alistair.

So, like I said at the beginning, I’m Delia James. Welcome to my world!

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Thank you Ms. James.  For the record, I was a Parker Stevenson fan as well.  Yay.  And I love cats and fantasy as well. I want a vacation during fall in New England and be one of those "leaf peepers" people talk about in discouraging tones.  We should do lunch sometime girlfriend!  Are you going to Bouchercon?

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