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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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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Review - Killing Trail

Apparently fans of Nevada Barr and C.J. Box will love this explosive debut.  "This suspenseful series kick-off introduces small-town Colorado's best crime-fighting duo, Mattie Cobb and her police dog partner, Robo"  This is a new for me series although it was published several years ago, so lets see how I felt about this debut.

Author: Margaret Mizushima

Copyright: December 2011 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries

Sensuality: clinical death of a teen, drug mules

Mystery Sub-genre: Police Procedural

Main Characters: Officer Mattie Cobb and pollice dog partner, Robo, 

Setting: Modern day, Timber Creek, Colorado

Obtained Through: Library Find

Book Blurb: "When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole's daughter, who knows more than she's saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn't careful, she and Robo could be next. Suspenseful and smart, Killing Trail is a gripping read that will have readers clamoring for more Mattie and Robo for years to come. " 

Mattie Cobb comes with wounds having grown up in foster care. Thus she trusts her dog partner, Robo, more than any human. She is the only female deputy, and she also won a cross country endurance test to be Robo's handler. She is all business and doesn't have much of a soft side except towards Robo. She may not be for everyone, but I think she makes an interesting lead.  Robo is a star.  He is well trained, works hard and plays hard, and is loyal to Mattie without question.  

Cole Walker is recently separated and a work-a-holic veterinarian who could be a romantic interest for Mattie. But he needs to grieve before he is ready IMHO.  Detective Stella LoSasso arrives to handle the investigation and becomes a temporary mentor as she works with Mattie.  Sheriff Abraham McCoy is a mountain of a man who sees Mattie's potential and encourages her.  Chief Deputy Brody has never forgiven Mattie for winning the endurance test and being Robo's handler, thus he makes her life difficult at every opportunity.
Mama T is Mattie's foster mom and a great character I want to seem more of in future novels.  And then there is Rainbow, the hippy-raised dispatcher who is the optimist continually trying to make friends with Mattie.

Timber Creek is a smallish town developing a bigger town's drug problems. It sits in the middle of the majestic Rocky Mountains which are well described to place the reader in the splendor. Thus providing the ugly side hiding within the beauty. Well done.

I liked this police procedural more than I usually do the subgenre.  It is well balanced with Robo and the scenes from the Veterinarian's point of view to keep it from being the gritty big city style. The plot shows the struggle to fight the creeping of drugs into the community without being completely jaded. I devoured the book so the pacing kept me glued to the pages.

The climax was a nail biting suspenseful confrontation where Mattie learns to fully trust Robo and he delivers. The killer wasn't entirely a surprise, but wasn't my top choice so, that was well done.  The wrapup sets up for ongoing adventures.

I liked that the romance is a slow burn since both Mattie and Cole have some serious baggage to deal with. I absolutely love Robo and how he is portrayed. Mattie could have been a dark character, but she is evened out with moments of growth and the character has tremendous potential.  I also love that Rainbow and Detective Stella LoSasso are supportive women for Mattie, fantastic touch. 

The opening is my favorite for its humor:
     "Pulling her cruiser up to a stop sign, Mattie stole a quick glance.  Born in Russia, he was a handsome guy: straight black hair, intense brown eyes, and white teeth that flashed when he grinned.  Large and muscular, strong and rugged, he was the only one in the department who could outrun her in cross-country foot race.
     In addition to all that, he could sniff out a missing person.
     He was Timber Creek County's new police service dog, a German shepherd name Robo."

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

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Time to Practice Self Care

With winter weather settling in and more safe-at-home time, let's practice self care more.

With the whole Covid pandemic hitting the world a sucker punch, this has been a stressful year.  Now the big holiday is baring down on us and it can be overwhelming and even depressing for many.  I know I need to be more mindful and nurture myself, and I doubt I am the only one. So let's take a breath and focus on self care.
This isn't a complete list by any means, but it is a list of things to do to stay positive and emotionally well.
  • Eat regular healthy meals, don't skip meals
  • Go on a social media fast for 24 hours (no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.)
  • Meditate or do deep breathing for 15 minutes
  • Light a fragrant candle in a scent that makes you smile (safety precautions with fire, of course)
  • Write a gratitude list - weekly and post it on your bathroom mirror. This is very helpful.
  • Have a dance party in your living room, even if it is by yourself

    via GIPHY

  • Exercise, dance, run in place, do squats, get moving daily
  • Practice yoga or Tai Chi
  • Write letters or send New Years cards
  • Zoom, skype, or facetime with a friend at least once a week, twice if possible
  • Weather permitting, get outside, take a walk in nature
  • via GIPHY

  • Pamper yourself with an at-home-spa-day (soak in a tub - bubbles, candles, and music optional, manicure/pedicure, dye/highlight hair etc.)
  • via GIPHY

  • Spend quality time with a pet, cuddle and play with your fur babies
  • Read that book you've been wanting to
  • via GIPHY

  • Watch only movies that make you laugh out loud (suggestions for you 30 Best Comedy movies or  50 Comedies). 
  • via GIPHY

  • Do some art: an adult coloring page, card making, scrapbooking, paint, draw, photography - something creative.
  • via GIPHY

  • Put on some calming music and drink some herbal tea
  • via GIPHY

  • Bonus task: Write yourself a care note where you remind yourself of your best qualities
  • If you need to talk to somebody and you don't feel comfortable with anybody you know, try one of these online therapist services (click here).
  • Warning: alcohol is a depressant, so if you are feeling sad or lonely avoid booze since it will just make you feel worse.

Most of all, know that you aren't in this alone and you matter.  There are people who care about you and we will all get through this.  

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Review - An Ale of Two Cities

 This is the second book in this series, but it is the first for me.  Usually I like to start with the first in the series, but I am jumping in on this one without waiting to go back to the debut book.  I had no problem picking up the story line and follow the flow.

Author: Sarah Fox

Copyright: November 2019 (Kensington) 253 pgs

Series: 2nd in A Literary Pub Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery

Main Characters: Sadie Coleman, owner of the Inkwell-a literary themed bar

Setting: Modern day, Shady Creek, Vermont

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "The Winter Carnival always brings holiday cheer, Christmas joy—and tourists with cash—to picturesque Shady Creek, Vermont. At the center of the glittering decorations and twinkling lights is booklover and pub owner Sadie Coleman, creating original cocktails, hosting a literary trivia evening, and cheering on her loyal employee Melanie “Mel” Costas as she competes in the ice carving competition. 

 But holiday cheer can’t compete with former resident and renowned chef Freddy Mancini, who arrives with his nose in the air, showing off his ice-sculpting skills like a modern-day Michelangelo. During the artists’ break in the night-long contest, Mel’s tools disappear . . . and Freddy is found dead with her missing pick in his chest.

 Although the police turn their attention to Mel, it seems everyone in town had a grudge against Freddy, including his assistant, his mentor, his former flame, and even his half-brother.

 Faster than she can fling a Huckleberry Gin, Sadie finds herself racing to make sure the police don’t arrest the wrong suspect—all while sharing a flirtation with local brewery owner Grayson Blake. Their chemistry leads to a heated rivalry at the hockey rink—and to the hot pursuit of a killer."

Sadie Coleman is practical and makes a good sleuth.  Grayson Blake is the owner of a brewery and the romantic interest.  He has his work cut out for him because Sadie doesn't have a clue he's interested.  Aunt Gilda is a dear and I would like more of her character.  

Shady Creek is the ideal of a small town with a big winter carnival with a multitude of activities. The descriptions are well done and you feel the cold winter.

The plot is a solid cozy mystery with a terrible person who has many people with a grudge.  It took me a little bit to get really hooked (probably my having a lot to do rather than the book).  But once I got vested, I was flipping the pages and couldn't put it down.  

The climax has its nail biting moments and was well done.  the wrapup answered questions and makes you want to read the next one right away to stay in Shady Creek with Sadie.

This is a cozy that you can read for enjoyment of the town and its people as well as the mystery.  The world building was particularly well done.  

Rating: Good - A fun read that draws you into the setting as much as the mystery.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Review - The Last Mrs. Summers

I have followed the series, but not faithfully.  Sometimes I have read a book not gotten to reviewing it (I'm bad).  Here are the reviews I have posted of prior books in the series. 

#8 Queen of Hearts (click here

#7 Heirs and Graces (click here), 

#6 The Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here,) 

#5 Naughty in Nice (click here,) 

#4 Royal Blood (click here,) 

Author interviews/Guest posts

2010 (click here

2016 (click here

2017 (click here)

 Lady Georgiana Rannoch is just back from her honeymoon with dashing Darcy O’Mara when a friend in need pulls her into a twisted Gothic tale of betrayal, deception and, most definitely, murder. . . .In the foreword, Ms. Bowen shares that this book is her homage to Daphne du Maurier's gothic book Rebecca. 

Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright: August 2020 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 14th in A Royal Spyness Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character: Lady Georgianna, 35th in line for the throne, cousin to the prince

Setting: 1934-35, Cornwall England

Obtained Through: Library

Book Cover: "After a heart-stopping journey in Belinda’s beast of a motorcar, we arrive at the creaky old cottage called White Sails and quickly realize that it is completely uninhabitable. Just when I’m starting to wonder if I would have been better off trying to get Queenie to cook a roast that hasn’t been burnt beyond all recognition, we meet Rose Summers, a woman Belinda knew as a child when she spent time in Cornwall. Rose invites us to stay at Trewoma Hall, the lovely estate now owned by her husband, Tony.

Belinda confesses that she never liked Rose and had a fling with Tony years ago, so staying with them is far from ideal but beggars can’t be choosers as they say. Trewoma is not the idyllic house Belinda remembers. There’s something claustrophobic and foreboding about the place. Matters aren’t helped by the oppressively efficient housekeeper Mrs. Mannering or by the fact that Tony seems to want to rekindle whatever he and Belinda once had right under his wife’s nose.

Our increasingly awkward visit soon turns deadly when a member of the household is found murdered and all clues point to Belinda as the prime suspect. I soon learn that some long buried secrets have come back to haunt those in residence at Trewoma Hall and I’ll need to sift through the ruins of their past so Belinda doesn’t lose her chance at freedom in the present. . . ."


Georgiana is married now but Darcy is off on Government business so she is bored.  Belinda is done making mistakes with men and is trying to focus on cleaning up her life. This book gives her a great opportunity.  Rose is the new Mrs. Summers but she was the poor daughter of a servant and feels isolated and in danger.  Tony is the unsympathetic husband who treats Rose in a belittling manner.  Belinda's Uncle, Francis, is a shady local character complicating Belinda's life.  Jago is the mysterious man from the past that now is the manager of the mansion on the property next door.  Jonquil, deceased, was the prior Mrs. Summers who slipped at a cliff and fell to her death.  Mrs. Mannering is the ever-present efficient house keeper who doesn't like Rose.

Trewoma Hall has an aura of tragedy and woe. It provides the delightfully gothic setting for some nice chills.  The isolated coast of Cornwall in general is perfect for some creepy chills.

The foreward lets you know this is an homage to Rebecca, so the plot isn't a surprise that much if you've read Rebecca.  The murder takes several chapters to arrive, but the story is building like an Agatha Christie novel.  And, if you've read Rebecca it isn't hard to figure out the villain, but that doesn't make the journey any less enjoyable. The pacing is a slow warm up with a lot going on to process.  I found this still a relaxing and fun pace.

The killer confrontation is tense and tragic even.  The wrapup leaves us with a smile and warm feelings.

If you are a devoted reader of the Royal Spyness mysteries I must say that this is different than all the others.  By the very nature of doing an homage to Rebecca it had to be different than any of the others. There is no duty to the queen, Georgianna's disaster of a maid/cook doesn't tag along.  There is less humor than the typical mystery in the series, and Darcy's appearance seems forced.  But it is still a good homage and mystery that I found entertaining and well worth my time.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! If you are a fan of the series, keep my caveat in mind. If you haven't read this series before you can enjoy without reading any prior books in the series. 


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Monday, December 7, 2020

Review - Furbidden Fatality

I have read other books by Deborah Blake.  Her Veiled Magic series (click here) and her Baba Yaga series (click here).  This is her first foray into the cozy mystery realm and I jumped at the chance to read and review it. 

Deborah Blake

Copyright: Feb 2021 (Berkley) 288 pgs

Series: 1st in Catskills Pet Rescue Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery

Main Character: Kari Stuart, lottery winner and new owner of  pet shelter

Setting: Modern day, Lakeview New York

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

Book Blurb:  "A lottery winner uses her good fortune to save a local pet sanctuary, but when a body is discovered on the property, she just might be in the doghouse in this first book in a new, charming cozy mystery series from author Deborah Blake.

Kari Stuart's life is going nowhere—until she unexpectedly wins the lottery. The twenty-nine-year-old instant multimillionaire is still mulling plans for her winnings when rescuing a bossy black kitten leads her to a semi-abandoned animal shelter. They need the cash—Kari needs a purpose.

But the dilapidated rescue is literally going to the dogs with a pending lawsuit, hard to adopt animals, and too much unwanted attention from the town's dog warden. When the warden turns up dead outside the shelter's dog kennels, Kari finds herself up a creek without a pooper-scooper.

With the help of some dedicated volunteers, a cute vet, and a kitten who mysteriously shows up just when she needs it, Kari must prove her innocence all while trying to save a dog on death row. Now she just needs to hope that her string of unexpected luck isn't about to run out."

Kari Stuart won the lottery, but still worked as a waitress and lived in her little apartment, until she found her purpose in buying and fixing up the beleaguered pet shelter.  her BFF, Suzanne, is a dog groomer and supportive friend with lavender colored hair who lends her time and talent to the shelter effort.  Volunteer Sara Hanover is a retired ninth-grade English teacher who is somewhat a mother figure.  Bryn, a younger volunteer training to be a Vet-Tech, takes time to warm up to people.  Daisy, the original owner, stays on to train Kari on owning a shelter for a smooth transition.  Angus McCoy is a local veterinarian who volunteers his time to the shelter and is the potential love interest.  Georgia Travis is a disabled former police officer who helps solve the mystery.  Kari's brother Mickey, a drunken but charming mess, makes an appearance.    A little black kitten, Queenie, is the star of the show with personality and a sixth sense. 

Lakeview is a typical small town with plenty of drama, the shelter is in a rural setting that works for providing some atmosphere.  The climax was when all the pieces slip into place and the murderer confronts Kari for a few gripping moments.  The wrap-up is very satisfying and enjoyable to put a smile on your face and have you looking forward to the next book.

I found this debut novel of this new series full of everything that I love in a cozy.  It centers around a solid and hearty mystery, relatable heroine, interesting supporting characters, a love interest that I am cheering for, and a delightful writing style.  The icing and cherry on top are all the heartwarming animals throughout the book.  This is cozy mystery gold.

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

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Thursday, December 3, 2020


Start your holiday shopping with this December Book Bazaar.  Mystery books on sale for .99 cents or free for  a limited time.  Two of my Resort to Murder mysteries are included.  Check it out and perhaps you'll find another series to indulge in or a gift for a mystery enthusiast on your list.

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Review - A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder

I read many comparisons of this series style with Georgette Heyer, who I love.  So I had to read it.  This is my review of the first in the series.

Author: Dianne Freeman

Copyright: June 2018 (Kensington) 290 pgs

Series: 1st in A Countess of Harleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character: Frances Wynn, the wealthy Countess of Harleigh- recently widowed

Setting: Victorian era, London, England

Obtained Through: Library

Book Blurb: "Frances Wynn, the wealthy Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.
But no sooner has Frances begun her new life than the Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.
While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, and Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end . . ."

Frances Wynn is just beginning to live her life and she is thrilled and cautious.  Her sister, Lily, is visiting to find a husband and is a stellar character.  Frances deceased husband, Reggie, is still tormenting her, now with his death.  Neighbor and a friend's brother, George Hazelton, is the only other person that knows Reggie died while with his mistress. He is also the potential romantic interest.  Detective Inspector Delaney is probably one of my favorite cops.

This book brings out the shallow lives of many in the aristocracy.  It certainly brings up the changing times and how hard it is for the upper class to adjust to the style they are accustomed to living is going the way of the dodo.  This is the London presented.

The plot is intriguing.  After seven years of marriage, her unfaithful husband dies and she is free to move to London and live life on her terms... until someone sends notes to the police accusing her of murdering her husband and Inspector Delaney shows up and her doorstep.   Additionally, there's a jewel thief running around stealing from the upper class at their gatherings as a side plot.

The killer reveal may come as a surprise, I had considered this character but hadn't given that character more serious consideration until closer to the reveal.  There were a few moments of tension in the reveal. 

Many of the historical mysteries have a slightly darker edge to them.  This is the exception with its more breezy writing style.  If you want a lighter historical mystery that is also a slow-burn on the romance side, then this is for you.  I found it refreshing and delightful.

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

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