Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Review - Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts
By:  Rhys Bowen
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 5, 2014

Lady Georgiana is back for the 8th book in the series of Her Royal Spyness.  This time, Georgie’s mother, Claire Daniels, wants to go to America, and she invites Georgie to go with her.  Her mother is traveling to America in order to secure a divorce from her current husband, so she can marry her current love, Max.  The plan is to sail into New York and then head to Reno, Nevada for a quickie divorce.  Plans quickly change when the pair meet Cy Goldman, a movie producer.  He wants Claire to star in his next major movie which is set to start filming.  So, after a quick stop in Reno to establish residency, Georgie and Claire head to Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  Cy decides to take a weekend off from filming and invites some of the movie crew and other guests to spend the weekend at his Hollywood home.  Things take a turn for the worse when Cy is found dead on the floor of his library.  Everyone at the house becomes a suspect, and Georgie tries to sift through all the clues to find out who murdered Cy.

Although this is a mystery book series, I always think of it as mystery lite.  I’ve found these books to be more character driven with a mystery playing in the background.  Rhys Bowen has created some unique and entertaining characters, and it is fun to “watch” how their lives play out.  In this story, we see Georgie’s mother basking in the spotlight  and enjoying every ounce of attention that is paid to her.  As traveling companions, mother and daughter get to spend more time with each other than they normally do.  Although Georgie is excited to be going with her mother, her time with her mother is not a high point for her.  Her mother takes every opportunity given to tell her that she isn’t living up to her expectations in either looks or actions.  When Georgie crosses paths with Darcy O’Mara, she couldn’t be happier.  Their relationship continues to heat up, and readers such as myself continue to root for this couple and hope they make it down the aisle.  Other classic characters appear in this novel as well.  We see Queenie still struggling to be a lady’s maid, and Belinda is back and up to her antics again.  All of these characters are joined by a quirky group of Americans.

There are actually two mysteries entwined in this story.  First we have a jewel thief whom Darcy is in hot pursuit of.  His main suspect is Stella Brightwell, an American actress, who happens to be headed to New York on the same ship that Georgie is on.  The thief strikes again while on board the ship, but manages to go undetected once more.  Darcy, still believing that Stella Brightwell is the thief, follows her to Hollywood.  There Georgie and Darcy meet up again, and this time Georgie introduces Darcy to Cy Goldman, who immediately wants to cast Darcy in his movie.  As part of the cast, Darcy is invited to Cy’s Hollywood house.  Here the second mystery takes place.  Cy is found murdered in his library.  His head has been crushed by one of a new pair of expensive candlesticks.  The second candlestick is missing.  Is this a robbery gone bad?  Has the jewel thief struck again?  Will the murderer kill another victim?  Is one of the guests the murderer?  These are the questions that the small-time county sheriff comes to ascertain.  No one seems to have much faith in him, and Darcy and Georgie attempt to solve the mysteries on their own.

I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of this book.  Katherine Kellgren does a spectacular job.  She really helps this series come alive.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review - Murder at Harbor Village

Murder at Harbor Village
By:  G.P. Gardner
Published By:  Kensington Books
Published On:  November 13, 2018
4 Stars

While trying to decide whether or not to take an early retirement, Cleo Mack visits the small town of Fairhope, Alabama.  While there, Cleo meets a handful of very nice, welcoming people.  Cleo decides to visit the pier, and there she meets Nita Bergen, a local, friendly retiree.  Nita sings the praises of Fairhope, along with Harbor Village where she lives.  Cleos decides to take the plunge and retire and move to Fairhope.

In addition to moving to Harbor Village, Cleo is offered a part-time job.  Cleo is hesitant, but decides to take it.  Before she even has a chance to start her new job, the director of the facility is found dead in the Harbor Village swimming pool.  Cleo suddenly finds herself thrust into the position of acting director.  Cleo must not only quickly learn the ropes, but she also finds herself embroiled in the mystery surrounding the director’s death. Things are not as they seem, and around every corner Cleo finds a new question.

Right away, the author does a great job of painting a picturesque picture of Fairhope that help make the reader fall in love with it, too.  Cleo describes it as St. Mary Mead without the stone walls which helps the reader get a feel for the town’s atmosphere as well.  The author goes on to describe what she calls a sky cathedral.  It makes me want to sit on the pier and experience it as well.

In addition to creating such as idyllic setting, the author also created some great characters.  We get to meet both resident of Harbor Village and employees.  Cleo’s friendship with Nita and her husband, Jim, grows as the story progresses.  Jim and Nita also introduce Cleo to two of their friends, Riley and Dolly.  The author seems to set the stage for a possible romance with Riley.  Cleo’s relationships with her employees are a bit more complicated.  There seem to be some discrepancies at Harbor Village and Cleo is not sure who to trust.  She decides to put her faith in Patti, a very likable character.  Cleo wonders if she could be working with a murderer.

Speaking of murder, the murder is the driving force of this story.  The murder draws Cleo and her new friends closer together, and it leads her to get to know everyone at work a little better.  While the murderer gets narrowed down to just a couple of likely people towards the end, the reader must still piece together the whys and the exact circumstances that led to the murder.  This was a great cozy mystery that kept my interest all the way through.  I hope the author writes more books in this series, as I’m looking forward to reading more.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #MurderAtHarborVillage

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review - Twas the Knife Before Christmas

Twas the Knife Before Christmas
Author:  Jacqueline Frost
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Published:  September 27, 2018
4 Stars

This book picks up one year after the end of the first book in the series, and the author does a great job catching us up with the characters from Mistletoe, Maine.  We learn that Holly’s parents are building an inn on Reindeer Games Christmas tree farm.  The inn is almost finished, and Holly is to become the innkeeper.  Her friendships with Caroline and Ray have really blossomed over the year, and she can’t imagine her life without them.  Caroline has opened her cupcake shop, and Ray is continuing his quest to become an investigative reporter.  Holly’s relationship with Evan seems to be at a standstill.  He has been both distant and elusive, and Holly is not sure where they stand.  The recurring characters in this book are all fun and easy to fall in love with.  We also get to meet some new and interesting characters in this book.

It’s less than two weeks before Christmas and many of the town residents and tourists are gathered around for the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony.  As the tree is lit, a large candy dish filled with peppermint candies is unveiled.  Much to everyone’s chagrin, there is also a body in it.  They body turns out to be that of Derek Waggoner, a successful local businessman and womanizer.  Holly’s best friend Caroline becomes the prime suspect because she had been seen arguing with Derek the night before, and he has been killed with one of Caroline’s knives which was found with only her fingerprints on it.  Holly knows her friend is not a murderer, and she has lots of questions about the case.  She starts asking her questions around town, but almost immediately starts receiving threats to back off the case.  While the threats frighten Holly, she is determined to find out who the real killer is.

I started the second book in this series right after I finished the first.  The first book got me hooked, and I wanted to see what was next for Holly and her friends.  While both books dealt with murders at Christmas, and Holly’s sleuthing, I thought the plots were different enough that I didn’t just feel like I was rereading the same story.  The mystery in the second book is very intriguing and I enjoyed the building suspense the author created.  The mystery was also as good as the first, and I’m hoping for a third book in this series.  The author unquestionably laid the tracks for another story.  There is definite character development in these books, and I would suggest reading them in order to truly appreciate what the author has created.

One of the things I like about both of these books is Holly’s intentions as an amateur sleuth.  While she does get frustrated with the sheriff’s investigation at times, you don’t get the impression that she thinks she is smarter than the sheriff.  She simply has questions that she wants answered, and she feels like she approaches the investigation from a different angle.

This is a great cozy mystery filled with the sights, sounds, and magic of Christmas.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TwasTheKnifeBeforeChristmas

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book Review - The Opium Purge

The Opium Purge
By:  Elizabeth Bailey
Publisher:  Sapere Books
Published On:  November 01, 2018
4 Stars

“The cloak splashed red against the pristine snow.  Arms uplifted to the heavens, bare fingers catching at fresh flakes, the girl twirled on the vanished lawn of the Dower House, her countenance alight with pleasure.”

After taking in this scene, Lady Ottilia Fanshawe feels like she has witnessed a fairy dancing in the snow.  Soon after, Lady Fanshawe decides to go for a walk, but when she arrives at the front parlour, she finds her dancing fairy in the middle of the room with a bloodied hand.  It becomes apparent that the young girl has broken the glass in the door to gain access to the room.  From her initial interactions with the girl, Tamasine, Lady Fanshawe realizes she has some sort of mental illness.  Tamasine’s guardian, Sir Joslin Cadel, and Tamasine’s companion, Lavinia, arrive soon after in search of her.  They apologize for the disruption, and they take Tamasine back to their adjoining property.  Not long afterwards, Tamasine is back tapping on the glass to be let in.  She comes in and announces she has pushed Joslin down the steps in the garden, and that he is dead.  Lady Fanshawe can’t help but investigate Sir Joslin’s death.  Although she is hesitant to believe Tamasine’s version of events, she does suspect that he has been murdered.

The Opium Purge is the third book in the Lady Fan Series, and the relationship between Lord and Lady Fanshawe continues to be one of the charms of the book.  Lady Fanshawe is a strong-minded, intelligent woman who is determined to seek out truths.  Lord Fanshawe’s gallant efforts to protect his wife and her honor, all while giving her the space she requires to carry out her investigations, is nothing short of regal.  Throughout the story, they both show their love for each other in subtle ways, often by just a touch or a gentle word.

One of the interesting aspects of the story, and one that I found humorous, is that Lady Fanshawe asserts herself into Sir Joslin’s household under no one’s authority but her own.  She is accosted by members of the household staff who question her authority to be snooping through the house.  She lets their objections roll off her shoulders, and continues her investigations.  It’s so Lady Fan of her :) !

Her investigation starts with a death that was apparently caused by a fall but is eventually ruled a death by opium overdose.  This is but the first twist in this intriguing tale.  The house is full of secrets and Lady Fanshawe must work through each of these secrets to understand the truth behind Joslin’s death.  One of the secrets is Tamasine herself.  Should we love her innocence or fear her twisted thoughts?  Are those that surround her there to support her or take advantage of her?

The story kept me absorbed right until the very surprising ending.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to Net Galley and Sapere Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheOpiumPurge