Review: Cactus Rose

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Cactus Rose
Author: Samantha Harte
Publisher: Diversion
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 238 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rosie Saladay needs to get married—fast. The young widow needs help to protect her late husband’s ranch, but no decent woman can live alone with a hired hand. With the wealthy Wesley Morris making a play for her land, Rosie needs a husband or she risks losing everything. So she hangs a sign at the local saloon: “Husband wanted. Apply inside. No conjugal rights.”

Delmar Grant is a sucker for a damsel in distress, and even with Rosie’s restrictions on “boots under her bed” stated firmly in black and white, something about the lovely widow’s plea leaves him unable to turn away her proposal of marriage.

Though neither planned on falling in love, passion ignites between the unlikely couple. But their buried secrets—and enemies with both greed and a grudge—threaten to tear them apart. They’ll discover this marriage of convenience may cost them more than they could have ever bargained for.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I thought it was going to be a great book from the start. A woman looking for a husband in Arizona Territory — in the saloon?

Rosie Salady suspects her husband was murdered at his work site, far into the interior of their property that is much-speculated about in town to be a gold mine. Perhaps that was the motive, she believes as she eyes the nasty Wesley Morris trying to buy it up. But how can she prove it? Not to mention Abner’s work – it has to be protected! In order to keep her husband’s land and work site safe, Rosie hastily marries a stranger she finds in the saloon only a week after burying her husband.

Delmar Grant, a gunfighter, continually finds himself gambling away everything as he makes his way back home…a destination he will never reach. He is an attractive man and answers Rosie’s strange ad, surviving through the interview process. The judge marries them and Rosie takes Del home. He quickly surmises that Rosie lives in a shack and that her husband didn’t put in any work into the house, barn, or any other little things that needed doing. As they pick up married life, Del discovers that Rosie’s husband was only home to eat dinner and sleep on a mat in his own add-on to the house. Del quickly puts himself to work tending to things, fixing things, and putting them to rights to improve Rosie’s pitiful buildings. Slowly, as they live married life together, they slowly fall in love, even though Del has his own secrets.

Rose was a mill girl with no family. She came west to marry Abner…only to find out he wasn’t in need of a wife, but a housekeeper. Rosie kept the house up, cooked, and made sure to look out for absent-minded and dedicated Abner. Rosie’s life was so isolating and lonely it was heartbreaking. Del soaks it all in and treats Rosie with kindness and small touches of the love she didn’t have but craved.

Eventually Rosie takes Del to Abner’s work site – a beautiful indigenous community built into the side of a massive cliff. The residents long gone, Abner dedicated his entire life to documenting every single thing about the site in journals and collections. Del chooses to secret the journals away in the desert, which proves useful later. He also discovers an indication that Abner might have died of natural causes, in addition to his own regrets about Rosie in the last few weeks of his life.

As much as I enjoyed this book and its fresh take on mail-order brides, there were a few strange moments between the two main characters as the book went on. I understood its purpose to create tension and suspense, but it was quite strange. My take-away was that Del thought Rosie was absolutely crazy and told her so without mincing any words. There were a couple times Rosie’s freaking out was too much and some things she said didn’t make sense. I surmise these were difficult scenes to write. In all this chaos and a dirty underhand deal before Rosie ever set eyes on Del, Rosie is back to living a life of lonely solitude as Del tries to figure out all the players after Rosie’s land. He discovers a looter on Abner’s site and things begin to unravel at breakneck speeds from there with the looter and Wesley Morris.

An interesting read and commentary on protecting our history and historical sites as is, as well as shining the spotlight on women and their needs in their marriage. The concept of Abner’s native work site and treasures reminds me quite a bit of Baxter’s Draw by Juliette Harper wherein the three daughters of Langston Lockwood discover a hidden retreat in the property’s draw that contain beautiful native artifacts, artwork, and other items.

Advertisements

Review: Saturdays at Sweeney’s

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Saturdays at Sweeney’s
Author: Ashley Farley
Publisher: Kindle Press
Release Date: January 2018
Length: 250 pages
Series?: Sweeney Sisters #5
Genre: Women’s Fiction

When the seafood business Lovie Sweeney established sixty years ago is destroyed by fire, she finds herself at the center of an arson investigation. What really happened that night? Is Lovie responsible for starting the fire or is her family under attack from a sworn enemy?

The loss of their family business leaves the Sweeney clan in flux. Samantha faces the challenges of rebuilding the market while her son, Jamie, on track to graduate from college in six months, must decide whether to make his permanent home in Prospect or move to Charleston where a new special someone resides. At age forty-five, Faith, who has never fully recovered from an abusive marriage, is on a quest to find her true passion? Jackie is distraught when her son, Sean, flunks out of college and struggles to find direction in his life without his twin brother to guide him. A medical diagnosis brings the sisters closer together and threatens to change family dynamics forever.

The Sweeney women remind us that it’s never too late to begin a new endeavor and to never stop chasing your dreams until you draw your last breath.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I thought this would be a great book to start the off the year. I was shocked to realize it’s the final book in the series and the first one I’ve read! The author brings readers up to speed, though. Reading about the Sweeney sisters and their families in Prospect made me think this is the perfect kind of small town dysfunctional heaven. There were a wide range of events happening and packaged all in this book with the cute cover: a family’s battle living with Alzheimer’s, the family business being destroyed, family secrets, alcoholism and recovery, drug abuse and therapy, younger generations starting their college pathways, a strange mystery of occurrences, and a sleazy tabloid writer. It didn’t shy away from those hard topics – it faced them head-on.

Each family member has his or her own spotlight throughout the book to continue the narration and plot.Each of the Sweeney sisters had their own secret to hide and each of those things continued to build up the tension and draw out the suspense, while their children are also struggling to move forward in their lives.

The book begins with Sweeney’s Seafood Market on fire. The preliminary report points to a lightning strike, but further investigation reveals arson. The fire department is reluctant to point fingers, but it must be noted that Lovie Sweeney was at the scene before the fire department arrived. She couldn’t answer their questions and becomes the lone suspect.

As Faith planned to step away from the business and leave it to Sam, she and her son Jamie must decide what their next move with the family business will be. Is this a total loss or a new beginning? Jaimie’s entire summer plan was to work at Sweeney’s. It is looking dismal with Lovie being the center of the fire investigation. The insurance won’t pay out in the event of arson.

Sam’s husband Eli must recuse himself from the investigation, but is right there alongside it every step of the way to ensure it is executed properly. From day one, it is not. It results in further disorientation from Lovie, who doesn’t seem to know who Eli is. She is living in the past, and Sam is still with Allen. Concerned for her well-being, the sisters remove their mother from her townhouse and install her in Faith’s home. With no job to report to every day, and stuck in limbo with the direction her life should now take, Faith readily volunteers to be caretaker extraordinaire for their mother. Lovie’s mental faculties continue to decline, and soon she is becoming combative and hard to care for.

Suddenly dead animals begin showing up on the sisters’ doorsteps, with their mother’s hand-written recipes attached. Whoever set the fire is taunting the Sweeney girls. Faith quickly discovers who the true culprit is, but she never shares that information with her sisters or even her husband. Instead, she does what she wants to and ultimately puts her mother and daughter at risk.

The oldest sister, Jackie, is busy running her interior design business and looking to expand. Spending much of the week out of town, she is disconnected with the family. After trying to convince her sisters to place their mother in an amazing care facility, she is kind of on the outs. She is struggling to keep customers happy, sell her current location, and purchase a new showroom. Meanwhile, one of her sons is arrested on drug charges. Additionally, he is kicked out of Jackie’s alma matter for straight failing grades his freshman year. He is brought back home and everything about it is kept a secret.

Jamie is tasked with babysitting Sean and they both get jobs at a local restaurant. In the time the boys aren’t working the restaurant, they are out catching crabs and selling on the site of their burned family business on Saturdays. Soon, Jamie connects with his half-sister and goes to work with her catering company.

This is the story of real life that real families face every day. It was eye-opening to family, loyalty, love, motivation, distrust, secrets, fear. It is also a wonderful example of how important it is to be understanding and supportive of your loved ones going through tough trying situations. I connected so well with this family and fell in love with them. I definitely want to go back and read the first four books in the series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: Misty Lake

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Misty Lake
Author: Margaret Standafer
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: June 2015
Length: 308 pages
Series?: Misty Lake #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense

Samantha Taylor has lost all those dearest to her…her parents, her brother, and now the grandfather who raised her. When his will is read and some of his secrets come to light, Sam finds herself back in Misty Lake, Minnesota, a place that holds countless happy memories but, as she quickly discovers, just as many questions.

Jake McCabe, Misty Lake’s sheriff, is as curious as anyone about the town’s newest resident but it isn’t until Sam becomes the victim of a particularly cruel vandal that he meets her and gets a look at the house that has everyone in town talking.

As Jake races to keep Sam safe from the escalating attacks, he also works to break down the wall she has built around herself and to convince her that a life without love isn’t a life at all.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Samantha Taylor arrives in Misty Lake to sell the house she inherited from her grandfather, who was her caretaker growing up after her parents’ death. The house itself is so out of character from how she was raised with her grandfather, but it is clear he built this for her by including a lavish wood shop for her to continue her woodworking. Sam decides to stay in Misty Lake and build a beautiful china hutch for herself, for her late grandmother. It is a personal project.

Since Sam decided to stay, she also sought out Project Strong Star to host a small group of troubled teens to receive hands-on training as part of a summer camp. At the same time, very odd and disturbing things begin occurring on Sam’s property. Broken windows, brutally bloody animals, those kinds of things. Most likely a prank. Sam wants to keep these things to herself and not draw attention to herself. Soon Sheriff McCabe is made aware of the goings on and starts his own investigation. No one is excluded, including some of the Project Strong Star teens. Not long after, two of Sam’s cousins come to visit, and one remains with her in Misty Lake. Despite the sheriff and the new relatives in town, the incidents continue and heighten in severity. It is clear someone wants Sam to leave the house her grandfather left to her.

 

The Players

Sam Taylor – a new resident of Misty Lake; she recently inherited a property and opens a woodworking business

Jake McCabe – the sheriff

Jimmy – a persistent kid in Sam’s group; he has an older sibling who is big trouble

Jackson – a meticulous kid in Sam’s group mixed up with drugs; he doesn’t talk much

Mario – a reluctant kid in Sam’s group

Davis – a smart aleck kid in Sam’s group

Katie – a kid in Sam’s group in and out of foster care; worried about her dad

Zach  – a quiet, distracted kid in Sam’s group; she is concerned about his constant texting on a phone he shouldn’t have

Tyler Loomis – a PSS kid Zach hangs around with; he has the most serious of crimes at camp

Blade – Jimmy’s older brother; involved in a gang and pressuring Jimmy to join

 

The Quote

 “Try to remember that, in the end, the choices they make are their choices. You can teach, guide, encourage, and support but their lives and their decisions are ultimately their own. If one of them makes a mistake, it’s not your fault.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Surprise. There is a large element of surprise to the storyline. First in the opening with her grandfather leaving her such a property that once only housed an old cabin. Why didn’t he tell her? Then there are the strange “gifts” being left for Sam, which she tells no one about until someone else alerts the sheriff. Further still, Sam is surprised when two of her cousins mysteriously pop up for a visit. And more surprised when her cousin Susan wants to stay in Misty Lake.
  • Alone. Sam finds it strange that everyone in town and the sheriff all makes mention that she lives alone. Following the deaths of her parents, her grandmother, her brother, and now her grandfather, Sam prefers to stay away from people, even other relatives. It makes it easier for her when something happens to them. She doesn’t even have friends – doesn’t even know how to make friends. She is truly a recluse and likes to keep to herself.
  • The Investigation. When Sheriff McCabe turns the attention of his investigation to Sam’s PSS students, Sam is outraged. She vehemently defends all of them, despite her own suspicions. It seemed odd to me that she would do so without even knowing these students, but then the story of her brother comes to light and it all makes sense. During the investigation, Sheriff McCabe discovers that two kids from PSS have been disappearing from camp at night with a vehicle. They, of course, become the focus. Throughout the investigation, Sam and Jake are naturally brought close together. Jake’s natural interest in this newcomer and trying to keep her safe leads him to spend more time with her and get to know her better. The slow development of their relationship opening up over the course of the investigation only made Jake more protective and concerned about Sam – the one thing she didn’t want for a long time.
  • Suspense. Every so often narrative from the perspective of the person stalking and scaring Sam appears throughout the book. As the story goes on, the events that happen become more severe and egregious, and the narrative becomes more unstable and scary. Things amped up each time, and twice I thought I knew who was responsible, only to be debunked by further investigation. I finally figured it out who it was at the last moment, and the battery of information about this individual went far beyond some simple pranks.
  • Twist. There is a major twist toward the end of the book when the plot goes into overtime. Everything about one of Sam’s students all fell into place from the beginning and made sense: stealing items alone (unusual for teens), constantly checking his phone, disappearing, and being antsy.

The writing was well-crafted and the dialogue had a natural flow to it. Jake’s investigation and dealings with people added authenticity to his role. The description of this small Minnesota lake town was beautiful and charming, a town you’d want to live in. It was a sweet and thrilling read that kept me turning pages to find out just who it was so determined to run Sam out of town. The characters are an interesting and fun cast, each adding their own little sliver to the story.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I was born, raised, and still reside in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Being surrounded by ten thousand some lakes means a love of all things water-related…and a deep hatred of mosquitos. After years spent in perpetual motion juggling a family and a career and loving every minute of it, some pesky health issues led to mandated down time and eventually resulted in me finally grabbing the laptop and putting some of the stories that had been alive and well—but relegated to a small spot in the recesses of my mind—down on paper. The outcome is my first published novel, Misty Lake. It is my sincere hope that you enjoy the story.

After completing one novel, the writing bug took a firm hold. With the support of my amazing and understanding husband, as well as my amazing and somewhat understanding kids, and in spite of the lack of support from my ever-demanding Golden Retriever, I have completed the second and third books in the Misty Lake series,  The Inn at Misty Lake and Misty Lake in Focus. I am currently hard at work on book four.

Find the author: Website Goodreads

Review: The Unwanted Heiress

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Unwanted Heiress
Author: Amy Corwin
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: July 2013
Length: 328 pages
Series?: The Archer Family #1
Genre: Historical Romance

An American heiress nobody wants; a Duke every woman is after, and a murder no one expects. 

When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he’s suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him. However, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes.

Unfortunately, a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered, and his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect. On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aid, not realizing that her actions may place her in danger, too.

Both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte, and that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel’s carriage.

Some nights just don’t go as planned.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Charlotte Haywood is an unfortunate American in England. She has bounced from relative to relative who have cast her off, waiting until she is of age to take control of her inheritance and properties. She is extremely intelligent, a bluestocking, and she is outlandishly out of place in England as a tall, red-headed woman who stands out and above the crowd. She is passed over time and time again. It is a lonely, dejected life of misery for Charlotte, knowing her relatives don’t want her – despite her wealth. Her guardian, Westover, uses her heiress and wealth factor to use as ante in a card game, and when John Archer wins the pot with all aces (despite his nephew holding an ace in his hand). When Charlotte arrives, she is sure she will be sent away.

John Archer and his wife are an adorable couple, but he seems to have a little meddling on his hands when it comes to his nephew, Nathaniel, who recently came into a dukedom. They hatch some incredible schemes together. The Duke has so many women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber or coach, that he is at risk for being roped into an unwanted marriage. He is dodging and hiding out from women. Then debutantes start dropping like flies around the Duke – and a murderer is on the loose.

 

The Players

Miss Charlotte Haywood – an American colonial heiress who requires a guardian until she is of-age

Lord Nathaniel Archer – the Duke of Peckham, recently inherited; Archer’s nephew

John Archer – Nathaniel’s uncle; aka Archer

Lady Victoria Archer – John’s husband

 

The Quote

“Then let me clarify my position, Your Grace. I would rather get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors for eternity in Hades than marry you.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Charlotte. Poor girl. Her physical characteristics make her off-putting and overlooked in London society. She is a tall woman with red hair. Not what a man is seeking in a darling debutante. She is a bluestocking and wants to pursue an Egyptian excavation – not just fund it, either. She wants to be on site! Charlotte is a woman out of depth in her time, but she is extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for her in London society, she’s an American colonial heiress. It’s a blackmark against her already, in addition to her features and intelligence. The stark contrast only furthers the notion of how alone Charlotte is in the world as an orphan. She has been booted from family member to family member as her guardians until the time comes when she is eligible to take hold of her inheritance.
  • The Archers. The couple is adorable! They obviously love one another, and wife is looking out for her husband. I could see why with some of his hair-brained schemes! Archer has a gambling problem and apparently cheats at cards, so it brings into question the state of the Archer finances if he has to resort to cheating.
  • The Winnings. Charlotte’s current guardian has had enough of her, so he includes her in his ante. He will be rid of her and her disreputable antics and someone else will be left to manage her property and finances. While her wealth seems like a coup, her manners will have Londoners seeing red. The Archers gain Charlotte by “winning” a game of cards. Unexpected, but they are determined she not find out how she came under their guardianship. It would be humiliating and devastating. Not to mention they’re not even related.
  • The Murders. London ladies start popping up expired in the most unusual circumstances – and the Duke of Peckham is always around. He is a self-proclaimed misogynist and hates women. He has not interested in marrying, despite the dozens of women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber to compromise her, forcing a marriage. When the first woman is found dead in the gardens, there are a few who staunchly point fingers at the Duke and continue to do so when the second lady is found murdered in his own coach. While the murders themselves are gruesome and sad, there was something odd about them. As I said, it seemed only a finger pointing game. One individual kept dogging Scotland Yard and the scandal sheets, who didn’t seem to have any real evidence besides witness testimonies and hearsay. There didn’t seem to be much of a true investigation, but I suppose they were different in the days of nobility. The Duke repeatedly commented that SY would not dare arrest a duke. Once was enough, but the repetition only brought out the disconnect he had with the gravity of the murders and highlighted how his sudden dukedom had gone to his head. It didn’t seem anyone was really taking the murdered women seriously aside from their families. The murders do motivate the Duke to become engaged, though. If he’s engaged, he can’t be a misogynist and therefore not the murderer.
  • Lady Beatrice. When Charlotte was sent to boarding school, she met Lady Beatrice, who was the ugliest person ever. She makes a wonderful villain. She is evil to her core, stamping a footman’s hand into broken glass, and as a child throwing ice water out the window onto Charlotte in the freezing cold. She has her sights set on the Duke and has an unnatural hatred for Charlotte.
  • Downfall. After doing his job as guardian, Archer discovers some major discrepancies with Charlotte’s inheritance and colonial property. What was once a lucrative inheritance and holdings, over the years gross oversight and impropriety and sticky fingers have left Charlotte with only a third or so of what her inheritance and holdings were. It is a devastating blow that cripples her dreams of an Egyptian archaeological dig. She is also kidnapped and held for ransom. After it is all over, it seemed very staged – as the investigator thought as well. Where she was held was very interesting. That idea backfired and had the opposite result of what was desired.

I found this to be an odd mix of character and plot lines. It seemed like things were off to a good start and then the tracks were secretly switched. Things started spiraling in too many directions at times. I thought Charlotte’s character was unique and fresh. Her feeling of displacement is a little heartbreaking. I’d want to go on an Egyptian dig, too! Nathaniel, on the other hand, was a narcissistic snob. An eligible duke is always going to garner more attention than the lower gentry, but I found it highly out of place that young women of the ton would be hiding in his bedroom. Perhaps once it could happen with a brazen and bold lady, but not every night. There were some inconsistencies that caused a bit of confusion as I read, and I would have liked to have seen the kidnapping more fleshed out. Archer intrigued me, though. He could have his own book! I can’t imagine what else he could get up to without supervision.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Caught Bread Handed

CaughtBreadHanded_BlogTour (2)

81wXanl2xQLTitle: Caught Bread Handed
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2016
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Bakeshop Mystery #4
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

Welcome to Torte—a friendly, small-town family bakeshop where the oven is heating up as high as the body count…

Jules Capshaw is still chewing over her husband Carlos’s return to Ashland, Oregon. Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen? Whatever is stirring between those two will have to wait. Despite the Oregon Shakespeare Festival being dark for the winter, the bakeshop is bustling, the dough is rolling, and there’s no rest for the weary… especially when murder is thrown into the mix.

When Mindy Nolan, the owner of a new restaurant in town, turns up dead, the batter at hand thickens. Jules knows that there was bad blood between Mindy and others in town, and tracking the killer could prove to be an unwelcome treat. And to top it all off, there’s Carlos, who is pleading—with those delicious dark eyes and sexy Spanish accent—for Jules to take him back. Is home where the heart is or will she make a fresh start… and risk getting burned?

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

A week following Jules and Andy’s secluded catering gig, things have returned to normal in Ashland. Relatively. Everyone around town is in love with Jules’s estranged husband, Carlos.

A new fast-food burger chain buys out a local resident’s restaurant and opens up in downtown that has the business community up in arms. Once again, Jules is right in the thick of things the day following a major town meeting bashing Mindy. Rumor has it a fight went down and two particular residents seem to have it out for Mindy and her business partners.

When Jules walks in on the unthinkable, she is swept up in the investigation once again.

The Players

Jules – Jules is the sweetheart of Ashland that everyone keeps their eyes on. She is the hub and hum of her parents’ bakery, Torte, that she is trying to get into the black and get back on track to being financially successful. She is on a cusp with her relationship with her estranged husband. With the renewal of her friendship with high school sweetheart, it puts Jules in a strange place.

Sterling – Torte’s frontman employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He is growing as a chef and baker as well, taking large direction from Jules’s husband, who is also helping him with his love life.

Stephanie – Torte’s backup baker in the kitchen. She follows Jules’s direction and is a developing baker. She also still has a soft spot for Sterling.

Andy – Torte’s barista boy. He is known for making new drinks that he shares with Torte’s customers.

Carlos – Jules’s estranged husband turned up in Ashland and has stayed. He is very respectable and compassionate. He also diligently mentors Sterling both as a chef and as man. He wants to reconcile with Jules.

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the Ashland’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” It is his norm to quote The Bard and other philosophical individuals. He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly has the highest regard for Jules. He comes running when Jules calls, and tries to back off and give Jules some space to handle her situation with Carlos.

Alan – Local town favorite who shut down the Jester and sold to Mindy. He is a very laid back dude who is exuding a high level of anger at the town meeting.

Mindy – A new business owner in downtown Ashland. She brings in a fast-food chain, Shakesburgers, and is the target of the town.

Matthew – Mindy’s business partner.

The Quote

Lance leaned toward my ear. “First rule of fashion. Never pair a cheap T-shirt with an even cheaper suit. He looks like a walking pickle.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Carlos. He is a refreshing surprise. I expected things to be tense again with him around, but he didn’t pressure and push Jules as much as he did in the previous installment. He is kind to everyone he meets and wants to be a good mentor to Sterling. I feel like he added a lot of meaning to the book.
  • Sterling. He is growing so much as a character and I love seeing that.
  • Depth. I didn’t feel there was necessarily as much depth to the story as the previous installments, but that didn’t stop me from devouring the book.
  • The Twist. While Alan sold the Jester to Mindy, he reveals a surprising twist after her death. It changes the game entirely and points Jules in the right direction.
  • Financials. While the financial status of Torte weighs heavy on Jules since they only have one working oven, the town junkie finds a way to make something good out of Mindy’s death. There is grant money to keep the downtown businesses in line with the city council’s Shakespearean theme. Since Jules has been working toward something like this for four books now, it’s good to see it finally happening!

The Take-Away

I just love Jules and her entire little family at Torte: her mother, Sterling, Stephanie, and Andy. They each have such interesting and fun personalities and they mesh so well. They support one another and

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow. This is not one you’d want to skip, and if you aren’t a collector of the series, this may be one you just want to read once.

About the Author

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

bread giveaway

  • Signed copies of all 4 books in the Bakeshop Mysteries,
  • Cupcake tea towel and pot holder
  • Love cake topper
  • Bakeshop page flags
  • Assortment of gourmet lemonade
  • Triple Chocolate Chunk cookie mix

US only. Giveaway ends July 20th. Must be 13 or older to enter and have parental permission if under 18. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Review: Noble Secrets


29626967Title:
 Noble Secrets
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: AIBHS
Release Date: March 2016
Length: 122 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #.5
Genre: Historical Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

A dangerous man from her past.
A handsome duke in her present.
Secrets that threaten their future.

After tragedy hits and danger moves in, Pauline Donahue flees London, searching for sanctuary and a way to start over. A job at a small university provides the escape she needs. Keeping recalcitrant professor Edward Bailey on task after a shattered heart renders him broken and destroyed becomes her daily routine. But when the same vicious man from her past sets his malicious sights on Pauline, her safe haven comes crashing down.

Duke of Waltham, Christopher Bailey, never counted on the gentle commoner, Miss Donahue, to save his brother–and himself–from broken pasts and a lifetime of mistakes. But she does just that. As their love blossoms, danger closes in, threatening Pauline and Christopher’s lives. Together, they are forced to face their biggest fears, revealing secrets that could ruin them both.

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

This is the prequel to the series and starts in 1862. Pauline is simply a secretary – who wants to learn, something taboo – and winds up being hired by the Duke (and ultimately his mother) to watch over the Duke’s brother, Edward, after suffering a devastating end to his engagement. They are concerned with his “mental welfare.” Since this is the beginning of Edward’s work with the aether project for the university, they are very interested in it being completed, so they agree to allow Pauline to change roles and act as Edward’s personal assistant.

Meanwhile, Christopher does not agree to his mother’s meddling in his marriage – or lack thereof. A ball to host all of the most eligible ladies of the land will be thrown, and as the date draws nearer, Christopher finds every means of escaping it. Even if that means checking in more frequently on his brother and his pretty secretary.

Pauline is working her tush off to pay for her accommodations at a boarding house, a place where she is safe from the goon who attacked her. Previously she worked as a maid to the prostitutes in another town, another place, another life. This is also the place where her mother entertained and eventually lost her life “at the hands of a jealous man.” After that, she ran away.

But there have been murders – of women very much resembling Pauline. And now someone is looking for her…

The Players

Pauline – a young woman on the run from her past

Edward – a young professor working in an entirely new department, recently heartbroken and not faring well

Christopher – Edward’s older brother, the Duke; he hires Pauline to look after Edward while

Johann – Edward’s friend, a violinist at the university

Duchess – a stronghold of a woman in a fragile state of health; insists on Christopher marrying  (and encouraged by the housekeeper on this topic)

Horace – Christopher’s townhouse butler, very opposed to Pauline’s presence in the Duke’s life

Inspector Davidson – a London detective investigating Pauline’s mother’s murder

The Quote

If only her mother’s murderer hadn’t been wearing a mask. He had been someone important, and the madam had humored his desire to keep is identity obscured. He had visited her for months, and rumors swirled around him, some that he was the crown prince himself.

Either way, it was the same. Wed or bed, women didn’t see him, only his title.

The Highs and Lows

  • Pauline. Poor Pauline has been running ever since that fateful night when she lost her mother. Little did she know she’d wind up in the best and the worst of situations. Hovington is a good enough place, small but still has a constant flow of people due to the university. She’s hired on and then given special duties to watch over the Duke of Waltham’s younger brother, aiding him along in his project work for the university. However, the life she’s lived she can’t outrun. Although she’s avoided the murderer these few years, she can’t outrun him forever. Now there is someone around circulating flyers looking for her. Her land lady puts her in a terribly bad position – spiked rent or a sure bet the madman will find her.
  • Social Station. Given the era, the social standing of the Christopher and Pauline play a very big part in the book. While the Duchess is pushing him to marry, he can’t just marry anyone. He must, of course, marry someone of his station. And it is getting more convoluted for him trying to discern the truth of Pauline’s background. While she claims to be from the city, small things continually indicated that she is from the lower class. Due to the mystery surrounding her heritage, Christopher makes some inquiries. It’s not entirely impossible for noblemen to marry commoners, as long as they come from reputable families.
  • The Strange Neighbor. After hiring Pauline to act as Edward’s babysitter, a strange man moves in next door to Christopher’s townhouse. Christopher thought it still under renovation, and nothing is known of this new neighbor. Indeed, it’s rumored he is of the peerage, but that is all. Christopher, though, takes an odd interest in the odd neighbor who is keen on sticking to the shadows and hiding in the alley, avoiding Inspector Davidson.
  • The Duchess. She surprised me. Although she is pushing strongly for Christopher to marry, when he reveals what little he’s learned of Pauline, he is shocked by his mother’s suggestion. Other arrangements could be made, as he is very taken with Pauline, just as his father was taken with another. His mother seemed so stodgy and pretentious, I never expected to see that coming.
  • Edward. He is so oblivious to anything besides his work. Unless, of course, you count that stupid Lily who crushed him. While danger is afoot and tension runs high for both Christopher, his mother, and Pauline, Edward is just happy as a clam once his work shows progress.
  • The Twist. There is twist so unexpected that I had to really work to piece things together properly. It explains all the reasons why Pauline can’t answer any of Inspector Davidson’s questions about her family when he inquires. Who doesn’t know if their parents were even married? Pauline. The Duchess once made the comment that Pauline looked familiar, and it all wraps up nicely with the twist. Of course, involving the killer.

The Take-Away

I loved Pauline’s attitude throughout the book. She is bent on making a little niche for herself and staying afloat while outrunning her mother’s killer. There are a few moments with both Christopher and Edward that she has to be strong and firm – in different respects – as well as with the Duchess and Horace. I don’t think I would be as kind or thoughtful if a killer was after me. I mean, it’s only a matter of time and she already suspects someone nearby. I would be on high alert.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow. This installment isn’t intregal to the series, but it does explain Christopher’s ties to the storyline, as well as the beginning of Edward’s aether work.

 

About the Author

Anne_Bartolucci_20150819_0200Tsep-ZF-6324-63043-1-004-300x200Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Dead Lies

DeadLies_Banner (1)

Welcome to my tour stop for Dead Lies by Cybele Loening! Dead Lies is a mystery novel and the tour runs October 22-30 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. For access to all the fun festivities, check out the tour schedule.

DeadLies_mediumTitle: Dead Lies
Author: Cybele Loening
Publisher: Balboa Press
Release Date: June 2014
Length: 131 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Former NYPD cop Anna Valentine just landed her first homicide case: the grisly double murder of a wealthy young couple. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Recovering from personal tragedies, the young police office just moved with her traumatized child to the suburbs where she hoped to pursue a quiet life and heal. To complicate matters, although she’s sworn off men until she and her son are happy and whole again, Anna feels the pull of attraction to the handsome twin brother of one of the murder victims, a man who has yet to be crossed off the suspect list. Teaming up with lead detective Jerry Kreeger, a 57-year-old veteran cop who’s lonely, broke and close to burnout, Anna chases a crafty killer and ultimately exposes a family’s shocking secrets that will rock a town.

***** Guest Post *****

Why You Should Follow Your Dreams (Even If It Sounds Crazy!)

I’m so pleased to be here! This is my first blog tour ever. I never thought I would write a mystery novel. I took a big risk in writing it, and now I’m living the life I always dreamed of having.

For thirteen years I was a magazine editor in New York City, working at places like Glamour, McCall’s, Mode and Prevention. I was even a bridal editor for a few years. It was exciting and even glamorous at times, and I loved what I was doing. I had always wanted to work with words.

From the outside, it looked like I had the perfect life. But inside, I felt off.

I found that at my core, I was unsatisfied. I was really good at editing and my career looked promising. There was even talk that I would be made Editor-in-Chief, which meant that I would be running my own magazine. But at some point I realized my soul was not being nourished. I was sick of watching other people write when that’s what I wanted to be doing. It’s something I’d wanted since I was a little girl. But I had never tried because I didn’t think I was good enough.

I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries, especially by authors I revere like Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Mary Higgins Clark. I run an entire Facebook page devoted to mysteries, real and fictional. It fuels so much of who I am and what I love.

So one day, I just decided to take a risk and make the leap. I quit my “perfect” job in the city, and started a new journey. I also moved out to the country, something I had always wanted to do.

And just like that, everything began to fall into place. My happiness increased about a millionfold. Time seemed to fall away while I wrote. The quiet dirt roads where I walked fueled my creativity and my spirit. And that year I met the love of my life. Most importantly for this tour, I finished my detective novel, Dead Lies, a story about murder and family secrets in a wealthy town. It is a real pot boiler, the kind of book I have always loved to read.

So much changed when I just became too sick of being unhappy. I wanted change more than I wanted to be comfortable. It had become unbearable. So I let myself escape. It changed everything.

I know how this sounds. I know it seems crazy to just take a huge risk in your life. I know it seems impossible. Everything could go wrong! I could fail!

But that’s the whole point: Everything could change and be exactly how you always imagined it could be. Your dreams could be closer than you ever imagined they were. They’re just waiting for you to reach out and grab them.

Whatever your dream is, take the first step. Today. It doesn’t have to be a huge leap, just a baby step. Hold tight to your dream. Have faith. Go for it. No one else is going to do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself. And now is the time. Because if not now, when?

I hope you all enjoy my book, and see it as how I do: proof of what can happen when you take the big scary leap. My life is one hundred percent different because of this little mystery book. I hope it inspires you to make your own leap.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Serena and Bill Vance are upper crust of Avondale society. They area  wealthy couple and their lives show it. However, the two quickly find out money can’t buy the children they so desperately want. Despite being on medication to manage her depression, Serena was also taking fertility drugs. Suddenly the beautiful couple who lived in the beautiful house are left bruised and broken and Anna Valentine lands her first homicide case. Unfortunately, she must work with Jerry Kreeger, the lead detective in the area, and must follow his directives. Serena’s twin brother, Web, plays a pivotal role in helping unfold the events of Serena’s life as Anna and Kreeger dig deeper to uncover why a wealthy, affluent young couple was brutally murdered in their own home. As the case develops and becomes more complicated, Anna discovers she has a distinct connection to Web Vance that is tied to both of their recent losses.

The Players

Anna – a single mother; suffered her own traumatic loss; working on the Vance case; wants to be a Good Cop

Kreeger – a veteran homicide detective divorcé; ends up overseeing the Vance case working with Anna and Web

Leon/De Luca – a homicide detective under Kreeger’s direction; second-most decorated officer after Kreeger; working the Vance case

Web – twin brother to Serena; seeks answers and investigates into his sister’s death; wants justice

Serena – Web’s twin sister; managing depression with medication; also trying to get pregnant

Bill – Serena’s husband

Tim – one of Web’s best friends; known as a bachelor and hates kids

Danny – one of Web’s best friends; married to Tanya with four kids

Tanya – Danny’s wife; known as a gold digger among Danny’s friends

Casey – Danny’s oldest child; works at Anna’s favorite Starbucks

It is hard to say who the main character of this book is, given that it follows both Anna and Web primarily. I enjoyed Anna’s character as a woman working in a harsh field, especially given her first career choice and continuing to work in the field after suffering her own tragic and senseless loss.

The best supporting character award goes to Tim. Whenever Web needed him, Tim was instantly there by his side. Of course, he wanted answers to his questions, too, just like Web and the detectives. Tim’s support helps Web make it through the loss and the grief, and he also helps keep Web on a slightly even keel at times.

After the initial interviews with Web’s family, they fade into the background. I was interested to know their respective thoughts and get insight into their characters to have a myriad of emotions and reactions, but that wasn’t the focus of the book.

First Impressions

Look at that house! It’s like a mini manor! I was thinking this book would be set in England after just glancing at the cover, but after beginning reading and comparing to the cover, I kept thinking Avondale was very…suburban for such a sprawling estate as pictured on the cover.

Second Thoughts

Anna is a former NYPD cop who has moved to the suburbs to lick her wounds and allow them – and her son’s – to heal. However, her first homicide case doesn’t allow her to do that very easily. Not when she discovers the beautiful Serena Vance has a twin brother, Web. It instantly forms her connection, an unspoken bond, with Web.

There is a distinctive separation of characters in this novel: the cop side and the family side. The lines between the two become blurred after Anna reveals her tragedy and connection to Web. In that moment Web saw Anna in an entirely new light, and it allowed these two characters to come together and help one another with their own personal grief and sense of guilt.

“It’s just that I see Serena everywhere in this town, you know?” he told his friends. “She is standing on the steps of the high school and outside the Warner Quad theater. I see her playing Frisbee in the Buckleys’ yard and at every other house we visited growing up.”

Coming from New York, Anna has seen it all, but these kinds of things don’t happen in the quiet and affluent area of Avondale. It is unheard of, but raises the question to both the investigative team and the Marino family of how well you know others, even your own family members. Even your own twin.

Kreeger is a burnt-out divorcé with two grown daughters that he doesn’t spend nearly enough time with. His life is his job and he takes charge of the Vance case. Despite taking over the case from Anna, Kreeger doesn’t pull rank and territory and push her out. Instead, he allows her to join the homicide investigation. He doesn’t object to her commentary and input, and that is viewed by Anna as a positive welcoming. I really enjoyed the beginning of their working relationship. It shows a depth and greater sense of respect from Kreeger for the profession and professionalism in the police field.

The plot quickly develops as Anna and Kreeger focus in on their prime suspect, but as with all great crime novels, there are complexities to the plot that no one saw coming. As the investigation continues full-force, the finger begins to sway and point toward another prominent individual, as other interesting pieces of information pop up convoluting the investigation and casting suspicion on many.

Anna and Kreeger grow together as professionals working on the Vance case. Given the hours their positions demand, they spend plenty of time together around the clock. This allows the two of them to also open up and share insights into their respective lives. It is during one of these moments that Anna explains Good Cops and Bad Cops to Kreeger, and the importance of always knowing which one your partner is.

Kreeger later struggles with an ethical dilemma – a coworker and also a friend – and he must determine the right course of action. The legal standpoint is clear to Kreeger, but the ramifications of such legalities would swirl his longtime friendship down the toilet.

She watched him walk to the door and noticed that his movements weren’t as quick and effortless as the usual, but slow and labored, as if some unseen hand was pushing down on his head. He was clearly conflicted about the situation. He paused at teh door and turned around, looking like he wanted to say something. He put his hand on the door frame and thought for a moment before saying, “You know that theory your have about Good Cops and Bad Cops?”

She nodded.

“Which one does this make me?”

Anna fought the urge to cry. He wore his guilt like a heavy coat. “Jerry, you’re the best cop I know.”

Loening clearly and cleanly makes the point that we never know the true depths of even our most loved ones, as Web and the rest discover as the investigation into Serena and Bill’s lives deepen. There are other side issues such as ethics, grief, friendship and professionalism that crop up within the case related to the Vance murders, but of these the biggest is friendship.

Dead Lies is written so well that everything is tied up at the end neatly and cleanly. Given the position that Anna finds herself in at the end of the novel, I was very impressed with how she handled everything and the choices she makes. As the end neared, I became increasingly concerned that I would be disappointed, but Loening did not disappoint. I highly recommend this book. It makes for a perfect fall read.

***** About the Author *****

Becoming a novelist was a dream come true for Cybele Loening, and one that was many years in the making. Like many aspiring writers and creative types, when she completed her education, she didn’t think she could make a living doing what she loved. So, she took a job that was related to writing but not actually writing: She became an editor. She loved editing but never gave up her dream of writing a novel someday.

It wasn’t until she was in her late thirties that she finally realized “someday” was right now. After many years of working in Corporate America, she was burned out of her job and exhausted by city living. She realized she was giving her best energy to a career and life that no longer fit. So, she took a huge leap of faith and quit her job to write full-time. The book she began writing eventually became Dead Lies.

Quitting her job was a scary step, but it changed her life. Tapping away at her keyboard, she realized she was happier than she had been in a while. She felt creative and energized again and was thrilled to have discovered her passion, her life’s work.

That one brave step into the unknown led to other wonderful changes in her life. For years she had dreamed of living in the country, so she began renting a cottage in Litchfield County, Connecticut, to see how it felt. She never looked back. And it was in this idyllic place that she met her soul mate and now husband, the life and business coach, Brooke Loening. They married a few years later, and together they renovated a home in which they now both live and work.

Spending her days writing and living in a place she loves, she has found bliss she never thought possible.

A spiritual seeker and lover of all of life’s mysteries, Cybele is hard at work on the next book in the Anna Valentine Detective Series and a memoir. She is also a blogger with a global mission: to help women achieve their dreams and live their very best lives.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

5 audiobook copies (through audible.com) of DEAD LIES by Cybele Loening (INT)

Ends Nov. 4

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.