Friday, January 24, 2020

Juliet & Dead Romeo

When characters are named Paris Nobleman, Tybalt Gatti, Juliet DaVinci, Nicolo Montague and Mariotto Romeo, you know the author has her tongue firmly in her cheek. In Juliet & Dead Romeo by C.J. Love, Juliet is trying to avoid her mother's matchmaking and finally confess her love for Nicolo Montague. (Juliet & Dead Romeo is published by Columbine Publishing Group.)

But family feuds derail her attempt to tell her mother about Nicolo. Juliet tries to break up a fight between her cousin Tybalt and two of the Romeo brothers. For her effort she i arrested and alienates Nicolo, who is a police officer. 

With Paris Nobleman stuck to her side, Juliet tries to make her way home when she stumbles across the body of one of the Romeos on her father's property. She's pretty sure, he is dead and now she is worried about her father. 

She calls him and when her, he tells Juliet to use a branch to
brush away the footprints, not the first thing you do when you find a body. Naturally the police are not fooled by the disturbed site and focus in on Juliet's father Santos. 

Juliet comes up with her own list of suspects including several members of the Romeo family. When she learns about a secret marriage, she adds some of her own relatives to the mix. 

The dynamics of two large Italian families and the feuds that separate them offer a charming look at how families rule our lives and alter our ability to reason. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Book of Candlelight

When you have the ability to read people and determine what is bothering them, then recommend books for them to read, it's a good thing you are bookstore owner. In The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams, Nora Pennington has just such an ability. With the constant flow of visitors to her shop during the rainy season in western North Carolina, her book store is busy. (The Book of Candlelight will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. on January 28.)

Despite the weather, Nora bikes over to the flea market and purchases a lovely bowl from Danny, a Cherokee potter. The next day with the rain continuing to fall, a bridge collapses and in the churning water is the body of the potter. Viewed as an accident, Nora doesn't believe it and enlists her Secret, Book & Scone Society friends to help discover who killed Danny and why. 

When she discovers some of his older, more valuable pots at the renovated Inn of the Mist and Roses, she worries the new owners have taken advantage of him. Lou and Patty claim not to know Danny, but Nora is not so sure. 

While she decides to investigate, a series of troubling incidents happen to her friends. Her friend June's home is spray painted with a angry red letters making a racial slur, then someone throws a brick through Nora's shop window and she worries that her other friends might be next. 

As Nora learns more about the Inn and its history, she soon realizes why the death and the other incidents are occurring. She tries to keep anyone else from being injured or killed, especially Danny's young widow, her new employee Sheldon and her other two friends who are part of the Secret, Book & Scone Society.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Interview with Catherine Bruns

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest book just released November 5 and is called Ginger Snapped to Death. It's
Catherine Bruns
Book #8 in my Cookies & Chance series and my first Christmas cozy. It's my 14th published novel but I just finished writing Book #16.

What was the most recent book you read?
Suspect in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
For Penne Dreadful, I wanted a different protagonist than the usual type in cozies. I didn't want a main character who comes home after a bad breakup or to take over Grandma's business so I chose a widow. As for locations, I try to use ones that I'm familiar with.

For a review of Penne Dreadful click here

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I'm a pantser, so I do a lot of research while I'm actually writing the book, since I never know 
in what direction my mind will take me. :) I'm also fortunate to have several contacts in the medical field and law enforcement, which helps tremendously.

What books did you read as a child? 
There were so many, but anything about Nancy Drew or Laura Ingalls Wilder stands out.

What drew you to writing?
I've wanted to be a writer, since I was eight years old.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don't procrastinate. Life is too short to waste time.

Who is your favorite author? 
Oh, that's like picking a favorite child. I have several - Sue Grafton, Sandra Brown and Laura Ingalls Wilder - just for starters.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Only five? :) Let's see. Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Carol Burnett, Bette Davis and Lucille Ball. Wouldn't that be a fun dinner?

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I think I would have been a teacher. My parents always wanted me to pursue that career path but of course, how many of us actually do what our parents want us to at that age?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Dangerous Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

When sixty-something Loretta Singletary updates her hairstyle and dresses in more trendy clothing, no one in Jarrett Creek, Texas, thinks twice about it, especially her friend Chief Samuel Craddock. In A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames, Loretta is a reliable mainstay of the close-knit community. 

Then one day she disappears. No one is too concerned until Chief Craddock learns she has been meeting men from an online dating site. The chief can hardly believe Loretta would do this, but when her friends confirm it, he decides to check out the site. 

While he is investigating, a woman from a neighboring town who has also used the same site is reported missing. He doubles down on his efforts to find Loretta and even enrolls in the dating site as a woman. He uses some of Loretta's interests and tries to lure the same man who met Loretta to want to meet him.

Meanwhile another storm is brewing in town. It seems the new Baptist minister wants to horn in on the Catholic church's sponsorship of the annual goat rodeo. For years Father Sanchez has been coordinating with no complaints. But now the Baptists want some of the "glory." 

The chief tries to reason with the Women's Circle members telling them all the other churches will want to be sponsors as well. Needless to see he could use Loretta's help on convincing them not to demand participation. 

The chief find the internet can be a dark place, especially for the innocent but there are a few surprises awaiting him as he digs deeper into Loretta's disappearance. 

Twists, turns and a suspenseful search for a missing woman and Chief Craddock finds some surprises along the way. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Silent Stabbing

Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford find their lives disrupted by each of their sisters for various reasons. In A Silent Stabbing by Alyssa Maxwell, Phoebe's sister Julia is fretful. Newly widowed and pregnant, she is unsure how she feels about having a baby and about her husband's sudden death. (A Silent Stabbing will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp on February 25.)

Eva's sister Alice decides to visit, but without her husband and their three children. Eva is sure there is something amiss, but Alice refuses to explain.

Stephan Ripley returns to become the head gardener at Foxwood Hall after the abrupt and totally unexpected departure of long-time gardener Alfred Peele. When  Phoebe meets him, she decides he has a sly and sneaky way about him, but is determined to be friendly because of his brother Keenan, a local pear grower.

The next day she hears them arguing about selling the orchard and Keenan refuses. The pears he grows are turned into a cider that is much moved by the community, and even though the orchard is in debt, Keenan doesn't want to lose his family's heritage.

When Stephen is found stabbed with garden clippers, the police zero in on his brother Keenan. But Lady Phoebe and Eva know he is not the killer, so they decide to investigate. 

I love the relationship between Lady Phoebe and Eva. They treat each other with respect and admire each other's strengths. Those traits always enables them to solve the mysteries in A Lady & Lady's Maid Mystery series. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Big Lies in a Small Town

Morgan Christopher finds her life in ruins. She is prison for a crime she did not commit, then suddenly she is released and asked to restore a Depression-era mural. In Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain, the story is told through a dual storyline. (Big Lies in a Small Town was released by St. Martin's Press this week.)

In the 1930s a young artist from New Jersey is selected to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina.  Anna Dale would much rather be painting a mural in her own state, but as she has been selected by a national search, she has to paint in North Carolina. Relieved in a way to be leaving New Jersey where her mother just died, Anna travels to Edenton with the hopes of getting the flavor of the town and then returning to paint her sketch in New Jersey.

Once in Edenton she is coerced to stay by the "movers and shakers" of the town so she can really understand the history.  She settles in with a spinster woman as had landlady and finds a deserted warehouse barn as a studio. She soon learns that she has been awarded the mural over a local portrait painter and there are people in town who are not too happy with her,

In the parallel storyline Morgan Christopher is the artist tapped to restore the mural for the opening of a gallery in Edenton. The impetus behind the gallery is the late painter Jesse Jameson Williams, a famous artist who had the mural rolled up and stored somewhere for over 50 years.  In his will he instructed his daughter Lisa to open the gallery and find someone to repair the mural. 

The mural is filthy with grime, has many abraded spots and is in dire need of restoration. The only problem Morgan has no idea how to restore a painting. She seeks help from one of the men working at the gallery and she is on her way in no time. But as she cleans the mural some disturbing images are revealed. No one in town seems to know what happened to the original artist and Morgan is determined to find out where she is or what has happened to her. 

Big Lies in a Small Town is the story of the mural’s creation and the talented artist who painted it and Morgan’s determination to restore it and find out what happened to the artist. A wonderful story.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Careless Whiskers

Charlie Harris has sworn off investigating crimes after his last and dangerous encounter. But in Careless Whiskers by Miranda James, he soon lapses especially when his daughter Laura is involved. (Careless Whiskers will be released by Berkley Prime Crime on January 21.)

Laura and her husband Frank Salisbury are involved in a production by the theater department at the Athena College in Alabama. When a sudden cast changes brings a disruptive actor to the cast, Laura and Frank worry about Luke Lombardi. 

He's a huge drama queen and everything has to revolve around him. This gives Laura and Frank the shivers and they hope they can manage him so the production is a success. 

Luke arrives with his entourage - his dresser and his mistress, Madame Delphine du Jardin, a wildly flamboyant woman whose husband happens to be Luke's dresser. A weird triangle. But there is anger and something more simmering under the triangle's relationship. Add in a reclusive playwright and there is a mystery afoot. 

When a series of incidents seem to target Luke, Charlie decides to step in along with Diesel, his Maine coon cat, to protect his daughter and the play. 

Another charming mystery with Diesel doing his best to solve the crime. Someday I would like to meet a Maine coon cat and have a discussion about crime solving with the cat. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Interview with Peg Cochran

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Murder, She Encountered, book #3 in my Murder, She Reported series, is the latest. So
Peg Cochran
far I have published 21 books—three under the pen name of Meg London.

For a review of Murder, She Encountered, click here.

What was the most recent book you read?
I had to check my Kindle! It was the Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham. I recommend it!

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I had the idea of a “reluctant debutante” – a girl who wanted more than to come out to society, get married and have babies. My agent and I batted the idea around and eventually she became a crime photographer. Originally I was thinking of setting the book in the 1950s, but eventually settled on the late 1930s—post-Depression but pre-war in the US. I always knew I wanted to set it in NYC.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book.
This book took a lot of research. A lot of it was great fun—like watching movies from that time period to understand the way people spoke, dressed, acted, etc. I continued to research while writing the book. Despite living in NYC for 10 years and then working there another 20 years, I still needed to refresh my memory occasionally—especially to learn what was and wasn’t around in the late 1930s—the El was still running, but some areas weren’t developed until later. Where there were tenements in the 1930s, there are now high-rise apartments! I also spent a lot of time looking up expressions—did they use certain phrases back in the 1930s or are they more recent? It was great fun!

What books did you read as a child?
I devoured all the Nancy Drew books, Donna Parker books, Bobbsey Twins and classics such as Jane Eyre, The Moonspinners and My Brother Michael.

What drew you to writing?
I always wanted to write. I loved to read and decided I wanted to write stories and bring pleasure to readers the way my favorite authors had brought great pleasure to me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Start early and make lots of mistakes! You can’t learn to write a book overnight or in one go. It takes a lot of time but if you keep trying, you’ll get there!

Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have any particular favorite—there are too many I enjoy.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
This is a tough question! I’d love to have my father who has been gone for 27 years. I’d add Mary Higgens Clark—I suspect she could match my father drink for drink! Helen Mirren because I think she is quick-witted and interesting. Ruth Bader Ginsberg too—would she fit in with the others? I think we’d need another man—how about Kurt Vonnegut—I think he’d throw an interesting curve ball into the discussion.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Well, when I was really young I wanted to be a prima ballerina! Sadly, I lacked sufficient talent. I studied journalism and wanted to be a reporter but didn’t follow it up. I’m fascinated by medicine and might have liked being a doctor. Lately I’ve been thinking a position in the foreign service would have been interesting. I did end up in the art world for many years and then marketing communications before I finally got published.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My Fair Latte

In the first of A Cafe Cinema Mystery series, Vickie Fee introduces My Fair Latte. No one expects to inherit a defunct movie theater in Utopia Springs, Arkansas, but that's exactly what has happened to Halley Greer. Much to her surprise, a long lost uncle died and left it to her. (My Fair Latte will be released by Henery Press on March 3.)

Halley, an unemployed barista, decides the theater would be the perfect place to show classic movies and open a coffee and wine bar. She enlists a motley crew of residents that befriended her to whip the theater into shape.

One negative moment is when she sees a strange man staring through the glass door to theater. He stares at her and remains motionless and unblinking. She turns away and when she looks back, her is  gone. Chilled by the experience, Halley makes sure every door and window is locked before she goes to bed. 

For her opening night, she decides to show My Fair Lady, a very long movie with an intermission - perfect for selling coffee, wine and treats to the audience. Unfortunately at intermission, George informs her he has found a body in the theater and it turns out it was the stranger Halley saw at the door. 

Naturally the police think Halley has something to do with his death, but her friends rally around her to help her prove her innocence. 

An excellent introduction to a new series. I look forward to learning some of the secrets implied in the conclusion of this book with a latte in hand. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Mitford Scandal

The real life Mitford sisters were a fascinating family. They loved dinner parties, clubbing, drinking, dancing, theater and did I say drinking  and inappropriate liasions. In The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes, the author follows the family through several years of their outrageous activities. (The Mitford Scandal will be released by St, Martin's Press on January 21.)

Diana, the eighteen-year-old beauty, marries wealthy Irishman Bryan Guinness and embarks on a fabulous honeymoon. She asks former maid Louisa Cannon to be her lady's maid and come along. Also joining them is another couple Shaun and Kate MulloneyThe couple is constantly bickering and making everyone uncomfortable. 

When someone dies from an allergic reaction, Louisa feels uneasy about the death, but the family refuses to perform an autopsy. Without any authority, Louisa decides to just carry on with her job.

On their first anniversary the Guinness's and their entourage decamp to Venice with Kate Mulloney and American actress Clara Fischer. When another person dies, Louisa reaches out to her friend Detective Inspector Guy Stiles with her suspicions. 

The real life MItfords rubbed elbows with Nazis and Fascists before World War II. The fictional characters flirt with these groups. An interesting book with lots of era-specific details.