Friday, June 21, 2019

Book Review - Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Book Synopsis
Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Reggie Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes.

When Hamish has his careful constructed life disrupted by a figure from his past, he is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.


Purchase Links

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My Review
Murder in the City of Liberty is a mystery set in 1940 Boston.  Reggie (Regina) Van Buren and Hamish DeLuca have a small detective agency.  They are hired by Errol Parker, a black baseball player who is facing harassment because of his race.  There is an atmosphere of great tension in Boston, with members of a hate group meeting and spreading pamphlets.  When Hamish's cousin Luca suddenly appears, the mystery becomes even more complicated.

This book is the second in the Van Buren and DeLuca mystery series.  I did not read the first book and wish I had, because there were numerous references to characters and scenes from the first book.  It took me a few chapters to catch up, but I did, and settled in to enjoy the mystery.

I wanted to read this book because I love historical fiction, enjoy mysteries, and am fascinated by the 1940's as a historical period.  The author did a wonderful job at capturing the 1940's with period details through the book.  There are fascinating references to dances and movies and old time radio shows.  For instance, a family friend tells Reggie that she is "playing Nick and Nora Charles" (from The Thin Man) with Hamish.

The baseball setting is interesting, and the author evokes the atmosphere of an old time ballpark:

"The collective din of the stands, the squeak of the bleachers, the organ pounding out jingles and ditties and chords to inspire spectator fervor.  The shifting scoreboard and communal enthusiasm.  The smell of popcorn and beer and, as in tonight's game, the inimitable scent of almost-summer: grass and something in the air that overtook the salt and yeast of the vendors' carts and gave way to the most alluring type of nostalgia" (p. 119).

I really liked Reggie and Hamish as characters, both individually and together.  Reggie is very brave and spirited.  She has a Journal of Independence including a variety of goals:

"Sometimes as in the case of 'Learn how to properly make a bed,' the entries were left untouched in her perfectly taught cursive.  Other times they were scrawled or scratched out with enthusiasm like, 'Stay up 'til dawn.' Which she seemed to be doing now" (p. 149).

Hamish deals with anxiety, and this is dealt with honestly and sensitively in the book.  He is very dashing but also seems vulnerable and real.

There is a lot of back and forth between the characters, as they are romantically interested in each other but don't want to upset the balance of their work relationship and friendship.

The mystery aspect of Murder in the City of Liberty slowly unraveled, piece by piece, and it was very well done (and kept me guessing).  I enjoyed seeing Hamish and DeLuca solve the mystery.

I have already recommended this series to two friends who enjoy historical mysteries.  Readers who enjoy the 1940's will especially enjoy the period details in this well written book.  I am looking forward to the next book in this series!
Author Bio
Rachel McMillan is the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary romances set in opulent Vienna, and the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries praised for bringing an authentic 1930’s Boston world to life while normalizing the fictional conversation surrounding mental illness. Her first work of non-fiction, described as a romantic’s guide to independent travel, releases in 2020. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada.


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Book Review and Giveaway - A Crafter Hooks a Killer: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn

Book Synopsis
Community Craft proprietor Sammy Kane suspects that a tantalizing thread links the deaths of her best friend and a bestselling author. But can she weave together the clues?

Samantha “Sammy” Kane is settling into her new life in idyllic Heartsford, Wisconsin, running her late friend Kate Allen’s craft shop, Community Craft when one early June day, bestselling crochet author Jane Johnson visits Heartsford. Captivated by Community Craft, Jane devotes a chapter in her new book, Behind the Seams, to the store. Sammy is honored, though satisfaction quickly turns to shock when she finds Jane strangled to death—her cold hands clutching a copy of her most recently published book, with the words “THE END” raggedly scratched into the cover.

Heavens to Etsy! Not only must Sammy contend with the author’s inauspicious demise, she has to untie some knotty details from her own past. It turns out Kate’s death was not what it seemed, and instead somehow hooked to Jane Johnson’s demise. Handsome Detective Liam Nash is on the “skein”, more than happy to see the shop owner again, if less than enamored by her sleuthing interventions. But this was Sammy’s best friend—she has to know.

Fortunately, Sammy has a “lace” in the hole. As a child, she formed the S.H.E. detective team with her cousin, Heidi, and her sister, Ellie. Having already reconstituted their partnership, the S.H.E. team searches for a pattern behind the latest death. As the case starts to unravel, will Sammy and team be able to sidestep Liam quick enough to stitch together the clues?

My Review
Sammy Kane owns a small craft shop in Heartsford, Wisconsin;  she took over the business for her best friend, Kate, who died suddenly.  She is excited about a famous crafter, Jane Johnson, visiting the shop.  When she meets Jane, the famous author suggests that she has news about Kate's death. Then Sammy discovers Jane's body, and she works with her sister and cousin - and her almost-boyfriend, police detective Liam Nash - to solve the mystery.

This is the second book in the Handcrafted Mystery series.  I have read both books and thoroughly enjoyed them.  Holly Quinn does an especially good job at capturing the small, Midwestern town atmosphere.  

I really like Sammy, her cousin Heidi, and sister Ellie.  They created a play detective group called S.H.E. (for their first names) as young girls, and they still work together to solve mysteries.  I liked this description of one of their S.H.E. meetings:

"The fireflies were just starting to pop their neon glows of brilliance in the blackening sky.  The luminosity bounced around the backyard grass and bushes as if the fireflies were putting on a private light show for them.  The three S.H.E.s huddled together around Sammy's backyard picnic table with the pages of the manuscript spread between them.  Remnants of dried coagulated cheese and corn chip crumbs littered the bottom of the baking dish, evidence of a well-eaten nacho platter" (Kindle location 2784).

Sammy can be impulsive at times and does not take the precautions for her safety that an experienced detective would take.  I think this is part of her character though, and her approach to amateur sleuthing.

Detective Liam Nash is as charming as ever, and I enjoyed his scenes with Sammy.

Of course, I also loved Sammy's dog (who often visits her shop), Bara!  (I consider all cozy mysteries more interesting if a lovable pet is part of the story.)

The mystery was well done.  I suspected the murderer but enjoyed seeing the details unravel.  The book is fast paced and I read it in just a few days because I was eager to see what happened!

I recommend A Crafter Hooks a Killer and the Handcrafted Mystery series.  Readers who are interested in crafting or small town settings will especially enjoy this book.

Author Bio
Holly Quinn has published two stand-alone fiction novels in another persona. She graduated from Carroll University in Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Science in business and a minor in marketing. This is her second Handcrafted mystery. Visit her @

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Book Review - Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter

Book Synopsis
From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes a heartfelt story of family secrets, forgiveness, and unexpected romance.

Following a painful betrayal, Maddy Monroe’s love life is a wreck, and her restaurant career is in shambles. When her grandmother goes missing, she and her estranged sisters converge at the family beach house in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma at the place where their family broke apart is a struggle, and undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the sisters under. In the midst of the storm, sparks begin to fly between Maddy and Gram’s maddening neighbor, Connor Murphy.

As the sisters pack up the family belongings, memories of idyllic, slow-paced summers are resurrected. But long-buried secrets also come to light as Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven—nor today in the seemingly perfect lives of her sisters.

As family tensions rise and Connor causes tumult in Maddy’s heart, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become before the bitterness of the past destroys their hope for a future.

Purchase Links

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My Review

Summer By the Tides is a beach read about Maddy Monroe.  Maddy has just lost her job as a restaurant manager when she caught her boyfriend cheating with her boss.  Then Maddy finds out her beloved Gram has gone missing, so she hurries to her Gram's beach house in Sea Haven, North Carolina to look for her.  She is soon joined by her older sisters, Emma and Nora, who don't get along.  Over the summer they work on the house together, sort through family history, and Maddie finds a surprising new romance.


I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it.  It looked like a perfect beach read and it absolutely was!  Denise Hunter does a great job at capturing coastal North Carolina and beach life.  I enjoyed settings like Sullivan's Landing, the little seafood restaurant where Maddie works over summer, and the marina where Connor works.  I found details like hurricane preparations at the marina fascinating.


I really liked Maddie.  She is in such a conflicted place at the beginning of the book, but she really comes into her own when she is reunited with her sisters and when she meets Connor.  Connor is a perfect book boyfriend!  He is sweet and sad (a young widower), and their relationship moves slowly with a few little stops and starts.


This is also a lovely book about family and forgiveness and choosing to move forward instead of staying mired in the past.  I also liked Maddie's sister Emma (and her cute little beagle Pippy) and her delightful Gram.  Nora (her oldest sister) was a complex character, but I appreciated her by the end of the novel.


I recommend Summer By the Tides as a beach read or a good read for a leisurely weekend.  Fans of southern fiction and women's fiction will especially enjoy this book.  

Author Bio

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 25 books, including A December Bride and The Convenient Groom, which have been adapted into original Hallmark Channel movies. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Carol Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are rapidly approaching an empty nest.

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Book Spotlight and Cover Reveal - The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

Book Synopsis
An Uncommon Beauty…
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?


Available for Pre-Order: Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo


Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - Whiskers in the Dark: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown

Book Synopsis
Death stalks the Blue Ridge Mountains as a centuries-old mystery resurfaces and murder mars the lead-up to an annual beagle competition, in a thrilling new tale from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown.

A massive nor’easter has hit northern Virginia, where Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen joins groundskeeping efforts at the National Beagle Club at Aldie as the date for its springtime Hounds for Heroes veterans’ benefit approaches. Harry’s fellow volunteers, including her oldest friend, Susan Tucker, comprise a spirited group of hunting enthusiasts, some former service members themselves. But things take a sinister turn when, after a routine tree cleanup along the Club’s hunting trails, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is found dead, throat slit from ear to ear. Soon enough, another murder in their midst jolts the preparations, convincing Harry that the killer is familiar with the Club—and must be close by, masked in plain sight.

The intrigue extends to the grounds of Harry’s beloved local church, where the identity of an eighteenth-century skeleton wearing precious pearls remains a mystery. The anonymous woman’s neck had been snapped, and marks on the grave where her body was secreted indicate that someone recently tried to remove it, leading Harry to question how well she really knows those around her.

As always, Harry’s crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi share her determination to sniff out the foes among friends, even those long buried. Harry will need her four-legged companions’ help more than ever: a ghostly beagle only they can see may hold the key to the culprit.

My Review
Whiskers in the Dark is a cozy mystery set in rural Virginia.  There are two mysteries in this book:  one involves a body from the 1700's that was recently discovered in Virginia, and then in present day, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is murdered.  The present day storyline takes place at a Hounds for Heroes benefit held by the National Beagle Club.

I wanted to read this book as soon as heard about it.  I read, and enjoyed, the Mrs. Murphy mysteries for years.  I have not read the past few books and wanted to get back into this series.  I love beagles, and that made this mystery particularly interesting to me.

Whiskers in the Dark has a dual storyline.  Most of the book takes place in the present day before, during, and after the Hounds for Heroes benefit.  Harry Harristeen and her best friend Susan are attending the benefit, and they become involved in solving the mystery when one of the fellow attendees is murdered.   The other storyline takes place in 1787 and involves a woman's murder from years ago.

I enjoyed reading about Harry and her mystery solving again, especially with the help of her cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and her corgi dog Tee Tucker.  She has added another dog to the family, a young Irish Wolfhound named Pirate.  The pets meet Ruffy, a ghost beagle living at the Institute in Aldie, Virginia.  He is missing his person and wants a resolution for that mystery.  The pets talk in this book and they are both charming and wise!   There are also some lovely black and white illustrations in the novel of both pets and people.

This is a dense read, with a large cast from two different time periods.  Thankfully there is a Cast of Characters detailing both people and animal characters.  I bookmarked it and referred to it a number of times, especially keeping up with all the people from the 1780's who were part of the flashback story.

The historical details from 1787 were very interesting, and the element of historical fiction added something extra to this novel.  Although I love historical fiction, I still felt the heart of the book was in the present day with Harry, her friends, and her beloved pets.  I found myself reading through the historical flashbacks a bit quickly in order to move forward to the present day mystery.

I guessed the murderer early on but still enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery.   Harry is one of my favorite amateur detectives and it is enjoyable to see her at work.

I recommend this book, and the Mrs. Murphy series, to fans of cozy mysteries, dog and cat mysteries, and small town mysteries.  I am delighted to have picked up this series again and look forward to continuing.

Author Bio
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.

Sneaky Pie Browna tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. They have collaborated on numerous Mrs. Murphy mysteries—in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers and Sneaky Pie for President.

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