Mini Review: Ink and Shadows (Book #4: Secret, Book, & Scone Society Series) by Ellery Adams

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Nora Pennington is known for her window displays, and as Halloween approaches, she decides to showcase fictional heroines like Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Madeline Miller’s Circe. A family-values group disapproves of the magical themes, though, and wastes no time launching a modern-day witch hunt. Suddenly, former friends and customers are targeting not only Nora and Miracle Books, but a new shopkeeper, Celeste, who’s been selling CBD oil products.

Nora and her friends in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society are doing their best to put an end to the strife—but then someone puts an end to a life. Though the death is declared an accident, the ruling can’t explain the old book page covered with strange symbols and disturbing drawings left under Nora’s doormat, a postcard from an anonymous stalker, or multiple cases of vandalism.

The only hope is that Nora can be a heroine herself and lead the Secret, Book, and Scone Society in a successful investigation—before more bodies turn up and the secrets from Celeste’s past come back to haunt them all . . .

Source: NetGalley and Kensington Rating: 4½/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I could go on and on about the plot and the characters and all the traditional stuff one finds in a book review, but that isn’t what stuck with and truly resonated with me in this read.  The thing that struck the loudest chord for me is Nora’s absolute belief and insistence on protecting her books and the rights of individuals to read what they want.  There have been too many times in history when books have been banned, labelled immoral, or just burned for their content and that chaps my ass much as it does Nora’s.  I was particularly struck by Nora’s continued commitment to helping her customers find the books that will allow them to heal or just providing a safe haven for a young girl whose family doesn’t approve of her reading choices.  Nora in no way does these things to turn a profit but to encourage reading and provide a safe and respectful place for readers of all ages, denomination, creeds, ethnicity, etc.  Nora is simply a book lover with a passion for getting her wares into the hands of those who both want and need them.  I admire and greatly respect this commitment, even in the face of adversity.  From beginning to end, I am going to recommend this series to all lovers of books, but particularly those who have often felt shy about the books they love to read or shamed by others for their reading choices.  Writing and reading are an art form and all who participate on any level are rewarded for their efforts.

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Review: Still as Death (Book #2: A Lucky Whiskey Mystery Series) by J.A. Kazimer

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When she’s not busy dodging the killer alligators and small-town gossip of Gett, Florida, Charlotte Lucky has her hands full keeping the family distillery up and running and planning her grandfather’s seventy-fifth birthday celebration. Then an arrogant old flame from her Hollywood days comes to town to woo her back with a proposal of marriage, and she rejects his offer with a burst of anger and no regrets—until the celebrity heartthrob is found murdered and she’s fingered as the main suspect.

Certain that the town’s sheriff—a member of the rival Gett clan—would be more than happy to see her hang for the crime, Charlotte gets to work tracking down the real killer. Navigating her way through family secrets and her own simmering romantic feelings for a man who’s as dangerous as he is charming, Charlotte will put her neck on the line to unravel a sinister scheme before her next drink turns out to be her last . .

Source: Purchase Rating: 4/5 stars

Holy Hell!  If Charlotte Lucky could catch even the smallest of breaks, she might be able to get life and her family’s distillery on track.  Of course, that implies that a girl with the last name Lucky actually gets lucky. 

As it turns out, Charlotte is not at all lucky!  Mere weeks after getting her grandfather our of jail and taking down a stone-cold killer, her ex-boyfriend decides to make a surprise appearance in Gett with an offer most girls simply couldn’t refuse.  The slick star is back and looking to make Charlotte his forever girl.  Before Charlotte can even utter a stern “Hell no!” the star is slipping the ring on her finger in front of the whole town.  To make matters worse and with no time to correct the error, a man dies bringing an end to an otherwise lovely evening. 

Charlotte has no intention of marrying her bastard ex and in short order she makes her way to his hotel room to set the record straight.  Unfortunately, Charlotte’s ex has no intention of letting her go and even makes threats suggesting as much.   Seeing a losing battle ahead of her, Charlotte leaves the seedy hotel with every intention of kicking her ex to the curb as soon as possible.  As luck would have it, someone does the deed for Charlotte; as luck would not have it, Charlotte is the prime suspect in the damn case! 

Once again, Charlotte puts on her sleuthing hat and begins the arduous task of solving not one, nut two murders.  Though it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, the two crimes are linked to one another and Charlotte and Brodie (he won’t be left out!) have to figure out how before it’s too late.  The killer(s) have already proven he/she/they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect themselves and are willing to kill again to accomplish their goals.  Charlotte and Brodie are both up to their ears in a mess and if they aren’t careful, they are both going to come out of this mess scathed, scratched, and very banged up and bruised.

The Bottom Line:  Once again, I was easily able to slide into this story/setting with little difficulty.  Charlotte is a spitfire, Brodie is brooding and sexy, both grandparents (Charlotte’s and Brodie’s) are forces to be reckoned with, and the local sheriff is still an idiot child.  As I demand from my books, there is definitely some character development going on and that enhances the story immensely.  Charlotte has still got a huge uphill battle ahead of her where the distillery is concerned, but I’m glad of that.  A lack of personal struggle would keep Charlotte from evolving and stagnate the upcoming books.  I’m looking forward to what comes next, gators and all!

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Review: A Shot of Murder (Book #1: A Lucky Whiskey Mystery Series) by J.A. Kazimer

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Ten years after leaving the small town of Gett, Florida, for Hollywood stardom, Charlotte “Charms” Lucky–who has never quite lived up to her surname–returns home to run the Lucky Whiskey distillery while her grandfather recovers from a heart attack.

Making whiskey is harder than Charlotte imagined, especially with longtime rivals and resentful townsfolk interfering at every turn. She’ll need more than a lucky charm to keep the family afloat, especially when she discovers her high school boyfriend’s pickled corpse in a Lucky Whiskey cask and her grandfather is arrested for the murder. Charlotte has one shot to clear his name and save the family business, and that is to find the real killer among a town full of suspects.

Source: NetGalley and Midnight Ink Rating: 3½/5 stars

There is only one thing in the world Charlotte Lucky would lay down her life for and that thing is actually a who.  Charlotte’s grandfather, founder and head of Lucky Whiskey is in a bad way and if Charlotte doesn’t make some solid decisions soon, her grandfather is going to be worse off than he already is. 

In the face of heart attack recovery, Charlotte has packed up her Hollywood life and headed home to the small town of Gett, Florida.  With a population of roughly everyone knows everyone, Charlotte isn’t thrilled to be home, but she is thrilled to see her beloved grandfather.  With strict orders from the doctor and his home nurse to layoff the bad food, cigars, and whiskey, Charlotte has no choice but to take over the running of the distillery.  Though she was raised onsite, Charlotte isn’t a whiskey maker by nature so learning the ropes from the ground up is going to be a wild ride. 

As Charlotte begins to take over the family business, she immediately notices a huge problem, the company is on the verge of financial ruin.  Not wanting to upset her grandfather, Charlotte keeps the information to her herself and presses forward right on into the next huge problem, a dead man in one of her precious casks of whiskey.  To say this is a disaster as well as a tragedy doesn’t even come close and Charlotte can’t keep this from her grandfather since he’s the prime suspect!

Charlotte wasn’t thrilled about having to come home and she’s even less thrilled that the idiot child town sheriff has arrested her grandfather.  The idiot child doesn’t seem to want to see reason and listen to common sense, so Charlotte embarks on her own investigation into the heinous crime.  As Charlotte quickly discovers, not everyone in town is thrilled with her return while others seem a bit too enthused.  Sifting through friends and foes while trying to solve a murder isn’t going to be easy, but Charlotte would rather die than see her grandfather waste away in prison. 

The Bottom Line:  Oh, how I love a good small-town mystery!  When you add in the history and drama of everyone knowing everyone else, suddenly you have a much richer and more complex cast of characters and that I will always love and appreciate.  The only real issue I have with this book is Charlotte’s constant bad attitude toward Brodie Gett; while I appreciate, they have a somewhat contentious history, the middle of a murder investigation isn’t the time to be dredging up petty dramas from the past.  With that said, Charlotte’s attitude wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying this book.  In fact, I was able to get through this rather quickly thanks to its pure entertainment value.

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Review: The Peculiar Fate of Holly Banks (Book #2: Village of Primm Series) by Julie Valerie

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Holly Banks is on a desperate mission to have it all, but nothing in life goes according to plan. She’s quickly learning that keeping up with the Joneses is a full-time job, especially when the women of Primm, her new neighborhood, seem to have it together all the time.

With her husband’s job in flux, her daughter’s difficulty with learning to read, and her mother’s new zest for dating, Holly’s life is already anything but picture perfect. Then her dog digs up an old artifact in the village center, and the mishap draws the attention of local media. Because of course it would.

Holly finds herself at the center of a mystery between two rival towns that, if solved, could change the Village of Primm forever. Attention is the last thing she needs as she’s launching a new business, the village-wide “Parade of Homes” is approaching—though she’s hardly unpacked—and she needs to submit her entry for an upcoming film festival. Can Holly still create her perfect (looking) life? Or is fate about to go off script and give her a story she never could have imagined?

Source: NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing Rating: 4/5 stars

**SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE**

Inexplicably, Holly Banks has survived the first month-ish in her new town, new home, and new community.  Her mother is still in residence and acting weird, her daughter has mostly settled into Kindergarten, and Holly is looking to take back her life and put her film degree to good use. 

In Holly’s mind, she will launch a small film studio out of her kitchen and help the surrounding communities with their photographic, filming, and advertising needs.  All Holly needs is to clear out the kitchen, get a small business loan, buy all the equipment, and start marketing her skills to her friends and neighbors.  With her daughter in school all day, her husband away at work, and her mother expanding her social circle, Holly has time to accomplish all her goals.

Here’s the rub . . . .

Holly’s daughter is away at school all day, but she is at a very unique school that expects above and beyond from both students and parents alike.  Her mother is acting stranger than normal, and her husband is suddenly and mysteriously sick and staying home.  Additionally, Holly’s wayward dog, Struggle continues to sneak out of the house and cause all sorts of mischief in the neighborhood and Mary-Margaret, Holly’s nemesis has gone into hiding when the Village of Primm needs her most. 

Yes, the Village of Primm is on the verge of collapse and financial ruin if the newsletter and texts are to be believed.  The beloved botanical garden has been blow-torched and now all the plants have to be reseeded, replanted, and regrown.  Without the botanical garden, the community has lost one of its largest sources of income.  A lack of tourists and income means a marked lack of sales for other local businesses and the overall lowering of property values.  Did I mention it has become Holly’s job to fix all these issues all while trying to balance and organizing and improve her own life?

As always, Holly goes about things in the way she always does, with sheer panic and a sense of being totally out of control.  First up is trying to coax a devastated and humiliated Mary-Margaret out her she shed; next up is trying to decide if Struggle can be used to help solve a local town mystery; third up is organizing her daughter’s Kindergarten wedding; and finally, there is the small matter of overcoming her fear of flying to capture footage that will help launch her business and save the Village of Primm. Absolutely no pressure 😊

The Bottom Line: While I didn’t love this story as much as the first, I am still very drawn to the character that is Holly Banks.  Bless her heart, Holly has a way of getting pulled into situations not of her own making, immediately committing some huge faux pas, and then finding a way to save the day for everyone.  If you don’t laugh at the situations Holly finds herself in, you’re going to cry at the absolute overwhelming nature of the events.  Knowing everyone is going to come out a little worse for wear, but ultimately fine helps tremendously when starting this series.  I realize these two books haven’t fared well on Goodreads, but I have found them to be quite entertaining and certainly worth a go.

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Mini Review: Holly Banks Full of Angst (Book #1: Village of Primm Series) by Julie Valerie

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Holly Banks could not have made a worse first impression on the seemingly perfect moms in her new affluent community, the Village of Primm. Turns out wearing pink piggy pajama bottoms while dropping off her kindergartner late to the first day of school wasn’t her best look.

Not to mention Holly’s worried her husband may be having an affair, she can’t get her daughter to stop sucking her thumb, her hard-won film degree is collecting dust, and to top it all off, the power-hungry PTA president clearly has it in for her…

To make matters even worse, Holly’s natural eye for drama lands her smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood mystery—right as her own crazy mother shows up in Primm “to help.” Through it all, Holly begins to realize her neighbors may be just as flawed as—and even wackier than—she is, leaving her to wonder: Is there such a thing as a perfect mom?

Source: Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  Would it really be the start of a new year if I weren’t totally on the opposite side of the Goodreads star rating for a book??  Truly!!  Y’all would begin to wonder about an imposter running my blog if I agreed with the masses about a book 😊

I went into this book expecting nothing and came having read a really ridiculous book that had me laughing through most of the pages and chapters.  Once you realize and accept how absolutely over the top every aspect of this book is, you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride.  The Village of Primm is utterly out of control, Mary-Margaret is absolutely monstrous in her behavior, and Holly is often startling in her responses to events in her life.  I found Holly and her responses to be fascinating as well as often hilarious.  If I am completely honest, there was more than one occasion when I found myself thinking how much happier we’d all be if, just once in a while we just let go like Holly Banks.  To be sure, Holly is dealing with some crazy circumstances and her desire to fit in often trips her up and causes her to overreact to the situation at hand.  With time to ruminate on this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that Holly Banks Full of Angst is really a reflection of the modern world.  Holly resembles so many people in this world with her home, her financial situation, her fears and worries for her child, and her inclusion into a community that goes too far in an effort to appear perfect.  Holly doesn’t always react in the best way possible, but she is true to herself and her feelings and for that, I had to admire her.

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Review: Dog-Gone Dead (Book #2: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery Series) by Jackie Layton

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Low Country dog walker Andi Grace Scott is happy to score some free mulch from one of her brother’s landscaping jobs—until she discovers the dead body buried beneath the bark.

Worse, her brother’s landscaping tools were used to commit the murder. Once the police arrest her brother and seem happy to have “caught their man,” Andi Grace has no choice but to track down the real killer. She’ll risk everything to prove her brother’s innocence. Even if it means turning over every rock in town.

Source: NetGalley and Bell Bridge Books Rating: 4/5 stars

**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE**

In the span of a few weeks’ time, Andi Grace Scott has gone from being the proud and very happy owner of a small yet comfortable seaside home to the wary and uncertain owner of a large, old southern plantation.  With the help of her best-friend, Andi Grace has decided to convert the big house into a bed and breakfast and some of the outer buildings into sites appropriate for her own ever-expanding dog walking/care business. 

Andi Grace has no intention of running the B & B, but she is the ultimate owner and that means making sure everything is up to snuff for the grand opening.  With just a few days remaining and a tight budget, Andi Grace has bought her landscaping supplies from her brother’s business and intends to do the heavy lifting herself.  However, before Andi Grace can get to work shoveling mulch, she has to deal with the very dead body she’s stumbled upon and her completely disoriented and concussed brother.

With her new boyfriend by her side, Andi Grace dives into another murder investigation.  To be fair, Andi Grace didn’t go looking for the dead guy, but she certainly found him and, unfortunately all the evidence points to her younger brother being the killer.  With no doubt in her heart or mind about her brother’s innocence, Andi Grace has no choice but to get him out of the sheriff’s line of sight.  Given the identity of the victim, finding a football field’s worth of evidence shouldn’t be all that hard to do.  All Andi Grace must do is narrow down the suspect pool.

As Andi Grace and entourage investigate, they discover all kinds of dirty little secrets.  On top of the investigation, Andi Grace also has a business to run and expand and that’s taking up a tremendous amount of her time.  She’s burning the candle at both ends and that makes her deductive skills a bit sluggish which inevitably leads to Andi Grace being knee-deep in trouble. 

The Bottom Line:  The second installment of this series brought an ironing out of the rough patches from book one and I liked this story even more than the first.  The greatest distinction for me is the addition of the plantation to Andi Grace’s world.  The expansion of her life and businesses is going to make a great backdrop to later installments of the series.  What’s more, with every crime she solves, Andi Grace becomes a little better at sleuthing. I see a ton of potential in this series and sincerely hope the next installments can meet my expectations.

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Review: Bite the Dust (Book #1: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery Series) by Jackie Layton

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One steamy South Carolina morning, Low Country dog walker Andi Grace Scott discovers a client’s dead body. Police quickly decide she’s the prime suspect. Horrified, she knows she’ll have to turn detective if she’s going to convince them they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Proving her innocence could be a tall order. The local police never solved the hit-and-run that killed her parents; Andi Grace isn’t sure they’ll solve this crime either…not when they have a convenient suspect—one caught with the possible murder weapon in her hand. She’ll have to follow every clue and call in every favor, even if that puts her in danger.

Source: Purchase Rating: 3½/5 stars

Andi Grace has spent her life in service to others.  First, when her parents died tragically in a car wreck, she took over the care of her younger siblings and now, as an adult, she looks after other people’s pets through her dog walking business.  Though it isn’t the life she envisioned as a teenager, Andi Grace loves her life and wouldn’t trade 99% of it for the world.  The part she would trade, finding her dear friend dead in his palatial living room.

Andi Grace has spent her whole life in the same small town and rarely ever has there been a crime of this magnitude.  Not only was her friend killed, but he was seemingly killed by someone he either knew or trusted since there is no evidence of forced entry.  Andi Grace is horrified by the scene and to make matters worse, one of the newest members of the community walked in on the scene and now sees Andi Grace as a suspect.  Sadly, so does the local sheriff.  In the space of just a few minutes, Andi Grace’s peaceful life has turned upside down and inside out. 

With her name and freedom on the line, Andi Grace sets out to do what any sane person would, solve the crime for the police. As luck would have it, the new man in town quickly discovers Andi Grace is far, far from guilty and though he tries to weasel out of it, he becomes Andi Grace’s new lawyer.  As the two begin their now shared investigation, Andi Grace learns that she didn’t know her long-time friend nearly as well as she thought she did.  There were secrets and scandals in her friend’s past that nearly bring Andi Grace to her knees. 

The Bottom LineBite the Dust is a very clean cozy mystery that really ticks all the boxes for me.  Andi Grace is a fine main character, her partner in crime is a sexy, intelligent, caring man with nothing nut Andi Grace’s best interests at heart, and the plot is rooted deep in mystery and heartache.  I absolutely love the setting with the combination of old South charm and life by the water.  When you add in the horde of dogs Andi Grace cares for, there really isn’t much I can find to be upset about with this book.  I can’t say I was blown away by this book and some aspects were quite predictable, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this read and plowing right on through the second book.

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Mini Review: Murder at the PTA (Book #1: Maya and Sandra Mystery Series) by Lee Hollis

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Someone is trying to turn Portland High into a school for scandal with a gossipy website called Dirty Laundry. The latest target of ruinous rumors is newly elected PTA president Sandra Wallage. After a heated meeting with outraged parents, Sandra runs into fellow school mom and private investigator Maya Kendrick, who’s discovered the person behind the website. But when the women storm into the venomous gossip columnist’s office they find a lifeless body—along with a confession.

Although the police rule the death a suicide, Maya suspects an injured party hung the Dirty Laundry creator out to dry. Maya already has a PI partner—but she’s pregnant, and sonograms and stakeouts tend to conflict. So when Sandra volunteers for a crash course in sleuthing, Maya accepts the help. But as these unlikely partners study the clues, a killer plans to teach them a lesson . . .

Source: NetGalley and Kensington Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  With as many series out there as there are within the cozy mystery genre, a book has to really jump out and grab me in order to keep me coming back for more.  I can’t say I disliked this book, but it also didn’t offer me much that I can’t get from other authors that I, quite frankly like more.  Neither Maya nor Sandra are particularly stand-out characters and while that may change over the course of the series, I don’t think this book, or these characters are going to stick with me long enough to warrant picking up the next book.  If you’re an old pro at this genre and are just looking for something new, give this a go.  However, if you are new to the genre, I wouldn’t recommend starting here as there are other series out there that are stronger and far more enjoyable.

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Review: A Wicked Yarn (Book #1: A Craft Fair Knitters Mystery Series) by Emmie Caldwell

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Mother’s Day should be a cinch for the good folks of the Crandalsburg Craft Fair, and knitting enthusiast Lia Geiger has a good feeling about this year’s yield. But things quickly get knotty when Lia’s daughter announces she’s quit her job and Lia finds herself tangled up in the murder of her best friend’s ex-husband. While Belinda’s alibi quickly gets her off the hook, nasty rumors spread throughout Crandalsburg that shroud the entire fair in suspicion.

Could the vendors be responsible for the murder of a man hell-bent on unraveling the fair just days before his death? Lia and her crafty group of Ninth Street Knitters must put down their needles to gather clues and save the crafting community they’ve grown to love.

Source: NetGalley and Berkley Books Rating: 4/5 stars

In the wake of her beloved husband’s death, Lia Geiger packed up home and moved to a small town.  In the small town of Crandalsburg, there is little in the way of crime and lots in the way of good friends, community spirit, and a willingness to support others.  In the year and half since her move, Lia has found a renewed spirit and a lessening of her grief, much of which has come through the companionship she has found among her fellow Ninth Street Knitters group.

Lia knows she isn’t over the loss of her husband, but her slower life pace and membership into a most welcoming community has been a blessing.  The quiet life has given her time to heal but that time seems to be coming to a rather dramatic ending.  Over the course of just a few short days, Lia’s adopted hometown becomes the site of a gruesome murder and her adult daughter drops a bombshell, she’s quitting her job and moving home.  In an instant, Lia’s life, peace, and quiet have been turned topsy turvy.

Though Lia has no special skills in detecting, she does have a vested interest in solving the murder.  On the one hand, Lia’s good friend is the prime suspect and, on the other hand, if the murder isn’t solved, it could contribute to the permanent closing of the Crandalsburg craft fair.  Though Lia doesn’t need the income personally, the craft fair offers many sellers an avenue for income and it provides Lia and her knitters group with an outlet to share all their creative creations.  If the craft fair were to close, the community would be hurt in a most severe way.

With her daughter home, Lia has someone to bounce her theories off and while some sound absolutely outlandish, a murder in Crandalsburg is outlandish so the theories may as well be too.  In addition to her daughter, Lia also bounces theories off the ladies of her knitting group.  What she finds is a wealth of knowledge among the group related to various parts and pieces of the mystery.  When the women put all their heads together, they come up with a solution that confounds them all.

The Bottom Line:  I really just can’t enough of the cozy mystery genre!  I know nothing about knitting but I sure loved all the descriptions of knitting and the finished results found in this book.  When you add in a wonderfully weird small town and community that truly does come together in a crisis, you have a recipe for success.  The only character I struggled with in this book is Lia’s daughter and I am hoping as she finally decides what she wants to be when she grows up that I ‘ll grow to like her a bit more.  In all, I found this book to be a pleasant and easy entry into a new series.

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Review: The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose

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Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother’s secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother’s effects—a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.

Isobelle’s research into the tiara’s provenance draws her closer to her mother’s past—including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweler, who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.

Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favorite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.

Source: NetGalley Rating: 4½/5 stars

Despite having lived her entire life in New York, Isobelle has never quite felt comfortable or included.  As the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Isobelle walks the line between two worlds, the one she has always occupied and the mysterious world her mother once belonged to yet left behind.  For much of her life, Isobelle has asked questions but never received any answers; with the death of mother, Isobelle is finally going to solve the mystery of where she belongs.

Isobelle is absolutely crushed by the death of her mother, but she has to move on for the sake of her own sanity.  One of the biggest steps toward her recovery is putting her skills to work and refurbishing and refashioning the home she and her mother shared.  As Isobelle begins moving furniture and peeling ancient wallpaper, she discovers a hidden compartment which contains the most unusual of finds, a stripped tiara in cushioned case.  To say Isobelle is dumbfounded doesn’t even come close.  Though she is somewhat used to living with her mother’s secrets, the tiara is a whole new level of mystery. 

With nothing but a receipt to go on, Isobelle begins her search for answers with the name on the receipt.  The name leads her to a handsome young jeweler with a past of his own.  The young man is not only fascinated by the tiara Isobelle has brought him, but by Isobelle as well.  As the two begin the real search for the source of the tiara, they draw closer to one another on a personal level.  Unfortunately, the search into her mother’s tiara causes a divide between the two and their respective self-interests regarding the astounding find a wholly different. 

Isobelle sees the tiara as a link to her past and to understanding a mother who was never willing to share the secrets of her past.  The handsome young jeweler sees the tiara as a missing relic that should be repatriated if at all possible.  The wildly divergent interests not only drive Isobelle and her beau apart, but they also serve as the path to real answers.  What Isobelle discovers through her journey is that some men are worth loving, her mother’s secrets weren’t meant to harm but to protect the secret keeper, and the future is as bright as Isobelle wants it to be.

The Bottom Line:  I have long been a fan of books that sweep back and forth between the present and the past.  When you add in a bit of mystery and history, the book just gets better.  This book is very much a sweeping tale of love, lost love, fear, triumphs and tribulations that spans across the globe from the Russian imperial court to and early 20th century New York City.  For myself, I found the time of Isobelle’s mother to be the most entertaining as it really is her story, we, like Isobelle, are meant to be discovering.   The hardship and sorrow of the time and place just poured off the page leaving me feeling quite anxious and worried for the fate of all the characters.  I completely absorbed this book and was able to truly dive in and envision all that was happening.  A fine historical fiction!

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