While the first hints of autumn grace Boggy Creek, Florida, Gia misses the colorful harvest traditions she left behind in New York. On a scramble to make new fall memories—and promote her irresistible pumpkin spice waffles—things take a dark turn when she gets roped into the Haunted Town Festival, a spooky celebration held on deserted farmlands. The desolate area conjures plenty of eerie vibes at night, but Gia and her best friend, Savannah, are nearly frightened to death upon the discovery of the event organizer’s body buried in the nearby woods. More alarming, the local rumor mill says the woman’s shady dealings may have egged someone into sending her to an early grave. Now, there’s no shortage of creepy clues to feast on as Gia and her pals try to stop a killer with a very scary appetite . . .
Source: NetGalley and Lyrical Underground Rating: 4/5 stars
Gia Morelli would be perfectly happy if people would stop dropping dead around her. With Halloween on the horizon and the opportunity to participate in one of Boggy Creek’s most beloved events, the Haunted Town Festival, Gia was looking forward to the totally crime-free mayhem and madness. Unfortunately, one sinister being in Boggy Creek has it in for another resident and Gia will once again be lucky enough to stumble upon the mess.
As Gia and her best friend are checking out the site of the All-Day Breakfast Café’s haunted house, they have the misfortune of stumbling across the body of one of the town’s most devoted citizens. The poor woman spent her life devoting her time and energy to the Haunted Town Festival which serves as a fundraiser for the local animal shelter. While this seems like a completely selfless community service, the old bat wasn’t at all what she seemed and far too many people knew of her viler nature. While she’s managed to get away with her double life for years, someone finally had enough and put an end to her wicked ways.
For the first time, Gia isn’t at all connected to the crime or the victim and she’s absolutely determined to keep her nose where it belongs, in her own blinkin’ business. As with so many times in life, that sentiment is easier said than done and before Gia can say “BOO!” she’s up to her pretty little neck in an investigation. As always, Gia and her bestie begin digging around and what they discover are the secrets that many in Boggy Creek likely would have been happy to see go to their graves. The “poor” victim seems to have been blackmailing a load of people as well as getting up to her own shenanigans. By the time Gia puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, her life is very much threatened and her boyfriend, the good detective may not be able to get to her in time, this time.
The Bottom Line: I always worry about a series going stale after too many books, but so far, the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery Series is going strong and staying fresh. I like that not only are the plots staying fresh in interesting, but the personal narratives are also evolving. Gia has truly settled into Boggy Creek and she is surrounded by good friends and co-workers who truly have her best interests at heart. I like the spirit of community in Boggy Creek and how the regulars at the café have become trusted companions and great sounding boards when there’s murder and mischief afoot. I have high hopes for the future of this series.
Life has been non-stop excitement for American Army veteran Megan Malone ever since she moved to Ireland and became a driver for Dublin’s Leprechaun Limousine Service. She’s solved a murder and adopted two lovable Jack Russell puppies. Currently, she’s driving world-class champion golfer Martin Walsh, and he’s invited her to join him while he plays in a tournament at a prestigious Irish locale. Unfortunately, there’s a surprise waiting for her on the course–a body floating in a water hazard.
Everyone loved golfer Lou MacDonald, yet he clearly teed off someone enough to be murdered. Martin seems to be the only one with a motive. However, he also has an alibi: Megan and hundreds of his fans were watching him play. Now, with a clubhouse at an ancient castle full of secrets and a dashing Irish detective by her side, Megan must hurry to uncover the links to the truth before the real killer takes a swing at someone else . . .
Source: NetGalley and Kensington Rating: 4/5 stars
The Bottom Line: After book one, I wasn’t expecting a great deal out of this read and I am happy to say, I was pleasantly surprised. From start to finish, I felt far more invested and interested in this book. Yet again, Megan finds herself entangled in a messy situation that involves the death of a good and well-liked man, a broken-hearted and very bitter daughter, and strained marriage that is seemingly at its breaking point. Everything came together in a much better way in this book and I found myself far more engaged with the characters and the plot. Megan is rather cheekier in this read and liked that aspect of her personality quite a bit. Her wit, humor, and true compassion for others really shone through in this read and I particularly liked the steel in her spine when she needed to be tough. In all, a much better showing in this read than in the first and I find I am no longer on the fence, but ready to dive into the next book.
Ferrying tourists around Dublin for the Leprechaun Limo Service makes quite a change after years in the military. Still, Megan Malone is enjoying her life in Ireland. She likes the scenery, the easy pace, the quirky, quick-witted locals. Everything–except having one of her clients drop dead at the statue of fabled fishmonger, Molly Malone.
Most restaurant critics notch up their share of enemies. Elizabeth Darr, however, was a well-loved international star. She and her husband, Simon, had just had dinner when Elizabeth collapsed, and spoiled seafood is the first suspect. The restaurant’s owner, worried her business is doomed, begs Megan to look into it. Between her irate boss and a handsome Garda who’s both amused and annoyed by her persistence, Megan has her hands full even before she’s cajoled into taking care of two adorable Jack Russell puppies (which she is almost definitely not keeping). But if cockles and mussels aren’t to blame, can Megan find the real culprit . . .before another fishy death occurs?
Source: Purchase Rating: 3/5 stars
Megan Malone loves her life in Ireland. After twenty years in the US military, Megan has retired from service, moved to her grandfather’s homeland, and taken a job she adores as a limo driver. With nothing to do but shuttle her clients from place to place Megan enjoys her life and her freedom. Her favorite part of the job is getting to know her longer-term clients and her current clients are among her favorites.
Elizabeth Darr is an international sensation. She has spent her professional life traveling the world, blogging about her adventures, and critiquing all the restaurants she visits along the way. As a foodie and food critic, Elizabeth has made her fair share of enemies, but none so serious that she has ever felt her life was in danger. To everyone’s shock and surprise, just after finishing a delicious lunch at Megan’s friend’s restaurant, Elizabeth Darr drops dead on the street.
In just seconds, Elizabeth Darr is dead, Megan’s friend is distraught over the possibility of food poisoning and the loss of her restaurant, and a cute little stray dog is giving birth in the restaurant’s kitchen. Literally the only thing Megan can do is drive Elizabeth’s distraught husband back to his hotel, collect the momma and her puppies from the restaurant’s kitchen (she’s NOT keeping them!), and talk to the police when she’s called. While a sane person would step away and allow the police to do their job, Megan is a self-described busybody who likes to know the answers to all the questions.
True to form, Megan begins digging around into the life – both professional and personal – of Elizabeth Darr. Though there is little to suggest Elizabeth was a target of anyone, her husband has a bit of a sketchy history that may have come back to haunt him in the form of his wife’s death. As with so many amateur sleuths, Megan’s efforts aren’t precisely appreciated by the local police, but even her contact has to admit, she’s come up with some information he never would have been able to suss out.
The Bottom Line: This is one of those reads where I feel utterly and completely on the fence. I didn’t love this read and I didn’t hate it either. This read turned into the very definition of “MEH” for me. I liked Megan well enough and her constant reminders to herself about language differences and the fact she isn’t keeping the puppies. I liked her police contact, the ginger detective, and even a few of the other minor characters, but nothing really bowled me over. I stuck with this book because I really wanted to like this story, its characters, and its setting. What I found is truly a middle of the road read.
When Stella’s friend inherits a creaky, abandoned home in Nantucket, she knows it’s the perfect setting for the town’s annual Halloween fundraiser. A deserted, boarded-up building on the property–once used as a candle-making shop–adds to the creepy ambiance. But as Stella explores the shack’s dilapidated walls, she discovers a terrible secret: the skeleton of a Quaker woman, wrapped in blood-soaked clothing and hidden deep within a stone hearth . . .
While police investigate, Stella wastes no time asking for help from friends with long ties to Nantucket’s intricate history. The key to the murder may lie within a scorching 18th century love triangle that pit two best friends against one another over a dubious man. But before the case is solved, another life will be claimed–leaving Stella to wonder who in Nantucket is friend, and who is foe . . .
Source: NetGalley and Kensington Rating: 4½/5 stars
WOOOHOOO!! The Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery Series is back in the saddle and 15 Minutes of Flame is hands-down the best book in the series, to date.
With Halloween quickly approaching Stella and her little black cat are looking forward to all the events her small town has to offer. The weather is changing, the spooky is going up all around town, and Stella’s holiday candles are all but flying off the shelves.
One of the highlights of the Halloween holiday is the haunted house Stella is helping to organize. The dilapidated house is owned by one of Stella’s friends and is the perfect location for a community event. One of the local youth groups is involved in the decorating and with just days to go before the big day things seem to be on track for a highly successful event. In fact, everything is smooth sailing right up to the moment Stella discovers the bones of a body buried deep in the stone chimney in the property’s backyard shack. In an instant, the Halloween haunted house becomes a real thing, and it is steeped in local history and lore.
Because of the age of the bones, Stella’s find is classified as an historical finding which means a whole new set of rules, regulations, and nerdy birds looking to catalogue and record everything in the proper manner. Almost before the work can even begin on the first body, a second is discovered on the strength of local legend and extant writings. To make the entire mess even more interesting, there’s talk of a treasure in the extant writings, the two women are likely connected to one another, and one of the nerdy birds falls victim to foul play in the course of the investigation.
With three bodies, a hoard of scared little girls threatening to cancel the haunted house, and a cranky old bastard who knows more than he’s letting on. If Stella can’t put two and two and two together and come up with the correct answer, there’s likely going to be more mayhem. In order to work out the mess, Stella is going to have to dive deep into several local families’ histories and uncover some painful truths that have been long hidden and buried.
The Bottom Line: 15 Minutes of Flame is one of my favorite types of book, a good old-fashioned past meets present mystery steeped in local history. This read was a doozy from start to finish with multiple deaths, lots of backstory – I LOVE IT – and Stella up to her neck in the mess. What’s more, the blue hairs in this book are out in force and with their help, Stella is able to not only solve the mystery but pull off a Halloween unlike anything the town has ever experienced. I am glad to see this series pull out of the sophomore slump and come back in fine form with this installation. With luck, this book will begin a streak of stellar reads!
Stella Wright loves creating candles at her Nantucket store—and she also has a burning passion for justice. Now, after visiting a perfume conference, she must solve a vial crime . . .
Stella and her globe-trotting mom, Millie, have come home from a perfume industry conference in Paris, where their trip was marred by witnessing the stabbing death of a young man. It’s a relief for Stella to be back on her picturesque island, with the comforting company of her cat, Tinker. But lingering danger may have followed them back across the ocean.
After someone breaks into her candle store, the Wick & Flame, Stella starts feeling spooked. And just as things threaten to ignite, Millie suffers a blow to the head. Stella receives an anonymous note claiming that her mother smuggled a secret formula out of France—and threatening her life if it isn’t returned. Now Stella’s picked up the scent of a cold-hearted criminal and an intriguing puzzle, and things are about to get wicked . . .
Source: Purchase Rating: 3/5 stars
The Bottom Line: I’m pretty sure this sophomore effort from Christin Brecher is going to be the stinker in the series. I had a hard time with this book on two counts: 1) Stella’s mother and 2) the feasibility of the plot. Stella’s mother is far too flighty for my liking and the plot, even in a fictional story is just too far-fetched for believability. From international spies to false identities to Stella being the only one in the know, I kept thinking it was all going to unravel as a huge joke. Turns out, the joke was on me and it was all “real.” The characters I liked in the first book are still characters I liked in this book, the setting is still idyllic, and the candles are still cool, but the plot in this one just doesn’t hold up.
Nantucket candle store owner Stella Wright specializes in creating unique candles for every occasion. But someone sets the stage for murder when a Memorial Day celebration becomes a wedding to die for . . .
Jessica Sterling’s candlelight-themed nuptial promises to be the perfect kick-off to the summer’s first official holiday weekend. Stella’s thrilled to have been chosen to provide the decorative centerpiece for the wedding ceremony: a two-foot, tall scented unity candle—a symbol of the happy couple’s love. But it looks like the bride-to-be’s uncle won’t be walking his niece down the aisle after he’s found dead. The murder weapon is Stella’s seemingly indestructible candle, now split in two.
When a beloved local bartender is arrested, Stella’s sure a visiting police Captain running the case made a rush to justice. With superstitious brides-to-be cancelling orders and sales waxing and waning at her store, the Wick & Flame owner decides to do some sleuthing of her own. Abetted by a charming reporter and challenged by the town’s sexiest cop, Stella’s determined to shine a light on the truth and uncover a killer who’s snuffing out her own flame.
Source: Purchase Rating: 4/5 stars
Stella Wright absolutely delights in her work. She’s a candle maker with a small store in Nantucket. While her store does well, it’s her specialty work that pays the bills. Stella has knack for understanding scent and scent combinations which means she can produce absolutely unique products for specific clients.
Stella’s latest client is a bride-to-be and Stella’s creations for her wedding are beyond anything she has ever produced. The scent is unique and perfect for the couple and will certainly be a highlight of their wedding. In addition to the unity candle, Stella has created a whole host of candles in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and scents that will compliment every aspect of the wedding weekend.
And then there’s a death in the family, he’s the one member no one liked, and his death is caused by Stella’s beautiful, one-of-a-kind unity candle. WOW!! From one moment to the next the perfect wedding and weekend has turned into a nightmare for all involved. The bride can’t understand what’s going on and if her fiancé may be involved, the bride’s mother is nearly giddy at the death, a world famous actress has conveniently come to town and is somehow linked to the whole sordid affair, and Stella is determined to figure out the whole hot mess.
Though Stella wouldn’t normally become involved in something so serious and scary, her reputation is on the line, and more importantly, one of the town’s locals has been arrested and there’s not a chance he’s responsible. Stella is bound and determined to clear his name and, in the process, ensure the bride has the wedding she spent her life dreaming about. With each new discovery, Stella becomes convinced that solving the crime is going to be far harder than she originally imagined. There are people involved with secrets they don’t want exposed and will do anything to keep those secrets dead and buried.
The Bottom Line: I found Murder’s No Votive Confidence to be a solid start to this new series. I won’t lie, I picked this series because I liked the idea of a candle shop and all the details and description such a character would entail. I wasn’t disappointed on that count and got a good story to go along with the smelly bits. Outside of the candles, I quite liked Stella and the circle of blue hairs (the Candleers) who frequent her store, and the mysterious little cat who seemingly knows the answers to everything even before Stella does. In all, I got a good cozy mystery, a wonderful little group of characters who should prove quite entertaining in editions to come, and a primary setting that is enchanting.
The bold one, they call her—too bold for most.
To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.
But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father’s schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.
The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways.
Source: NetGalley Rating: 3/5 stars
The Bottom Line: If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know my intense love of historical fiction; it is a love affair that has rarely faded. The Widow Queen is wrapped in history, but even my love of the genre couldn’t get me above a three-star rating. This is an incredibly dense read and while the translation into English is a welcome benefit, it doesn’t help much with the names. 😊 I dug into this read, determined to hang on to the bitter end only to discover it ends on a cliffhanger; 500+ pages and there is no ending in sight. In truth, had this book wrapped up and finished up, I would have been much happier and willing to raise my star rating, but knowing it will take me another 500 pages or more to get to the end of this saga is an absolute hard pass for me. With all that said, for those who love these kinds of books/sagas/series, etc. – the long and extremely detailed kinds of historical fiction – this will be the perfect solution for your next big read.
As birthdays go, this year’s for radio producer Everly Dean hit rock-bottom.
Worse than the “tonsillectomy birthday.” Worse than the birthday her parents decided to split (the first time). But catching your boyfriend cheating on you with his assistant?
Even clichés sting.
But this is Everly’s year! She won’t let her anxiety hold her back. She’ll pitch her podcast idea to her boss.
There’s just one problem.
Her boss, Chris, is very cute. (Of course). Also, he’s extremely distant (which means he hates her, right? Or is that the anxiety talking)?
And, Stacey the DJ didn’t mute the mic during Everly’s rant about Simon the Snake (syn: Cheating Ex).
That’s three problems.
Suddenly, people are lining up to date her, Bachelorette-style, fans are voting (Reminder: never leave house again), and her interest in Chris might be a two-way street. It’s a lot for a woman who could gold medal in people-avoidance. She’s going to have to fake it ‘till she makes it to get through all of this.
Perhaps she’ll make a list: The Ten Rules for Faking It.
Because sometimes making the rules can find you happiness when you least expect it.
Source: NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin Rating: 4/5 stars
As far as birthdays go, Everly would be perfectly content to ignore hers. Every. Single. Year. As an anxiety-riddled introvert, Everly doesn’t like being in the spotlight, and every year, without fail, something awful seems to happen on her birthday that draws her firmly into the spotlight.
This year is no exception.
On the morning of her birthday, Everly catches her D-bag of a boyfriend in bed with his assistant. Though she isn’t overly heartbroken, she is very angry, and that anger comes out to her best friend as they are starting work. Unfortunately, Everly isn’t aware, until it is way too late that her whole story comes tumbling out over the airwaves of the local radio station. Yet again, a disastrous birthday that puts Everly in the spotlight.
Within hours, Everly finds that her story totally resonates with listeners and a scheme to help save the radio station is hatched. Shy, introverted, anxiety-riddled Everly is going to become her own Bachelorette program and over the course of several weeks, she and the station’s listeners will work through a list of eligible bachelors to find Everly her own happily ever after. Everly is completely freaked out by the prospect of multiple dates with multiple men, but she wants to keep her job more, so she agrees to the madness.
Standing on the sidelines is the one man who truly cares for and appreciates Everly. Even with all her issues, Chris sees Everly for who she really is and wants nothing more than to care for her openly and honestly. The trouble is Chris is Everly’s boss and he has never given her the slightest indication he has anything but professional feelings towards her. In the weeks of the dating competition, Chris is by Everly’s side and always available should she have any trouble. Chris becomes a source of support and friendship that eventually, at least for Everly, grows into something far more intense and real. Obviously, neither are going to confess their true feelings until they have too 😊
The Bottom Line: I guess I’m reading books incorrectly again, because I quite liked this book. Never once did I feel sorry for Everly, but compassion and support for her as she struggled through her own issues to try and help others. Everly is a character I couldn’t help but root for and I especially appreciated her best friend and her boss, Chris. Neither enabled Everly but sought to help her overcome and accomplish. In all, I found this to be a rather uplifting book with a load of feels thrown in for good measure.
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
Source: NetGalley and Gallery Books Rating: 5/5 stars
The Bottom Line: I found this book to be tremendously entertaining, educational, and inspiring. Covering three generations of women and their connection to a single site, I found the time slip nature of this book to be seamlessly woven together. If I’m completely honest, my favorite “character” in this book is the garden originally created by Venetia. As the book progresses, so does Venetia’s work and the descriptions are so wonderfully written that I could see the garden growing in my mind. In the later generations, the garden and Venetia’s vision has come to fruition and then fallen into decline which brings one to the present and the campaign to bring the garden back to its original splendor. Each woman connected to the garden has her own story to tell and those stories are so intimately connected to the garden as to be wholly inseparable. I found this connection quite special and was pleasantly surprised to find that each woman had a completely satisfying ending. In all, I was immensely satisfied with this historical fiction and find I can heartily recommend it to lovers of the genre.
Cupcake caterer Emory Martinez is hosting a Halloween bash alongside her octogenarian employer, Tillie. With guests dressed in elaborate costumes, the band is rocking, the cocktails are flowing, and tempers are flaring when the hired Bavarian Barmaid tries to hook a rich, hapless husband. Except one of her targets happens to be Emory’s brother-in-law, which bodes ill for his pregnant wife. When Emory tracks down the distraught barmaid, instead of finding the young woman in tears, she finds her dead. Can she explain to the new detective on the scene why the Bavarian Barmaid was murdered in Emory’s bathtub with Emory’s Poison Apple Cake Pops stuffed into her mouth?
With an angry pregnant sister to contend with, she promises to clear her brother-in-law’s name. As Emory starts asking questions and tracking down the identity of the costumed guests, she finds reasons to suspect her brother-in-law has been hiding a guilty secret. Her search leads her to a web of blackmail and betrayal amongst the posh setting of the local country club crowd. Can Emory sift through the lies she’s being told and find the killer? She’ll need to step up her investigation before another victim is sent to the great pumpkin patch in the sky.
Source: NetGalley and Cinnamon & Sugar Press Rating: 4/5 stars
Emory Martinez has absolutely settled into her new life. Her cupcake catering business has really taken off, she loves working with Tillie, and her home in Tillie’s pool house is the perfect place for she and her little dog. With her life seemingly settled, Emory and Tillie undertake their greatest event to date, a costumed Halloween party. With high hopes for the event, neither suspects murder is on the menu alongside Emory’s new Poison Apple Cake Pops.
Just as the party is in full swing, with all the social elites in attendance, and the cocktails flowing Emory sees a bit of kerfuffle near her pool house. Dismissing the scene for the time being Emory is later shocked to find a very deceased body in her pool house. As if the dead body weren’t enough of a surprise, Tillie’s son has a whopper as well. Shortly after the founding and reporting of the body, Tillie’s son presents to his gathered family his new bride! YIKES!!! Immediately, Tillie and Emory are on guard as the new bride is about as kind as pissed off snake and has no intention of playing second-fiddle to anyone, not even the matriarch of the family.
Clearly, Tillie and Emory have work to do including solving the on-site murder, keeping the details of their antics from Tillie’s erratic and volatile son, and sussing out the issues related to the new bride in the family. Though Emory doesn’t want to put Tillie in harm’s way, Tillie has no interest in being left behind and out of the action. In truth, Emory needs Tillie and her social connections if she’s going to make any headway. The social elite only like giving up their secrets when it suits them, but Tillie has a way of getting people to open up and share their darkest secrets.
As the secrets begin to spill out, Tillie and Emory discover a web of lies, deceit, and blackmail. The number of people caught up in the blackmail is truly stunning and the nefarious act is striking a little closer to home than either Tillie or Emory are comfortable with. In order to break the case wide open, protect themselves, and save those closest to them, Tillie and Emory are going to have to defy the police, place their own lives in danger, and be braver than they ever though themselves capable of being. Before all is said and done, Tillie and Emory just may lose everything.
The Bottom Line: I am quite glad I gave this series a second chance. I wasn’t tremendously pleased with the first book, but this second book has really stepped up and delivered. Emory and Tillie as a team are just wonderful and I particularly enjoy the age gap between them. Tillie is wise, clever, slyly witty, and very sure of her own skills and competence. Emory is younger, learning all she can from Tillie, and determined to protect the people she loves. Together, the two are ridiculously fun and really the stars of the series. With this second, more developed book, I have greater confidence in this series and look forward to Emory and Tillie’s next outing.