Tess and Simon Sparrow may have a few more grey hairs and wrinkles than they used to, but that doesn’t stop them being swept up in a whirlwind romance and starting over again. Swapping their city lives for an escape to the countryside, they fall in love with a crumbling hotel and impulsively buy it as their forever home to grow old in together…
Renovating the glorious, wisteria-clad property on the gorgeous cliff-tops of Cornwall was meant to be a delightful retirement project. But the dream soon turns into reality and practical Tess and optimist Simon are faced with leaky bathrooms, creaky stairs and a roof that’s just about holding up.
Running out of money fast, the couple decide to rent out a few rooms to save their new home.
Along come mysterious Celia, hapless romantic Benedict and tarnished, lovelorn actress Titania – all looking for a fresh start. Everyone in this eclectic group has their own reasons for being in Cornwall and across the summer they each go on a journey of self-discovery at The Golden Oldies Guesthouse as they realize there is still plenty of time for love, life, friendship… and a few unexpected surprises.
While most people in their sixties are looking forward to the rest and relaxation that comes with retirement, newly married Tess and Simon Sparrow are looking for a new adventure. On the cliffs of Cornwall, Tess and Simon find exactly what they’ve been looking for, a run-down house that with, a good bit of work, will make a lovely bed and breakfast.
A good bit of work . . . . .
With their respective homes in London sold for a tidy profit and a whole host of hope, Tess and Simon begin contacting laborers for estimates and timetables. Tess and Simon quickly discover life moves a bit slower in the country than it does in the city. With a pressing need to open for business and recoup some of the immense expenses, Tess and Simon dive in and help the laborers in any way they can. Painting, cleaning, buying new furnishings, sewing new curtains and cushions, all while living in a small caravan isn’t exactly how Tess envisioned her retirement and new marriage. Be that as it may, Tess tries to keep a good attitude as she soldiers on and begins to see her fixer-upper come to life.
The guests arrive . . . .
After months – long, cold months – of soul-sucking and bank account draining hard work, Tess and Simon’s newly remodeled and renamed Sparrows’ Nest is open for business. Their four rooms are booked, and each guest is meant to stay for more than a month. On the roster, a publisher-turned-novelist, a would-be painter, an aging stage star, and a couple looking to rekindle their forty-year romance. Each guest has his or her own agenda, some for the better and some for the worse, and a desire to find some peace in their respective lives. The writer needs inspiration, the painter needs a lay over prior to her escape, the actress is seeking revenge, and the couple is on the verge of a major life change. While none expect to find a good bit of healing and clarity, that is exactly what each, in his or her own way finds at the Sparrows’ Nest. To Tess and Simon’s credit, they work hard not to pry and simply allow their guests the peace and solitude they have paid for; it isn’t until the lot of them has come and gone that Tess and Simon discover the truth of their guests.
The Bottom Line: I enjoyed every aspect of this book except one, SIMON!!! Simon is a complete and total ass who adds nothing but anger (on my part!) to the read. He is selfish, thoughtless, and somewhat unkind so when his part in the story lessened in the second and third parts, my enjoyment increased. Outside of Simon, I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of the old house coming back to life, the idyllic setting, the varied and wonderfully strange mix of locals and guests, and the various storylines associated with everyone. Except Simon 😊 I’m not sure there is a message or moral to be taken from this book, but it is lovely read that kept me turning pages at a fair clip. It is a rather long read at 500+ pages, but I found the pacing and the various plot lines to be sufficient and entertaining enough to not notice the overall length. A solid read to be sure!
I grin at him. “Don’t tell me you’re scared.”
“Scared? Not really. Let’s just say I want to make a good first impression.” He nudges his head at my dress. “I have half a mind to rip that off you. How attached are you to it?”
I cock a brow at him. “Very much attached. Took me hours to get this one. Besides, I don’t see why guys think it’s that easy to rip a dress apart. That only happens in cheesy movies.”
“Do you want to test that theory?”
I stare at his muscles and then think of the delicate edges of my pretty dress and decide not.
“Thought as much. So how about you take it off yourself? Wait,” he stops me when I move to reach the zip at the back of the dress. He leans against the back of the couch and folds his hands over his chest. “How about you do it slow and steady? You know, like I was a gentleman in a club, and you’re trying to get me to empty my pocket?”
“So, I’m your stripper now?” I ask, my hand cocked on my hip.
“No.” His gaze suddenly goes dark, his voice deep as he stares at me with a look that is so blatantly sexual it makes my mouth go dry. “For this night, you’re whatever I want you to be. Whatever . . .”
That should not arouse me as much as it does.
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House-flipper Jazzy Zanders has her work cut out for her. Her latest flip, which she co-purchased with her fiancée Ansel and cousin Jerod, is a three-story fixer-upper that’s more of a droopy-downer. One corner of the house is sinking and needs to be jacked up with a new cement foundation. That costs money. And causes headaches. And creates a work environment that’s not only hostile, it’s downright deadly . . .
Jazzy knows it’s a tough job. Which is why she hired Darby to lay the cement. But when Darby gets into a fiery argument with the furnace man—and then never shows up to lay gravel for the driveway—Jazzy starts to wonder if the rumors about Darby are true. Did he kill his wife and son and bury them in the yard like some folks claim? When Darby’s dead body comes pouring out of a gravel truck, murder upstages the real estate market as her biggest concern . . .
Can’t a girl get through one house renovation without a dead body showing up? Thankfully, for we readers at least, the answer to that is a resounding “NO!” In fact, not only does yet another dead body get dumped (literally!) into Jazzy’s life, but so does a huge list of potential suspects.
Jazzy, Ansel, and Jerrod have taken on a whale of a project. An older three-story home with a lot of potential and enough issues to need a shrink! As always, the trio has a plan in place and that plan involves getting all the exterior work done before moving to the interior. A part of the exterior involves bolstering the foundation and completely reworking the driveway. That means cement, and a lot of it. As always, the flippers call in their go-to guy for cement, Darby, a surly bastard who is not known for his sunny disposition or good attitude. Thanks to his nasty reputation, it really comes as no surprise to anyone when the gravel base for the driveway is being poured and Darby comes out too.
As if it’s simply a foregone conclusion, Detective Gaff ropes Jazzy into the investigation and the hunt for a killer begins. As if looking for a killer weren’t hard enough, Jazzy and Gaff quickly figure out, not only did Darby have no friends, but he did have a great number of enemies. At the top of the list, Jazzy’s sort of brother-in-law, all the men who worked for him, his son and ex-wife who have been missing for two years, and his housekeeper. Narrowing down the list takes a great deal of patience, finding the right questions to ask, and untangling the last days of a man no one liked and was clearly falling apart.
At the same time Jazzy is trying to untangle the life of a right bastard, she’s also trying to put the finishing touches on her upcoming wedding to her Viking, Ansel. The food is planned, the venue is ready to go, the guests have been invited, and the plan is in place. The only thing missing, a wedding dress! As the days roll by, Ansel begins to worry about Jazzy’s commitment to their life together. Though Jazzy assures Ansel she is all in for the long haul, her Viking still worries. What’s more, Ansel also has mixed feelings about the presence of his completely awful family. It’s meant to be a day of happiness and new beginnings and all Ansel can do is fret which, in turn, causes Jazzy to worry more.
The Bottom Line: The Body in the Gravel has so much going on that it easily could have become a hot mess. Instead, the seasoned Lynn juggles multiple plot lines, a multitude of characters, and a fine mystery with an organized and collected plan. Nothing and no one got lost in the mix, all the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end, and there are even a few fun little surprises. The Jazzy Zanders Mystery series seems to be gaining strength and speed with each new book and I am thrilled with this development. I need my characters and their world to evolve and I am certainly getting just that with this series. As much as the characters and the plots, I also enjoy the discussions and descriptions of the work Jazzy, Ansel, and Jerrod are doing and, of course, all the good food Jazzy serves up. In all, I can’t find a flaw with this series and look forward to it having a long and lovely life.