Review: Better Choices by Rod Pennington and Jeffery A. Martin

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Allison Clark has made many bad choices. Now, on the cusp of a divorce, she finds herself sandwiched between caring for her often difficult and dying mother and dealing with her rebellious teenaged twins.

When she thinks life couldn’t get any more complicated, Allison discovers her mother has concealed an ominous secret from her for her entire life.

At her twins’ eighteenth birthday party, and nearing the end, her mother checks off the last item on her bucket list and reveals the long-hidden family secret. Allison’s world is immediately turned upside down and the revelation stuns family and friends alike.

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Source: NetGalley and Integration Press          Rating: 5/5 stars

Allison Clark previously believed she had her life and her sh*t together.  Now, facing a divorce, the eighteenth birthday of her secretive twins, and a mother ready to drop bombshells now that her husband is dead, Allison isn’t at all sure about anything. In fact, Allison is on the verge of facing up to her bad choices and making significant changes in her life.

Like many parents, Allison is having a hard time seeing her twins as near-adults.  Though her divorce is relatively amicable, Allison believes her twins know nothing about it; of course, her twins know all about the divorce and are on board with her decision.  What’s more, in recent months, the twins have been secretive about their movements and activities.  Though they have been careful, the jig is up when the high school calls Allison to report them absent without cause.  When Allison tracks down the twins, she is blown away by what she discovers, and it takes everything in her and a stern talking to from her best friend (and lawyer!) not to lose her mind. 

Up next on the agenda, Allison’s mother is in critical condition and the writing is on the wall with regards to the end of her life.  As is typical, Allison’s mother has no interest in going quietly into the night and fully intends to live out her remaining days in any damn way she sees fit.  To accommodate her mother, Allison, her aunt, and her aunt’s life partner all move in and then the fun really begins.  Allison’s aunt’s life partner suffers from Alzheimer’s though she still has many wonderfully lucid hours each day.  Between the bouts of memory loss, Allison’s coming to grips with the figurative loss of her twins, and the actual loss of her mother, Allison isn’t certain she can handle much more.  

The Universe cares not for your emotional state.

On top of everything else, Allison’s ex is throwing a hissy fit about finances which forces the hand of Allison’s mother.  When Allison’s mother finally spills the beans, the entire family is impacted and so many things from the past begin to fall neatly into place.  With the future of her family radically altered, Allison does everything in her power to keep her sh*t together and not lose her damn mind. 

The Bottom Line:  Yet again, I find myself befuddled by the Goodreads star rating for a book!  I found this book to be refreshingly light and rather wonderful despite all the crazy that occurs.  In fact, it is all that crazy that occurs that makes this such an interesting and completely entertaining read.  To get through the madness, Allison has to change her mindset and that opens up a whole new world for her.  Her relationship with her mother and her twins greatly improves, she learns to be more open and accepting of life and its possibilities, and she finally finds her own voice and begins to use it, forcefully.  There isn’t a character in this book I didn’t like, to one degree or another, and I found the blending of the sometimes wildly different personalities to be well-written and beautifully combined.  In all, I found Better Choices to be an excellent read with a whirlwind of scenes, secrets, and clever maneuvering.  This was a one-sitting and highly recommended read for me!

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Review: Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody (Book #1: Jane Darrowfield Series) by Barbara Ross

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Jane Darrowfield is a year into her retirement, and she’s already traveled and planted a garden. She’s organized her photos, her recipes, and her spices. The statistics suggest she has at least a few more decades ahead of her, so she better find something to do . . .

After Jane helps a friend with a sticky personal problem, word starts to spread around her bridge club—and then around all of West Cambridge, Massachusetts—that she’s the go-to person for situations that need discreet fixing. Soon she has her first paid assignment—the director of a 55-and-over condo community needs her to de-escalate hostilities among the residents. As Jane discovers after moving in for her undercover assignment, the mature set can be as immature as any high schoolers, and war is breaking out between cliques.

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

Jane Darrowfield has a gift, or maybe it’s a curse, perspective matters!  If you need someone to know the unvarnished, cold, hard truth, ask Jane.  Jane doesn’t shy away from the truth and no matter how awkward the situation, Jane faces it head-on and without fear.  Make no mistake, Jane isn’t cruel or unkind, she’s just brutally honest and her friends have come to appreciate and rely on Jane for her skills.  

With many years of retirement looming, Jane has recently discovered that her skills can be useful on a wider scale.  Though she’s never considered herself to be a professional busybody, an opportunity has presented itself that will allow Jane to put both her sleuthing and unvarnished truth skills to the test.  The administrator of a local senior living village has contacted Jane about a “little” problem he needs her particular kind of help with.  It seems the seniors have formed cliques and there is unrest in the village.  Jane’s job will be to suss out the problem and advise the administrator on his best course of action for all involved.

Senior living cliques??  Really?? 😊

So as not to blow her cover, Jane temporarily moves into the village under the guise of a prospective buyer.  It doesn’t Jane long to see the clear divide among the seniors and what needs to be done.  The biker gang needs to start sharing the game room and the cool kids need to start sharing the gold course.  As Jane reports her findings, she expects to move back home and be done with the whole dumb mess, but before she can pack her bags, the local lothario is found dead on the golf course and Jane is asked to stay on.

Murder is so far out of Jane’s depth, but busybidying isn’t and she determines to stay on as asked and find the killer.  What harm can asking a few questions do, right?  As it turns out, most people don’t care for pointed and/or seemingly prying questions because most people have something in their past, they aren’t all that proud of revealing.  Jane is nothing if not persistent and as she continues to poke and prod, people begin to open up to her.  What Jane discovers is far beyond her wildest imaginings and far more dangerous than she ever could have anticipated.  Her new beau wants her to drop the whole thing and move home, but Jane isn’t about to be benched when she is so close to undercovering the truth. 

The Bottom Line:  What a fun ride this first-in-a-series book turned out to be!  Jane is plucky and bright and more than willing to help correct a situation.  Her forthright nature makes her perfect for professional busybodying and though the process can be painful, it is also useful and honest.  Jane doesn’t see any reason for subterfuge or dishonesty and though some don’t always appreciate her efforts they are generally grateful for them, in the end.  By the time Jane is done with the senior village, she’s seen two unexpected couples ride off into the sunset, two large cliques broken up, big secrets revealed, and murder solved.  Not too shabby for a professional busybody 😊

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Release Day Mini-Review: Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper

46041453In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything.

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team.

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life.

These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

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Source: NetGalley and Wm. Morrow Paperbacks          Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line: Fast Girls is a sweeping saga of young women, talented young women fighting for their place in the world against the most serious of obstacles.  From race to gender, the women of Fast Girls are beacons of inspiration; women who overcame everything to pave the way for future generations.  Outside of the obvious (in case it isn’t – the accomplishments of the athletes) the thing I found encouraging about this book was the number of people willing to help these women achieve their goals.  From the coaches to the families to the citizens of their hometowns, these women created a spirit that was felt and honored by so many.  Of course, this book isn’t all about the spirit of goodness and athleticism.  There are also many dark elements to this book and to these women’s lives, all of which absolutely had an impact on their work and ability to compete.  Though I truly and sincerely hated it for the impacted women, I appreciated the author including the ugly truths and really reflecting, for the reader, the reality of what these women faced, overcame, and accomplished.  A fine historical fiction.

P.S. Be sure to turn the pages all the way to the end as the author has included what historical information there is pertaining to each of the featured women in the book.  It is fascinating reading and led me to some additional Googling!

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Review: Accidentally Family (Book #1: Pecan Valley Series) by Sasha Summers

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Life for Felicity, and her teen children, is finally back on track. After her divorce, she wasn’t sure if her sweet family would ever be the same. But things are good––right up until her ex’s spirited toddler lands on Felicity’s doorstep. If the universe is going to throw lemons at her, thank God she has her best friend, Graham, to help her make lemonade out of them. How did she never notice how kind and sexy he is?

Graham is still recovering from his wife’s death years ago and trying to help his teen daughter get her life together. Who is he kidding? His daughter hates him. Forget lemons––he’s got the entire lemon tree. So when Felicity suggests they join forces and help each other, he’s all in. And suddenly he can’t stop thinking about her as more than just a friend. Too bad their timing couldn’t be worse…

Because life rarely goes as planned. Luckily there are many different kinds of family to hold you together and lift you up…plus maybe even a little love between friends.

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Source: Netgally, Entangled: Amara, and Purchase          Rating: 4/5 stars

There are some people in this world who are just genuinely good humans!  Despite the ups and the downs – especially the downs – they have encountered in their lives, they remain good.  Felicity is absolutely one of those people and despite the absolute storm the universe has thrown her way, she has remained a remarkably good, kind, and caring person. 

Felicity thought her life was perfect.  Beautiful home, low-maintenance twins, and a husband who not only provided for, but adored his family.  Nothing is perfect and, sadly, Felicity and her twins find that out the hard way.  When Felicity’s husband leaves her for another woman and another life, she must find a way to make a life for herself and her children beyond what they have all known.  Navigating a divorce is hard enough but navigating a divorce and having to explain to your children why their dad no longer engages with them is even harder and far more heart-breaking. 

As always, the Universe isn’t quite finished with Felicity and her children and this time, the Universe has a whopper of a surprise in store for them.  In the blink of an eye, their family life changes dramatically and in ways none of them ever could have imagined.  In the blink of an eye, Felicity goes from having teenage twins to having twins and their infant half-sibling.  Yeah, the Universe really did save up for this one and it has the craziest of consequences. To help bear the burden, Felicity reconnects with an old friend, Graham.  Like Felicity, Graham has his own hands full raising a hellraising and thoroughly depressed teenager and working full-time as a doctor.

The connection between Felicity and Graham is long standing and based in friendship.  As the two help one another with their respective family issues, the connection becomes even stronger and grows into something far more than either was looking for.  Between their own feelings and navigating what is best for their kids, Felicity and Graham have a load of obstacles before them but are both more than willing to put in the work.  As they discover sometimes the storm sent by the Universe is a huge blessing in disguise more than a disaster meant to destroy their happiness.

The Bottom Line: I honestly wasn’t sure how all the madness and crazy in this book was going to come together, but somehow it did.  The things thrown at Felicity and Graham and their kids are just incredible and the average human would likely buckle under the pressure.  Felicity is just a phenomenally good human and she rolls with the punches in order to what is best for all involved.  Though Graham is a bit less calm, cool, and collected, he is a steady presence that bolsters Felicity and her twins.  In reverse, Felicity helps Graham with his troubled daughter and helps her understand that despite her loss, there are those who love her and will do their best to always be there for her.  In all, this is such a wonderful story of love and friendship, of hardship and overcoming obstacles, and the power of friendship.

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Review: A Cottage Wedding (Book #2: Heart’s Landing Series) by Leigh Duncan

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Tara Stewart’s boss at Weddings Today magazine sends her to Heart’s Landing to debunk its romantic legends. This could devastate the many local businesses who cater to weddings, from Forget Me Knot Florist to Dress for a Day.

The locals convince Jason Heart, the handsome descendant of the town’s founder, to show Tara around the town. But can he persuade her to believe in the romance?

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Source: NetGalley and Hallmark Publishing          Rating: 3½/5 stars

Tara Stewart feels she has sacrificed more than enough for her career.  She lost her no-good boyfriend, she’s disappointed her parents, she’s lived in a super small apartment, and completed the most mind-numbing tasks for two years in order to work her way up the ladder.  Tara’s ultimate goal, the thing she has sacrificed so much to achieve, is be a real reporter for Weddings Today magazine. 

For two years, Tara has toiled in the trenches doing whatever mindless task comes along.  She has yet to do any real writing and she’s almost given up hope of ever breaking away from the pack and achieving her goals.  Thankfully, and sadly, her boss has an axe to grind with the lovely little town of Heart’s Landing and she’s willing to give Tara a shot at reporting, on one condition, Tara must willfully and knowingly tear the town apart in her final article. 

Anyone and everyone in the wedding/destination wedding business knows about Heart’s Landing and their impeccable reputation.  In fact, for many, many years Heart’s Landing has been ranked as the nation’s number one destination wedding location and that ranking has helped the town prosper and thrive.  Everyone also knows that the town isn’t in the wedding business for the money (completely!) but to provide brides and grooms with their dreams made real in the form of a perfect wedding.

According to Tara’s assignment, she is to do three things: 1) find and note any and all issues/problems/failures on the part of the people and businesses in Heart’s Landing; 2) disprove the theory/story surrounding the town’s founder and his love for his bride and; 3) absolutely ensure Heart’s Landing loses their number one ranking.  Tara’s disgruntled boss has made it perfectly clear that her (Tara’s) future as a “real” journalist at Weddings Today is secure if she accomplishes her three tasks.

Because the ranking of wedding destination sites is so important, Heart’s Landing has spent the last months refining their game and polishing and primping in preparing for a visit from Weddings Today.  From the moment she arrives in town, Tara is hard-pressed to find fault with the people, the businesses, and/or the accommodations.  In fact, Tara quickly realizes her job is going to be far harder than she anticipated.  The people of Heart’s Landing are genuinely kind and care about the brides and grooms they serve.  Providing a perfect wedding isn’t just a gimmick for Heart’s Landing but a way of life and one they have proudly maintained for years. 

Tara’s guide through her stay is Jason Heart, owner and operator of Heart’s Landing’s most requested wedding site, the Captain’s “cottage.”  The site is old, well maintained, beautifully ornate while not being gaudy, and the perfect location for a wedding.  From the moment he meets Tara, Jason is wary of her intentions but as the days begin to pass, he lowers his guard, trusts her, and even helps her with her research.  Of course, Jason is oblivious to Tara’s true intentions which makes her betrayal so much more devastating.

The Bottom Line:  I liked this book, but if this series is going to continue, there’s going to need to be a change up in the plots and plans.  This is the second book in the series, and both have had, as their central plot, a woman coming to town under false pretenses.  I want more from this series because its gorgeous location and cast of local characters deserve more!

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Mini-Review: The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos

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In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it. The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate.

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Source: NetGalley and Pushkin Press          Rating: 1/5 stars

The Bottom Line: For most of this book, I was on the fence with my rating.  The premise of the book is interesting, and I wanted to see what path would emerge, so I dove in.  I can’t say I overly enjoyed the book, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I determined to stick with the book hoping that by the end, something will or will not have happened to sway my opinion one way or another.  I made it to the epilogue before that moment happened.  Literally one sentence, one utterance from Delphine turned me totally and completely off this book.  There are some things that should NEVER be said! While I fully understand the mentality of the character, her fear of losing everything material, some things just shouldn’t ever be threatened in any capacity or context, ever.  I have never, in 40+ years of reading, had a book turn my stomach so completely with a single sentence.  I was blown away that an author would even consider writing such a thing even in the context into which it has been written.  I can’t, in good conscious recommend this book.

Coming September 1, 2020: Amazon| B&N | Kobo| Paperback

Review: The Book of Second Chances by Katherine Slee

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Emily can’t remember the last time she left the house. Or spoke to anyone besides her grandmother, beloved children’s author Catriona Robinson. After Catriona’s death, Emily is at a complete loss . . . until she gets an unexpected letter from the woman she loved most.

Catriona has revealed there might be one last, lost unpublished manuscript in her wildly popular book series. And she’s left a secret diary and trail of clues that only Emily can follow. From London to Paris to Verona, Emily traces her grandmother’s past, finding out more about her family — and herself — than she ever imagined possible.

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Source: NetGalley and Forever          Rating: 3/5 stars

Emily’s life has been turned upside down and right side out to an extreme extent twice in her young life.  The first time her life went sideways, so did the car she was riding in and it took both her parents’ lives and years for Emily to physically recover.  The second time, Emily’s life went sideways, her beloved grandmother died after a long struggle with cancer.  Alone, afraid, and rather helpless (or so she imagines), Emily has no idea what she’ll do for the next decades of her life, but she is certain it doesn’t involve leaving her house.

In the years since her accident, Emily’s grandmother has loved and cared for her, all while becoming one of the world’s most beloved children’s book authors.  Emily’s grandmother was responsible for the words, but Emily has always been the illustrator.  With half the dynamic duo now gone, Emily isn’t at all sure what she’ll do for money. 

Good thing for Emily, her grandmother was clever, caring, compassionate, and generous.  In secret during the months leading up to her death, Emily’s grandmother put into motion a plan that will not only break Emily out of her comfort zone but help her heal from both her past and present hurts.  The plan involves a scavenger hunt which will take Emily on a long and cathartic road towards her future.  With the help of a very old and trusted friend, Emily reluctantly sets out to discover what it is, exactly that her grandmother wanted her to learn.

Emily’s hunt is filled with hurt, anger, sadness, and even fond memories, all of which lead Emily from one step to the next.  At each stop, Emily encounters a person close to her grandmother who has a package waiting for Emily.  The packages are the clues as well as diary pages from her grandmother’s past.  As any elder will tell you, the key to understanding the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the present is often rooted in the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the past.  Each diary entry gives Emily an incredible insight into her grandmother’s world and life before Emily came to live with her.  Emily discovers in the pages a free-spirited woman who loved fiercely, travelled widely, and gave it all up to raise her daughter and granddaughter, alone. 

The Bottom Line: I found this book to be somewhat overwhelming in its sadness and – if I’m honest – despair.  Emily has been allowed to live a secluded and isolate life for so many years, that once her grandmother dies, she has no idea how to fend for herself.  Additionally, in order to receive her full inheritance, Emily must complete an emotionally challenging – to say the least – scavenger hunt that comes very close to breaking her, permanently.  While I completely understand the purpose of Emily’s quest and her grandmother’s intentions, it didn’t make this book any easier to read.  This is an emotionally challenging book that I can’t say I loved, but I did like.  Of particular interest was the past (diary pages) blazing into the present to help Emily endure and better understand her grandmother and the monumental tasks ahead of her.  I won’t go so far as to say, “Move this to the top of your TBR immediately!” but I will say give it a try, especially if you are a fan of big emotion books.

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Mini-Review: Sprinkles of Suspicion (Book #1: Cupcake Catering Mystery Series) by Kim Davis

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One glass of cheap California chardonnay cost Emory Gosser Martinez her husband, her job, and her best friend. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of her troubles.

Distraught after discovering the betrayal by her husband and best friend, Tori, cupcake caterer Emory Martinez allows her temper to flare. Several people witness her very public altercation with her ex-friend. To make matters worse, Tori exacts her revenge by posting a fake photo of Emory in a compromising situation, which goes viral on social media. When Tori is found murdered, all signs point to Emory being the prime suspect.

With the police investigation focused on gathering evidence to convict her, Emory must prove her innocence while whipping up batches of cupcakes and buttercream. Delving into the past of her murdered ex-friend, she finds other people had reasons to want Tori dead, including Emory’s own husband. Can she find the killer, or will the clues sprinkled around the investigation point the police back to her?

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Source: NatGalley          Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line: OK, the brutal truth is this: I liked this book, but some issues need to be dealt with if I am going to continue reading this series.  First and foremost is the constant dimwitted nature of Emory; it is an absolute wonder she made it to the end of the book without getting herself killed.  Even a handful of characters comment on her oblivious nature and that needs to change if I’m going to take her seriously outside of the kitchen.  Next, the writing needs to be tightened up to avoid repetition and the plot needs to be a bit more complex to keep readers truly interested and engaged.  With all that being said, I still liked this book.  As it stands, it isn’t a big thinker, but a nice little escape that kept me turning pages.  I have to say, I was largely turning pages because of the descriptions of Emory’s tasty creations, the elderly woman she goes to work for, and her dog.  In the long run, these aren’t going to be enough to keep a series moving forward successfully, but there are changes that can be made to ensure success.  I see a great deal of potential here and have high hopes for changes in future installments of the series.

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Review: A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (Book #3: Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series) by Dianne Freeman

52707412. sx318 sy475 London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.

But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.

As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington Books          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Since reading the first book in this series, I have become inordinately happy when I’ve come across the next book in the series on NetGalley.  I have such a huge fondness for this series and the Countess of Harleigh.

The opening scenes of this book find the Countess of Harleigh reveling in her secret engagement to the dashing George Hazleton and fretting over the bombshell her sister, Lily has just dropped on her.  To avoid scandal of the highest order, Lily’s wedding must be moved forward by a significant amount and their mother must never know the reason for the sudden change.  With the Harleigh Estate on the market, it isn’t an option for the wedding and the Countess has no idea how to solve this problem.  With his usual grace and kindness, George Hazleton comes to the rescue and offers his own family’s estate for the impending nuptials.

Risings is a beautiful and sprawling estate that offers a bit of everything for guests.  There is hunting for the assembled me, riding for the men and women, and games aplenty for all in the evenings.  With nothing but glad tidings and joyful events planned, the Countess and George are both looking forward to their time away from the city and sleuthing.  Unfortunately, sleuthing is exactly what they are going to have to do as the “coincidental accidents” and one murder begin to pile up.  Being so far removed from the city, both the Countess and George believe their culprit is most certainly among the assembled guests.

As the Countess and George begin to investigate, they do their best to keep the bride and groom out of the loop so as not to put a damper on their upcoming wedding.  Yet again, Fate has other plans which makes it impossible to keep them out of the loop.  As the situation becomes ever more critical, the Countess and George narrow down the suspects and find the culprit’s identity absolutely unbelievable.  In fact, the culprit’s identity is so unbelievable that George is forced to reveal to the Countess bits about his past he wished and hoped to always protect her from. 

The Bottom Line: I am just as enamored with this third book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series as I was with the first two.  The Countess, with her wit, intelligence, kindness, and cleverness is one of my favorite cozy mystery characters across the genre.  The Countess is a woman ahead of her time and place, and one who refuses to be put in her place because of her gender.  I absolutely adore the Countess and feel equally find of George Hazleton.  Only a man such as George could partner the countess and see her as an equal and not a second-class citizen.  The two together make a wonderful crime fighting team and they are most certainly supported by a lively and supportive cast of secondary characters.  When you add in the setting and the interesting plot, this book has everything a cozy mystery lover is looking for.  In all, a fine series that has a bright future.

Coming July 28, 2020: Goodreads| Amazon| B&N | Kobo| Hardcover

Review: Happily Whatever After by Stewart Lewis

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Thirtysomething Page was content with her life in New York City—until it went to the dogs. Unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of four years and fired from her art gallery job in the same week, she flees to Washington, DC, and moves in with her big brother. She hopes the new setting and familial comfort will help her finally find her bearings. What Page finds instead is an unlikely refuge: a park for the neighborhood’s poshest pooches, and a quirky pack of companionable dog-run regulars who become fast friends.

Both four-legged and two-, these new allies offer Page a world of possibilities. The woman who hit rock bottom now has dreams: of having her own business, getting her own place, and even wilder ones about the ruggedly handsome owner of a vineyard and two equally fetching Bernese mountain dogs.

Unleashed from all that once held her back, Page finds everything might be falling into place. But just when she thinks her life is headed in the right direction, the road takes a sharp turn to show her just how unpredictable second chances can be. Will Page get her happily ever after? Is there even such a thing?

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Source: NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Sometimes in life, the worst things that happen to you are just the gateway to the good things that are waiting on you.  Page was pretty sure her life in New York was just what she wanted, a long-term boyfriend, a job in a gallery she loved, and contentment.  And then, it all fell apart in a single week.  Her boss called her boring and her boyfriend dumped her.  With no job, no boyfriend, and no home, Page has no choice but to seek refuge with her brother.

Washington DC is Page’s new home and while she loves spending time with her wildly successful brother, she has no idea how she is going to become equally successful in her own life.  With no prospects for a job, let alone a career, Page begins to spend a portion of her days at the local dog park.  It doesn’t take long for the regulars to figure out, Page is the only one in attendance with no dog, which, of course causes get speculation.  Within a matter of just a few visits, Page has nicknames for all the owners a new friend in the form of a young, attractive man who is attached to a wealthy, older dog owner.  Page immediately becomes friends with both men and suddenly her world in DC has opened significantly. 

Over the next weeks, Page opens herself up to all sorts of new people, possibilities, and events.  She is wowed by some of the people she meets, impressed by others, and baffled by more than a few.  Throughout these experiences and events, Page begins to formulate an idea in the back of her mind, what would it be like to open and own her own gallery?  Among her new friends, Page has met people who can help pave the way for her dreams, but it will take a load of hard work and effort. 

As Page goes about aimlessly living her new life, she begins to notice changes in her brother and his life.  His patterns seem to be disrupted, she’s certain he’s having an affair, and he just doesn’t seem his usual cheerful, happy go lucky self.  Though he swears all is well, Page isn’t certain, but until he comes clean there’s nothing she can do but live her life and worry.  Living her life is exactly what she does and along the way, Page discovers exactly what her path is all while helping her new friends and family alike.  The path isn’t smooth, but it does lead Page to exactly where she was always meant to be.

The Bottom Line: This is yet another read whose Goodreads star rating baffles me.  I found this book to be of full range of goodness from cover to cover.  Though Page initially comes across as flighty and somewhat ditzy, she eventually comes around to the person she truly is, a kind, generous, caring person with a dream that takes all she is to come true.  Ultimately, Page’s story is about how hard it is to be an adult.  Life doesn’t always go as we plan and when we find ourselves adrift, we have to find a new plan and a new path.  Page does that, but not without learning a great many valuable lessons about herself, life, and love.  In all, I found this to be a quite good read and well worth the time and effort.

Coming July 28, 2020: Amazon| B&N | Paperback