MIni Review: Mrs. Morris and the Ghost (Book #1: A Salem B&B Mystery) by Traci Wilton

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A grieving young widow, Charlene needed a new start–so she bought a historic mansion, sight unseen, and drove from Chicago to New England to start turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. On her first night in the house, she awakens to find a handsome man with startling blue eyes in her bedroom. Terror turns to utter disbelief when he politely introduces himself as Jack Strathmore–and explains that he used to live here–when he was alive. He firmly believes that someone pushed him down the stairs three years ago, and he won’t be able to leave until someone figures out who. If Charlene wants to get her business up and running in time for the Halloween tourist rush, and get this haunting houseguest out of the way, she’ll have to investigate. Though truth be told, this ghost is starting to grow on her . . .

Source: Purchase Rating: 3½/5stars

The Bottom Line: As with all new series, there is a lot of information and ground laying going on in this book.  Charlene Morris has uprooted her life in Chicago, bought a haunted mansion in Salem, and is about to embark on an entirely new chapter in her life, B&B owner/operator.  Being successful is vital to Charlene’s future and that success is being badly hindered by the presence of a ghost who can’t seem to figure out why he can’t move on.  Unless Charlene can solve the mystery of his murder, she may never be able to open her B&B.  Being new to town means Charlene not only has to begin building her own reputation but also risk it by dredging up the past and asking some uncomfortable questions.  Along the way, she makes some promising new contacts, a few new friends, and a possible enemy or two.  With so much going on, I sometimes felt a bit put out with this read, but I stuck with it and feel satisfied with the book overall.

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Review: Bait and Witch (Book #1: Witch Way Librarian Mysteries) by Angela M. Sanders

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Josie Way loved working among the Library of Congress’s leather-scented stacks—until she uncovered corruption and made herself a target. As Wilfred, Oregon’s new librarian, Josie can stay undercover until the case goes to court. But life in this little town isn’t as subdued as she expected. The library, housed in a a Victorian mansion, is slated to be bulldozed. Still digesting the news that her safe haven is about to become scrap lumber, Josie discovers a body in the woods . . .

Almost as shocking, Josie learns that she’s descended from a long line of witches—and her powers have suddenly sprung to life. With help from a spoiled alley cat who just may be her familiar, Josie’s thumbing through a catalog of suspects, hoping she can conjure a way to save her library—and her life. . .

Source: NetGally and Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars

Some people go their whole lives without every seeing the kind of trouble Josie Way has found herself in.  Thanks to an ill-timed lunch in her secret place, Josie is now on the run from a powerful corporation with a very long reach.  She’s landed herself in a very small town in Oregon heading up a small library that is apparently on the verge of being shut down.  With no real job prospects, no confidence in returning home, and some weird new sensations going on, Josie isn’t at all sure what her future looks like.

Wilfred, Oregon isn’t at all what Josie expected.  They library is in a beautifully constructed old family home with a load of history, the town is small and relatively tight-knit, and the landscape surrounding the town is unlike anything Josie has ever seen.  What’s more, since she arrived in Wilfred, Josie seems to be able to communicate with the books in the library, a skill she certainly has never had before. 

Though settling into any new location is awkward, Josie’s is particularly awkward given the uncertain future of the library she was hired to run.  In short order, Josie decides to fight for her new library even if it means going up against some of the town’s heavy hitters.  With the books on her side and a group of loyal patrons, Josie is sure they can save the library.  Of course, she’s only going to get to enjoy the saving if she survives the fixers that have been sent to shut her up.

In this midst of all the other turmoil, Josie must also try to understand why she can suddenly hear books talk, why everything around here appears, smells, and tastes better than anything every has before, and why the local “stray” cat seems to have attached himself to her.  There’s got to be an explanation, but none of the books seem to have the answers.  To find the information she needs and wants, Josie is going to have to rattle some family cages. 

The Bottom Line:  Oh!  This is a book I am so excited to have read and sad I put it off for so long.  I was into this book from the very beginning and didn’t give up until I finished the whole thing.  I found every aspect of this book – plot, characters, setting, etc. – to be wonderfully fun, suitably quirky, and just the right level of everything for a proper cozy mystery.  Mixing a bit of the paranormal with a cozy mystery is always a fine idea and I can’t wait for rounds two, three, four, five . . . . well, you get the idea 😊

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Review: Outrageous (Book #2: Rebels of the Ton Series) by Minerva Spencer

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When Eva de Courtney kidnaps Godric Fleming, her only plan is to stop the irritating earl from persecuting her beloved brother. But once she has the intriguing rogue in the confines of her carriage, she longs to taste the passion she senses simmering beneath his rugged exterior. Her forbidden plan is foiled, however, when Godric turns the tables, taking her hostage instead—and demanding they marry at once…

The last thing Godric wants to do is make the fiery, impulsive Eva his wife, despite her delectable mouth and alluring innocence. He knows from experience that nothing is forever, not even love. But honor demands he do right by the lady, no matter how stubbornly Eva tries to hold on to her independence. And while the road to the Scottish border is beset with danger, Godric’s greatest challenge is to keep his hands—and his heart—from his captivating bride-to-be…

Source: NetGalley and Kensingtion Rating: 4½/5 stars

Eva de Courtney has gotten herself to a heap of trouble in the past, but her current situation might be the crowning glory of her young life.  With every intention of saving her brother and new sister-in-law from a true fiend, Eva kidnaps a high-ranking member of society with no real thought to the consequences of her actions.

Eva de Courtney has long known she isn’t truly cut out for the life she leads.  She’s beautiful beyond compare, she’s titled, and she’s wealthy, but she’s also the daughter of a notoriously insane woman.  Eva long ago accepted she’ll likely never marry and that is just fine with her.  Given the acceptance of her future, Eva uses her title and position in society to outspokenly defend her own beliefs and the lives and reputations of those she loves.

Thinking her plan would be relatively simple to execute and be done with, Eva doesn’t count on all the dangers along the way.  From brigands to the sexually suggestive innkeeper to Godric himself, Eva quickly finds herself in way over head.  Godric is not at all what Eva expected and finding herself attracted to him is a most disconcerting state.  What’s more, the arrogant fool is now insisting he “do the right thing” and marry Eva, a consequence of her own ill-conceived plan.  To get herself out of the mess she’s in, Eva will have to use all her wits, courage, and intellect all while protecting her heart.

The Bottom Line:  I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’m saying it again, I will always love a book with a woman ahead of her time and place.  I like the women who make an effort to stand apart from the crowd, who use their knowledge rather than hide it, and don’t rely on their beauty to advance their goals in life.  Eva may be a bit impulsive, but her heart is in the right place, and she certainly doesn’t lack the courage or conviction to see her schemes through to the end.  Once again, the author has created a man perfect for the heroine, a man with no interest in snuffing out her character and/or personality but helping Eva to become all she is capable of being.  It will be interesting to see the dynamics between Eva and Godric grow and strengthen as this series (hopefully) continues!

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Mini Review: Death at the Salon (Book #2: Daisy Thorne Mystery) by Louise R. Innes

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When Ooh La La regular Mel Haverstock left the hair salon that morning, no one expected it would be her final parting. But when Daisy closes shop Saturday night, she finds her client dead as the mullet cut. Homicide is back in style in the quiet village of Edgemead in Surrey, England. But who would want to harm a hair on poor Mel’s head?

Suspicions higher than a beehive pile on Daisy when it’s revealed that she and Mel had tangled back in high school, and DNA evidence seems to color her guilty. Handsome DCI Paul McGuinness gives the hairstylist new accessories—a lovely pair of silver handcuffs. To clear her name, Daisy must highlight the real backstabber, or she’ll end up shaving heads in the prison barbershop.

Source: NetGalley, Kensington, and Purchase Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line: As I sat down to write this review, my initial star rating was a 4, but as I began to consider what justified that number, I realized there isn’t a lot that takes this series above a mid-level read.  I liked the book, I liked the characters and the setting, but I didn’t love it and I certainly wasn’t blown away.  Given the breadth and depth of the cozy mystery genre, a book/series really has to have something about it which sets it apart from the pack.  In truth, the characters and the setting are really normal/plain, and I need a bit of quirky to keep me truly interested and coming back for more.  I certainly wouldn’t say ignore this book, but I also can’t in good faith tell my followers to bump this one to the top of your TBR list.

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Mini Review: Loving and Dying in Notchey Creek (Book #3: Harley Henrickson Series) by Liz S. Andrews

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It’s Valentine’s Day in Notchey Creek, Tennessee, and whiskey distiller Harley Henrickson is volunteering at the Reading is Love Festival. Books line the streets, snowflakes dapple the air, and paper hearts adorn storefront windows. Even Harley’s pet pig, Matilda, feels festive, gracing the sidewalks in her Cupid costume. But no sooner have the festivities begun, when Harley finds the charred remains of a car and a body outside Briarwood Park.

While Sheriff Jeff Turner is initially convinced the fire was an accident, Harley suspects something more sinister. When a much-disliked editor of the town’s newspaper is murdered, and Harley’s best friend, Tina Rizchek, is framed for the crime, Harley decides to investigate. A trail of poison-pen letters, car fires, lethal cupcakes, secret affairs, and blackmail leads Harley to the town’s new bookstore and a handsome graduate student who has come to Notchey Creek under mysterious circumstances.

In the meantime, Harley has her hands full in other areas: She’s pet sitting Beau Arson’s rescue dog, Ozzy, while Beau is in L.A.. Aunt Wilma and Opha Mae are determined to get her a date for Valentine’s Day. Uncle Tater and Floyd have entered the bachelor auction. Jed is in an especially foul mood. Grandma Ziegler and Petie are philosophising about the finer points of Pride and Prejudice. And Harley feels the pull of her heartstrings when she learns Eric Winston is single again.

Source: NetGalley and Little Forest Press Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I am finding that any time I get to return to Notchey Creek and Harley Henrickson’s world, I am quite delighted.  Andrews has created a wonderfully quirky little town with unique and strong characters that keep wanting more.  IN just three books, Harley has evolved so much, and I quite demand that kind of growth out of my characters.  Harley’s involvement in each new crime has allowed her to spread her social wings, stretch her considerable intellect, and help a community she dearly loves.  When you add in a pig, her ridiculous best friend, her own family, and the various other characters around town, you get a recipe for success.  I am also still enjoying the one step above cozy mystery vibe to each plot.  The plots are a bit darker and just a smidge more intense than your average cozy and that allows this series to stand apart from the hundreds of others in the genre.

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Review: The Dog Share by Fiona Gibson

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Suzy Medley is having a bad day…

… when a shabby terrier turns up at her door. Just like Suzy, Scout has been abandoned, although only Suzy has been left with a financial mess and a business in tatters thanks to her ex.

Suzy takes Scout in and her chaotic world changes in unexpected ways: strangers have never been more welcoming and her teenage kids can’t wait to come home to visit.

Then a chance encounter on a windy Hebridean beach makes things more complicated, because Suzy isn’t the only one who needs a friend.

Scout has plenty of love to go round… but does Suzy?

Source: NetGalley and Avon Rating: 4/5 stars

When Suzy Medley’s life gets turned upside down, inside, out, and sideways, she has no idea what she’s going to do.  Her worthless boyfriend is gone, she’s stuck with a business that is on life support, and a dog she doesn’t want has wandered into her rental. 

Sometimes in life, a person can only deal with one catastrophe at a time.  First up for Suzie is the wandering canine.  Suzie has never wanted a dog, but she’s also not cruel.  When the mutt wanders in on a cold, rainy night, Suzie swears it’s a one night only arrangement.  The trouble is dogs have a way of working into your heart and doing so quickly.  In no time flat, Suzie is committed to her new companion and with Scout by her side a whole host of new opportunities open up.

Next up on Suzie’s to do list is figuring out what to do about her ex’s disastrous attempt at running a distillery.  Knowing nothing about running anything, especially a once top-notch distillery, but looking for a new adventure, Suzie decides to make a go of the business.  Trouble is, no one at the distillery wants anything to do with Suzie and if she’s going to make a go of this venture, she’s got to learn the business from the ground up and prove to the employees she is nothing like her rat-bastard ex.

Suzie’s time on the small island that is home to the distillery is both a wonderful and somewhat perplexing experience.  Suzie loves the environment, Scout loves all the walks along the beach, but Suzie is making little headway with the distillery staff.  As if the universe is once again looking out for her, Suzie meets, thanks to Scout a lovely yet very lonely woman, and a handsome man and his delightful son.  Suzie comes to relish the time she spends with these new friends and with their help, she is able to slowly begin working her way towards a successful relationship with the distillery staff.

The Bottom Line:  This was an easy read for me and that is in large part because of the dog.  I am always drawn to books with animals that play a prominent role in the story, and Scout certainly does so in the Dog Share.  In fact, I found Scout to really be the central character of this read as it is he who brings Suzie into the orbit of the various other characters.  Without Scout, Suzie may never have found her HEA.  Through is own rescue, a very happy Scout helps so many others find their own sort of rescue, healing, and happiness.  Without being obnoxious or unrealistic in his role, Scout really brings the whole story together in a most delightful manner.

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Review: The Ghosts of Notchey Creek (Book #2: Harley Henrickson Series) by Liz S. Andrews

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It’s the holiday season in Notchey Creek, and Harley Henrickson is busy mixing yuletide cocktails at her store, Smoky Mountain Spirits. There is snow on the ground, holiday music in the air, and wreathes on every lamppost. Everything seems perfect for the town’s biggest event of the year, the Small Town Christmas Festival. Even Harley’s pet pig, Matilda, is feeling festive, wearing the Elf on the Shelf costume Aunt Wilma bought for her. But not all is merry and bright in this little mountain town. Harley senses something eerie in the air, and it all points to Notchey Creek’s oldest and most beautiful home—Briarcliffe.

No sooner has rock star Beau Arson settled into Briarcliffe Mansion, than a self-righteous ghost hunter arrives in town, telling macabre tales about Beau’s new home. According to legend, a young woman by the name of Margaret Reed hanged herself in the woods behind Briarcliffe on Christmas Day, over a century ago. To make matters worse, Beau has been experiencing ghostly encounters at night, seeking to drive him from his family’s home.

When Harley finds the body of a mysterious woman in the woods near Briarcliffe, and then a wealthy antiques dealer is murdered, she decides to investigate. Can Harley intervene before a century of lies, greed, and passion destroy Beau Arson’s new life—the past he’s just only come to know?

In the meantime, other issues are causing problems for Harley. Aunt Wilma and Opha Mae Shaw are designing a Christmas dress of epic proportions for Harley (and one for Matilda, of course). Uncle Tater and Floyd have been devising top-secret plans in The Shed that might have to do with the upcoming Christmas Parade. And Harley’s best friend, Tina Rizchek, is at her wit’s end when her colorful grandmother and pet parrot visit from Pittsburgh for the holidays.

Source: Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars

Until recently, Notchey Creek has been a relatively quiet place to live.  Of course, there are the occasional squabbles and bouts of hurt feelings, but nothing on the level of murder and mayhem.  Not until famed rocker Beau Arson came to town was there a spate of murders.  Now there’s been not one, not two, but three and Beau is, once again considered a suspect.

Harley Henrickson doesn’t believe in ghosts, but of late, a ghost hunter and several “sightings” have seriously made Harley rethink her position on the topic.  Beau Arson is certain there is something amiss in his vast and expansive home and when a dead woman appears in the forest, all the clues lead right back to Beau.  If Harley doesn’t do something, her friend is either going to lose his mind, his freedom, or both. 

The ghost hunter is a serious pain in the butt and his stories of a Hatfield and McCoy’s-esque feud between Beau’s family and another once-prominent family aren’t earning him any friends.  According to the legends, Beau’s family stole the land their beautiful home now sits on and drove the previous owners to despair, poverty, and even suicide.  Furthermore, the current ghost sightings and the dead woman in the woods are the players from the past coming back to seek their revenge. 

As Harley begins diving into the mystery – much to the sheriff’s great displeasure – she finds there are many mysteries afoot and none of them include actual ghosts.  Someone is “haunting” Beau’s home and his life, a local antiques dealer has been killed, and it all ties together in some convoluted manner.  When you add in Harley’s growing feelings for the handsome local coroner, her best-friend’s outspoken grandmother and parrot (yes, there’s a foul-mouthed parrot!), and trying to run her own business, Harley is up to her butt in crazy and longing for the days of quiet and tedium.

The Bottom Line:  What a wild ride this one turned out to be!  Between the pig, the parrot, and Tina’s grandmother, I found myself laughing aloud on several occasions.  Harley is growing in self-confidence and I am loving that evolution in her character.  Adding to self-confidence is the fact Harley is expanding her social circle and allowing others, especially Beau to know the real Harley, the one her family and best friend have love for years.  Finally, I love how the mysteries in these books are just a shade above cozy; these stories are just a bit darker, just a bit more complex than the average cozy.  I am fully committed to this series and it has everything to do with the setting, the characters, and the excellent plots that keep me involved and completely entertained from start to finish.

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Review: Notorious (Book #1: (Rebels of the Ton Series) by Minerva Spencer

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The cure for a willful wife…

Drusilla Clare is full of opinions about why a woman shouldn’t marry. But that doesn’t stop the rush of desire she feels each time her best friend’s brother, notorious rake Gabriel Marlington, crosses her path. So imagine her dismay when she finds herself in the clutches of a scoundrel, only to be rescued by Gabriel himself. And when Gabriel’s heartless—and heart-pounding—proposal comes, it’s enough to make Dru’s formidable resolve crumble…

…is a smitten husband.

She’s sharp-tongued, exasperating—and due to one careless moment—about to become his wife. Still, something about Drusilla has Gabriel intrigued. First there’s the delicious flush of her skin every time she delivers a barb—and then the surprisingly sensual feel of her in his arms. Gabriel even finds himself challenged by her unusual philosophies. And when he discovers a clandestine rival for Dru’s affection, his temperature flares even hotter. But the real threat to their happiness is one neither of the newlyweds sees coming. If they’re to save their future—and their very lives—they’ll need to trust in each other and their growing love.

Source: NetGalley and Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars

Gabriel Marlington has spent his life as an outsider.  Oh, make no mistake, the Ton puts on quite a show of accepting him, but mothers everywhere are certainly not clamoring for their daughters to marry Gabriel despite his title and fortune.  In truth, there is only woman who would be beyond pleased to marry Gabriel Marlington, but she certainly isn’t going to tell him that!

Drusilla Clare is, much like Gabriel, a grudgingly accepted member of the Ton.  She is ridiculously wealthy, cultured, witty, and intelligent, but her father made their fortune as a shop owner.  Yes, Dru’s money comes from good old fashioned hard work rather than inheritance, and for that, she is largely shunned.  The exception to the shunning is Dru’s best friend who also happens to be Gabriel’s stepsister.  For years now, Dru has been among Gabriel’s family and though she has grown to love Gabriel, she has no intention of making her feelings known.  Gabriel has always made it quite clear, Dru is little more than a mouthy irritant who is only worth his time when he is in the mood for a little verbal sparring.

Fate is a funny figure and while she often appears capricious or even fickle, it often turns out she knows better than most and her actions are reasonable once the whole event plays out.  Of course, in the beginning, folks like Dru and Gabrielle have no compassion nor understanding for Fate and her machinations, especially when they find themselves unexpectedly engaged following circumstances beyond their control. 

Oh, yes!  While Dru is secretly pleased with her circumstances in some ways, she also feels terrible to be tying Gabriel to a life he clearly doesn’t want.  Though her feelings are certainly mixed, Dru decides she will do her level best to make the best of the situation even if her new husband isn’t willing to do so.  For his part, Gabriel is determined to make the best of the situation even if his new wife clearly has no desire to be with him.  Wouldn’t it be some kind of wonderful if the two actually spoke to one another? 😊  Of course, actually talking to one another would eliminate a great deal of the drama and tension and make this read so much less fun!

The Bottom Line:  I quite liked this book, and I especially liked the very feisty nature of Dru and Gabriel; both are strong-willed, opinionated characters who are actually perfectly suited for one another if they can get past their own hang ups.  Adding to the tension of this read is the mess created by a particularly odious member of the Ton whose goal in life is seemingly to ruin Gabriel.  With all the intrigue and reckless behavior, it is hard for Gabriel and Dru to come together as a couple; on the flip side, all the intrigue and reckless behavior also creates a wonderful dynamic that also (eventually) draws them together.  I found the whole affair to be quite entertaining and am quite glad the Ton is full of characters just waiting to tell their own story.

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Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

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August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

Source: NetGalley and Hanover Square Press Rating: 4/5 stars

When Grace Bennett moved to London, she saw her whole life before her.  Grace saw a glamourous job as a shop girl, nights spent out with friends at the theater, dancing, and simply celebrating being young and alive.  The reality is quite different as England is on the verge of war with a very determined Adolf Hitler and Grace’s options are far different than she once dreamed of. 

The reality of Grace’s lie in London is sharing a small room with her best friend in a small boarding house, thanks to curfews and restrictions there are no fun nights out, and the job in a glamourous department store is actually a position in a dusty old bookshop.  While Grace is not all pleased with her placement, she soon sees ways in which she can turn her negative into a positive.  The shop’s proprietor is a grumpy old man who largely leaves Grace to her own devices.  Over the course of many, many weeks Grace makes huge changes to the store in terms of cleaning, accessibly, and organization. 

A happy result of Grace’s efforts is an increase in traffic and sales.  As the war inches every closer to England’s shores, books are still plentiful when so many other goods and products are not.  The bookstore is thriving, and Grace spends much of her free time dreaming up new and improved way to further improve the store’s appearance and offerings.  Unfortunately, Grace’s free time becomes far more limited as she begins to work more closely with community volunteers to help protect citizens once the German bombs begin to fall on a regular basis.  Grace’s nights are filled patrolling her neighborhood, ushering citizens to the underground shelters, and reading to those gathered in the darkness while her days are filled praying her beloved bookshop survives another day.

The Bottom Line:  I’m not entirely sure what I expected from this book, but I got a truly fine read.  Grace is perhaps one of the strongest characters I have had the pleasure of reading about in a good long while.  Grace’s strength is quiet yet determined and while she never feels she is doing enough for the people around her; she eventually realizes her efforts are exactly what is needed just when needed.  In so many ways, Grace becomes the center of her small community, the calm in the storm others know they can count on, rely on.  What’s more, and perhaps the real message of this book, is how the community rallies around Grace when she needs them.  I am a sucker for a book with a great sense of spirit and community and I certainly found that in spades here.

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Review: Murder Comes to Notchey Creek (Book #1: Harley Henrickson Series) by Liz S. Andrews

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It’s Halloween in Notchey Creek, Tennessee, and whiskey distiller Harley Henrickson is in the midst of preparations for the town’s autumn harvest festival. Harley lives a quiet life of books and hard work, an introvert who is dismissed by many as the town nerd. Her life is changed when she and her best friend, Tina Rizchek discover a disoriented stranger in the ditch, mumbling about a lost boy who was “innocent.” When the man disappears into the woods, Harley is left with many unanswered questions. Who was the mysterious man, and what happened to the innocent boy?

As she digs deeper, she discovers the stranger, in reality, was no stranger at all, and had ties to many highly-esteemed citizens in town. When one of those citizens, a wealthy history professor, is murdered on Halloween night, Harley decides to investigate. What she discovers is a multitude of secrets, lies, and sins, dating back decades, and revolving around a handsome and brooding rock star who has chosen Notchey Creek as his new home.

In addition to sleuthing, other issues are causing problems for Harley. Professional football player-turned sheriff, Jed Turner, doesn’t appreciate her interference in the murder investigation. The mayor and Chamber of Commerce president are convinced her pet pig, Matilda, is trying to ruin Pioneer Days. Her great-aunt, Wilma True–in between her hair emergencies–is on a mission to create matching festival outfits for Harley and her pig. And thanks to her great-uncle, Tater, she finds herself hauling a giant model cupcake, a pig, and an antique toilet in her truck–all in one week.

Source: Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars

Harley Henrickson has spent her life being underestimated, dismissed, or simply scorned.  An orphan at an early age, Harley was raised by her beloved whiskey-distilling grandfather, her aunt Wilma and Uncle Tater.  Harley is intelligent beyond compare, but life has kept her from pursuing a college education and realizing her true intellectual potential.  With all the said, Harley wouldn’t change one thing about her life and has learned to fully accept her place in town as the nerdy girl with virtually no friends. 

Harley’s best friend is the high-strung yet supremely talented local bakery owner, Tina Rizchek.  Most of Tina’s phone calls to Harley begin with some form of shrieking, but in this instance, the shrieking is completely justified.  When Harley makes her way to Tina, the two friends find an unconscious man in a ditch with no identification and no means of conveying to the women how he got there and in such a state.  What’s more, in a small town like Notchey Creek, everyone knows everyone else and neither Tina nor Harley recognizes the poor man.

Though Harley certainly feels for the man, once he disappears, she assumes her role in the whole mess is over.  Harley has every been so wrong.  What transpires over the next days and weeks is a roller coaster ride of emotions, actions, and reactions that has everyone in town confused, hurt, and simply shocked by the secrets that are coming to light.  Somehow, Harley has found herself smack dab in the center of the entire mess and if she can’t solve the mystery others are most certainly going to suffer.

Harley’s inherent intelligence and ability to mentally organize a load of information at a time are two of her greatest strengths.  Her other strength lies in the fact that the people who truly know her, trust Harley and are willing to help her with information.  Every person Harley talks to gives her a bit more information and with the help of the local library, Harley discovers a truth that has been buried for more than 20 years.  Exposing the truth will alter the lives of a number of people as well as bring closure to several others.  One thing is certain, no matter what Harley does, Notchey Creek is going to be forever changed.

Despite seemingly always being on her own, Harley finds herself surrounded by people as she investigates the various mysteries wrapped around the mystery man in the ditch.  Perhaps the loudest and most obnoxious is town sheriff, Jed Turner.  Once upon a time, Harley and Jed were good friends, but circumstances beyond their control tore them apart and now the two have something of a contentious relationship.  Harley being far better at Jed’s job than he is certainly earns her no good will.  What Jed simply can’t wrap his brain around is the fact Harley wants no recognition for her work, only the satisfaction of knowing she has righted several wrongs and genuinely helped people in distress. 

The Bottom Line:  It’s only April but I’m going to call this one of my favorite books of the year.  What a wonderful new cozy mystery series for me and one I am very excited about sharing with others.  The characters in this book really are wonderfully weird, quirky, and varied.  From the delightful Aunt Wilma and Uncle Tater to the arrogant (though with a heart?) sheriff, I took such great pleasure in learning about each of these characters and how they fit into Harley’s life.  For as much as I loved the characters, I loved the amount of history and backstory found in this book.  So much about the local history, legends, and families is dealt with in this book and it was a delight to see it all play out and come together as it should, in the end.  I found the plot to be just a smidge darker than the average cozy mystery, but this only enhanced the read further for me.  In all, this is a very exciting new series well worth adding to your TBR.

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