Ongoing Virtual Vacation

Dear friends and followers,

This is the longest virtual vacation I have ever taken from blogging. I love this blog and have spent countless hours, days, weeks, and months working to bring you book reviews, blog posts, spotlights, etc. Unfortunately, life is just piling up on top of me these days and I feel I must extend my virtual vacation through the end of the month. This deeply saddens me and I sincerely hope you will all still be here with me when I return at the beginning of October. I am still reading and have a pile of book reviews to write. I ask for your patience and thank you for your continued support of my little book blog 🙂

Sincerely,

Leisha O. @rolopolobookblog

Virtual Vacation

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Hello RoloPolians! RoloPoloBookBlog is a one-woman show and this one woman needs a bit of a virtual vacation. Never fear, I haven’t stopped reading and I’ll be back September 14th with two weeks of new reviews for your viewing/reading pleasure.

Be well and I will “see” you in a couple weeks!!

Review: Romeantically Challenged (Book #1: When in Rome Series) by Marina Adair

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Growing up the lone Asian in a community of WASPs, Annie has always felt out of place.  Her solution?  Start a family of her own. Not easy when every man she’s dated, including her ex-fiancé, finds “his person” right after breaking up with Annie. Even worse than canceling the wedding eight weeks beforehand?  Learning the “other woman” plans to walk down the aisle wearing her wedding gown. New plan—find a fresh, man-free start. Too bad her exit strategy unexpectedly lands her working at a hospital in Rome, Rhode Island, rather than Rome, Italy, and sharing a cabin with a big, brooding, and annoyingly hot male roommate.

Home on medical leave after covering a literally explosive story in China, investigative photojournalist Emmitt embarks on his most important assignment—cementing his place in his daughter’s life. Three men and a baby might work in the movies, but with a stepdad and devoted uncle competing for Paisley’s attention, Emmitt has lost his place at the family table. Then there’s the adorably sexy squatter in his cabin, who poses another problem, one he’d very much like to solve up close and personal. But he can’t win—Annie has sworn off men, Paisley’s gone boy crazy, and Emmitt’s estranged father reappears with a secret that changes everything.

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington          Rating: 4/5 stars

Though her resume clearly states she is a physician’s assistant, Annie might as well change it to professional husband preparer.  Her last several relationships have all felt good, felt right, right up to the moment her boyfriend unexpectedly dumped her and quickly moved on to his “One.”  Perhaps the worst of all is her latest ex whose bride-to-be has not only hijacked Annie’s wedding but had Annie’s wedding dress altered to fit her much larger and bustier frame. 

That’s it . . . . .

Clearly, Annie has nothing left to lose and in a moment of panic, she has quit her job and landed a temporary position in a clinic and hospital in Rome, Rhode Island.  For the record, Annie thought she was signing on for a position in the other Rome.  Yeah, Annie’s life is in the crapper and inexplicably, it’s about to get worse. 

Emmitt loves his home in Rhode Island, but he loves being abroad and chasing a story even more.  Chasing a story, exposing the dirty details, and speaking up for those who cannot is where Emmitt is at his best.  If it weren’t for his young daughter back in Rome, Emmitt would likely stay on the road forever.  Unfortunately, thanks to a nasty head wound, Emmitt has been sidelined and sent home until he can be medically cleared for work.  Coming home with a head wound only to find a complete stranger living in his house is not how Emmitt saw his day going.  What’s more, the complete stranger is wearing a far too big wedding dress, throwing shoes, and using a very shouty voice.  Could it get any worse?

With a contract that has been signed, sealed, and delivered, both Annie and Emmitt are stuck with one another for the time being.  To Emmitt’s mind, if he’s going to be stuck with the feisty, sexy lady he may as well make a play for her.  Though Emmitt has every intention of seducing Annie, he quickly finds out she is virtually immune to his usual charms.  What’s more, she’s perceptive and knows his injuries are far worse than he’s letting on.  On the other hand, Emmitt has always enjoyed a good challenge.

Annie sees her time in Rome as a way to get her life back on track.  Her ex is being horrendously passive-aggressive, her parents can’t understand why she won’t patch things up with her ex, and her new roommate is so damn hot she can’t concentrate in his presence.  If Annie is going to get her life back on track, avoiding men like Emmitt is a priority but that’s far easier said than done.  Within just a few days, Emmitt begins to grow on Annie, and it isn’t long before the two discover they actually like one another.  As long as the relationship stays platonic, Annie will be just fine, but that is also far easier said than done.

In the days and weeks that Annie and Emmitt live together, they discover many mutual likes and dislikes, they have flirtatious fun, and they help one another with their collective life baggage.  As one thing leads to another, friends become lovers and things really start to go awry in Rome, Rhode Island.

The Bottom Line: I am a big fan of this book!  I knew the minute I met Annie I was going to like watching her blossom and become the badass she truly is under all the self-doubt and worry.  Annie is a thoroughly likeable character and a perfect match for Emmitt.  I truly enjoyed the back and forth between Annie and Emmitt from their texts to their actual conversations.  All the drama surrounding the pair made for a roller coaster of a ride that I really didn’t want to end.  There’s a lot going on in this book and it is all well-written and flawlessly woven together into a cohesive story.  Clearly, Rome, Rhode Island is the place to be and I can’t wait to go back for round two!

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Mini-Review: Coffee Girl (Book #1: Coffee Book Series) by Sophie Sinclair

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Either become her snarky sister’s nanny, or move halfway across the country to work as assistant-to-the-stylist of a country music star. Neither job sounds ideal, although bedazzling cowboy boots may be a hell of a lot more interesting than ironing her brother-in-law’s underwear. But life on the road as the errand coffee girl for a sold-out tour leaves much to be desired. That is, until Kiki meets her sinfully sexy new boss’s boss…

Tatum Reed’s career is flying high. He’s up for country music’s Entertainer of the Year and he’s headed out on a nationwide sold-out tour. So why does he feel like it’s all about to implode? His superstar ex-girlfriend seems determined to make his life difficult, his opening act is a handful, and the new girl on his tour, the feisty brunette, is quickly getting under his skin. In this crazy world of showbusiness Tatum needs to learn who he can trust, but that doesn’t come easily, because the one person who holds all the cards may just throw them down and walk away.

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Source: NetGalley          Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line: I’m going to freely admit that I put off reading this book because of a dumb assumption.  I erroneously assumed this was going to be a typical hit it and quit it kind of book with naughty bits galore, but what I actually got was a great story with fun characters, and appropriately placed and spaced naughty bits.  See kids, that why we shouldn’t assume 😊  I liked Kiki tremendously and while Tatum’s arrogance could sometimes be a bit much, he was also a generally decent character.  There are enough “bad guys” and dramatic moments to balance out the funny and the sappy moments and overall plot is both interesting and entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes of texting and the moments when Tatum and Kiki discussed music.  In all, I am happy to say that I have learned my lesson and I will try to stop assuming.  Coffee Girl put me in my place, and I am very much looking forward to the second installment of the series.

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Review: The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl

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1789. Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais, have fled the palace of Versailles for their château, deep in the French Alps. But as revolution spreads through the country, even hidden away the Auberts will not be safe forever. Soon they must make a terrible decision in order to protect themselves, and their children, from harm.

Present day. When Lu’s mother dies leaving her heartbroken, the chance to move to a château in the south of France with her husband and best friends seems an opportunity for a new beginning. But Lu can’t resist digging into their new home’s history, and when she stumbles across the unexplained disappearance of Catherine Aubert, the château begins to reveal its secrets – and a mystery unsolved for centuries is uncovered…

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Source: NetGalley and HQ Digital          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Lu and her husband have been friends with the same trio for many, many years and as the group has begun to age, each has also begun to think about their respective future.  One night, after entirely too much wine and conversation, the group collectively decides to sell everything they can’t live without and buy a wonderful new home, big enough for all of them and their grown children, in the heart of France. 

Of the group, Lu is the most hesitant, yet she sees how truly happy everyone else is with the plan so resolves to make her way and make the best of the monumental change in her life.  Upon reaching France, Lu finds settling in to be more difficult than she imagined.  As her friends begin to find their way, find new hobbies, and new interests, Lu struggles to find her place.  That all changes when Lu and her son find an unexpected mystery in the great tower.  As one thing leads to another, Lu finds herself wrapped in research and taken back several centuries to the late 18th century.  Lu’s discoveries will not only solve the mystery of the tower, but it will also lay to rest many questions related to local history and legend.

Lu’s research takes her back to the time of the original owners, Pierre and Catherine Aubert.  The Aubert’s, once welcomed and loved members of the French court, found it necessary in the wake of revolution to escape to their home in the French Alps.  While their escape is initially successful, Pierre and Catherine are members of the aristocracy and the revolution is raging on.  Though they both hope they are far enough from Paris to remain undetected, each knows their escape and existence could be discovered at any moment.  As Catherine goes about her days hoping for a return to the splendor and grandeur of Paris, Pierre secretly works out plans for their escape from France should the need arise. 

Though their lives aren’t perfect, Pierre and Catherine do find some measure of peace in their chateau.  Catherine bears their children and manages the house while Pierre maintains the laborers and lands attached to the chateau.  For a time, the two are blissfully happy, but all good things must come to an end and before Catherine can even wrap her head around the danger, Pierre is ordering her to safety in the face of invasion.

Back in the present, Lu becomes somewhat engrossed in her research and what she uncovers is disturbing.  The fate of the Aubert’s and their descendants has largely been lost to history, but Lu is like a dog with a bone and she refuses to give up on her task.  As she works, she discovers great and terrible secrets as well as parts of the chateau and surrounding property that have been forgotten in the interceding centuries.  What Lu brings to light doesn’t just inform she and her housemates, but the community as a whole. 

The Bottom Line:  I quite liked this read and while I usually gravitate toward the historical side of these types of books, this time I found myself more completely enjoying the present.   Lu and her friends and their various activities really bring the setting to life in this book and I found that to be the most enjoyable bits of reading.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the bits in the past because I most certainly did.  The crashing together of the past and the present is always one of my favorite genres and in this instance, I was not let down.  This is a hard thing for an author to do properly and if it isn’t done properly, the whole read is a failure.  The blending here is excellent, and the transitions are smooth.  In all, a fine read.

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Mini-Review: Quiche of Death (Book #3: A Sugar & Spice Mystery Series) by Mary Lee Ashford

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At Sugar & Spice Community Cookbooks, the friends and business partners have secured a tasty new commission: producing a cookbook for the Arbor family. The Arbors have made their fortune in quiches, and Sugar and Spice have been invited to a weekend gathering where all the siblings, along with crusty matriarch Marta, will be in attendance. But it’s soon clear that this trip will come with a hefty slice of drama.

Theo, the only grandson, arrives with his flaky fiancée, Collette, who quickly stirs up trouble . . . and is found dead the next day. As the investigation unfolds, secrets—and recipes—are shared, and Sugar and Spice realize just how messy and murderous the situation may be. As another family member falls ill, can they solve the case without getting egg on their faces . . .and a target on their backs?

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington          Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  Rather than saying I didn’t love this book, I’m going to go with, I think this may be the slump book in the series.  I completely enjoyed the first two books in this series, but Quiche of Death just didn’t measure up to the precedent.  What I am hoping for, and saw some signs of, is that this book is going to serve as a sort of launching pad into the next several installments of the series.  Everything in this read seemed to be a bit more subdued than in the previous two books from the characters to the plot to the big reveal.  I dove in expecting something exciting and was left with something not quite so.  I didn’t dislike this book by any means, but I felt it just didn’t have the same punch as the first two.  With luck this is only a slump and the girls will be back in business in book four and beyond.

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Review: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

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Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.

So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.

Followed by another.

And then another

And all of them want to date her.

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Source: NetGalley and Avon          Rating: 4/5 stars

If there were ever going to be a poster child for unlucky in love, Penny Bridge would be the girl chosen!  Relationship after relationship has fallen apart, often disastrously for Penny and she is just about ready to give up on love altogether.  Just as Penny has determined to call it quits, the perfect man walks into her small café and everything changes.

For three glorious weeks, Penny indulges in a love affair she has come to believe can go the distance.  Just as she is settling into her new romance, Penny is called away to her family restaurant that only she can run in her beloved uncle’s absence.  To be leaving behind her own little café and her newfound romance is devastating; to see her lover kissing another woman thirty seconds after she leaves, even more devastating.  This time, Penny is done and there will nothing but work for her in the future.

And then the universe started laughing . . . .

As Penny begins to settle into her uncle’s place in the restaurant’s kitchen, she discovers she can get through anything, even heartbreak.  With her head down and her priorities straight, Penny begins to overhaul the restaurant and its menu and the locals love what she’s doing.  Business is booming and Penny passionately believes she has no room for anything else in her life.  She will get through her designated time away from her true home and then swiftly return to her little café, stronger and wiser. 

First in through the door is the younger local who travels often for work and brings a no strings attached sense of freedom to Penny.  Next up is the older, more mature wine seller who intrigues Penny in a way no other man ever has.  Last but not least to the party is Penny’s ex, who can’t understand why Penny ghosted him.  In all her ridiculous naivete, Penny believes she can date the two newcomers and she and her ex can just go back to being friends.  Needless to say, the situation becomes incredibly complicated and though Penny enjoys the company of all three men, it simply isn’t reasonable or sane to try and maintain three relationships simultaneously.  Choosing isn’t going to be easy and before Penny can make her final decision, it all blows up in her face.

The Bottom Line:  I found The Love Square to be an easy breazy sort of read that is quite perfect for a rainy weekend.  There’s no mystery here, no great, just a woman trying to work through her life, her limits, and her grasp on love.  Truth be told, I found the men in Penny’s life to be more compelling than she, but I didn’t dislike Penny.  All the types of moments – sad, happy, laugh out loud, frustrating, and maddening – can all be found between the covers.  At its heart, this is as much about love as it is a book about self-discovery, facing some ugly truths, and owning what it is one wants and needs out of life.  While that all sounds like heavy reading, it really isn’t.

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Review: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

52762903Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

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Source: NetGalley and Gallery Books          Rating: 5 stars

In 1942, Eva was a young lady working her way through school and towards a career in literature.  As a Jew living in Paris, Eva never imagined her entire world would come crashing down in the blink of an eye.  Nevertheless, Eva’s world does upend the moment her father is arrested by the Nazis and she and her mother are forced to run.

Eva and her mother’s escape is nothing short of miraculous and it all has to do with their faked papers.  The two women, both terrified and alone, find themselves in a small town within the so-called free zone.  Hoping to rest and formulate a plan for rescuing her father, Eva nor her mother have any intention of staying in one place for too long.  The risk is great, and the danger is very real.  Though Eva doesn’t know it, word of her excellently forged documents has reached the local priest and when he finally approaches Eva, it is with an offer she finds both difficult to accept and difficult to refuse. 

Forging papers in a Nazi-controlled world is madness, but Eva has the skill and along with her lone helper, Rémy they are able to churn out documents that will allow hidden Jewish children to get safely to Switzerland.  The hours are long, the work is grueling, and the documents must be impeccable if they are to pass Nazi inspections.  As if all this weren’t enough, Eva does this work knowing her mother disagrees with the assignment and routinely reminds Eva of her unfulfilled promise to recover her father.  For Eva, the work is something she feels she must do, a task that is seemingly small but has tremendous ramifications for the children who are saved.  Aside from the ever-present fear of being caught, Eva’s greatest concern is the children losing their own Jewish identity in order to make their escape possible. 

As Eva’s life and work trudges on in the small town, the war rages on all around them and the threat of discovery is always looming.  Rémy takes on a new and far more dangerous role within the resistance network and Eva welcomes a new partner.  As the end of the war nears, the situation for Eva and her mother become desperate and desperate measures are taken.  Outside of her mother, father, and Rémy, Eva’s greatest care is that the names of the children she has helped save never fall into the hands of the Nazis. To protect the book is to protect the innocent and Eva will do almost anything to ensure its safety.

The Bottom Line:  Once again, I have found myself drawn to a Nazi-era/Holocaust read.  Once again, I have myself sucked into one of Kristin Harmel’s exquisite reads and regret nothing.  What a book this turned out to be!  I found myself furiously turning pages as I became completely engrossed in this story.  Eva’s life is extraordinary in the most horrific way, yet she deals with the challenges, the fear, the disapproval, and the danger with grace and humility.  Eva’s journey is harrowing and as she comes ever closer to danger the pace of the book increases.  Lest you think this is only a sad recounting of one family’s struggle during World War II, rest assured, there is an HEA and it is so worth all the danger, the fear, and the years that have passed.  Once again, Harmel has woven a desperately beautiful story that reminds us of true evil and the wonderful bits of humanity, love, and grace that face down that evil and triumph over it.

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Mini-Review: Miss Janie’s Girls by Carolyn Brown

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Miss Janie is at the end of a long and full life, but she has no intention of crossing that finish line until she’s found her girls…

It’s been ten years since Teresa and Kayla shook off the dust of Birthright, Texas, went their separate ways, and never looked back. Apart from their foster mom, Miss Janie, they don’t have many fond memories of their hometown. Or of each other. Still, neither can forget the kind woman who opened her home and heart to two teenagers in need.

When a private investigator—who just happens to be Miss Janie’s handsome nephew—tracks them both down and tells them Miss Janie is dying, Teresa and Kayla know deep down that they’ve got to be there for her as she had been there for them.

With Teresa and Kayla together again under the same roof, old tensions may flare, but with Miss Janie’s help, they might rediscover that home is the perfect place for new beginnings.

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Source: NetGalley and Montlake Romance          Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line: Normally, I would do nothing but gush about the latest Carolyn Brown read, but I find myself in new territory with this book.  I didn’t love this book and that sort of confuses me 😊   When it comes down to it, I didn’t find this book nearly as uplifting as I normally find Carolyn Brown’s books.  In fact, from start to finish, I found this to be one of the most depressing books I’ve read.  Miss Janie is such a sad figure and to see her life ending in such a manner is hard to swallow.  Though her girls and her beloved nephew are with her and supporting her through to the end, I just couldn’t get past how sad Miss Janie is and has been for so many years.  As always, there is nothing technically wrong with this book, but it is a heartbreaker even with the good bits thrown in to balance the bad.  With that being said, I think most Carolyn Brown fans are still going to like this book.  I know I’m in the minority 😊

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Review: Tea & Treachery (Book #1: Tea by the Sea Mysteries Series) by Vicki Delany

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As the proud proprietor and head pastry chef of Tea by the Sea, a traditional English tearoom on the picturesque bluffs of Cape Cod, Roberts has her hands full, often literally. But nothing keeps her busier than steering her sassy grandmother, Rose, away from trouble. Rose operates the grand old Victorian B & B adjacent to Lily’s tea shop . . . for now. An aggressive real estate developer, Jack Ford, is pushing hard to rezone nearby land, with an eye toward building a sprawling golf resort, which would drive Rose and Lily out of business.

Tempers are already steaming, but things really get sticky when Ford is found dead at the foot of Rose’s property and the police think she had something to do with his dramatic demise. Lily can’t let her grandmother get burned by a false murder charge. So she starts her own investigation and discovers Ford’s been brewing bad blood all over town, from his jilted lover to his trophy wife to his shady business partners. Now, it’s down to Lily to stir up some clues, sift through the suspects, and uncover the real killer before Rose is left holding the tea bag.

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington          Rating 4½/5 stars

It’s not every day one finds a traditional English tearoom in the United States, but Lily is bound and determined to make her shop, Tea by the Sea a roaring success.  With a wide range of culinary skills, beautiful place settings, a plethora of tea, and all the formalities met, Lily is tired but thoroughly pleased with her initial success.  If she can pull off a hugely successful and profitable first season, she and her little shop just might make it through the winter and into the next season.

When Lily isn’t scurrying around Tea by the Sea and prepping for the next, and the next, and the next event, she is working as the chef at her grandmother’s bead and breakfast.  Lily’s grandmother, Rose is a proper Englishwoman with no filter and no edit button.  Each morning, Rose watches over the kitchen as her beloved granddaughter churns out a proper English breakfast for her guests.  Rose runs a tight ship so when a man turns up dead on her property and Rose is accused of his murder, she has more than a few thoughts to share with the police. 

To keep her fiery grandmother out of jail, Lily must take on yet another responsibility, poking around into the man’s murder so her grandmother will not.  Lily is positive her grandmother had nothing to do with the murder, but her outspoken nature about the area she lives in has caused her to jump to the top of the suspect list.  Rose wants nothing to do with big development and she certainly doesn’t want to see the old, ramshackle house next door torn down to make way for an ugly hotel or resort.  Rose will have none of her idyllic location and view being spoiled. 

As Lily begins to poke around, she uncovers all kinds of ugly truths along with bits and pieces of information that are seemingly unconnected.  What’s more, she’s got her best-friend egging on and aiding her grandmother in their own investigation and the utterly handsome lawn guy always showing up to rescue her.  Between her shop, the B&B, her crazy friends and relatives, and a hot savior lawn keeper, Lily has more than she can handle and if she doesn’t the murder soon, more than a little time in jail is going to come to pass.

The Bottom Line:  Straight away I knew I was going to enjoy this book.  Rose is one feisty old lady and when she has something to say, it just comes right out, totally unfiltered.  Even more endearing than Rose’s attitude and mouth is her close relationship with Lily.  I also very much enjoyed the overall setting, but particularly the tearoom and the descriptions of all the yummy things Lily turns out for her customers.  The plot is quite suitable for a cozy mystery and I found myself simply letting it unfold for me rather than trying to work it out prior to the big reveal.  In short, I sank into this read and just let it play out in wonderful fashion.  I anticipate many more mysteries and menus for Rose and lily in the future!

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