Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Darkness Lies Waiting (Raven Island Series) by Mercer Scott

What do you do when the man who betrayed you is already dead? If you’re ruthless gang leader Jacob Cole, you find a distraction from your fury… like the beautiful, single mother without a past who just moved to town.
JACOB: Fueled by rage, Jacob only has himself to blame for the death of his lieutenant. He trusted the wrong man. With nowhere to focus his rage, Jacob grows restless – and when Jacob Cole is restless cities burn. As soon as Jacob sees Laurel Wells, he knows that she’s the perfect distraction from his need for revenge. But Laurel becomes more than just a distraction, and Jacob is never going to let her go…
Can one monster be your salvation from another?
LAUREL: Single mother, Laurel Wells, ran away from her abusive husband to the last place anyone would look for her – the idyllic Raven Island.
Laurel’s quiet life becomes complicated when the Pacific Northwest’s most notorious gangster decides that he wants her for himself. Jacob Cole is exactly the kind of trouble Laurel needs to avoid, but she can’t deny her attraction to the beautiful, tattooed gangster.
It’s only a matter of time until Laurel’s past catches up with her, and she has to leave Raven Island. But this time will she be running from Jacob Cole, too?
Excerpt from Darkness Lies Waiting (Raven Island Series):

PROLOGUE

Laurel

Only selfish girls get everything they’ve ever wanted and then want more. 

That’s what Eric said to me before he left for work this morning. It’s not the first time he’s said it. And I know it won’t be the last. But it’s how I know things are going to be bad when he gets home tonight. 

I’ve spent every minute of the day since he left dreading my husband coming home from work. I cleaned the entire house. I made sure that every room is perfect. Every picture frame is hanging perfectly level. Every pillow is perfectly fluffed. You could take a white glove to any inch of this house, and you wouldn’t find a speck of dust. 

It probably won’t make a difference. But it’s worth a try. Maybe it will help? Maybe it won’t get so bad if everything is perfect when Eric gets home? But I know better than that. I hate the part of me that still hopes. I know by now exactly how bad it’s going to be. 

Dinner is in the oven. Everything will be ready right when Eric gets home in an hour. I made Eric a roast and all the fixings. I’m a vegetarian. I hate touching meat, but Eric won’t be happy unless he gets his meat. I let Riley watch videos on his tablet while I made dinner. And I’m going to let him keep watching videos. I can’t risk him making any messes before Eric gets home. I know that he won’t mean to, but Riley’s only four. Mess follows him around like a shadow. 

That means I have an hour to myself until Eric comes home. I’m so anxious that I need to distract myself. There’s nothing left to do. Nothing left to clean. So, I slip into my makeshift studio to paint until it’s time to serve dinner. It’s not a studio, exactly. But it’s a little space that I carved out for myself to paint. In this giant house with six bedrooms and only three people living in it, Eric insisted there was no room for me to have a studio. So, I paint in the laundry room. The light is actually really pretty in here. And Eric would never come anywhere near the laundry room, so it’s all mine. That’s what matters.

My thoughts flow freely as my hand automatically sweeps my brush over the canvas. Painting is where I feel at home. Where I feel at peace. My body knows what to do when I have a brush in my hand, even if feel completely helpless the rest of the time. I wasn’t always helpless like this. I used to be normal and fun. I used to have a life outside the luxury home that’s become my prison. 

Eric Wellington was everything I ever wanted. He was exactly what every girl is taught she’s supposed to want. Eric was tall and strong. His sandy, blonde hair shone like a golden crown. He had piercing, light blue eyes. He came from a wealthy family, but he chose to become a police officer because he wanted to help people.

He was the prince from a storybook. 

And somehow, he wanted me. I couldn’t believe it the first time that Eric asked me out. I couldn’t believe it the second time or the time after that. I couldn’t even believe it when he proposed to me two months later.

Eric was perfect. My friends from university all pretended not to be surprised that he was interested in me. But I could tell they thought he was out of my league. I did too. My hair was always in a messy bun and paint could perennially be found under my short, practical, artist’s fingernails. I was the exact opposite of the type of woman that a man like Eric Wellington should marry.

I didn’t need to think about it when he proposed. Eric was exactly what I had always hoped for. He was my happily ever after.

Our wedding was a fairytale.

Our marriage became my nightmare.

Eric didn’t even make it through our honeymoon before he started hitting me. Something changed in him like a light switch once we said our vows. Or maybe it was always there, and I just didn’t see it. But once Eric started hitting me, he never really stopped. Eric was always careful not to hit my face, so no one could see the bruises. No one could know about how he punished me. That was just between him and me. 

I didn’t want to get pregnant. But Eric decided after we’d been married for two years that it was time for a baby. He didn’t want people to start talking about why we didn’t have children. He hated the idea that people might think it was his fault. He told me that it was time I provided him with a son. 

Once he decided it was time to start trying, Eric wouldn’t let me take birth control anymore. And I was afraid of how he would punish me if he found out that I defied him. But I tried everything I could find online to stop myself from getting pregnant. But everything I tried didn’t work.

When I was pregnant with Riley, Eric made sure to never hit my stomach. He made sure I never fell on my stomach when he punched me hard enough to make me fall to the ground. But everything else was fair game. It was all fair to him. He was punishing me. He had the right to punish me. He told me that every day. I heard it so often that I started to believe it.

Eric wanted a child so badly. He wanted a boy that took after him. A boy he could raise to be just like his daddy. Once I got pregnant, I prayed for a girl who looked nothing like him. I got half of what I wanted. A boy who looks just like me. Riley has my green eyes, my same cute little nose, and my heart-shaped face. He’s a beautiful child, and he’s going to be a beautiful man. But he looks nothing like his father.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Riley calls out from the door of the laundry room. 

That’s when I hear the beeping. Beep! Beep! Beep!

The smoke alarm’s ringing loudly in my ears. I don’t know how I didn’t hear it. Shit! Dinner!

“It’s okay, baby!” I cry out to reassure him, before I’ve even turned around.

I start running towards the door and back to the kitchen, but I jerk to a stop when I see Riley standing in front of me.

“Let’s go, Mommy. We need to go,” Riley tells me.

He looks so serious. He’s wearing his little backpack and he has his little suitcase he likes to stuff with dress-up clothes. Both are covered in sea turtles. Riley is obsessed with sea turtles.

I kneel in front of him, ignoring the screeching smoke alarm in the kitchen, as it drills into my head.

“Sweetie, it’s just the smoke alarm. Everything’s okay,” I promise him. “Why do you have your suitcase?”

“We need to go, Mommy,” Riley says again. “So, Daddy doesn’t hurt you.”

Riley’s little lip quivers as he says it. And my heart shatters into a million tiny pieces.

He doesn’t know. He can’t know. I’ve been hiding it from him. I’ve been protecting him. I’ve been protecting him from all this. From the bruises. The fighting. The sound of Eric punching me. 

But he knows. My baby knows

I wonder what it does to a child to grow up in a home where what Eric does to me is normal.  And as the smoke alarm screeches at me again, I know something more certainly than I’ve ever known anything in my entire life. 

I’m not going to stay and find out.

Chapter One

Jacob

Four months later.

I’m restless. My morning runs are getting longer and longer. I can’t sit still. No matter how much I run, I can’t get my anger in check. Part of me doesn’t even want to. It’s been three months since I helped my brother dispose of Danny Jones’ body. 

Danny Johnson’s body.

I have to keep reminding myself that he was Danny Johnson, not Danny Jones.

I trusted the wrong man. I brought him into the Black Ravens. And he betrayed me. Danny Johnson lied to my face every day for three years, pretending to be one of us while he was out for revenge against us the whole time. I don’t know how I fucking missed it. I can never make a mistake like that again. When I make mistakes, people die.

Dean Joras is dead. My best friend for twenty-five years. And Danny Johnson killed him to get back at me, or get back at my brother, Silas. It doesn’t fucking matter. The effect was the same. 

Dean is dead. He left behind a widow and two teenage sons. They’re my responsibility now. I have to watch out for Delilah and the boys like they were my own.

Dean paid the price for what Silas and I did seventeen years ago. But haven’t we already paid enough for Sabrina Johnson’s death? My brother spent ten years in prison. He walked away from the Black Ravens – the gang we started in high school. He walked away from me. 

How many lives need to be ruined in exchange for the life of one innocent girl? We didn’t mean to kill her. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and, she got caught in the cross-fire. Shit happens. We can try to minimize the risk, but it’s always there. People get hurt when there’s this much money and power at stake. It’s inevitable. And I would choose that risk every fucking time.

Silas may have been the one to go to prison, but we all suffered. My brother likes to think of himself as the great martyr for taking a plea deal and going to prison for manslaughter. He asked me to walk away from the Black Ravens back then, too. 

I refused. I’m a Raven. I’ll always be a Raven. My blood runs black.

Danny Jones may be dead. But I’m not the one who killed him. And I needed to be the one who fucking killed him. My men want answers. They want justice. But all I have are two dead Ravens and no answers to give the Ravens they left behind. Or at least none that I’m willing to give them.

The cops are still circling my brother for Dean’s murder. Danny framed Silas for killing Dean, and the cops are too stupid to figure out that it was a set-up. There’ve been a few rumblings from my enemies questioning whether the Ravens are weak now with the loss of two members and no retaliation.

I usually don’t see the point of violence for violence’s sake. It’s a means to an end. And an effective one. I can be as violent and as brutal as I need to be to get the job done. But there’s no target now. Danny Jones is dead. And none of my rivals have come for me in years. I made sure of that. I’ve instilled enough fear in them to make me untouchable. They can rumble all they like. There’s no real threat. They wouldn’t dare rise up against me. They value their lives too much.

There’s no target for my rage. I want to burn, kill, destroy – but who? The man who deserves my wrath is already dead at my brother’s hand. Until I figure out where to aim my fury, I need a fucking distraction. And I have one in mind. My brother hired a new server at his diner. She’s been on my island for a month or two. And I can’t get her out of my head. I’ve started frequenting my brother’s diner almost daily just to see her.

I’m happy enough to see my brother. Our relationship is less murderous these days than it’s been for seventeen years. But I’m there to see her. Fucking her will be the perfect distraction from thinking about Danny Jones’ – Danny Johnson’s – betrayal and what I’m going to do about it. 

Her name’s Laurel. Laurel Wells. I already know everything about her – well everything there is to know about someone who’s only existed for two months. I had my private investigator in Vancouver look into her. I have him look into everyone who crosses my path because I don’t like surprises. In my line of work, surprises get you killed. 

My investigator couldn’t find any trace of Laurel Wells before two months ago, shortly before she arrived on Raven Island. Pretty, single mothers don’t just miraculously appear on this little, out-of-the way island off Canada’s west coast out of thin air. But this one did. She’s running from something. Finding out she had something to hide only made me want her more. I want to unravel every single one of her secrets and find out what she’s hiding from me.

Silas may have hired her, but I don’t think he has any idea that she’s not who she says she is. I didn’t tell him. I don’t want her to get spooked and run again. Not before I get what I want from her. Not before I taste her. Before I’m inside her. 

As soon as I get back from my run, I shower and change. I’m headed for the diner without even deciding to go there. Something about her just keeps pulling me back. 

I don’t even talk to her when I’m there. Not really. I just watch her. That ends today. I’ve waited long enough. It’s time to make Laurel Wells my distraction.

I see her the minute I walk into my brother’s diner. She’s carrying a tray of food, and she stops dead in her tracks when she lays eyes on me. 

Good. I like that I make her nervous.

That piece of shit, Tommy Watkins, is here. Raven Island PD’s finest. I can feel his eyes on me as soon as I set foot in the diner. Tommy’s hated me since high school. Part of me wishes he would just fucking come for me. I’d be happy to end him. At least then I wouldn’t have to see his fucking ugly face walking around my town. 

And this is my town. My island. It’s my fucking coast. I’ve run organized crime in the Pacific Northwest since my brother and I weren’t all that organized. We were just two angry kids looking to take back some power from those who had it. And we fucking did. All that power is mine now.

I walk over to my usual booth in the corner, and wait for her to come over and take my order. I’ve been coming to the Raven’s Claw diner so often since Laurel started working here that I have the damn menu memorized. So, I bide my time just watching her. She’s small. She can’t be more than five-foot-two. She’s tiny at the waist and has gentle curves at her hips and tits. Her breasts are full for how small she is. Maybe not quite a handful, but I bet they’re close. I mean to find out. 

Her blonde hair falls just past her shoulders. As much as I want her body, it’s her face that keeps me up at night. She has a heart-shaped face with green eyes and full, pink lips. She doesn’t wear a lot of make-up to wait tables. Her hair is always either up in a ponytail or hanging loose around her shoulders. I want to see her all dressed up for me in something tight and sexy. And then I want to tear off her clothes off and taste everything she’s hiding underneath. 

Soon, Laurel. But not soon enough. 

 
 
 
Mercer Scott always wanted to be a writer. One day she discovered that life is too f*cking short, so she wrote down her stories and sent them out into the world. She hoped that one day someone like her would find her stories and read them. Mercer Scott lives in the Pacific Northwest and spends her days pursuing pleasure… in all its forms.
 

Double Review: Christmas Cow Bells and Goodnight Moo (Books #1 and #2: (A Buttermilk Creek Mystery Series) by Mollie Cox Bryan

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Christmas is a time for new beginnings, so after her big breakup, Brynn MacAlister takes the gouda with the bad. With her three Red Devon cows, she settles in bucolic Shenandoah Springs, eager for a new life as an organic micro-dairy farmer and cheese-maker. Then her dear cow Petunia’s bellows set the whole town on edge. But it isn’t until Brynn’s neighbor, Nancy, dies in a mysterious fire that her feelings about small town life begin to curdle . . .

It seems some folks were not happy with Nancy’s plan to renovate the Old Glebe Church. But is a fear of change a motivation for murder? As a newcomer, Brynn can’t ignore the strange events happening just on the other side of her frosty pasture–and soon on her very own farm. Suddenly Christmas doesn’t feel so festive as everyone demands she muzzle sweet Petunia, and Brynn is wondering if someone wants to silence her–for good . . .

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 4/5 stars

Brynn MacAlister is working hard to make her dream come true.  After a nasty and most unexpected break with her fiancé, Brynn bought a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley and has begun to establish herself as a serious cheesemaker.  Her products are small batch and of the highest quality and if she’s very lucky, her business is going to take off and allow her to continue to live her dream life. 

The secret to Brynn’s success is her girls, three Devon Red cows who are as much her family as they are her product producers.  While two of her girls are doing remarkably well, Petunia is in morning for her lost calf and Brynn has no idea how to help her sweet girl.  What’s more, Brynn isn’t the only one who can her girl’s cries and her neighbors are starting to raise a fuss over the constant mooing.  Little does Brynn know, her sad cow is about to be the least of her worries. 

Brynn’s next-door neighbor, Nancy, like Brynn is newish to town and looking to make improvements to the land she lives on.  With any luck, Nancy’s land and the building sitting on it will become the new home of a shop for all the local famers and their unique and delicious products.  Unfortunately, before she can get the work underway, someone burns her property and kills Nancy in the process.  Brynn is heartbroken by the loss of one of her only friend’s and in the wake of her death begins to ask questions about the how and why of her friend’s death. 

Brynn’s questions lead her to two new and very solid friends, Willow and Schulyer, who help her sort out all the information she continues to uncover.  Additionally, Brynn invites Nancy’s grandsons, Max and Wes to stay with her while their family is in town to help settle the affairs of the state and see their loved one buried.  Max and Wes are absolute blessings because the more questions Brynn asks, the more weird and scary things begin to happen on her property.  Her yard is nearly set on fire, there is stuffed bird nailed to her door, and one of her farm animals is stolen.  Brynn knows she’s getting close to the truth, but the closer she gets the more danger she seems to be in. 

The Bottom Line:  I pretty much devoured this book, just like a piece of Brynn’s gourmet cheese!  I was originally attracted to the series because of the adorable cows and got a fine read as well.  The only thing I would like to see change, is Brynn gaining a bit more confidence in her actions and decisions.  Oh, she’s great with the cheese, but the sleuthing isn’t quite her game . . . yet.  Supporting Brynn at every turn is a wonderful cast of secondary characters that will absolutely be welcome additions to later additions to this series.  Wes is a wonderfully polite and creative young man, Willow is kind and loyal to her friend, and Schuyler is feisty and intelligent and very hard to say no to.  In all, I found this character-driven cozy mystery to be right up my alley.

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With a foster cow in her corral and a new calf on the way, Brynn MacAlister has a lot on her plate. Especially since her micro-dairy farm is hosting the first annual cheesemakers contest at this year’s summer fair. A relative newcomer, Brynn’s hoping the contest becomes a tradition, bonding her even more strongly to the community. But when a mysterious tractor accident looks suspiciously like murder, Brynn suspects someone is up to no-gouda . . .

Some folks say the lead suspect was just defending his underage daughter from a suitor more mature than a vintage provolone, but Brynn isn’t buying it. Especially when another dead body turns up and Brynn’s top cheesemaker falls under suspicion. It’s enough to make a girl bluer than her best Stilton. But not enough to stop Brynn from getting to the bottom of things. What she discovers is the small town harbors some pretty unsavory characters. And the closer Brynn gets to the killer, the deeper she gets into danger . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Oh, boy!  Less than a year in town and Brynn MacAlister has stepped into yet another murder!  As if her growing business, apprentice, farm, friends, and the local fair aren’t enough, two of her friends have been accused of murder!  Though she’s only sleuthed once before, Brynn isn’t about to let her friends go down for something they didn’t do, so it’s time to get the sleuthing hat back out and start asking questions. 

While the first murder is troubling, it isn’t quite as pressing for Brynn as the second.  A young man is shot to death and her apprentice and dear friend, Wes is being accused of the deed.  Literally anyone who really knows Wes knows he can’t possibly be responsible for such an evil deed, but the evidence points to him.  Wes is a kind, gentle soul who would rather be in the kitchen cooking up a gourmet meal for friends than conjuring up anger and mischief.  Unfortunately, he is an absolute outsider in the Shenandoah Valley and that stacks the cards against him from the very beginning. 

In the process of trying to help Wes, Brynn finds herself in a serious mess that leaves her with a tremendous concussion and an inability to really help as she would normally do.  To help her out, her friends step in to tend to the girls and the farm and her sister comes to stay until Brynn can get back on her feet.  In her moments of energy and clarity, Brynn works to solve the mystery of murder and she keeps coming back to one suspect, a beautiful, local sixteen-year-old girl with a reputation for loose morals and a variety of issues.  Though Brynn doesn’t want to believe such a young person could be responsible for so much awful, the merging clues clearly indicate her involvement. 

To make matters far worse, the local fair is something of a disaster this year and it is taking up time the police could be investigating Wes’s case.  Wes’s father and brother have come to town and with Brynn’s help, they are digging into every avenue of inquiry they can think of.  With the help of Brynn’s sister, the group stumbles onto a series of crimes that goes so far beyond the local level that the FBI is called in to assist.  What’s clear is that Wes is absolutely not involved and the mastermind behind the whole fiasco is a whole new level of evil.

The Bottom Line:  WOW!!  What a mess this story is, in the best way possible.  Not only does Brynn get pulled into the investigation, but Wes is totally railroaded, and there’s a series of crimes here that is so far beyond the local level.  It took me very little time to read this book and now I’m sad there’s no more currently available.  As I had hoped, there’s a huge presence of “older” characters and they really serve to enhance the overall read.  Brynn really is becoming a part of her adopted community and with her business growing, it seems as if she has a very bright future in the Valley.  That, dear reader, is very good news for us.

Coming August 25, 2020: Amazon| B&N | Kobo| Paperback

Proof of Murder (Book #4: Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery Serie) by Lauren Elliott

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Bookshop owner Addie Greyborne must solve a locked-room murder in a supposedly haunted mansion to recover a priceless Sherlock Holmes original . . .

The seaside New England town of Greyborne Harbor is home to many grand estates, including the Queen Anne Victorian Addie inherited from her great aunt. Now one of those mansions is holding an estate sale, which is just what the bookshop owner needs to replenish her supply of rare editions–even if the house is rumored to be haunted. Assisting an overwhelmed insurance appraiser with the inventory, Addie discovers an 1887 magazine containing Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, which she estimates to be worth over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

But when Addie later finds the appraiser dead in the estate’s private library, with the door bolted from the inside, and the priceless edition missing, it’s a mystery worthy of the Great Detective himself. She’s certain the death and the robbery are connected–but who, other than a ghost who can walk through walls, could have gotten in to do the deed? It’s up to Addie to find the key to the crime–before she’s the next one cornered by a killer . . .

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

Addie Greyborne just never seems to be in the right place at the right time.  In her twoish years in Greyborne Harbor, she’s been pulled into three murder investigations, seen her best friend accused of one of them, met two intriguing men, and been generally off kilter since arriving in town.  With hope in her heart, Addie is looking forward to a stretch of good and quiet where she can focus on her business, her growing relationship, and her burgeoning friendships. 

And then Addie arrives in the wrong place at the wrong time!

With nothing but good intentions, Addie volunteers to help an old family friend get ready for an impending local auction.  With her appraisers’ hat on, Addie sets to work and discovers some beautiful and very rare books that will surely bring a fortune at auction.  Thinking she’s done nothing but a good deed, Addie leaves the site looking forward to participating in the auction the next day.  As the next day dawns and Addie arrives at the auction site, she finds herself, once again drawn into a murder, only this time, Addie is the prime suspect.

In months and investigations past, Addie has been able to rely on her relationship with the police chief to help her through difficult times.  This time, Marc is not only adamantly and angrily against her, but his new girlfriend seems to have a huge grudge against Addie and is looking to put her behind bars.  With few people to rely on and trust, a very hurt Addie drags out her trusty murder board and begins to put the pieces together. 

As always, the evidence and clues lead Addie down a long and winding path that takes her from the present to the distant past and through the lives of a troubled family and their dilapidated home that is now considered haunted.  What’s more, the house is the site of the impending auction and for weeks, valuable items have been going missing and is the site of the murder Addie is accused of having committed.  What Addie uncovers is a sordid tale of lechery, deceit, and murder that has left at least one person with nothing but revenge and retribution on the brain.  To be sure, Addie is up to her neck in the mess and if she doesn’t uncover the identity of the real killer, she may be spending the next several decades behind bars.

The Bottom Line: I feel like this series has really hit its stride and I hope to continue seeing books of this quality.  As with the previous books, the mystery is suitably complicated and interesting to have me turning pages like a mad woman.  I absolutely love the combination of the past meets the present and that is prevalent in this book.  I also like all the complicated relationships currently in Addie’s life.  She is really rolling in emotions in this book and it made for a great secondary plot line that FINALLY brought out some real anger in Addie.  I loved seeing her mean side especially towards those who more than deserved it.  In all, a cozy mystery series that I have been impressed with and hope to see continue in a similar manner.

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Review: Murder in the First Edition (Book #3: Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery Series) by Lauren Elliott

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Addie’s getting into the spirit for the upcoming Charity Auction—especially since she’s got an 1843 copy of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to donate. Her former colleagues at the Boston Public Library have confirmed that its worth runs toward the high five figures, which should help with the new pediatric wing. Her mood darkens, though, when a visitor from the past appears—Jonathan Hemingway, the father of her late fiancé. His presence stirs up sad memories for Addie, but also has her fuming when Jonathan, true to his womanizing ways, runs off for a lunchtime liaison with Teresa Lang, who’s in charge of the auction.

Soon after, Addie heads to Teresa’s office at the hospital—and finds the poor woman’s dead body. What she doesn’t find is her valuable first edition. What sort of Scrooge would steal from sick children and commit murder in the process? As a Nor’easter bears down and a mystery emerges about Jonathan’s past, Addie must find out if she can appraise people’s motives and characters as well as she can appraise rare books . . .

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Woo Hoo!!  Murder in the First Edition is a definite come back book after the sophomore slump of book two of the Beyond the Page Bookstore series! 

With over a year in Greyborne Harbor, Addie has become more comfortable in town and has become an active member of the community and not just in the solving crimes arena. To that end, she has donated a rare and precious copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to the upcoming hospital fund raiser.  With the official appraisal in hand, Addie and the fundraiser organizer expect an excellent payday to help with the hospital renovations.  With nothing but good feelings and a positive outlook, Addie isn’t expecting to once again be sucked into a crime.

Just as Addie is gearing up for a festive and fun Christmas season, everything is turned on its head when she finds the fundraiser organizer dead and her donated book missing.  As if that weren’t bad enough, police chief Marc sees Addie as a viable suspect with the most to gain!  Yet again, Addie is forced to drag out the murder board in order to organize her thoughts and clear her name.  Once again, the whole mess is far more complicated than Addie could have anticipated and some of the players are quite unexpected.

Throughout the investigation, Addie finds herself at odds with Marc!  Marc hates Addie’s meddling, but even has to admit her track record for solving big, complicated crimes is pretty good.  Addie’s sleuthing leads her deep into the world of rare book brokering, rare and weird poisons, and a network of people she might want to avoid in the future!  There’s treachery and deceit around every corner and with Marc’s suspicions constantly plaguing her, Addie seems to be in deeper than she ever has before. 

The Bottom Line:  The thing I like about this series (especially books one and three) are the more complicated yet not convoluted nature of the plots.  This isn’t your average cozy mystery series and that’s one of the things I like best about it. Along with the regular cast of characters, each book also has a host of secondary characters who all have a logical and clear place in each story.  I love the interconnectedness of the primary and secondary characters and how everything comes together in such a perfectly reasonable way in the end.  I don’t ever feel as if I have any lingering questions or loose ends when I reach the end of these books.  I like the snarky exchanges Addie often has and her fiery spirit.  I also love that Addie is becoming a more solid and accepted member of the community which means more repeat visits from favorite characters.  In all, a very solid and entertaining cozy mystery series!

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Review: Prologue to Murder (Book #1: Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery Series) by Lauren Elliott

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Gossip columnists love a bold-faced name—but “Miss Newsy” at Greyborne Harbor’s local paper seems to specialize in bald-faced lies. She’s pointed a finger of suspicion at Addie after librarian June Winslow never makes it home from a book club meeting. And when June’s found at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, Addie’s not only dealing with a busybody, but a dead body.

It’s a good thing the guy she’s dating is the police chief. But both the case and her love life get more complicated when a lanky blonde reporter from Los Angeles shows up. She’s trying her hardest to drive a wedge between the couple . . . as if Addie doesn’t have enough problems dealing with angry townspeople. Despite all the rumors, Addie doesn’t know a thing about the murder—but she plans to find out. And the key may lie in a book about pirate legends that June published. Now she just has to hunt down the clues before she becomes a buried treasure herself . . .

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 3/5 stars

Just like in music, television, and sports, the sophomore slump is a real thing! 

In round two of the Addie Greyborne Beyond the Page Bookstore series, Addie is once again faced with a crime she gets sucked into and a slew of gossip and rumors that threaten to shut down her livelihood!

With a lightness in her heart, Addie walks into work one morning only to find the local gossip column has smeared Addie’s name and business to no end.  Addie is used to this type of behavior from her next-door neighbor, Martha, but the gossip column is a new type of attack and Addie has no idea where the new threat is coming from.  Unfortunately, Addie’s suspicions are quickly peaked when she meets Lacey, the police chief’s ex and newest member of the local newspaper staff.  Lacey is a snake on legs, and she makes no secret of contempt for Addie.

Though Addie can’t prove Lacey is behind the “news” column, she can make a start on disproving everything reported.  Topping the list is disproving the accusation that Addie had anything to do with the death of Greyborne Harbor’s beloved local librarian, June.  Proving her innocence and preserving her reputation is going to be crazy difficult which leads Addie to once again utilizing her murder board.  As she begins to add questions, clues, and suspects to the board, Addie finds that the investigation is taking her down a quite unexpected path.

Librarian June was also a local historian and author whose work focused on the lives and legends of the early history of Greyborne Harbor.  Through the course of her work, June was able to establish that the now cozy village was once a pirate haven which has spawned legends about still-buried treasure.  In fact, June’s research was thorough she even marked the locations of the supposed buried treasures on a map of the village.  It doesn’t take long to figure out that someone is after the buried treasure and is more than willing to kill for the find of a lifetime.

In between solving the latest crime and salvaging her reputation, Addie also has the added complication of being the third member of a love triangle.  What a mess!  Though Addie doesn’t feel she’s ready to move one following the death of her fiancé, she can’t deny her feelings for both Marc and Simon.  There are no good choices and Addie feels torn at every level and after nearly every encounter.  If Addie’s life could get any more complicated, well that would just be awesome 😊

The Bottom Line:  This book really fell into the sophomore slump for me and it has everything to do with the plot.  Outside of Johnny Depp, I really don’t care for pirates or pirate stories ☹  Outside of the pirates, I liked the rest of the story including the newly established love/friendship triangle between Addie, Marc, and Simon, the whole gossip column fiasco, and the Lacey situation.  Lauren Elliott has a knack for writing truly unlikeable characters and I like that, a lot!  Thankfully, the pacing of this story was fast enough that I got through this pirate-infested read quickly and was able to move on to the much more enjoyable book three!

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Review: Murder by the Book (Book #1: Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery Series) by Lauren Elliott

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Addie left some painful memories behind in the big city, including the unsolved murder of her fiancé and her father’s fatal car accident. After an unexpected inheritance from a great aunt, she’s moved to a small New England town founded by her ancestors back in colonial times—and living in spacious Greyborne Manor, on a hilltop overlooking the harbor. Best of all, her aunt also left her countless first editions and other treasures—providing an inventory to start her own store.

But there’s trouble from day one, and not just from the grumpy woman who runs the bakery next door. A car nearly runs Addie down. Someone steals a copy of Alice in Wonderland. Then, Addie’s friend Serena, who owns a nearby tea shop, is arrested—for killing another local merchant. The police seem pretty sure they’ve got the story in hand, but Addie’s not going to let them close the

book on this case without a fight . .

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 4/5

Addie Greyborne’s life has changed dramatically in just two short years.  Her fiancé was murdered with the killer still at large, her father died in a horrifying car crash, she left her job in Boston to open a small bookshop in Greyborne Harbor after inheriting the entirety of her great-aunt’s estate.  The estate included a wealth of rare and precious books and a manor home that is not only named for her family, but one of the largest in town.  Yes, Addie Greyborne has seen a load of change in a short amount of time.

Though Addie knew nothing about her great-aunt or Greyborne Harbor, she is beginning to embrace her new life in the cozy little New England town.  Her shop is ready to open, and she’s thrilled to be embarking on a new adventure.  Unfortunately, not everyone in town is as thrilled as Addie is about her presence.  The baker next door, Martha seems to despise Addie on sight and won’t even make an effort to know Addie or be polite.  Martha is stirring up trouble for Addie with some of the other local merchants and Addie has no idea why.  On the heals of the nastiness from Martha and her cronies is a grisly murder that leaves Addie’s only real friend in town in handcuffs and accused of murder.

Addie isn’t one to back down from a fight nor is she willing to let questions go unanswered.  Addie is certain, down to her bones that her friend did not commit murder, all she has to do is prove it. With her makeshift murder board, Addie begins asking questions and pulling loose threads.  Trouble is, when you begin pulling loose threads, the unravelling is often more than you bargain for and that is exactly where Addie finds herself.  With a load of clues and more suspects than she can shake a stick at, Addie is going to need help if she’s going to solve this murder and clear her friend’s name.

Addie’s help comes in the form of the very sexy and equally frustrating police chief.  Marc is wicked pissed at Addie’s involvement in the investigation but also has to admit her insights and expertise make for sound investigating.  The deeper Addie and Marc get into the crime the larger they realize the big picture is and far more complex than either ever anticipated.  Not only is the present plaguing them, but Addie’s past and the unanswered questions about her dead relatives and fiancé come back for another round of pain.  Addie is in more danger than she realizes and if she doesn’t come up with some answers soon, she may pay the ultimate price.

The Bottom Line:  What a wild and crazy ride this first in a series book turned out to be.  In truth, I can’t understand the lowish star rating on Goodreads as I found this book to quite worth the time and effort.  Greyborne Harbor is delightful little town, with the requisite nuts and oddities that I so love.  Addie is something of a spitfire and I quite like her determination and intelligence though I don’t always agree with her somewhat reckless behavior.  This is a complicated and intricate plot that involves both the past and the present and I appreciated that combination greatly.  If my suspicions are correct, Addie Greyborne has a bright future ahead of her as an official amateur sleuth.

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Mini-Review: Stroke of Luck by Opal Carew

37638287Getting cheated on and left with a hotel bill that costs more than she makes in a year was not a part of the plan when Riana came to Las Vegas to marry her wealthy fiancé. Her plans also didn’t include getting bailed out of this horrible situation by Quinn, the ex-boyfriend she hadn’t planned to see ever again. For Quinn, Riana was the one that got away and he’s never gotten over her, no matter how successful he became.

Riana insists on paying Quinn back, so he makes her an offer–spend the next month with him and his business partner Austin while they’re on vacation. It’s clear to him that Austin is attracted to her, too, and Quinn’s always liked the idea of sharing a woman with him. It’s something that Riana wants to do, and after a few glasses of champagne–only enough to stop denying herself what she wants–she voices her desire to be with both men.

But as the month comes to an end, Riana has to face the reality she’s falling for Quinn and Austin…and the possibility that one crazy night in Vegas could cost her one–or both–men.

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Source: NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin          Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line: I have taken a long break from reading Opal Carew and I think that break helped me enjoy this book a bit more. I can’t say there was anything new under the sun in this read, but it didn’t stop me from liking the ride.  April has been unceremoniously dumped on her wedding day after finding her fiancé in bed with another woman.  In her despair, she runs into a love from her past who not only bails her out but offers her a month of nothing but pleasure with he and his business partner/best friend.  Though everyone goes into the arrangement with a no strings attached attitude, it quickly becomes more which means navigating a ton of obstacles and emotions that no one expected.  In most ways, this is a very typical Opal Carew read: fast falling in love, loads of naughty bits, and a fairly thin plot.  Sometimes, that is exactly the kind of book one is looking for and if you are, Opal Carew is your go-to author.

FYI: Yes, I double-checked to be sure I’m not crazy!  The synopsis calls the main character Riana while my NetGalley copy has April.  I have no idea which name will stick 😊

Coming October 27, 2020: Goodreads| Amazon| B&N | Kobo| Paperback