Beaufort, North Carolina, is home to Chapters Bed and Breakfast, owned and operated by former schoolteacher Charlotte Reed. This historic 18th-century inn draws in voracious readers from far and wide with its lovingly curated special events celebrating a host of genres and authors.
On this sunny July weekend, a visit by one of the biggest names in romantic fantasy attracts throngs of admirers to the quaint coastal village. That’s not ideal, as the author retreated to Chapters to get away from it all for a while. No matter–she’ll appease her fans with a “Tea and Talk” meet-and-greet at the B&B celebrating her bestselling series (starring a devilishly dashing, time-traveling pirate), follow that up with a quick book signing at Bookwaves, the hip indie bookstore across town, and spend the remainder of the weekend in delightful repose.
But when the president of the reclusive writer’s fan club is found dead in the harbor by the Beaufort docks–done in by a blunt-force blow to the head–it’s up to Charlotte Reed, her neighbor Ellen, and Ellen’s trusty Yorkshire terrier to sniff out the killer. Because if they can’t, a spectacularly successful book series–and its author–may come to a sudden, lethal conclusion.
Source: NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books Rating: 4½/5 stars
Charlotte Reed has found her stride with her B&B, Chapters. She’s got great help, an outstanding chef on standby, great ideas to keep her guests entertained, and a schedule that seems to get busier by the day. If she can keep the bad at bay (recall that nasty murder?!) she’ll solidify her name in the industry.
Charlotte’s next big hurdle is ensuring the privacy of a well-known author as she checks in for a bit of R&R between stops on her book tour. The author’s presence isn’t a total secret as a select group of contest winners will also be in residence and in attendance for certain book-related events. Though the group initially seems quite enthusiastic and excited, the cracks in the façade show themselves quickly and the situation becomes deadly.
Once again, Charlotte has a house full of suspects and any one of them could be the culprit. With her reputation and safety on the line, Charlotte turns to her crafty neighbor for advice and help. Speaking of her neighbor, there a new resident at Ellen’s house and Charlotte isn’t buying the “distant relative” story. With two mysteries to solve, Charlotte puts on her investigator hat and starts sorting through the clues.
As is her way, Charlotte begins poking around and prodding people for their respective stories. While some are more than willing to talk, others are reluctant and clearly have something to hide. What Charlotte eventually uncovers is a scandal that can ruin an author’s career and definitely put a person or two in jail for a very long time. And that’s just one of her mysteries. On the other case, Charlotte discovers a very old truth that could destroy the life of one of her dearest friends and the shatter the long-standing friendship of others. To say Charlotte is between a rock and a hard place with both mysteries is putting it all very mildly.
The Bottom Line: I feel like this series gained some strength with this read as Charlotte is surer of herself, Ellen is a bit more open, honest, and willing to help, the story got a bit darker. While I liked the primary tale told in this book – the author’s scandal/story – I liked the secondary tale even more. The mystery man staying at Ellen’s is an intriguing character that is most certainly going to make appearances in later installments. His presence makes both Charlotte and Ellen’s lives more interesting and will perhaps allow for the crafty women to do a bit more sleuthing in the future. With this read, I have a bit more confidence in the series and can see an exciting future for Charlotte and Ellen.