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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Mini-Review: A Sprinkling of Murder (Book #1: A Fairy Garden Mystery Series) by Daryl Wood Gerber

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Since childhood, Courtney has loved fairies. After her mother died when she was ten, she lost touch with that feeling of magic. A year ago, at age twenty-nine, she rediscovered it when she left her father’s landscaping business to spread her wings and start a fairy garden business and teashop in beautiful Carmel, California. At Open Your Imagination, she teaches garden design and sells everything from fairy figurines to tinkling wind chimes and trickling fountains. Now she’s starting a book club tea.

But the light of the magical world she’s created inside her shop is darkened one night when she discovers neighboring dog-grooming business owner Mick Watkins dead beside a fountain. To make matters worse, the police suspect Courtney of the crime. To clear her name and find the real killer, Courtney will have to wing it. But she’s about to get a little help from an unexpected new friend . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington          Rating: 2½/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  Once again, I find myself in the minority when it comes to star ratings on a book.  I struggled through this book from page one to the very end and that made me angry because I really wanted to love this read.  It has everything I normally love in a cozy mystery and even has a dash of the paranormal, but somehow none of this came together for me.  I found most of the characters to be rather flat, the plot to be rather cliché, and the addition of the fairies to somehow be beyond the realm of possibility, even in a fiction book.  To be completely honest, I am not sure why this read didn’t work for me, but as I finally made it to the end, I realized, I won’t be giving the series a second chance.  I think this may simply be an instance of “not for me” but I can absolutely see how this book is appealing to other readers.

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Review: The Second Chance Hotel by Rachel Dove

53266327. sy475 Welcome to Shady Pines, where the sun is shining, the sea is sparkling, and there’s a cosy chalet waiting to be your home away from home. But will April find the new start she’s looking for? 

April Statham had it all – until her husband left her for a blonde ten years her junior. Now she’s thirty-five, single, and starting again. So she does what anyone in her position would do: she impulsively invests her life savings in the chalet park she used to visit as a child, on the beautiful Cornish Coast. 

The Shady Pines Chalet Park is… ramshackle. But it has one big advantage – it is as far as physically possible from April’s ex, his new fiancée, and her old life. With gorgeous handyman Cillian O’Leary, April is looking forward to the challenge. 

As visitors arrive, April realises that Shady Pines isn’t just a second chance for her, it gives Cillian another shot at happiness too. 

But when he moves into the chalet next door, April’s painful past starts to catch up with her, and she struggles to reconcile her feelings for Cillian. 

Is April’s new beginning destined to end in failure – or will she find new friends, a new life and new love at her second chance hotel?

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Source: NetGalley, HQ Digital, and Purchase          Rating: 4/5 stars

April Statham’s life was not meant to turn out this way!  At thirty-five, she was meant to still be happily married with a growing family.  As it happens, life doesn’t always turn out the way you mean for it to and adjustments have to be made.  In April’s case, two adjustments included running from the fallout of her old life and investing nearly every cent she had in an old, run-down chalet park.

Some of April’s greatest childhood memories are from her time at the Shady Pines Chalet Park.  Sadly, April’s memories of the site are far better than the site itself.  After years of neglect and incompetent management, April has a load of work to do if she is going to bring the Shady Pines back to its former glory.  Though April has a small budget for repairs and updates, she doesn’t have unlimited funds.  What she also doesn’t have is the skill set necessary to do many of the repairs herself.  To that end, she hires Cillian O’Leary.

Cillian O’Leary has enough baggage for himself and four other adults.  His ex is an addict who does nothing but further damage to their daughter, he doesn’t yet have sole legal custody of his daughter, and he needs a job that will be flexible enough to care for his daughter yet still earn a decent income.  Thankfully, alongside his baggage, Cillian also has all the skills April is looking for in a handyman and her job offer comes with a home for he and his daughter. 

From the moment they meet April and Cillian are at odds and often have serious miscommunications.  Cillian is grumpy and wary of women while April is determined and wary of men.  If it weren’t for Martha, the crusty old artist who lives permanently onsite, Cillian and April would likely never get over their issues and realize they actually care for one another.  Working together is difficult, but Martha finds ways – subtle manipulations – to put the two together and force cooperation.  As Martha is playing matchmaker, she is also dealing with the implications of her own baggage, her past, and how it has seemingly comeback to haunt her. 

The Bottom Line: The Second Chance Hotel isn’t just April’s story of love and redemption, but also a story of love and redemption for Martha, Cillian, and Cillian’s daughter.  All their lives have been turned upside down and Shady Pines feels like their last hope.  As the four learn to trust one another, they also learn to like and even love one another.  While there are plenty of obstacles to their various HEAs, there is still an HEA for each.  While I can’t say this is an overly emotional read, it does have loads of feels and it is a nice mix of the past and the present which I am always a fan of.  The setting is also lovely and evolves as the characters evolve.  In all, this is a sweet read that will most certainly appeal to romance readers.

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Spotlight: Savage Kingdom (Sekten Series) by C. Lymari

The Sect does not forgive.
The Sect does not forget.
Keeper of secrets and dealers of lies.
We bow to no king, nations, or men.
Crossing us is certain death.
• • • • • •
He was a mercenary, and I a slave. 
He wanted to save me, but I liked the pain. 
We stole, cheated, and lied. Through a savage kingdom, we found a divide. 
He betrayed me, but so did I. 
In this wicked game who will survive?
Author’s Note: The Sekten Series is a dark romance series that needs to be read in order. It is intended for mature audiences since there is a lot of graphic content, and scenes that make you uncomfortable and it might not be suitable for you if you are easily triggered. Some books will be darker than others, but all are triggering none the less. This is a dark world, so read at your own discretion.

 
Claudia lives in the Chicagoland suburbs, and when she’s not busy chasing after her adorable little spawn, she’s fighting with the characters in her head. After not being able to keep up with them, she decided enough was enough and wrote her first novel. C. Lymari writes both sweet and dark romances that will give you all the feels. Her other talents include binge watching shows on Netflix and eating all kinds of chips.
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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Angel Face: A Life in the Crosshairs Novel by Nicki Rae

It’s not often Jaide Winters hears her given name cross the lips of other’s. Although she’s often called “lethal,” “smart,” and “beautiful,” she’s Angel Face to most—the deadliest assassin in the world. 
After spending weeks in the jungle tracking down the brother of the biggest drug lord in South America, Angel Face finally makes the kill. She knows big brother Cortez won’t take well to the news but isn’t bothered since he’s her next target. 
Upon returning home to plan the last stage of the mission, she receives devastating news, propelling her into one of the most emotionally challenging missions she’s ever had to undertake—one that could end her career. 
Uncovering details at every corner, she is led in an unexpected direction. The newly discovered information causes war between her mind and her heart, and it’s such a new feeling that she can only hope she’s able to stay alive.

Nicki Rae is the author of Broken Minds, Lather: A Moore Love Story and The Date: A Moore Love Short Story, The Perfection Series: Damaged and Resisting Perfection. She’s a born Buckeye turned Hoosier who loves to spend time with her family. Along with being an avid reader, she also loves animals and the Indianapolis Colts. 

 

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Sweet Love by Mia Kayla

That awkward moment when you insult the boss on your first day on the job.

Yeah, that just happened.

In my defense, if I’d known it was Connor Colby of the Colby’s Chocolates and Candies empire standing by the display dressed in a candy cane-striped suit, I never would have opened my mouth to tell him that their signature chocolate bar sucked.

How was I supposed to know he was the boss man?

He was in town temporarily to help save his father’s company.
I was only there for a payday to jump start my art career.

I had one job—help him come up with a rock solid marketing plan.
The task included long nights and late dinners working by Connor’s side.
It did not include kisses, sex in the supply closet, or … worst yet, falling in love.

Why is that so bad you ask?
Because the man is leaving right after our mission is complete. Job done.
Finito.

Will our sweet love turn into sour patched tear jerkers or will he be my big hunk, now & later and forever?

Mia Kayla is a New Adult/Contemporary Romance writer who lives in Illinois. She is the wife to the husband of the year and mommy to three unbelievable cute little girls who have multiplied her grey hairs. 
In her free time she loves reading romance novels, jamming to boy bands, catching up on celebrity gossip and designing flowers for weddings.
Most of the time, she can be caught on the train with her nose in a book sporting a cheeky grin because the main characters finally get their happily-ever-after at the end. 
She loves reading about happy endings but has more fun writing them.
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