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False Conclusion–dangerous inheritance
by Veronica Heley
Much to her dismay, Bea Abbot, the owner of the Abbot Agency becomes desperately entangled in the affairs of the rich and influential Trescott family. All is not as it appears in that closely knit family…well, closely knit in terms of the secrets they try to keep. Mysterious deaths keep piling up. Bea’s ward Bernice is rather forced at boarding school into a friendship role with the Trescott matriarch’s niece Evelina (Evie), a disheveled and almost incoherent teenager. Evie is meant to marry an older cousin Joshua who has promised to take care of her and, Bea suspects, her fortune too. Meanwhile, some rather disturbing patterns arise when Joshua’s tempestuous brother Benjy takes an interest in Bernice who is only 14 and also destined to be wealthy.
Veronica Heley’s False Conclusion is a good mystery that combines reasoning, investigation, and character conflicts with action. The author’s writing style insists that the reader sneak a quick peak at each “next chapter” which, of course, segues into the next and the next; it is a book that is hard to put down.
If you have been following this series, you will be interested in the relationship developments between Bea and her ex-husband Piers, a famous portrait painter whose artistic skills and quick thinking play a role in False Conclusion’s plot. If this series is new to you, don’t hesitate to dive in; you will quickly be brought up to speed on the characters and find that the plot is fresh. In fact, the intriguing opening lines throw both new and returning reader into the story without hesitation: “Bea Abbot shut the front door on her departing guests and demanded, ‘What on earth was that all about?’ ”
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Christian
Notes: 1. #14 in the Abbot Agency Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.
2. Although not overtly a Christian book, the author does show Bea’s reliance on God through a few short prayers for wisdom and protection during difficult times.
Publication: July 7, 2020—Severn House Publishers
His hand on her shoulder had been heavy. He’d meant her to feel the weight of his hand, and to remind her of the power behind it. He was smiling, but his eyes glittered, needle sharp. He had ceased to dismiss her as a pawn in the game.
She stared into the future. It was a dark pit, filled with crashing noises and a seething tangle of snakes. It was more real than her bedroom. It horrified her. She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t even pray.
“Forgiveness comes with understanding. And remorse. And courage to look into the future and not back at the past.”
Montana Wedding–great finale
by Cari Lynn Webb
Georgie Harrison has always been singularly focused. She has a plan to honor her mother’s memory by discovering a cure so that other families would not have to experience premature loss of a parent as she and her sisters had. As a medical doctor she has turned her talents to research and has landed the job of her dreams in London. Now she just has to convince her dad and four sisters that this is a positive move. She convinces a friend and work colleague, Colin, to be her pretend date for her sister’s wedding at the Blackwell Ranch. Unfortunately, Colin doesn’t make the flight. Seated next to her on the plane, however, is handsome rodeo star Zach. He would fit right in with the Blackwells, the cousins she is about to meet, but what could possibly motivate Zach to assume the role of boyfriend?
Zach has his own family issues and dreams, but he loyally supports Georgie as promised. Since this is a Harlequin Heartwarming romance, you can be sure the couple will fall in love. The journey down the path to love is what is interesting, and the plot has several surprising twists, as in “I didn’t see that coming!” Author Cari Lynn Webb gives the viewpoint of both Zach and Georgie as they battle their growing attraction, giving the reader empathy for them in a situation neither sought out. The Blackwells are wonderful people who stand by each other with integrity, love, and quite a bit of teasing. They are the family Zach always dreamed of. Montana Wedding’sbackdrop of a Christmas wedding at a Montana working guest ranch will put you in a holiday mood regardless of the season. It is the perfect finish to The Blackwell Sisters series as it includes all the major characters from that series and from The Return of the Blackwell Brothers. It will leave you with that pleasing feeling of closure for the series and a satisfied smile on your face.
I would like to extend my thanks to Cari Lynn Webb and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in The Blackwell Sisters series. It could be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the whole series.
Publication: December 6, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
His mother had offered disregard and indifference as naturally as other mothers offered their children support and reassurance….His mother’s accusations had always been followed by those same two words, given in the same dull, detached tone: Go. Away.
He’d learned the truth during Cody’s final battle. Time refused to slow. There was no freeze button. And minutes were wasted wishing for impossible things. Life had to be enjoyed in the now.
“Hope is a powerful thing.” Every patient, every family member of a sick loved one relied on hope. Hope the medicine would work. Hope the doctors found the right treatment. Hope the surgeons removed every last cancer cell. Hope the damage wouldn’t be permanent. Hope that tomorrow would be brighter, better, pain free.
Montana Match–overcoming family history
by Carol Ross
Fiona, the youngest of the Harrison sisters, is somewhat of a free spirit. She gets along with everyone, likes to move around, and excels at her jobs as a professional waitress. She also makes bad relationship choices due to her kind heartedness—a nice way of saying she dates losers. Fiona is convinced by Rudy Harrison, the man she always thought of as her dad, and Big E Blackwell, her biological grandfather, to come to Falcon Creek to change her ways by finding a “suitable” man and profession.
In the middle of online dating efforts, she meets Simon who is currently helping out his cousin Ned in his bar. Simon and Fiona both discover the advantages of being truthful to oneself and to others. A heartwarming book with a beautiful setting and characters you’ll want to meet, Montana Match has a plot with just the right amount of entanglements. Fiona wants so badly to do everything right from helping out at the ranch’s petting zoo to making Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that “pigs and eggnog,” even separately, can be problematic. Both Simon and Fiona love antiques and golf, but will that be enough to bring them together? Carol Ross has woven a wonderful tale that will leave you wanting more of The Blackwell Sisters.
I would like to extend my thanks to Carol Ross and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Contemporary Romance
Notes: #4 in The Blackwell Sisters series. This is a clean and heartwarming romance. Plenty of background support is included by the author to make it enjoyable as a standalone, but I think you’ll find yourself wanting to read the others in the series of 5 books with the last to be published in December.
Publication: November 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
But the good memories were tightly bound with the painful ones. Like trying to untangle fine silk that’s been woven with razor wire, it was impossible to separate the two and come out unscathed.
Uncertainty swept through her with the force of an ocean wave, knocking her off balance and leaving her head swimming.
“A bit of trouble?” Luke repeated the words while his mouth curled slowly at the corners. “You could call it that. Be sort of like calling a hurricane a bit of a storm, though.” He chuckled and shook his head.
Montana Wishes–romance in Montana
by Amy Vastine
Along comes another romance as the Harrison girls get slowly pulled back to their biological Blackwell roots and their Montana cowboy origins. In the first of the Blackwell Sisters series, Lily Harrison is a runaway bride who finds herself, a new vocational passion, and a handsome cowboy fiancée in Falcon Creek, Montana.
In Montana Wishes, the second book in the series, Lilly sends for her identical twin sister Amanda to help her plan a second wedding as well as move all her belongings to Montana. Amanda enlists her best friend Blake to help her make the drive. The timing could not be worse as Blake has just proposed to Nadia whom he has dated for only two months. Amanda is grieving the loss of her best friend, reeling from the impact of a medical decision, and angry about the intrusion into her life of a grandfather and a set of cousins she didn’t know she had. But, being Amanda, she steps up to the plate and tries to make everything right for everyone else.
I like this book and its characters. Just as I thought the romantic situation was going to get stagnant, the author of Montana Wishes, Amy Vastine, would throw in a twist or surprise that moved the plot forward and kept me turning pages. As we watch the interactions of Blake, Amanda, and Nadia, theoretical questions about love and friendship take on a personal meaning.
Can men and women be best friends?
Should you marry your best friend?
Should your spouse be your best friend?
There is also a question of the importance of fertility in a relationship. Although it is handled well, that issue may be an unintentional trigger for some readers. All in all, it is a fun read that segues into the third book in the series, Montana Dreams.
I would like to extend my thanks to Amy Vastine and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Blackwell Sisters series, but could be read as a standalone as the author provides plenty of background information to bring the reader up to speed.
2. Clean and heartwarming romance
Publication: September 8, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
(Song lyrics): In the distance he sees what he never saw. Laughter ringing like wind chimes in a summer storm. Across rocky tipped horizons and cloudless skies. And just like that he knows…the sounds of home.
The worst thing in the world was disappointing Amanda. She was just so good. To the core. She did everything she could to do no harm, put others’ needs above her own and brighten the world around her. People like her were rare. When you were someone she loved, you wanted to be good, too.
“Just because we have a tiny bit of the same blood in our veins does not make us family. Family is the people you’ve created memories with, the people who have cared for you and let you care for them. It’s the people who are there for you when you need them…”
Notting Hill in the Snow–chance encounter
Notting Hill in the Snow
by Jules Wake
Looking for a romance on the clean side? Enjoy Britishisms? Does a story in which the main characters put the well-being of a sweet, people-pleasing seven year old ahead of their own happiness appeal to you? How about a Christmas in Notting Hill with snow and hot chocolate? If you find these enticing, then Jules Wakes’ Notting Hill in the Snow is a perfect read for you.
Viola, who plays the viola for the London Metropolitan Opera Company, is such a likable character, always trying to help others. Unfortunately, she had a mixed childhood with parents who just weren’t very supportive. When she is asked to help with a local school’s nativity play, she meets little Gracie who has a loving, successful, and quite handsome dad. Viola empathizes with Gracie whose mother is removed both physically and emotionally.
Viola has lots of balancing acts to maintain as she tries to keep her family happy, contain her growing desire for Gracie’s dad, put on a stellar Christmas show, and complete her obligations to herself and the opera company as a professional musician.
This is the kind of book that you don’t want to end because you are enjoying it so much. At the same time, you long for that final, feel-good closure—if, in fact, it comes for Gracie, her dad, and Viola.
I find most Christmas romances I read to be good, but not excellent—usually too sweet. Notting Hill in the Snow is a step above, however. I admit I am partial to stories that include children; but, for that reason, as well as the theatre and music backdrop, and interesting characters, this book is a Christmas romance I enjoyed and highly recommend.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: October 11, 2019—One More Chapter (HarperCollins Publishers)
“Good. Morning. Miss Smith,” intoned the class in a deadened robotic rhythm that threatened to suck all of the life out of me. Honestly, it was like facing a crowd of Dementors.
Lifting her chin, she regarded me with, from a seven-year-old, terrifying lofty superiority. “You can never see Frozen too many times.”
Kensington Park Road was almost bereft of traffic, the few cars driving at a snail’s pace in the heavy slush and the gorgeous stylish shops were for once sluggish and quiet, some still closed, as if the snow had spread its calming influence and decreed that today was worth taking things slow and easy.
Elaine held all the cards and I was clueless as to what the game was.
Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery
by Catherine Bruns
A cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters.
Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series
Publication: July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark
Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.
“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”
That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.
Penguin Days–autism spectrum disorder
by Sara Leach
Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Lauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.
Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.
If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: 1. Very good illustrations
2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.
Publication: January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)
“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”
Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.
The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.