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Five Belles Too Many–reality TV for a wedding
Five Belles Too Many
by Debra H. Goldstein
I’ll give kudos to Debra H. Goldstein, the author of Five Belles Too Many, for starting off this cozy mystery with an explosive scene. The cast of the Southern Belle Perfect Wedding Competition is staying at Jane’s Place, an inn and restaurant. As the book opens, Jane is clearly upset over what she feels is a rigged show. Our main character Sarah looks on with mixed feelings because Jane is her long-time nemesis. Sarah is involved in this reality show because her mother Maybelle and Mom’s boyfriend George have been selected as finalists. The competing belles are required to have “chaperones” who stay at the inn at night and participate in some of the events.
At first there are just ruffled feathers as the videotaping starts, but then murders begin and there is talk of gambling. Jane is accused of murder because she has threatened it and the crime occurred at her inn. The plot is complicated with the announcement of the method of murder awaiting toxicology results. Many members of the cast and crew dislike the victim. Meanwhile, as taping continues, the contestants have to put their best side forward even while competing with others to have the wedding and honeymoon of their dreams paid for by the producing network. Vendors are also competing to be chosen to supply the cakes, flowers, etc. for the winning couple.
Reviewing this book fairly was difficult for me because I truly dislike “reality TV,” mainly because there is little real about it. To me, the scenarios appear staged, and the outcomes pre-decided when there are competitions. The contests themselves are often absurd, and this was the case in Five Belles Too Many. I also don’t like gambling and don’t want to understand the intricacies of “pushes” and other gambling terms. So, a reality TV and/or gambling aficionado would probably enjoy this book more than I did.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Sarah Blair Mystery Series, but is OK as a standalone. I have only read one other book in the series and I had no problem jumping in with the plot and characters.
2. Recipes are included, but I saw nothing outstanding or with a strong tie-in to the story.
Publication: June 28, 2022—Kensington
As she slipped into the chair next to her mother, she heard Alan loudly observe, “That, my friends, is reality TV.”
Their unselfish pride at each other’s accomplishments was the big factor that made them such a great couple.
The sun was up, which Sarah took as a good sign because she firmly believed light triumphed darkness.
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much–Chattanooga setting
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much
by V.M. Burns
Chattanooga, Tennessee, is my hometown, and it is also the setting of V. M. Burns’ The Puppy Who Knew Too Much. Although I know Chattanooga has changed since I moved away from the South, this book became a trip down memory lane. There are many factual details that make the book more realistic—the scary winding roads leading up to beautiful and tony Lookout Mountain, interstate highways that ease traffic across the Scenic City, and greasy burgers and delicious shakes in East Ridge. Other aspects are altered but have a basis in truth, particularly the fictional Chattanooga Museum of Art, situated on the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River and backed by the Hopewell family. When I lived in Chattanooga, it was actually the Hunter Art Gallery. From there you can see the Walnut Street Bridge, now a pedestrian bridge, that I crossed every day in our family VW to attend school. Other authentic tips of the hat are extended to Moon Pies, Southern hospitality, and great weather (compared to the Midwest and Northeast). As well as providing me with an outlet for my nostalgia, all of these smile provoking memories are related to reassure the reader of the authenticity of the setting.
As to the other aspects of this cozy mystery, the plot is intricate with several murders and the strong possibility that the crimes are related. Lilly has recently moved to Chattanooga with her toy poodle, Aggie, to push the restart button on her life. Just a few moths prior, she was jailed for the murder of her philandering husband. She is convinced by her friend Dixie to relocate in Chattanooga, and she finds a temporary job as an accountant at the museum. Life becomes “interesting” for her quickly as she informally investigates a murder with the help of her lawyer daughter Stephanie and her friend Dixie. Along the way, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officer Red joins forces with the group and romance is on the horizon.
The best part of this book is the role of various dogs. There is a lot of information about dog training to be picked up by osmosis as Dixie is a dog trainer. The story features a K-9 officer and Aggie, a smart puppy desperately in need of training. There is also a rescued dog with a surprise involvement.
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much barks out: Welcome to the South, one that has moved along with the times, but has retained beautiful views, the friendliness it is famous for, as well as a slower pace of life!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Dog Club Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone.
Publication: February 12, 2019—Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground)
…she had the You poor pitiful thing look in her eyes that she always gave me before she said, “Bless your heart,” which I’d learned was Southern speak for You’re an idiot.
I always thought the Midwest was a relatively friendly area, but two weeks in Chattanooga showed me the South was on a totally different level of friendliness. Complete strangers talked to you.
“It’s a Southern thing. We’re always trying to feed people and get them married off.”
“Honey, you’re in the South. We believe in hugs.”