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The Bluebonnet Battle–feuding families
The Bluebonnet Battle
by Carolyn Brown
I expected a romance with conflict between two feuding families. What I got in The Bluebonnet Battle was a very mean-spirited tale. There were clearly two sides. Matilda is an angry woman who excels in manipulating others to get what she wants. The other side is headed up by Liddy who has certainly been wronged but is vindictive and unforgiving. In fact, one of her friends suggests to Liddy that she pray for Matilda explaining that it might not change Matilda but it might take the anger out of Liddy’s heart. Liddy responds with a venomous, disgusting, unkind prayer that causes her adult niece Ruth Ann who acts like a Greek chorus in this book to giggle. It is hard to like any of these characters.
Fortunately, Nick, Matilda’s son, and Amelia, Ruth Ann’s daughter, slowly overcome family hurdles to form a relationship. By the time you get to this point in the story, you will be so tired of how the feud plays out through vegan versus Southern cooking featuring lemon meringue and lemon chess pies, along with who controls the local funeral dinners, that you will be glad for romance in any form. There is actually some motivation revealed for why Matilda is the way she is, but the explanation is too little and too late. The townspeople are closed to outsiders and small-minded. Nick and Amelia develop into nice people, but my favorite of the bunch is Uncle Harry, Matilda’s much older brother; he is the only character I would like to know. If a romance’s plot is character driven, it shouldn’t be replete with bitter characters.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Montlake for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
Notes: 1. Includes recipes.
2. Contains profanity, even in church where the characters immediately, but rather insincerely, ask God’s forgiveness.
3. Several older and presumably wiser characters suggest to Nick and Amelia that the only way to know a person (with the goal of having a good marriage) is to live together first. That is advice that may be popular in some circles, but is one with which I take issue.
4. Perhaps a minor detail to some, but the flowers on the cover are not bluebonnets.
Publication: March 8, 2022—Mountlake
When I heard Matilda was coming back to town, I figured we’d have to weather some storms. I just didn’t think we would have a class-five tornado two days after she arrived.
Compared to this thing between her aunt and Nick’s mother, the Hatfield and McCoy feud looked like a kindergarten playground fight.
Matilda’s whisper went right along with the look in her eyes—so toxic that a hazmat team wouldn’t have come near her.
Second Chance at Sunflower Ranch–fathering a teenager
Second Chance at Sunflower Ranch
by Carolyn Brown
Jesse Ryan returns to Honey Grove, Texas, after twenty years of touring the world following his dreams as a medic in the Air Force. His father’s MS diagnosis hastens his homecoming as his father Sonny now clearly needs help in running the Sunflower Ranch, especially since his father’s longtime friend and foreman is retiring.
Jesse grew up on the ranch after he and two other foster children were adopted by Sonny and Pearl, so he has no trouble with the cowboy aspects of his new life. What he didn’t expect was to be working closely with Addy, his best friend from childhood who stopped communicating with him shortly after he left for his first tour of duty. Addy and her nineteen year old daughter Mia are living and working at the ranch as Addy, a nurse, manages Sonny’s healthcare. Jesse finally does the math and figures out his relationship with Mia while he and Addy are determining what their own adult relationship will be.
Addy is a strong, smart woman. Mia goes through a rebellious period. Jesse takes on responsibilities wherever he is needed. Sonny and Pearl face the MS diagnosis with the love that has held them together through the years. This is a character driven plot that moves quickly with some surprises along the way. There are some gossipy women, a mean local family, and a jealous, confused doctor who complicate the plot, but the Ryan family is one you would want to know, maybe even be a part of. The author of Second Chance at Sunflower Ranch introduces Cody Ryan, a doctor, and Stevie O’Dell, a veterinarian, at the end of this book; they will be the focus of Texas Homecoming, the next book in the series.
Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Notes: 1. #1 in The Ryan Family Series. I started reading this series with the second book in the series which could be read as a standalone, but reading Second Chance at Sunflower Ranch actually enhanced my enjoyment of Texas Homecoming (read review here) after the fact. My recommendation: read this series in order.
2. Clean romance, but does use “d—n” frequently as a slang expression.
3. At this point in the series, the theme of the series is “second chance” romance, but there are many other common themes as well regarding family relationships, work ethics, values, etc.
“If I’m honest, I’ve always loved him for more than a friend. That’s probably why I can’t seem to last in a relationship with anyone else. I can’t give them my heart when he’s got it in his pocket.”
…her mouth was set in a firm line. Her light brown ponytail swung back and forth like a frayed flag in a hard Texas wind, and her hands were knotted into fists.
“Change is good for folks. It keeps us on our toes so we don’t get to taking life for granted…”
Lineage Most Lethal–secrets from the past
Lineage Most Lethal
by S.C. Perkins
Having read a very positive review of the debut novel in S.C. Perkins’ Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, I decided, when the opportunity arose, to give Lineage Most Lethal, the second book in the series, a try. I am fairly neutral on the interest continuum when it comes to genealogies, but this cozy mystery afforded a different perspective for me on family trees. I also learned a little about the intricacies of researching lineages.
Lucy Lancaster is an outgoing young woman who shares office space with two friends in downtown Austin, Texas. Currently she is spending a week at the high-end Sutton hotel working for Pippa Sutton to investigate her family’s history and compile the information into a video to be presented at a family gathering. As the plot progresses, we learn about Lucy’s own beloved grandfather’s involvement in World War II and a little about her former boyfriend, Ben, an FBI agent who has ghosted her.
Lucy’s research turns dark when a stranger dies before her eyes, Pippa’s mother Roselyn begins acting strangely, and Chef Rocky is found dead. Lucy’s grandfather shares secrets from the past, and suddenly it seems many in the present are in a dangerous state. As Lucy tries to juggle all the balls, she is pushing against a murderer’s timetable as well as her professional and personal commitments.
Although I suspected the identity of the murderer, I did not grasp the intricate connections of the victims, potential victims, a nutcase who appeared sane, and their descendants. The tale includes a few red herrings dealing with cipher codes and given names as well. The solution is definitely complicated. Well played, S. C. Perkins!
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.
Publication: July 21, 2020—St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur
“The point is, do yourself a favor and halve your problem by sharing it with someone.”
I would do my part to protect these people, even if I would never meet them and got branded by the APD as a genealogist who was a taco short of a combination plate.
Ben took my hand and led me out the French doors into the winter wonderland, the white fairy lights making the falling snow glitter like diamonds.
Trip North of the Border
Bienvenido a Casa!
This little lady and about 20 more greeted us on our arrival at our cabin in Northern New Mexico last week.
We have returned a little early due to some events north and south of the border. It is not the pretty scene of midwinter with everything covered in a white snowy dress. The display is piles of dirty snow, some ponds where there were none, and muddy areas with deer prints. Although it is not pretty, it is a welcome relief from the drought of recent years. As soon as the temps rise, we should see a lot of green as the trees and grass spring to life.
But backtracking a little, we had four long days of travel with 2 dogs in tow to get from the middle of Mexico to Northern New Mexico. We spent 3 hours inching along in our manual transmission pickup at the border crossing into the U.S. Here are a few pictures of the Plaza de las Culturas (Plaza of Cultures) as you exit Mexico at Tres Piedras to cross over into Eagle Pass. We have crossed there before, but I hadn’t really noticed the replicas of ancient temples, because in the past we had zipped right past them.
One highlight of the trip for me was the small Texas town of Eldorado. On our trips from New Mexico to east Texas, we have fun finding the doughnut shops as we pass through little towns. We don’t eat at all of them, but Eden, for example, has delicious fresh doughnuts. On this trip, the doughnut shop in Eldorado appeared to be closed. As my husband turned around to tell me the bad news, a sheriff’s vehicle pulled in. We had a friendly conversation, and he shared that the doughnut shop was now part of the liquor store in town. He not only gave us directions, but when I pulled out to go there, I found he was at the stop light waiting for us and gave us an escort! As in many small towns, for purposes of survival, the shop (called A’s) was not only a doughnut and liquor store but also a short order grill and convenience store with some of the nicest owners you would want to meet. Texas friendliness at its best!
As we were leaving town, we pulled over for GPS adjustments and I hopped out and snapped some gorgeous
As my lack of inactivity on my own blog and those I follow demonstrates, the last few weeks have been hectic–preparing for the trip, making the journey, and transitioning into life in the U.S. again. I am so far behind, that I will probably alleviate the stress of unread blogs by deleting most of my email notices. My apologies. The good news is that, perhaps, due to a new tower and Internet provider in my rural area, I may actually have a good connection this summer. I am currently using a loaner device and it is fabulous. Under past “normal” conditions, I would be unable to make this blog post. If my actual connection is only half of what I am currently getting, I will still be happy. I find I have less time in the U.S. for reading and reviewing as I have a different lifestyle here, but the future looks bright!
I Scream, You Scream–deadly ice cream
I Scream, You Scream
by Wendy Lyn Watson
Wendy Lyn Watson, author of I Scream, You Scream throws the reader right into main character Tally’s life and problems as Tally tries to rebuild her life after her divorce from two(or more)-timing Wayne. She’s started a struggling new business, Remember the A-la-mode, an ice cream shop named for its Texas (Alamo) roots. Her part of the divorce settlement is a historic house (cha-ching!), and she needs her ex and his teenintsy girlfriend to hire her to cater desserts for his company’s annual picnic.
There is a murder following the picnic and suspicion lands on Wayne and then on Tally. Tally’s informal investigation takes her into the seamier side of her hometown of Dalliance where it seems everyone has a secret. Tally’s high school sweetheart returns to town making life even more complicated.
I knew I would like this book from page one. The characters with their Texas talk and customs are interesting and well integrated into the plot where the mystery holds center stage. The story clips along at a good pace and culminates in a surprise ending. I’m looking forward to more of this series, perhaps served up with a bowl of my favorite ice cream.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery
Notes: #1 in the Mystery A-la-mode Series
Publication: May 1, 2018—Henery Press
In a heartbeat, the curvy coed went from looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth to looking meaner than a skillet full of rattlesnakes. I dang near got whiplash watching the transformation.
Sure enough, he could turn on the aw-shucks, chicken-fried charm when it suited him. But behind his sleepy blue eyes lurked a whip-smart mind and a shrewd ambition.
She laughed again, a sound as rich as warm dulce de leche.
Road Trip to the South!
This summer I took a road trip from New Mexico to the South to visit friends and family. My route took me through the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Missouri (going East), Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas (going West). I was driving my appropriately designated “Desert Sky Blue” Ford Thunderbird, but going through my head was “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.” I hope the people who came up with that ad campaign, tune, and lyrics were well compensated–now that was branding!
Most of my time was well spent reminiscing and catching up. I was treated to some sightseeing along the way.
Paducah, Kentucky, is restoring its downtown area. So much interesting history there! We had a delicious lunch at a bakery that survived a major flood and currently includes a café, walked the brick paved streets admiring period storefronts, viewed fantastic murals along the riverbank, and lingered in a local museum with fascinating memorabilia.
In Asheville, North Carolina, I enjoyed the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, I went to the National Cemetery. It may seem like a strange place to visit, but I have memories of going there as a little girl with my father like you would go to a park. I had a fuzzy recollection of a “train statue” and was eager to make a better connection. There is a memorial there to Andrews’ Raiders and the Great Locomotive Chase, a military raid in 1862 during the American Civil War. The locomotive pictured below is a model of The General. The memorial is surrounded by tombstones of some of those involved and indicates which ones were executed, escaped, or exchanged.
A bit of history has been brought to life in the James County Courthouse which has been remodeled with a wedding chapel upstairs and a tearoom, which I highly recommend, beneath–wonderfully decorated, delicious food, and a friendly staff.
Always good to travel and always good to return to a place you call home. The New Mexico desert is a welcome sight as I head towards my mountain retreat.
The Mysterious Reappearance of the Blogger
As you know if you have read many of my reviews, I LOVE a good mystery. I did not, however, set out in May to create one of my own by my sudden disappearance from digital media–email, blogging, even What’s App. I didn’t even plan on taking a “social media break” as some do from time to time for various reasons. For weeks now, I have been literally and digitally out of touch because of lack of connectivity through traveling, failing digital infrastructure in northern New Mexico, and exhaustion!
I’ll post a few pictures to show what I have been up to. I will not post any to depict the hours spent trying to deal with various issues with MVD, Verizon, and other business concerns in the U.S. When you have been out of country for a while these issues pile up, are interrelated and clamor to be handled all at once.
First a trip to the U.S./Mexico border with our two dogs. A few hours after we hit the road, we were sideswiped by a semi. Really nice man, same insurance company as ours, but we lost almost two hours of precious daylight. If there is one rule of thumb about driving in Mexico, it is DON’T DRIVE AT NIGHT. We had to drive from the middle of Mexico to the northern part of New Mexico with no sideview mirror because our insurance stipulates that it must be repaired in Mexico.The border! Now to find our hotel and get the dogs arranged for the night.
Next day–Eagle Pass to Roswell with no alien encounters
Then on to Albuquerque where we got to see these lovely ladies compete in volleyball (silver medal winners), visited with family, and picked up a new bike for my husband. Four more (cold for my husband on the bike) hours later we finally make it HOME!
Follow this up with trips back to Albuquerque for servicing and paperwork on the bike and up to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for Plan B on establishing a better Internet connection.
On May the 16th we should be on the road for a motorcycle trip, but Chama is unseasonably cold, and motorcycling in cold weather is just not fun. By cold, I mean FREEZING:
On May 20th, with temperatures above 50º we left on a three day ride to Tyler, TX. These were long days in the saddle. At the end of the day I just wanted dinner and a bed!
After a great visit with John’s family and a tour of the famous Tyler Rose Gardens and Museum,
we headed to Arkansas to ride the Ozarks for 3 days
followed by 3 more days of riding to get back to northern New Mexico. We unfortunately caught a respiratory infection requiring some recuperation time after we got home.
Mystery solved–from disappearance to reappearance. Adventure is fun, but it’s always good to be home again–even if where you hang your hat is in several countries.
Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder–a cozy teachers will love
Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder
by Sara Rosett
Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder is a thematic shoe-in for me, and it surpassed my expectations. The setting is Georgia, but the author grew up in and currently lives in Texas. The action occurs at an elementary school which is the unlikely scene of a murder. Except for the murder and mayhem, this could have been the elementary school I taught at for a few years in Leander, Texas. The details are perfect for a middle class school where parent participation is high, students wear an assigned color T-shirt for field day, and the Teacher Appreciation Week is five days of food, small gifts, and recognition for hard-working, appreciated teachers.
The main character is Ellie Avery, an Air Force wife, mother of two children, part-time organizing consultant, and very active volunteer at her children’s neighborhood school. The amiable Ellie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She tries not to actively involve herself, but others look to her for help because of previous associations with a murder. Later, someone takes the threat to her doorstep, potentially endangering Ellie and her children.
This mystery is a fun, “don’t put me down” kind of read. The plot has twists and turns that keep the reader engaged and wanting more. The characters are interesting and there is a subplot concerning a competing organizer in town which enhances the appeal. If you like cozy mysteries, you will love Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #10 in the Ellie Avery Mystery Series, also called the Mom Zone Series. I enjoyed it as a standalone.
2. The book also includes “Organizing Tips for PTA Moms” placed at the end of some chapters so as not to be intrusive into the storyline. They are practical and are approved by this former teacher who also volunteered with my school’s Parent/Teacher Organization.
Publication: March 28, 2017–Kensington Books
“Yes, that is my favorite way to relax, supervising twenty-two eight-year-olds hyped up on sugar at eight in the morning.”
I wished the rest of the school year could be more like the end of the year. The end of the year–when the standardized tests were over–was when the kids got to do all the fun stuff, instead of studying for the standardized tests. Why couldn’t the kids do more hands-on activities like this throughout the year?
We rush through our days so quickly and have so many little rituals that we do, day in and day out, but then a moment like that last day of school comes along. It’s a milestone that makes a definite break in the continuum and emphasizes that one phase is ending and another beginning.