‘A Potion to Die For’ by Heather Blake

aptdf hbSTORY: (Magic Potion Mystery #1) 

Trouble is brewing …

As the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magic potion shop specializing in love potions, Carly Bell Hartwell finds her product more in demand than ever. A local soothsayer has predicted that a couple in town will soon divorce—and now it seems every married person in Hitching Post, Alabama, wants a little extra matrimonial magic to make sure they stay hitched.

But when Carly finds a dead man in her shop, clutching one of her potion bottles, she goes from most popular potion person to public enemy number one. In no time the murder investigation becomes a witch hunt—literally! Now Carly is going to need to brew up some serious sleuthing skills to clear her name and find the real killer—before the whole town becomes convinced her potions really are to die for!

REVIEW: Carly Hartwell grew up in the town of Hitching Post, Alabama.  The town got its name for being the wedding capital of the south.  She and her cousin, Delia, inherited a legacy from her great grandparents that allows them to have certain powers.  Carly uses her powers to make potions to help and fix people.  Delia has chosen to make potions to put a hex on people.  Carly runs a shop called Little Shop of Potions and Delia runs a boutique called Till Hex Do Us Part.  Unfortunately, they never were good friends.

Carly’s parents run a wedding chapel in town.  Her three spinster aunts, who happen to be triplets, each own an Inn in town.  These three quirky women are known as the Odd Ducks.  Carly lives in her grandmother’s old house which is in dire need of renovation. Carly was twice engaged to marry Dylan, a cop in town, but each time one or both got cold feet at the altar.

One morning, Carly opens her shop to find a dead man inside with one of her potion bottles in his hand. When Dylan and others come to investigate, people wonder if perhaps Carly could have murdered him. While she was told to close the shop for a few days and not interfere in the investigation, Carly’s sleuthing skills kick in and she and her best friend, Ainsley, begin investigating who could have killed this man and why.

Come for a fun time as Carly takes us through town and introduces us to all the wonderfully developed characters from her friends at the Deja Brew coffee shop to her nutty Aunt Marjie who doesn’t hesitate to shoot at anyone who trespasses on her property.  Let’s not forget Carly’s cats, Roly and Poly who love nothing more than to beg for belly rubs.

This book is fabulous and I got such enjoyment out of reading it and laughing at all the fun characters in town.  It’s a terrific novel with a good mystery and lots of humor, and I am delighted to have found a new author.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘One Potion in the Grave’ by Heather Blake

oping hbSTORY: (Magic Potion Mystery #2)

Carly Bell Hartwell’s love potions are always in demand in Hitching Post, Alabama, the wedding capital of the South.…

When Katie Sue Perrywinkle walks into the Little Shop of Potions, Carly is surprised and delighted to see her old childhood friend. Katie Sue fled her hometown and a troubled family over a decade ago. But she’s not back for a social visit. She’s come to settle a score with Senator Warren Calhoun, who is in town for his son’s high-profile wedding.

But before Katie Sue has a chance to voice any objections, she’s forced to forever hold her peace. After finding her friend dead, Carly vows to find her murderer. Were the corrupt Calhouns willing to go to any lengths to avoid a scandal? Did Katie Sue’s family take the term “bad blood” to a whole new level? And why did the bride-to-be come to Carly for a love potion? As Carly gets closer to the truth, a killer is planning a very chilly reception.…

REVIEW: To introduce readers to The Magic Potion Mystery Series, here is some background:

Carly Hartwell grew up in the town of Hitching Post, Alabama.  The town got its name for being the wedding capital of the south.  She and her cousin, Delia, inherited a legacy from her great grandparents that allows them to have certain powers.  Carly uses her powers to make potions to help and fix people.  Delia has chosen to make potions to put a hex on people.  Carly runs a shop called Little Shop of Potions and Delia runs a boutique called Till Hex Do Us Part.  Unfortunately, they never were good friends.

Carly’s parents run a wedding chapel in town.  Her three spinster aunts, who happen to be triplets, each own an Inn in town.  These three quirky women are known as the Odd Ducks.  Carly lives in her grandmother’s old house in dire need of renovation.  Carly was twice engaged to marry Dylan, a cop in town, but each time one or both got cold feet at the altar.

A high society wedding is planned in Hitching Post at Carly’s Mama’s wedding chapel.  Landry, the son of the wealthy Senator Warren Calhoun, is marrying his girlfriend, Gabi.  Many of the townspeople are very excited at having these important folks in town and are busy trying to get a look at them.

When Carly’s old friend, Katie Sue Perrywinkle shows up at her shop incognito, Carly is very happy to see her and astounded at the changes in her.  It turns out Katie now goes by Kathryn Perry and has achieved her dream of becoming an MD.  She does not want anyone to know she is in town because there is bad blood between her and some members of her family.  In addition, she was in town because of the Calhoun wedding and she had a “score to settle.”  But when Katie’s body is found on the rocks below Lover’s Leap, it is assumed she jumped.  Did she jump or was she pushed?  Who wanted her dead?

Once again, Carly dons her sleuth hat and begins her own investigating.  As she gets to know the Calhoun family, clues begin to surface about why Katie Sue was killed, things heat up and Carly finds herself in danger.

This second novel of the series is really great.  Once again, the characters of the town keep us laughing at their antics while everyone is nosily trying to solve this crime.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Queen of Hearts’ by Rhys Bowen

rb qoh1STORY: Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, knows how to play the part of an almost royal—but now she’s off to Hollywood, where she must reprise her role as sleuth or risk starring in an all-too-convincing death scene

My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.

Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.

Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!

Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…

REVIEW: Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch, is a cousin to His Majesty and thirty-fifth in line to the British throne.  So, you would think she lives an easy life, right?  Not so much.  Actually, she spends most of her time with relatives and now she is staying with some elderly ladies in their large home.  Although she is eating well, she is completely bored.
When her mother arrives unexpectedly, she is whisked away to go with her on a sea voyage to New York and then on to Reno.  Her mother is well known as a movie star from the silent movie past who has retained her figure and her beauty.  Her current husband is a wealthy American man living on a ranch.  This is not the life her mother desires.  So, she is off to Reno to get a quickie divorce from him so she can marry another man with whom she has lived. Her mother is notorious for never sharing money with Georgie which leaves her constantly having to scrimp.
Georgie’s long time boyfriend, Darcy O’Mara, is always on one government mission after another which means their time together is rather limited.  When Georgie meets up with him on the ship, she is delighted but told that he is working incognito now on a secret mission.
We follow Georgie and her sullen and rather uncouth maid, Queenie, along with her mother to New York where they shop for some clothes before leaving on the last leg of their journey. It is a real boon to Georgie when her mother agrees to buy Georgie some well-needed clothes.
After a train ride to Reno, they realize that they have arrived in a dusty, sparse city which is quite unappealing.  By the time her mother has set up residency for her six-week period to get her divorce, they meet Cy Goldman of Goldman Pictures in Hollywood.  Familiar with Georgie’s mother, he insists she go to Hollywood to act in a movie he is making.  It would be the first talkie movie for her.
Hollywood finds Georgie enjoying the nice weather and meeting many well-known movie stars.  When they are all invited to a weekend holiday at Mr. Goldman’s huge mansion high on a cliff, things turn tragic and Mr. Goldman is murdered.  This is where Georgie again dons her sleuth’s hat and works to solve the mystery.
Once again, Rhys Bowen has penned another great Royal Spyness Mystery.  I am a huge fan of them and love the characters.  There are lots of chuckles and the book is sprinkled with well-known people such as Charlie Chaplin and the well-known and disliked Mrs. Simpson.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to even more from Ms. Bowen.
Connie for b2b

‘The Book Stops Here’ by Kate Carlisle

kc tbshSTORY: You never know what treasures can be found in someone’s attic. Unfortunately for bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, some of them are worth killing for.… 

Brooklyn Wainwright is thrilled to be appearing on the San Francisco edition of the hit TV show This Old Attic as a rare-book expert and appraiser. Her first subject is a very valuable first-edition copy of the classic children’s story The Secret Garden, which is owned by a flower vendor named Vera.

Once she hears what her book is worth, Vera is eager to have Brooklyn recondition it for resale. But after the episode airs, a furious man viciously accosts Brooklyn, claiming that Vera found the first edition at his garage sale, and he wants it back—or else. Brooklyn is relieved that she’s put The Secret Garden in a safe place, but Randolph Rayburn, the handsome host of This Old Attic, is terrified by the man’s threats. He confides in Brooklyn that he fears he is being stalked. He doesn’t know who might have targeted him, or why.

In the days that follow, several violent incidents occur on the set, and Brooklyn is almost killed, leaving both her and her security expert boyfriend, Derek, shaken. Is someone after Brooklyn and the book? Or has Randolph’s stalker become more desperate? And then Brooklyn visits Vera’s flower shop…and discovers her dead. Is the murderer one of the two obvious suspects, or is something more sinister—even bizarre—going on? Brooklyn had better find the clever killer soon or more than her chance at prime time may be canceled…permanently

REVIEW: When professional bookbinder, Brooklyn Wainwright, is offered a short-term position as a rare book appraiser on the TV show “This Old Attic,” she couldn’t be happier.

Books are her passion and her knowledge of old books is quite extensive.  The first book she appraised on the show is a first edition copy of “The Secret Garden.”  The owner, Vera, claims to have purchased the book in a garage sale for $3.  Vera, who owns a flower shop, is ecstatic when she hears how valuable the book is and how much more it would be worth if some moderate restoration was done.  Vera asks Brooklyn to do the work for her to which she agrees.
Soon, trouble begins to plague the members of the staff on the set.  One man is poisoned but recovers and Brooklyn is attacked in the parking lot by a big brute threatening to kill her.  But, when she discovers Vera dead in her flower shop, she truly becomes frightened.  Could these events be related to the book now in Brooklyn’s possession?
Brooklyn’s British boyfriend, Derek, owns a security company and with his background in covert operations, he insists on accompanying Brooklyn to the set for her taping.
As more characters are introduced and the big brute continues to follow her, the tension grows making Brooklyn quite worried.  Taking it upon herself to research more about “The Secret Garden” and its author, Brooklyn begins to unravel the mystery surrounding it, hopefully before she’s the next one targeted by the killer.
The story was put together well and as this novel is one of a Bibliophile Mystery Series featuring Brooklyn and Derek, I think reading the earlier novels would be helpful.  The characters are well-created and interesting, however, I don’t think that the story itself is one I would care to continue reading.
Connie for b2b

‘The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress’ by Ariel Lawhon

al twtmatmSTORY: A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

REVIEW: This well-known story is one that is new to me.  I was not familiar with the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in August 1930 but I soon became captivated by the story.  Followers of the TV show, “Boardwalk,” would probably enjoy this novel.

During this time period, there was a lot of corruption surrounding gangsters, law enforcement officials and a group called Tammany Hall.  When Judge Crater went missing, there were three women in his life who had direct association with him and could have been his killer.  

Crater’s wife, Stella, knew he was a ladies man but spends much of her time at her summer home in Maine.  Their maid, Maria, keeps the home in New York clean and was privy to some of the shady dealings in the judge’s life.  In addition, his girlfriend, Ritzi, a showgirl, was the last person to see him alive.

The story switches back and forth among these three women and the events leading up to Crater’s disappearance and afterward.  Combined with documented facts plus the author’s supposition of what might have happened has put together an interesting puzzle that keeps the reader guessing to the end.

If you like a good mystery and are interested in the gangster life in New York in the 1930’s, this would be a good read for you.  I enjoyed it and liked how the author put a personal face to each of the women involved in this riddle.

Here is the Wikipedia background of this famous story:  

Connie for b2b

‘The Earl in My Bed’ by Sophie Jordan

sj teimbSTORY: Intended for one man…

All her life, everyone assumed Paget Ellsworth, the vicar’s daughter, would marry the Earl of Winningham’s youngest son. And when he left for war with his older brother, Jamie, words and promises were not necessary. She would wait.

But destined for another…

Four years pass, and the death of his father forces Jamie home to take up the reins as the new earl, leaving his brother fighting on the front lines a world away. Maddening, infuriating, sexy Jamie makes Paget question her feelings. One glimpse, one word from him awakens desire in her heart. When a simple kiss spirals out of control at the annual Valentine’s Day ball, she realizes the man she never wanted is the man she needs…but will Paget cast aside all she’s ever thought to be true to win the man of her dreams?

REVIEW: This is a short andsweet story, obviously meant for Valentine’s Day reading, but really might be read anytime in between.

If you haven’t read the Forgotten Princesses series, don’t despair. It’s written in a way so it can stand alone.I liked this story for the pure joy of watching these two very different people come to realization that love and passion can be found with most unexpected people.

It’s a poignant story of friendship as well, and some regrets, but mostly, this is a story of love. Ms. Jordan does a great job of telling this tale in full, regardless of the length constraints within the novella.

If you’ve never read this author, this is a perfect read for you to find out if she’s someone you may want to invest your time and money in. I’m a long time fan, and this little gem proves once more that someone like her can still make me sigh and cry no matter how long or short the story is.

I highly recommend it to everyone that loves a well told, sweet, smart and heartwarming story.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Written in My Own Heart’s Blood’ by Diana Gabaldon

dg wimohbSTORY: WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD is the eighth novel in the world-famous OUTLANDER series. In June of 1778, the world turns upside-down. The British army withdraws from Philadelphia, George Washington prepares to move from Valley Forge in pursuit, and Jamie Fraser comes back from the dead to discover that his best friend has married Jamie’s wife. The ninth Earl of Ellesmere discovers to his horror that he is in fact the illegitimate son of the newly-resurrected Jamie Fraser (a rebel _and_ a Scottish criminal!) and Jamie’s nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for Ian’s Quaker betrothed.
Meanwhile, Claire Fraser deals with an asthmatic duke, Benedict Arnold, and the fear that one of her husbands may have murdered the other. And in the 20th century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna is thinking that things are probably easier in the 18th century: her son has been kidnapped, her husband has disappeared into the past, and she’s facing a vicious criminal with nothing but a stapler in her hand. Fortunately, her daughter has a miniature cricket bat and her mother’s pragmatism.

The best of historical fiction with a Moebius twist, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD weaves the fibers of a family’s life through the tapestry of historical drama.

aoutlander01REVIEW: Here’s the thing. If you’ve read the previous seven books in this series, there’s no way in Hell you’ll take a pass on reading this one. But just in case you’ve never read any of Outlander series of books, I’d advise you to not start with this one and that’s not to say that you might not enjoy it. Far from it!

This novel as the earlier ones, is chock full of plots, dialogue, characters and a pace that you’ll enjoy, because it’s fast when it should be and slow when called for. No. The reason you shouldn’t read this one first is simple. You’ll be lost within the events that were already started in the book before this one. That’s why I recommend you invest your money as well as your time and start off the love affair I’ve had with these books with the first book, Outlander.

If you’re a true Bookworm, you know the one that reads for pure unadulterated pleasure of the written word, you’ll like this book. However, if you’re one of those readers that need a ‘quick fix’ of light, sugar and spice read, you’ll never enjoy any of these books. And that’s okay. Live and let live. Different strokes for different folks, I say. I do think though, that you would be missing on one epic story of true love and what a marriage to that love is all about, and let me tell you, that’s the one reason I keep coming back to this series.

This book, as well as all the others, combines multiple genres [romance, historical fiction, science fiction, mystery and supernatural] to perfection. The characters, relationships as well as the plots are many and complex as they are in real life. The resolutions, as in life, are either resolved or postponed. To some, this may not appeal. We live in the age of instant gratification and reality shows, so a book with deep, honest and prolific writing may be a bit too much to take. Descriptions of battles, leg amputation and tongue surgery, may not be your ‘cuppa’, but those parts are easily skipped, yet why do it? It’s another aspect of this book I enjoyed, because I’d never learn of these subjects unless DG wrote about them. To me, they’re as intriguing as any mystery plot. It is a mystery of our bodies and its role. She even makes those interesting to read about.

***SPOILERS of a SORT, but not REALLY*

Here is what I liked about this story: DG is a master at threading the main plot within the stories and I thoroughly enjoyed all the different threads she gave me in this book.

After five long years, Wee Jemmy’s predicament [in the tunnel] was resolved and Roger & Bree [time travel] surprised me; Jamie, Clare & LBJ [marriage] gave me deep understanding of what real friendship is all about; William and Jane [relationship] had me smile, laugh out loud and cry. And in between, I cried, laughed and cursed!
In the end, it was worth the money, my time and I’m hoping to live long enough to read book #9.

Melanie for b2b