‘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

‘The Most to Lose’ by Laura Landon

tmtl llSTORY: “Some day, when you have the most to lose…I’ll take it all.”

Jonah Armstrong, Earl of Haywood, and the Duke of Hadleigh were best friends until a scandal involving Hadleigh’s fiancée destroyed their friendship. Three years later, Jonah returns from the Crimea as a war hero and London’s most eligible bachelor, setting the gossip afire and fanning Hadleigh’s long-simmering rage into an inferno. Hadleigh has not forgotten his old friend’s betrayal, and now that Jonah has returned, he will take his revenge.

Lady Cecelia Randolph has loved Jonah Armstrong for as long as she can remember. The moment they share a passionate kiss, she dares to hope that he feels the same for her and that his attention is driven by more than his desire to taunt her brother or his desperation for her dowry. It isn’t until Hadleigh’s quest for vengeance nearly destroys her that she realizes that Jonah loves her enough to risk everything to protect her.

REVIEW: April 1855 – London England

Jonah Armstrong, the new Earl of Haywood, is making an appearance at a ball for the first time in three years.  He has just returned to town after spending time fighting in the Crimea.  Having suffered a saber wound in his side, he still has considerable pain but works to not show it.

Three years ago, Jonah chose to flee town after being accused of being responsible for the death of Melisande Kendall, the fiancé of his former friend, the Duke of Hadleigh.  She had run from him, stepped out in front of a carriage and was killed.  While truly innocent, Jonah faced such censure from his acquaintances, that leaving was his only option.

The Duke of Hadleigh still mourns Melisande’s death and hates Jonah.  When Jonah’s father and brother both passed away, Jonah had so choice but to return to town and take over the family’s home, including the debts that his father and brother had amassed.

Lady Cecelia (Celie) Randolph, the only sister of the Duke of Hadleigh, and her dear friend, Lady Amanda Rayburn are still unmarried and nearly spinsters.  They are both content with their statuses as no man has as yet truly captured their hearts.  That is true for Amanda but Celie lost her heart years ago to Jonah.  She, Jonah and Hadleigh had been childhood friends.  Amanda is a very strong young woman who does not hesitate to speak to mind.  She and Hadleigh have always disliked one another because he feels her outspokenness is appalling and they clash in their discussions.

When Jonah asks Celie to dance at the ball, she is thrilled to see him again.  However, Hadleigh seethes with hatred and does not want Celie to have anything to do with him. Instead, Celie stands up to her brother and insists that he will not tell her whom she can or cannot see.  She has tried for a long time to get him to put his hatred and mourning behind him without success.

When Celie does marry, she will have a very dowry that she will take with her.  As she and Jonah renew their acquaintance, their love for one another grows.  Since Celie knows Jonah has debts, she is content that her dowry be used to make repairs to his family home, Haywood Abbey, so when they actually marry, she will have a lovely home to move into.

When Celie, Amanda, and Hadleigh venture to their home neighboring Haywood Abbey, someone tries to shoot Celie.  Who could it be and why?  Will the truth come out about Jonah’s innocence in Milasande’s death?  Will Celie and Jonah be able to find happiness together?  What about Hadleigh? Will he be able to put aside his grief and hatred of Jonah?  How does Amanda figure in this story?  So many questions with answers that fall together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle.

I really liked this novel.  The plot has not only love and romance, but passionate hatred.  I look forward to reading more from this author.

Connie for b2b

‘The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding’ by Victoria Alexander

tssoagatw vaSTORY: The bride and groom cordially request your presence for a wedding at Millworth Manor. . .

Guests will include Jackson Quincy Graham Channing, New York City banker, and Lady Theodosia “Teddy” Winslow, wedding planner to the finest families in England.

Introductions shall be followed by light conversation, dancing, flirtation, arguing, reconciliation, and an impulsive kiss that both parties are quite certain they will never repeat.

Until they do.

A mutually beneficial fake engagement will be accompanied by all manner of very real complications, scandalous revelations, nefarious schemes, and one inescapable conclusion:

That true love–unlike the perfect wedding–is impossible to plan. . .

REVIEW: At age 30, American Jackson (Jack) Quincy Graham Channing is the Vice President of Graham, Merryweather and Lockwood Banking and Trust in New York.  An intelligent man, he is the great grandson of the founder of the company.  He was raised by his mother, Elizabeth.  It is known that his father, Colonel Basil Channing, part of the well-known and wealthy Channing family in England died before he was born.  It has always been assumed that Jack would one day marry his lifelong friend, Lucinda (Lucy) Merryweather, and daughter of one of the founders.  In actuality, Basil and Elizabeth had met and eloped on a whim.  When Elizabeth’s father found out, he persuaded her to return home and get an annulment.  This was the plan when Elizabeth and Basil parted.  However, before the annulment could happen, Elizabeth found herself pregnant.  She never told Basil that he was a father and chose to raise Jack on her own.

When Basil finds he does have a son, he visits Jack and persuades him to go to England with him.  As it turns out, Jack is the next in line to become the Earl of Briston of Millworth Manor.  While Jack thinks he will be gone for a short time, once he starts getting to know his father’s family, he begins to feel very much at home.
A very good friend of the family is a 26-year-old red-haired beauty named Lady Theodosia (Teddy) Winslow.  Unfortunately, on the death of her father, she and her mother, the Countess of Sallwick found themselves burdened by debts left by her father.  A man with no head for figures, he had been duped by some unscrupulous investors.  One of these is the former fiancé of Teddy.  It is said that he went down with a ship he was sailing on.
Teddy is an very intelligent society woman and, together with her mother, has been making money by becoming society event planners.  Most people feel it is just something they do to fill their time, however, they charge enormous amounts of money as the crème de la crème of society knows that their event will be perfect.  Teddy has used this money to pay off her father’s debts.  Teddy loves what she does and hopes one day to become the premier event planner in all of England.
When Teddy and Jack meet at Millworth Manor, they are attracted to one another but their stubbornness always seems to interfere into allowing the attraction to truly blossom.  However, when they agree to a fake engagement, things really begin to heat up and more fiancée come out of the woodwork.
This is a very good book and I loved the story line.  Some of the humorous remarks made by the different characters will have the reader laughing out loud.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘He’s No Prince Charming’ by Elle Daniels

hnpc edSTORY: A wounded beast . . .

It took Marcus Bradley forever to find a suitable bride. And then he lost her—all because some meddling matchmaker with a crazy notion about “true love” helped her elope with another man. Now, to save his sister from a terrible marriage alliance, he needs a replacement—an heiress, to be exact . . . and he knows just the woman to help him find one.

A spirited beauty . . .

Danielle Strafford believes everyone deserves a fairytale ending—even the monstrously scarred and notoriously brooding Marquis of Fleetwood. Not that he’s left her a choice. If she doesn’t help him secure a wife—by any means necessary—he’ll reveal her scandalous secrets.

A passion that will consume them both

The more time Marcus spends with Danielle, the less interested he is in any other woman. But the Beast must do the impossible: keep from losing his heart to a Beauty he is destined to lose.

REVIEW: At age 31, Marcus Bradley, Marquis of Fleetwood and also known as “The Beast” is a deeply depressed man who drowns himself in drink.  His father had been a very evil man who abused and beat him all of his life leaving him scarred both physically and mentally.  Many of his beatings were endured to protect his younger sister from sharing the same fate.  Their mother ran away and left the children with their father in an effort to protect her own self.  Now that his father is dead, his next concern is to try and protect his sister, Caroline, from having to marry The Duke of Harwood.  Their evil father had contracted a marriage between Caroline and Harwood many years before. Sadly, the Duke of Harwood is a man like their father – evil and in possession of a foul temper.

Miss Danni Green, age 24, is from a wealthy family but as she is also very intelligent, she is too restless to occupy herself in the usual manner.  Instead, she runs Gretna Green Bookings, an illicit elopement agency.  It is privately housed in the back of the Gretna Green Bookstore.  As she enjoys seeing people marry for love, she assists couples by helping them to run off to Gretna Green to get married.

One night, Marcus happens upon Danni assisting a couple ready to elope only to find that the bride-to-be is the woman to whom he has been affianced for a marriage of convenience.  Angry at the whole scenario, Marcus blackmailed Danni into helping him kidnap a very wealthy young woman with a large dowry and take her to Gretna Green to marry him.

Their journey soon becomes a comedy of errors.  The following days are filled with events that will have the reader laughing, chewing their nails and generally falling in love with both Marcus and Danni.

This is a very sweet novel.  The author’s ability to dig down in the damaged soul of Marcus and allow Danni to enter his heart was very well written.  The story is loosely based on the tale, Beauty and the Beast.

This is a début novel for the author and I look forward to reading more from her.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy from the publisher

‘Madeleine’s Christmas Wish’ by Ella Quinn

mcw eqSTORY: The bachelors in Ella Quinns Marriage Game series make a habit of resisting the irresistible.

But during the season for giving, surrendering to temptation may be the greatest gift of all.

A French spy, Georges, Marquis Cruzy-le-Chatel, has lived in England for years, sacrificing his life for his country but not his heart. For he’s never been able to forget his childhood friend, Madeleine.

And now, in her hour of need, he is there to rescue her.

The victim of a ruthless statesman, Madeleine, Comtesse du Beaune, has been abducted and sent to England to work in a brothel. Her greatest wish is to return home for Christmas, and her only hope of it is to marry Georges though she will be his wife in name alone. Yet as they steal across the snowy countryside, Georges decides to woo her with kisses that melt the winters frost and leave her longing for a holiday miracle.

REVIEW: November 1814, Beaune France

Madeleine, Comtesse de Beaune, is an intelligent woman who has been responsible for keeping her family together since her father died.  Her twin brother, Armand, is feared to have been killed in the war.  During that time period, a family title could be inherited by a daughter if there were no more living males.  However, the government won’t completely let her take over the responsibilities so they have assigned a Monsieur Coupe to oversee her work.  Madeleine is well-educated and very well versed in the family winery and this man is not.  Coupe is an odious little man who wants to offer for her hand to her total disgust.  At this time, King Louis is in power and the family fears that he may seize their holdings.  In addition, the men of Fouche have been seizing young women to work in brothels in Paris.  So, when they arrive at her house to take her little sister, Genevieve, age 13, Madeleine steps in and offers herself instead to save her sister.  Her hope is that once in Paris she may be able to find friends of her father’s to help them.

Dover England

Georges, Marquis Cruzy-le Chatel was betrothed to Madeleine 10 years ago when they were children by their families but he has not seen her since that time.  So, when Georges learns of Madeleine’s capture, he is determined to find her and rescue her.  In addition, he has learned that property that was once taken from him now has been returned.

It is on a lucky hunch that Georges finds Madeleine and takes her to his mother’s home to protect her. His plan is to marry her and thus save her from the brothels and finally return to France.  Will they be able to deal with all of the political factions in France and return to a life they once knew?

I wanted to like this book and had to take some notes so I could try to keep up with the plot.  However, the story left me cold as it seemed to not have any real substance to it.  Therefore, I am sorry to say that it is not a book I really cared for.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary Copy provided by the publisher

‘Murder at Marble House’ by Alyssa Maxwell

mamh amSTORY: With the dawn of the twentieth century on the horizon, the fortunes of the venerable Vanderbilt family still shine brightly in the glittering high society of Newport, Rhode Island. But when a potential scandal strikes, the Vanderbilts turn to cousin and society page reporter Emma Cross to solve a murder and a disappearance. . .Responding to a frantic call on her newfangled telephone from her eighteen-year-old cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Emma Cross arrives at the Marble House mansion and learns the cause of her distress–Consuelo’s mother, Alva, is forcing her into marriage with the Duke of Marlborough. Her mother has even called in a fortune teller to assure Consuelo of a happy future.

But the future is short-lived for the fortune teller, who is found dead by her crystal ball, strangled with a silk scarf. Standing above her is one of the Vanderbilts’ maids, who is promptly taken into police custody. After the frenzy has died down, Consuelo is nowhere to be found. At Alva’s request, Emma must employ her sleuthing skills to determine if the vanishing Vanderbilt has eloped with the beau of her choice–or if her disappearance may be directly connected to the murder. . .

REVIEW: A Gilded Newport Mystery

August 1895

Consuelo Vanderbilt lives with her mother, Alva Vanderbilt, at the Marble House mansion in Newport Rhode Island.  At the young age of 18, Consuelo has been informed by her mother that she is to marry the Duke of Marlborough who is now en route from England to meet her.  The marriage will provide a much-needed infusion of money for the Duke and Consuelo will in turn, become a Duchess.  But, Consuelo does not want to marry the Duke.  She calls upon her cousin, Emma Cross, who is the “poor relation” of the Vanderbilt family.  

Emma works as a society-page reporter for the local newspaper and lives in her small home with her Nanny.  Emma tries to calm her even as her mother, Alva’s plans continue for the wedding.  In trying to prove to Consuelo that the marriage will be a good one and she will be happy, Alva arranges for a fortune teller to come and tell her future and reassure her.  But when the fortune teller is found dead and one of the maids is taken into custody charged with her murder, the house is in an uproar.  At the same time, Consuelo vanishes leaving the family unsure if she has been kidnapped or has run away in trying to get out of her marriage to the Duke.  Once again, Emma dons her well-known sleuth’s cap and goes on a mission to find Consuelo and to discover who the real murderer is.

In her search, she uncovers a smuggling operation and other shocking events which put her own life at risk.  When another death occurs, she realizes that she needs to call upon some old friends for help.

If you have read the author’s first novel, “Murder at the Breakers,” you are familiar with the determination of Emma and her keen detective mind.  My review of this first book is here.

I found this novel to be well written but I admit that it did not hold my interest as much as her first novel did.  But, the descriptions of this eye-popping time called “The Gilded Age” prove how it got that name. The author has a third novel in the series “Murder at Beechwood” which is being published in June 2015 from Kensington Publishing.

Connie for b2b