‘Murder Has Nine Lives’ by Laura Levine

mhnl llSTORY: The future is looking bright for freelance writer Jaine Austen. She’s signed up for a new job, she’s looking forward to a tropical vacation, and her cat Prozac is slated to star in a major commercial. But when the claws come out behind the scenes, Jaine worries that murder might be the only thing to meow about. . .

A writer’s life is far from glamorous. Still, Jaine’s new gig to write an ad campaign for Toiletmasters’ new line of self-flushing toilets comes with a few perks–including a date with the president’s dreamy nephew. And with a much-needed trip to Maui on the horizon, it seems life couldn’t get any better–until her cat Prozac is tapped to star in a Skinny Kitty commercial. But Jaine never would have guessed the world of cat food could be quite so catty. . .

Jaine is nervous that Prozac won’t be able to take direction, but the finicky furball ditches her diva behavior for the camera, eating and napping on cue like a seasoned pro. But just as Jaine begins dreaming of fame and fortune, Skinny Kitty’s inventor drops dead on the set. Everyone is a suspect–including Jaine. And she’ll have to get her paws on the truth before the killer takes a swipe at another victim. . .

REVIEW: Jaine Austen’s cat, Prozac, is a holy terror to examine or treat at the vet. Dr. Madeline is Prozac’s vet and today is a checkup and teeth cleaning for Prozac. While waiting, a young woman comes in and zeros in on Prozac saying she is a perfect for their commercial for Skinny Kitty Cat food.

At the audition for the commercial, Prozac performs well and is offered the part for the commercial which pays $5,000. During the filming of the commercial, Prozac decides to not eat the cat food which causes a ruckus. That’s when everyone decides to take a break and try again later. The maker of the food has no sense of smell so he always eats the cat food. When another attempt is made to get Prozac to eat the food, the maker tastes it first and dies from poisoning. Since Jaine was the only person there when people took a break, she is now a suspect in the murder.

Jaine has had experience of sorts as a so-called investigator so she calls upon her talents to help find the murderer. With all of the people involved in the planning and backing of this commercial, she has a number of people to investigate.

In the meantime, we meet her friends, neighbors, parents, and a crazy guy who wants to date her.

Prepare to sit back and have some really good laughs. This story is so funny. It is the first Jaine Austen murder mystery I have read and it certainly won’t be the last.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton

tw fbSTORY: When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

REVIEW: Glen and Jean Taylor have been married for a number of years and are childless. After trying for some time, Jean decided to be tested and Glen finally agreed as well. It turns out that Glen has a near-zero sperm count. Jean would love to adopt a child, but Glen is totally against it.

Glen works at a bank and always complains that his boss has it out for him. Jean works as a hairdresser. Glen has always been protective of Jean and insists that everything be neat and tidy. When Glen is fired from his job, he blames his boss but it appears that his anger has been increasing for some time now. Jean does all she can to keep him happy. He soon gets another job driving a delivery truck. However, Jean finds that Glen has been spending a lot of time on the computer downloading terrible porn.

When little 2-year-old, Bella goes missing from her front garden, the police and the press are all over it. People are interviewed, CCTV is checked and DI Bob Sparkes cannot let this go. Kate Waters is a reporter for the Daily Post and is good at getting people to open up.

When the finger of suspicion points to Glen, their lives become hell being hounded by the police and the press.

This story follows the investigation of Bella’s disappearance and the relentless work spanning several years that the police put into trying to find the little girl. We learn about the lives of Glen and Jean, DI Sparkes and reporter Kate Worth.

This is a fascinating story that kept me turning pages and not wanting to put the book down. The author has perfectly portrayed the life of someone who is addicted to porn. But, we don’t really know until the very end of the book if, indeed, Glen is guilty of kidnapping Bells. I have no intention of telling you either. You must read the book!

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‘The Bourbon Thief’ by Tiffany Reisz

tbt trSTORY: When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of the Maddox family who owned and operated Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris.

In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. But the family tree is rooted in tainted soil and has borne rotten fruit. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. The Maddoxes have bourbon in their blood—and blood in their bourbon. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.

REVIEW: Cooper McQueen is a very wealthy man who loves a good bourbon. While sitting in his bar, he sees a lovely dark-skinned woman walk in. When she asks for a shot of Red Thread bourbon, she is told that it has not been made in many years. Cooper introduces himself to the woman, who calls herself Paris, and after some conversation, she agrees to meet him at his vast estate, Lockwood. She tells him she is a rich widow from Kentucky. When he teasingly asks her if she is after his money, she responds that he is after his bourbon – most specifically his prized possession of a one-million-dollar bottle of Red Thread Bourbon. It is the first bottle ever made. She claims to be part of the Maddox family who were the makers of Red Thread bourbon. She has inherited the business and begins to tells Cooper the story about the beginning of the Maddox family as follows:

Tamara Maddox, has just turned 16. Tamara and her mother, Virginia, have lived with her grandfather ever since her father passed away. Her mother and grandfather are always arguing. Tamara is spoiled and bothers Levi Shelby all the time demanding to ride her horse. Levi is much older than Tamara and works in the stables of her vast estate. When Tamara asks Levi for a birthday kiss, her mother catches them and is furious. She is given a choice of sending Levi away or she will shoot her beloved horse. Her mother explains to her that when her grandfather passes away, she will be the only Maddox left and it will be up to her to keep Red Thread going. But her grandfather has a even better plan to ensure the Maddox blood survives. When the truth comes out about the different family members, the shock is enormous.

After a night of violence at her home, Tamara runs away with Levi and thus begins her life of healing from the many disturbed members of the Maddox family.

This book is one that is quite mesmerizing. Starting from slave days to the present, we see the extent that men and women will go to to get what they want in life. The story is brutal at times, but expresses love as well. This historical novel is very good. I had some qualms about the character of Paris because I felt her actions conjured up racism where I don’t think it belonged in the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘Lawyer for the Cat: A Sally Baynard Novel’ by Lee Robinson

lftc lrSTORY: Sally Baynard is one of the best lawyers around. In the years since her divorce from Family Court Judge Joe Baynard, she dedicated herself to representing the worst and craziest Charleston, S.C. had to offer. But none of the murderers, burglars, or angry divorcing clients compared to Sherman, the dog her ex-husband appointed her to represent. Although the miniature Schnauzer found his way into her heart (and brought his handsome vet Tony along too), his case was a thorny one. With that business out of the way, Sally is happy to move back to non-canine clients… until a probate judge asks her about a cat.

Agreeing to represent Beatrice, a black cat who’s the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar trust and a plantation, Sally must put her wit, charm, and brains to the test, choosing among three colorful potential caregivers while dodging the former owner’s angry son. Meanwhile, Sally must juggle the demands of the court with those of her aging mother and make a decision about Tony, who wants to get more serious. Lawyer for the Cat is Southern women’s fiction at its most delightful, featuring strong, smart characters, a charming setting, and plenty of adorable critters.

REVIEW: Sarah (Sally) Bright Baynard, Attorney at Law, has just turned 50 and is single. An admitted workaholic, she is sharing a glass of wine with her friend, Ellen, and lamenting her age while waiting for her other friends to arrive to celebrate her birthday. Ellen is also an attorney.

Sally’s ex-husband is a judge. Sally is now dating a veterinarian who wants to marry. She lives in Charleston with her mother who has Alzheimer’s. Sally usually handles divorce cases so family law and some criminal law are areas with which she is familiar. Probate Court is not her speciality but she is meeting with a judge over a cat case. When she died, Lila MacKay left a trust for the care of her cat, Beatrice, but failed to appoint an enforcer for the trust. Thus, the judge is appointing Sally to interview the people Lila suggested and choose one to be the enforcer. Lila left a vast amount of money and real estate in her trust assets. The trust states that the person appointed as enforcer shall live with Beatrice in her large home until such time as Beatrice passes away. While Sally really doesn’t want to take the case, she doesn’t want to say no to the judge appointing her and, therefore, ends up with the case and the cat.

Sally’s assistant, Gina, helps her a lot with her cases and digs into the box of information on Beatrice. Soon, Sally begins interviewing the list of approved people to care for Beatrice as specified by Lila.

Each person has some type of baggage that makes them not the most suitable enforcer. In addition, Sally has to fight off the aggressive bully son of Lila. He and his mother never got along and he resents the cat getting her money.

The story winds through the different friends and family members of Sally in addition to many of her clients. She is a very busy woman juggling her practice and her private life.

Anyone who has ever worked with an attorney as I have, can appreciate the never-ending job and some really crazy clients.

I enjoyed this book but only gave it 4 stars because I found it difficult to find any real emotion from Sally. I found her to be an “attorney” 24/7.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘Most Wanted’ by Lisa Scottoline

mw lsSTORY: When a woman and her husband, desperate for a baby, find themselves unable to conceive, they decide to take further steps. Since it is the husband who is infertile, the heroine decides to use a donor. And all seems to be well.

Three months pass and she is happily pregnant. But a shocking revelation occurs when she discovers that a man arrested for a series of brutal murders is her donor – the biological father of the child she is carrying.

Delving deeper to uncover the truth, the heroine must face her worst fears, and confront a terrifying truth.

REVIEW: Christine Nilsson has been a teacher at Nutmeg Hill Elementary School for 8 years and is preparing to leave her job. Now that she is finally pregnant, she wants to be a full-time Mom. She and her husband, Marcus, have tried for 3 years for this to happen. An architectural engineer, he owns his own firm. Finding out that he is infertile and after counseling and lots of thought, they decide to go with a sperm donor with physical traits matching their own. The insemination works and Christine immediately gets pregnant. When selecting a donor, they see his current picture and read some answers to questions that were posed to him. He is known only to them as Donor 3319. But when on a newsflash, she recognizes a newly captured serial killer of nurses as her future baby’s father, she is shocked.

It turns out that sperm donors are not given psychological testing like egg donors are so Christine and Marcus fear that their baby could carry the donor father’s genes with a tendency toward mental health issues. While Marcus sympathizes with Christine, she does not feel he totally understands her worry and so she sets out on a venture to meet the accused killer and see if he actually is Donor 3319.

We follow her and she and her friend, Lauren, travel to the prison where he is being held and by saying they are free-lance writers, get to visit with him. She is convinced he is innocent and then undertakes to prove his innocence.

The story becomes quite involved with all of the people with direct knowledge of the nurse killed. The author has obviously researched this situation in great depth the information she passes along in the novel is fascinating.

I enjoyed the story and especially liked Lauren. She is what one truly calls a best friend. My second favorite character is Griff. What a lovable teddy bear.

I not only enjoyed a great novel that kept me on the edge of my seat right through to the end, but I also learned a lot as well.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘The Spirit of Grace’ by Terry Lynn Thomas

tsog tltSTORY: Sarah Bennett doesn’t remember the night her mother tumbled down the stairs at Bennett House, despite allegedly witnessing the fatal fall. There was talk of foul play, dark whispers, and sidelong glances, all aimed at Sarah, prompting her family to send her to The Laurels, an exclusive asylum in San Francisco, under a cloud of suspicion.

Now, on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s murder, Sarah has been summoned home. Convinced of her innocence, she returns to Bennett House, hoping to put the broken pieces of her life back together.

But when another murder occurs shortly after her arrival, Sarah once again finds herself a suspect, as she is drawn into a web of suspicion and lies. In order to clear her name, Sarah must remember what happened the fateful night her mother died. But as she works to regain her memory, the real murderer watches, ready to kill again to protect a dark family secret.

REVIEW: San Francisco – Bennett House – 1942

Sarah Bennett spent time in an insane asylum after the death of her mother, Jessica, caused by a fall down the stairs. Unable to remember what happened to cause her mother to fall, it was thought that Sarah had murdered her which resulted in her being sent to the asylum.

When she returns after a year, she finds that her father has married, Grace, a young woman her own age. In addition, he has hired an assistant named Zeke. Grace is cool to Sarah and is quite verbal in thinking Sarah is guilty. Grace has taken over running the house and has changed many things which upsets Sarah. In addition, Sarah’s maternal grandmother does not trust Grace and neither does their long-time housekeeper, Anca. Grace’s money spending has gotten out of hand and her father does not seem to know how to stop her even though he says he is in love with her.

Her father has become a well-known mystery writer who appears to be very happy that Sarah is home even though he never visited her in the year she was away. Zeke is an efficient young man who keeps tracks of Mr. Bennett’s travel, book signings and such.

As it is wartime, there are many soldiers around town and there is worry that there may be spies lurking around as well. Even though Zeke is friendly to Sarah, there are things that occur to make her think he may be a spy.

When a dream that Sarah has results in an injury to herself, some shocking truths begin to reveal themselves. She also learns that she may be in danger and should leave Bennett Hall and start a new life elsewhere. But she does not want to leave until she can find out what or who caused her mother’s death.

When unexplained events begin to occur that are very frightening, suspicions arise about everyone.

This is a fabulous gothic type mystery book like the ones I loved by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Barbara Michaels. I hope others will read this novel and I bet that like me, you will be on the edge of your seat until the last page when all is revealed. I certainly look forward to reading more by this author.

Complimentary copy provided by the author

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‘The Woman from Paris’ by Santa Montefiore

twfp smSTORY: They had built their lives in this grand old house, its walls encompassing their family and their secrets. Nestled in the sweeping hills they have always known, the house is part of their history, their heritage. But these four walls also hold a secret.

When Lord Frampton dies in a skiing accident, a beautiful young woman named Phaedra appears at his funeral—claiming to be the lord’s illegitimate daughter. In his will, Lord Frampton has left the priceless Frampton suite of sapphires to this interloper, confirming her claim and outraging his three adult sons and widow. Eventually, however, Phaedra’s sweet nature thaws the frosty relationships. She becomes the daughter that Antoinette Frampton never had and a wise and compassionate granddaughter to the formidable Dowager Lady Frampton. But an attraction grows between Phaedra and the eldest son, David. It seems an impossible love—blocked by their blood connection and by the fury of one family member who is determined to expose Phaedra as a fraud.

Filled with the luscious scenery and enchanting characters her fans adore, Santa Montefiore’s The Woman from Paris confirms the remarkable power of love to heal broken families and tender hearts.

This novel was published under the title The Summer House in the UK.

REVIEW: Lord Frampton has just died in a skiing accident leaving behind his widow, three sons, one granddaughter and his mother. However, at his funeral, Phaedra, a lovely woman appears claiming to be his daughter.

Although the family members are reeling from the loss of Lord Frampton and the shock of the appearance of Phaedra, they are all soon drawn to her magnetic, soothing and loving personality.

I feel that synopsizing this novel further would give out way too many spoilers. Suffice to say that the characters in this novel are so real and the emotions and personalities of each one are perfectly described.

The wise individual that is Phaedra is so strong, intelligent and lovable. This is one of those stories that captures you from the first page all the way to the last. You feel like a part of the family after you read it.

I have not read Santa Montefiore’s other novels, but will I will certainly rectify that very soon. Wonderful novel!

Connie for b2b