‘Malice at the Palace’ by Rhys Bowen

matp rbSTORY: Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.

REVIEW: London – 1934

Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin to His Majesty, the current King.  Her life sounds quite glamorous, but actually not so much.  Too often, she finds herself without funds and reduced to existing on eating beans on toast.  Ah, but things are looking up for her when she is summoned by Queen Mary to come for tea.  There, she was asked to move into Kensington Palace for a time to be a friend to Princess Marina who is to be arriving in London soon to prepare for her wedding to Prince George.  Georgie happily agrees and knows she will enjoy showing her around London.

As it turns out, the area of the Palace where she will stay is a bit small and somewhat shabby.

She has also brought her maid, Queenie, with her.  Poor Queenie tries but she is much too lazy and sassy.  However, Georgie would feel bad if she fired her.  In addition, she gets away with paying her the minimum which is all she can afford.  The Palace is known for its ghosts which don’t frighten Georgie but terrifies Queenie.

Georgie quickly settles in and is delighted with the sweet and lovely Princess Marina and together they enjoy shopping, lunches at nice places and soirees with famous people such as Noel Coward.  But when Georgie finds a woman’s body just outside the Palace doors, she gets involved with the police in trying to find the killer.  Georgie has a lot of experience with this because as it happens, this is not the first time she has encountered murder.

Life gets quite busy for her trying to hide the incident from upsetting the Princess and other royals while trying to solve the mystery herself.  She wishes that her boyfriend, the Honorable Darcy O’Mara, the son of Lord Kilhenny, was here.  A handsome man, they have been in a relationship for sometime now and Darcy keeps saying that soon they will be able to get married.  But his covert background is so hush-hush that finding time to even be together for a short time is difficult.  But Georgie remains patient.

As time for the wedding nears, things get a bit tense when it seems that Prince George himself could be a suspect!

I absolutely love the author’s Royal Spyness Mystery Series.  This is the eighth book in the series.  The name dropping and humor always leave me snorting in laughter!  I hope others will discover these books and enjoy them as well.

Connie for b2b

‘Uncovering Secrets’ by Barbara Hinske

us bhSTORY: This third book in the beloved Rosemont series (but easily read as a stand-alone) finds Mayor Maggie Martin knee-deep in the financial problems facing Westbury. With a stagnant investigation into the fraud and embezzlement that brought the town to the brink of bankruptcy, Maggie needs results—now. The bad guys, however, are always one step ahead, with bribes and blackmail at their disposal.

Her late husband’s mistress also has an ace to play against Frank Haynes and his cronies. But the woman’s plan for revenge may be derailed by her daughter’s sudden illness. Will Haynes slip through the net once again?

Meanwhile, Maggie is busy planning her wedding as Roman forms an unlikely alliance with a litter of kittens. And Rosemont’s attic gives up its secrets; some welcome, some not. While Maggie delights in a newly discovered collection of vintage silver, Frank Haynes is on a mission to establish his claim to Rosemont. Surprisingly, his cold heart may not be impervious after all.

Dive in as Maggie seeks her silver lining.

REVIEW: Maggie Martin moved from southern California after her husband, Paul, passed away. Now she lives in her beautiful stone manor home Rosemont, in the midwest.  She is engaged to John Allen, a veterinarian.  In addition, she is the Mayor of Westbury.  Her job has been difficult as she is working to clean up past financial fraud and embezzlement that nearly wiped out the town workers’ pension plan.  She has been criticized by many people in town, including the press.  Some people she used to think of as friends seem to be involved in this fraud.  But Maggie is tough and has no intention of stepping down.

Frank Haynes is a big critic of Maggie and is jealous of her owning Rosemont.  He thinks he has found a way for him to claim ownership of Rosemont and is working toward that end.  The man is quite wealthy and somewhat of a philanthropist in town as he supports several good causes.  He seems to to have two faces in that he is somewhat of a crook but has a soft heart.

Another thug in town is Chuck Delgado who served on the town council with Frank Haynes.  Maggie is working to prove that these two men orchestrated the embezzlement scheme.

Frank Haynes’ assistant, Loretta, was having an affair with Maggie’s husband Paul, before he passed away.  Loretta is a single mother with three children, one of whom is becoming progressively sicker with a kidney problem.

Maggie has two grown children, Susan, an attorney who is dating a man who makes her very happy.  In addition, her son Mike, is married and the father of twin daughters.

Rosemont is a huge home and when Maggie has a chance to explore the attic, she finds an enormous cache of silver pieces, many of which are very rare.  She gets it appraised, insured and safely locked away.  Some she will sell, and some keep for her children’s future.

We follow Maggie as she plans for her wedding to John in June.  Her life is never a dull moment.  There is constant work involved in keeping up with her job as mayor, including the in-depth investigation in the town’s fraud and embezzlement problem.  In addition, she has found herself the surrogate mother for a litter of kittens which requires frequent feedings.

This is the third novel of the author’s Rosemont series.  Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first two but I will need to do that soon as I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I think it would make a terrific TV series.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘The Third Wife’ by Lisa Jewell

ttw lj2STORY: A tragic accident? Or suicide?

Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love.

She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.
Because everyone has secrets.
And secrets have consequences.
Some of which can be devastating.

REVIEW: Maya Wolfe was a sweet young woman in love with her husband, Adrian.  Surprisingly, her life was a strange one in that her relationship with her husband’s two ex-wives and all of their children was good.

Adrian first married Susie with whom he had two children.  Then he met Caroline and divorced Susie to marry Caroline with whom he had three children.  Some years later, he met Maya, fell in love with her, divorced Caroline and married Maya.  Yes, Adrian is a busy man who seems to be in love with love.  The families are all friends and spend holidays and vacation times together.  Adrian loves his kids and strives to be with them as much as possible.

One day, Maya goes to a bar, gets insanely drunk and steps out in front of a bus where she is killed.  All Adrian is left with is “Why?” – oh – and Maya’s cat.  Knowing he is not a cat person, he puts an ad up to find the cat a home and a young woman named Jane answers the ad and comes to see the cat.  She tells Adrian that she will think about it and let him know.

As Adrian struggles to come to grips with Maya’s death and what could have driven her to this end, certain clues emerge that seem to point to this not being an accidental death.  Perhaps the Wolfe family is not as stable as one would think.  Problems with each of the children appear and when threatening emails addressed to Maya (that she had hidden) Adrian takes matters into his hands and involves the police in the investigation.

What happened to Maya?  Who sent those awful messages to this sweet woman and why?  Who is this Jane person?  She seems to be involved somehow.

The characters are well written and the story is interesting.  However, I felt that Adrian was a clueless clod.  I enjoyed this novel but cannot say that I was very impressed with it.  As this is the first of the author’s novels that I have read, I think I would be willing to read more and hope they will be better than this one.
Connie for b2b

‘Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor’ by Melanie Dobson

solm mdSTORY: When Heather Toulson returns to her parent’s cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage.

As Heather digs, she finds a mysterious journal that belonged to a woman she never knew and it contains clues that lead to the truth about mysterious drowning decades ago. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

REVIEW: Clevedon, England

When Margaret (Maggie) Emerson finds herself pregnant and deserted by Elliot, a foreign sailor, she accepts the proposal of Walter Doyle, editor of the local newspaper. When her pregnancy begins to show right away, many of the local gossips figure she was pregnant before she got married.  When her daughter is, Libby, is born, she is a tiny baby so Maggie convinces Walter that she is premature.

Walter loves his job writing for the newspaper, but Maggie finally persuades him to move somewhere else because she is afraid he will find out that she was pregnant when he married her.  He gets a job as a postman and she gets a job as housekeeper to the family at Ladenbrooke Manor and the family lives in a house adjacent to the Manor grounds.

As Libby starts to grow, it is obvious that things are not as they should be with her.  She will not do her school work nor will she stay off the grounds of the Manor as requested by the owners.  Her happiness is found in watching and later, painting, butterflies.  I guess she is what someone might then have called a fey child.  However, today, we would know that she has a form of autism.  She soon gains the attention of the son of the Manor and a relationship develops.  When she becomes pregnant by him, her family hides the pregnancy and she gives birth to a girl she names Heather.  Even though Libby nurses the baby, her attention span is not good enough to care for Heather properly, so Maggie says she is Heather’s mother.

The story then jumps to Heather who is a divorced woman living in Portland Oregon and the mother of a girl who has just gotten married.  When after the death of her parents Heather arrives at their home to clean it out to prepare it for sale, many secrets come to light that have been hidden for many years.  She meets up with a man she once loved when she was a girl and their relationship soon rekindles.

There are so many secrets and twists and turns in this novel that the reader will not want to put it down. I was completely enthralled and enjoyed it immensely.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Tyringham Park’ by Rosemary McLoughlin

tp rmclSTORY: The country estate of Tyringham Park is the epitome of wealth and privilege. Home to the Blackshaws, it finds itself the backdrop to tragedy.

It is a beautiful day in 1917, and Tyringham Park is in an uproar after Victoria Blackshaw, an innocent toddler, disappears without a trace. The feverish search for Victoria soon uncovers jealousies and deceits that both the upstairs and downstairs inhabitants of the grand estate have fought for years to keep hidden.

As time passes, Victoria’s disappearance casts a long shadow over all of their lives. Charlotte, the Blackshaws’ less-favored eight-year-old daughter, finds herself severely impacted by the loss of her sister. Charlotte’s greatest wish is to escape the con­fines of the estate, but Tyringham Park and its many mysteries may never release their hold on her. Like all those at Tyringham Park, she is caught in a web of passions and secrets, trysts and betrayals that seems to ensnare everyone connected to this once great house.

REVIEW: 1917 – Tyringham Park, Ireland

Little Victoria Blackshaw, age 22 months, has been taken out for a stroll in her pram by her mother, Lady Edwina.  Thinking she was sleeping, her mother left in to go to the stables.  When she returned, Victoria was gone.  Fearing she had wandered over to the river and drowned, everyone searched for her but she was never found.

Victoria’s older sister, Charlotte, was left to bear the brunt of her mother’s temper.  Her mother felt she was ugly and could never measure up to Victoria.  Charlotte’s nurse Dixon was completely hateful to Charlotte and had been the same way to Victoria.  She hurt Charlotte, screamed at her and made her life miserable.  Charlotte’s mother, Edwina, did not care and her father, Lord Waldron Blackshaw, spent his time at the War Office in London.  The man did nothing but drink and was constantly drunk.

In the meantime, Edwina gives birth to Harcourt, son and heir.

Charlotte was left devastated at Victoria’s loss; totally ignored by her family; and mistreated by her nurse.  As time passes, we see the different stages that Charlotte goes through in her life to make some meaning of it. As far as her mother is concerned, she can never do anything right.  Lady Edwina is evil personified in her life-long treatment of her.  As a child, Charlotte is a very accomplished horsewoman. Later on, she becomes a very talented artist.

Charlotte falls in love with Lochlann Carmody, the friend of her younger brother, Harcourt.  Both young men are attending medical school to become doctors.  One night, when Lochlann is partying at Tyringham with Harcourt, they get drunk and Charlotte becomes pregnant by Lochlann.  Appalled at what he did, Lochlann agrees to do the right thing and marries Charlotte.  They then head to Australia where Lochlann will be the physician at a small hospital in a remote area of the country.

Their marriage is not a loving one but Lochlann tries all he can.  Charlotte faces difficult ordeals one of which requires Lochlann to make a very difficult decision.

This saga is an amazing story that includes both upstairs and downstairs characters.  Another Downton Abbey type book.  I was mesmerized as I read it and even though it was nearly 500 pages long, I did not want to see the book end.  I hope readers will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Connie for b2b

‘Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman’ by Tessa Arlen

doadg taSTORY: Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting début sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them.Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

REVIEW: The country estate, Lyntwood, home of Lord and Lady Montfort, is running smoothly as Clementine Elizabeth Talbot, the Countess of Montfort, is planning her yearly summer costume ball.

Ralph Cuthbert Talbot, the 6th Earl of Montort, is a good husband, father and well-respected employer. However, he is not actually looking forward to the ball as it not one of his favorite things.

They have 3 children, son, Harry, who lives on his own, plus two daughters, Althea and Verity who no longer live at home.  Their cousin, Teddy, will also join the family for the ball.  When his parents passed away, he came to live with, and was raised by, his uncle’s family.

Each person employed by the estate knows his/her job and place in the scheme of things. Housekeeper, Edith Jackson, oversees the running of the estate and meets daily with Clementine to make sure that meals, etc. are perfectly planned.  George Hollyoak is the butler and major domo and is a stickler for seeing that things are done correctly.  Mrs. Thwaite is the Cook and while her dishes are sublime, her garrulous nature can be rather irritating.  The family is very lucky to have in their employ Mr. Thrower, Head Gardner, and Ernest Stafford, Gardener.  Their talents are extraordinary in keeping the grounds and flowers in pristine order.

The ball is going nicely until Teddy is found murdered.  When the police become involved in investigating the murder, each person attending the ball and everyone in the house is questioned in depth.  On the same night, two young women vanish from the estate leaving many questions to be solved.  The questioning extends the time that all the guests and family members are asked to stay at the estate and becomes quite wearying for all concerned.

Clementine, Lady Montfort, and Edith, the Housekeeper take an unusual step by secretly sharing information that may help to solve the murder.

The characters in this novel show great creativity on the author’s part.  Just think of it as an episode of Downton Abbey with the ability to get to know the people both upstairs and downstairs.  I found the mystery to be extremely well written and one that the reader may not easily solve on their own.  Lots of twists and turns kept me glued until the last page.  This is a wonderful story of the Edwardian times that I will remember for a long time.

Connie for b2b

‘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