‘The Heir of Brownlie Manor’ by Anita Stansfield

thobm-asSTORY: After a medical discharge from his duties in the Napoleonic War, Thomas Quincy Fitzbatten has returned home. Disoriented, burdened by guilt for his wealth, and disillusioned with life’s injustices, Thomas longs for a chance to make a difference in the world. But he keeps himself a mystery to those around him, and another motive for his charity gnaws at the back of his mind: to seek redemption from the traumatic demons of war.

Then everything changes at the arrival of Ruth Dawson, the niece of Thomas’s butler, a stunning woman with a secret of her own. Thomas graciously offers to assist Ruth in her predicament, but a surprise instinct prompts Thomas to handle the case a little more personally—through marriage. As their love blossoms, it appears that all will be well—until Thomas receives a mysterious letter from an old friend in trouble, compelling him to the rescue.

But what will Thomas do when nothing is as it seems? And why can’t Ruth shake the feeling that her destiny is intertwined with Thomas’s in a way they could never have imagined?

REVIEW: Hampshire, England – 1808

Thomas Quincy Fitzbatten has been raised at Brownlie Manor but has not seen it in three years. He has loved living there surrounded by loving parents and other members of the household. His homecoming from having served in the military was a surprise, but upon arrival, he finds that his parents are out of the country for a few weeks on vacation. However, he enjoys being home. The events of war have left their scars on him and he hopes to once again find peace and purpose in his life.

When the butler, Dawson, tells him he has a problem, Thomas is happy to help. Dawson’s niece has shown up pregnant and unwed. Ruth Dawson is 19 and needs a place to stay until the baby is born. Thomas volunteers to take Ruth into town to stay at an inn. Being able to help someone in need is what he, himself, needs and he happily gets to know Ruth. She does not want to give her baby away is is so thankful for Thomas’s help. Thomas is so taken with her and her plight that he decides to marry her.

They then head to a small cottage owned by his family and run by a couple who are good friends. The woman, Bertie is pregnant and when she gives birth, Ruth assists with the delivery. She is also quite helpful around the house and handles the cooking.

Ruth and Thoms grow closer but Ruth is worried that Thomas may not love the baby when it is born. As their marriage has been platonic so far, Ruth wonders if Thomas will truly want to be faithful to her.

Thomas’s parents arrive at the cottage and they immediately bond with Ruth. Soon after, they head back to Brownlie Manor. Everything is going well until someone tries to kill Thomas. Who would want to harm him and why?

This was an OK story but it tended to drag a bit. A lot of the dialogue was repetitive but the attempt on Thomas’s life kept the story going. I did like that it is a clean book and I’m sure many readers will enjoy it.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘Arrowood’ by Laura McHugh

a lmchSTORY: A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds

Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.

Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.

REVIEW: At age 8, Arden Arrowood was there the day her twin sisters, Violet and Tabitha, just under 2 years of age, vanished. Arden said they were kidnapped by a man in a gold car. At the time, her family was living at Arrowood. Now at age 25, after the death of her father, Arden finds that she has inherited Arrowood, the huge family home built many years ago and located on a bluff on the Mississippi River in the town of Keokuk. Once a very prosperous town with large mansions, it has lost many businesses and become rather rundown. No one has lived in Arrowood since the family moved away not long after the disappearance of the twins. After an exhaustive search, the authorities were never able to find the girls.

Moving back to the home reopens many memories of Arden’s childhood there and makes her even more determined to find out what happened to her sisters. She meets Josh whose goal in life is to solve cold cases. The information he shares reopens old wounds but also makes her question more things. Her childhood friend and next door neighbor, Ben, still lives in town as does his mother. As the Arrowood family has been a part of the town for well over 100 years, they are well known and there is a lot of history here.

We meet people from the past and wonder if they know anything about the disappearance of the girls. The house itself is rather spooky but Arden is not afraid to live there. As more clues come to light, we think we know who was responsible.

I suspected the truth at one time but other clues seemed to knock that out. Do come and read this enthralling story and see if you can solve the mystery. It will truly keep you guessing right up to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope other readers will as well.

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‘Weeping in the Wings’ by Terry Lynn Thomas

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00067]STORY: San Francisco, March 1943
Sarah Bennett harbors two secrets: She sees ghosts, and she’s in love with a spy.

When Sarah takes a job with occult expert Dr. Matthew Geisler, he promises to help her understand the sorrowful spirit that seems to have attached itself to her—a spirit whose incessant weeping only she can hear.

Meanwhile, as Sarah struggles to cope with the relentless weeping, she comes face to face with Zeke, the man who left her six months earlier and is ostensibly convalescing from injuries suffered in an alleged accident. But Zeke has secrets of his own, and Sarah’s love and trust are soon put to the test.

Things take an even darker turn when an attempt is made on Geisler’s life, and Sarah finds herself caught in a struggle between the living and the dead. Unsure who she can trust, she must unlock the mystery of the weeping ghost in order to save Dr. Geisler—and herself—from an unknown enemy.

REVIEW: 1943 – San Francisco

Sarah Bennett sees ghosts and one that has attached itself to her weeps constantly. It began when she heard the verdict of not guilty as pertains to her adoptive father who had committed murder. Sarah started having hallucinations after being pushed off the second story staircase landing at Bennett Hall. Her stepmother had also been pushed and died from the fall. Even though Sarah testified against her father at the trial, he was found not guilty. Sarah’s psychiatrist, Dr. Upton, has prescribed medication for her, but it hasn’t helped. She still hears weeping.

Needing a job, she applies at the Geisler Institute for a secretarial position that also provides room and board. When she finds that a man named Zeke is a patient at the Institute recovering from some severe wounds, she is shocked. She had fallen in love with him some time back but he just left her.

While Sarah thinks she might be going insane with the weeping sounds and the fact that she believes that she can communicate with the dead, Dr. Geisler tells her he believes that she is sane. As she gets to know people staying at the Institute, one woman resident thinks that someone she thought to be dead is now after her. So, Sarah steps in to help find the truth using her special powers.

I enjoyed this second book by the author, but I think readers really need to have read the first book, “The Spirit of Grace” to understand Grace’s past and some of the characters. My review of the first book is here:


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Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘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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