At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, Lighthouse Cove, California’s premier contractor, Shannon Hammer, realizes that the competition is about to turn deadly….
Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors, construction crews, decorators, and landscapers. Thanks to several new hires, Shannon is sure she can handle the extra load–until murder throws a wrench in the works.
The small town’s corrupt building inspector is found dead on one of Shannon’s jobsites, and soon plenty of suspects are coming out of the woodwork. When another body is discovered, Shannon calls on her team of close friends and devilishly astute thriller writer Mac to help her nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else–for good.
Generally, when you think of a Home and Garden tour, murder is NOT the first thing that comes to mind, but we’ve got plenty of it in Lighthouse Cove this time around! It’ll take serious sleuthing by Shannon, Mac, and their friends to find the culprit this time around. Villains abound where you least expect them.
Well-written, interesting characters are what keep me reading a series and the characters in this series are great. I enjoy Shannon and Mac tremendously. Shannon’s crew are also great. I’m looking forward to getting to know the newest member more as well.
While I had wondered about the actual villain, I really didn’t focus on them until closer to the end. There were plenty of red herrings in this book to keep you guessing on who the villain really was. However, the book still moved along at a decent pace and wasn’t too slow, even with all those extra misleading clues.
I can’t wait for the next one in the series next year! I do recommend starting at the beginning of the series if you want to read the series. Each book can be read as a stand-alone but you’ll understand the interpersonal dynamics a little better if you read from the beginning, starting with A High-End Finish.
Welcome! Today I’m hosting a spot on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes. This was a fun book to read and a great start to a new series. I’ve read other books by Ms. Hughes so I was excited to see a new series coming out.
Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of unique collectible shops on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as they’re beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt’s body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can’t accept Melodie’s death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?
As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn’t careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie’s collection.
As I stated above, this was a fun read and a great start to a new series by Mary Ellen Hughes.
I’m totally in love with the characters from Keepsake Cove. They’re well-rounded, developed characters that seem to have a complexity that we barely scratched the surface of in this book. I’m not complaining about barely scratching the surface – it leaves more to learn in later books in the series! Callie and Tabitha are my favorites, though I’m also a fan of Delia and Brian. I’m sorry we didn’t get to learn more about Aunt Mel before she died, but I have a feeling we’ll learn a little more about her throughout the series.
Keepsake Cove sounds like a wonderful place to both live and visit. I personally am not wired to be a business-woman, so I don’t think I’d be a shop owner, but perhaps another town resident might be nice. Perhaps the town librarian and/or historian. That’d be right up my alley! The setting descriptions were plenty adequate for me to imagine Callie’s/Mel’s shop and cottage as well as other places in town.
The plot line moved along at a steady pace. There was no point where I felt it was moving too slowly or too fast. I did have an inkling of who the villain was before we got to the reveal, but Ms. Hughes definitely throws in enough red herrings to make you doubt yourself before you get to the reveal at the end!
If you’re at all into cozy mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I know I’m definitely looking forward to there being more books in the series!
About the Author
Mary Ellen Hughes is the bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries (Penguin), the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, along with several short stories. A Fatal Collection is her debut with Midnight Ink. A Wisconsin native, she has lived most of her adult life in Maryland, where she’s set many of her stories. Visit her at www.MaryEllenHughes.com.
Thanks for joining me today on this latest blog tour and review of Mary Ellen Hughes’s new book, A Fatal Collection. If you wish to visit more stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of tour participants and also some great quotes from other reviewers on the tour!
Today’s blog post features a book that I’ve been reading to review but not a blog tour this time around! A Deadly Eclair is the first book in the French Bistro Mystery series by Daryl Wood Gerber and it’s a great start to the series.
It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.
The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an eclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.
Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Eclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.
As I said above, I think this is a great start to the series and I enjoyed it. I did have a little trouble getting into it, but once it caught my attention, I couldn’t put it down.
Our main character, Mimi, is great. She’s well-rounded, complex, and fun to read about. Her sidekicks, Heather, Jo, and Raymond are all great too. In fact, I almost like Heather and Raymond more than Mimi. Almost. 🙂
The setting descriptions were great, which I’ve come to expect from this author. She usually has a good balance of details and leaving some things to the imagination. I’m totally in love with the fact that the inn and gardens are based on Monet’s house in Giverny. Visiting Giverny is on my bucket list of “someday I’ll get there”. 🙂
The plot line was well done and well-written. I didn’t know who the villain was until very close to when they revealed it, which is always great in a mystery! I like mysteries that keep me guessing. 🙂
I really enjoyed this book. It didn’t quite have enough sparkle and pizzazz to put it over the top into a 5 star book, and it did take me a bit to get into it, but it’s a solid 4 out of 5 stars and I definitely recommend it for those who love cozies and/or other books by Daryl Wood Gerber! Enjoy it!
About the Author
Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries and CHEESE SHOP MYSTERIES, which she pens as Avery Aames. She will soon debut the new French Bistro Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: DAYS OF SECRETS and GIRL ON THE RUN. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!
Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene–and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father. It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet. Time’s running out in this deadly cat-and-mouse game in Cat Got Your Secrets, the delightfully funny third novel in Julie Chase’s Kitty Couture mystery series, perfect for “all those feline fanciers who love to read Rita Mae Brown” (Suspense Magazine).
I loved this newest installment of the Kitty Couture mysteries. Lacy still gets me a little riled sometimes when she does stupid things without thinking, but she’s gotten at least a little better at that than she was before. Not much, but a little.
While it was true that we had a murder in this one, the blackmail was really the intriguing part of the mystery. The story moved along at a decent pace and stayed on track nicely.
I look forward to seeing what else Lacy gets into in further installments in the series!
** Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC I received. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **
About the Author
Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. Learn more about Julie Anne Lindsey here.
Thanks for joining me today for a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Cat Got Your Secrets. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click the banner below. The banner will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of participants!
Today, I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril, the first in a new series by J.A. Hennrikus. There will also be an interview with the author after my review!
When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company. For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crimes and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director.
But when her best friend is arrested for killing his father, the rich and powerful Peter Whitehall, no one is looking for another suspect. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a killer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband gets on the suspect list and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.
This was an absolutely delightful book! It didn’t quite have the pizzazz I look for to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a solid 4.5 in my opinion.
The characters in this series are great. There was only once where the main character did something absolutely stupid and unsafe. The rest of the time she was well-behaved. Obviously there are some risks in trying to solve a mystery, it just bugs me when the heroine goes off and does stupid stuff or disregards all thoughts of safety. The side characters were fun too. Everyone was well-developed and complex.
The plot line moved along quite well. I’d say steady-fast. It wasn’t so fast that you couldn’t keep up, but it definitely moved along. I had absolutely no idea who the villain was until it was revealed. Honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar, so that was a great twist for me.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next installment whenever that might be!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I run an arts service organization for the New England theater community called StageSource (www.StageSource.org). I’ve worked in arts management for my entire career, and really love what I do. The work I am doing now is particularly rewarding, because it is a behind the scenes organization that supports the entire community.
I also teach arts management classes, which I also enjoy. It is a challenge keeping everything in the air, but worth it.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I really, really try to carve out time every day, but that isn’t always possible. Usually I do marathon days on the weekends. When I write, I try and get a scene done, so the word count can vary. I need background noise while I write. I usually have a show on that I’ve seen before, so I don’t pay attention but the voices are with me. MIDSOMER MURDERS is my current writing companion.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am a plotter. A serious plotter. I start with characters, and an idea for the overall story. Then I write it down, and keep writing down the barebones until there is a frame for the entire story. Then I write it all down on plot cards, and use dramatic structure to make sure it will work.
Do characters hijack my stories? Yes, and I love that. I have characters that were supposed to be in one book, and they end up being series regulars. If a character hijacks the story too much, I make a note of it. That character obviously wants their own story, and isn’t good about sharing.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Years ago I joined Sisters In Crime, and that made all the difference in my writing life. Not only did I meet people who understood my journey, I took classes to hone my craft, went to conferences to build my network, and made friends. Wonderful friends, including my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors (WickedCozyAuthors.com): Barbara Ross, Sherry Harris, Liz Mugavero aka Cate Conte, Jessica Estaveo aka Jessie Crockett aka Jessica Ellicott, and Edith Maxwell aka Maddie Day.
A CHRISTMAS PERIL was the first book I tried to sell. I’d written other books, but they are in drawers, and they will stay there. I got lovely rejections for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, but didn’t find an agent or a publisher. Then I was offered the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. The idea came from an editor, and I “auditioned” to write the series. The third book, CHIME AND PUNISHMENT, just came out. With that track record, I wrote a proposal for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, and very happily for me, Midnight Ink bought the series. Proving the adage, dreams do come true, but sometimes the path isn’t a straight one.
Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I plot very heavily, and that helps me with a fairly polished first draft. I do a read through, and then send it out to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. He gets it back to me with notes. Then I do at least two more deep edits on the book
Usually, I have been in a writing loop where one draft bleeds into another. For the manuscript I just turned in, I gave it a chance to “rest”, and that made all the difference. I am trying to incorporate more rest periods in my writing, which is tough given that I write two books a year.
Q6:A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Working in theater has been a gift to me for regarding characters. Every actor will tell you that they have to find something redeeming about their characters in order to play them. Villains don’t think that they are villains.
In mysteries, villains are driven to commit a crime, and usually they can justify that. I will confess, when I first wrote A CHRISTMAS PERIL I had another villain in mind, but after I worked on it for a while I realized I had the wrong killer.
Most of my characters, including my villains, have parts of people I know in them. The villains? I’ll never tell.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Between borrowing names and creating characters, there is a lot of my real life that shows up in my fiction. Happily, so far, it has worked out. I am also very fortunate in that I know and work with a lot of people, so there is a lot to draw from. Usually, it is a quirk, or a trait, or an experience that I borrow.
I was once in a very volatile meeting, and I kept my cool throughout. A colleague followed me into my office, and demanded to know how I always kept so calm. I told her that I plotted a murder during the meeting, and that helped. Then I smiled, so she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t, of course.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: What an interesting question! I think about that. I have friends who write historical fiction, and I applaud them their research and attention to detail. I don’t think I could do it.
I do think about non-fiction, and some of the extraordinary women who we don’t know enough about. I’m not sure I would write about a specific woman as much as I would write about a time. We are coming up to the centennial of white women getting the right to vote in the United States. (It took women of color longer.) That subject fascinates me.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am on a summer reading binge of Louise Penny, and I am enjoying it tremendously. I had never read her before, so I have catching up to do!
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: My life or my writing? My writing has been influenced by Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth George and others. Specific books? If you could see my triple shelved bookshelves, you’d know I can’t answer that question, at least not easily!
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I would spend the day with Sully. We’d go to the Beef and Ale, have burgers and fries, and a good local brew. I hope we’d have charming actors like Steward Tracy joining us. Then we’d go back over, and watch rehearsal for a while. We’d end up back at her carriage house, drinking wine and talking about the show.
Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Again, my theater life helps me with this a bit. I don’t seek reviews out. If I happen upon one, I may read it, but I likely won’t. Reviews are useful when they are constructive, but “like” or “don’t like” are matters of opinion. The reviews that matter to me are the reviews I get from my editors, and folks who read my manuscripts, because I can still change the work. Once it is published, there’s nothing I can do.
The only way I engage with reviewers is to thank them. It is a lot of work, and a service to authors and readers.
A huge thank you to J.A. Hennrikus for being willing to answer my questions! Thanks for joining me today on the latest stop of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where you will find a list of participants and links to their blogs.