It’s been exactly two years since Katie and her aunt and uncle opened the Honeybee Bakery, where they serve delicious—and bespelled—treats to the good people of Savannah. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Orla, a colorful character who has been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for years.
The next day, Orla meets with what seems like a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller before the piping hot trail goes cold…
When I first started reading the series, I thought the stories were entertaining, but none of them seemed like anything to really “write home about”. But I kept reading the series because I liked the characters. These latest two books though have really been great and I’ve really enjoyed them.
In this particular book, Katie and her friends are trying to solve the mystery of Orla, Aunt Lucy’s friend’s death. It seems like a tragic accident, but Katie knows that something just isn’t right about it. But delving into this mystery almost makes Katie a victim!
The plot was well-written and well thought out. I wasn’t positive about the villain until it was revealed. I knew it was one of about 3-4 people but I just couldn’t settle on a particular person before it was revealed. This book definitely kept me on my toes with guessing!
The characters in this series are wonderful. They’re well-rounded, complex, developed characters who have their own sense of weirdness and fun. I find it very entertaining to read about them! I recommend this series to any paranormal cozy mystery fan! Make sure you start at the beginning of the series with Brownies and Broomsticks in order to understand all the dynamics between the characters!
About the Author
Bailey Cates is a pen name for Cricket McRae who enjoys home crafts like food preservation, cheese making, candle making, and fiber arts. She writes the Sophie Mae Reynolds Homecrafting Mystery Series. As Bailey Cates, she also writes the Magical Bakery Mysteries.
For two years Cricket managed her own soap making business, including all product design, manufacturing and marketing. The recipes included in her first book, Lye in Wait, are all Cricket’s original formulations. She has also worked in a variety of other fields ranging from drivers license examiner to program manager for a major software firm. This fulfills her mothers warning that shed never have a regular job if she insisted on studying philosophy in college.
When Sydney Bonner overhears a fellow mah jongg player arguing on the phone with her husband, she realizes the couple’s “perfect marriage” isn’t all it appears to be. A few days later, the husband is found dead, his head bashed in. Fearing she’ll be considered the most likely suspect, the widow prevails upon Sydney and her three friends—Marianne, Kat and Micki—to find out who really killed him.
Though none of these four fun-loving, take-charge retirees has any training as detectives, the women agree to launch a secret investigation. As they dig under the happy veneer of their community’s social life, they find more than enough suspects, from shady ladies to resentful golf buddies, to keep them looking over their shoulders.
Could the murderer be lurking among the talent in a chaotic production put on by Sydney’s husband, who will do anything to keep busy in retirement? Could the sheriff, who may have more than a professional interest in chanteuse Kat, end up pinning the crime on the women instead? Each discovery during their investigations and their weekly mah jongg game keeps them running as they close in on the killer—but the killer may also be closing in on them.
Review – 4.0 out of 5 stars
I very much enjoyed this first book in the Mah Jongg series!
The characters are great, quirky and likeable. They’re well-developed and complex. I really enjoyed them.
The setting descriptions were mostly good. I’m a little tired of reading that someplace is “the jewel of…” but other than that, they were well done and not too wordy.
I enjoyed the plot quite a bit and did NOT know who the villain was this time before it was revealed.
All in all, I will definitely be reading more in this series!
About the Author
Barbara Barrett started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.
Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she has returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.
Craks in a Marriage, the first book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who seek the murderer of another mah jongg player’s husband before she is charged. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.
Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft.
Barbara is married to a man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.
When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays Mah Jongg, knits, and enjoys lunches with friends.
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Welcome! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Plum Tea Crazy, a Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs. I love this series so I was excited to be able to read and review this newest installment.
Before we get to my review, I’m happy to say that we have a guest post from Laura Childs herself to enjoy! Thank you to Ms. Childs for being willing to write a guest post for my blog!
Guest Post from Laura Childs
A Q&A with Laura Childs, New York Times Bestselling Author of Plum Tea Crazy.
When you write, Laura, do you normally have an idea several months ahead of time or do stories just come to you as you’re writing?
The answer to both those questions is yes. I usually have three or four plot ideas pin-balling around in my head, so I start to work them up and then pick the one I like best. The other ideas are always kept in reserve so I can circle back to them at a later date and flesh them out for the next few books. Since I spent 20 years heading my own advertising agency, I’m lucky that I developed a knack for being “creative on demand,” with ideas coming fairly easy to me.
As you decide on characters, is there something that calls out to you?
Characters in my mysteries are either protagonists or antagonists. That is, they are either the hero or a suspected villain. That means my stories need to include a roster of suspicious characters that keep my readers guessing and turning the pages fairly quickly. I also strive to create suspects that are flamboyant and fairly dysfunctional. In Plum Tea Crazy, for example, I’ve got a snarky banker, goofball handyman, shopaholic ex-wife, and a slicko stalker attorney. There are a few other crazies tossed in for good measure, too.
Are your mysteries based on real life surroundings?
Since the Tea Shop Mysteries all take place in Charleston, SC, I try to create a very careful sense of place right down to the last cobblestone. Do you feel that damp fog as it rolls in off the Atlantic? Can you hear the mournful toot from the lighthouse over on Patriot’s Point? Is someone sneaking up behind you in Dueler’s Alley? Charleston is one of those cities that is eccentric and highly atmospheric – old mansions, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, fog-shrouded bayous. Those are all very real elements and I try my best to sprinkle them throughout my mysteries.
For Plum Tea Crazy was there something you really wanted readers to come away with . . . as in a different outlook on life?
I always try to make the point that my main character, Theodosia, is extremely independent and entrepreneurial. When I was in marketing, I ran into dozens of women who longed for more focus and control in their work lives. These were smart women – ad managers, product managers, administrators, etc. – who wanted to flee corporate life to open a tea shop, needle craft store, or antique shop. I think most women are natural born entrepreneurs. They don’t always want to build a Fortune 500 company but they do want an environment that is nourishing and rewarding.
Tell us a little bit about Plum Tea Crazy.
As tea shop owner Theodosia views Charleston Harbor’s Gaslights and Galleons Parade from the widow’s walk of a nearby mansion, a local banker tumbles over the narrow railing and plunges to his death. But when Theodosia discovers that the victim was actually shot with a crossbow, this tragic accident turns sinister. With pacing that moves like a thriller, and any number of quirky suspects, it’s one of the reasons Book Riot named my Tea Shop Mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.”
Thanks for spending time with us.
Thank you and hugs to everyone!
Thank you again to Ms. Childs for writing a guest post for today!
While viewing the harbor’s Gaslights and Galleons Parade from the widow’s walk of Timothy Neville’s Charleston mansion, local banker Carson Lanier seemingly tumbles over a narrow railing, then plunges three stories to his death. But a tragic accident becomes something much more sinister when it’s discovered that the victim was first shot with a bolt from a crossbow.
At the request of the mansion owner, Theodosia investigates the tragedy and is soon neck deep in suspects. An almost ex-wife, a coworker, a real estate partner–all had motives for killing the luckless banker, but one resorted to murder to settle accounts.
INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!
Review – 4 out of 5 stars
This newest installment in the Tea Shop Mystery series from Laura Childs is just as wonderful as the others have been!
I love the cast of characters in this series. Honestly, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be reading the series. Characters are far more important to me than the plot line. I can put up with pretty abysmal plot lines (which this is NOT one of those books – this plot line was excellent) if the characters are awesome. I’ve always enjoyed Theodosia, Drayton, Haley, Detective Tidwell and the rest. It’s fun to come back each spring to another visit into their world! These are well-rounded, complex, developed characters and they’re delightful.
The plot line in this one was excellent. There were enough suspects that it was hard to know who was the true villain. I did guess correctly, but it would have been very easy for me to be side-tracked by one of the other options. There was just something about the villain character that seemed “off” about them. That’s all I’m going to say so I don’t give anything away though!
If you haven’t read the series before, you could certainly start with this one as each mystery is its own story, but I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series with Death by Darjeeling. There are backstory things that will make more sense if you start the series at the beginning.
Either way, pick up Plum Tea Crazy and enjoy the newest installment in this great series!
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Greetings! Welcome to another Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop for Cookie Dough, Snow, and Wands Aglow, the fourth book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson! This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and as my quote on the banner says, I’m absolutely enamored with this series!
Murder in a magical, merry town just brimming with secrets.
On the snowy road to the Earth Kingdom for the holidays, Imogen and the bakers are ambushed by Horace, villainous leader of the Badlands Army. They’re forced to detour to an idyllic, rural village, bedecked in lights, garlands and winter cheer…all a little too perfect to believe. At least that’s so for Imogen, who’s seeing burned out buildings and mysterious memorials that no one else seems to notice.
Hank’s royal presence gets them invited to the big bash at the governor’s mansion. The night is filled with dancing, stolen kisses under the mistletoe and fun, until a guest is found dead in the cauldron of punch.
As bodies and mysteries pile up, all the evidence points to the vampire Francis as the culprit. The gang must come together to clear their friend’s name and save themselves from the angry villagers. Even worse, Imogen struggles with having to keep her relationship with Hank hidden, while working with him to find the real killer.
As Imogen unearths more than a few town secrets, she finally solves the riddles of her past and discovers the truth of Horace’s pursuit of her. But will all the secrets be unraveled in time to stop the killer, or will Imogen and her friends suffer a monstrous fate?
Review – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I love this series so much! This latest installment in the series does not disappoint at all.
We find our characters on a special trip for Bruma, a holiday to celebrate the Winter Solstice. They get detoured to this little town and as usual, a murder occurs and the investigative spirits of the team are needed to help solve the mystery!
These characters are very well-rounded and complex. They’re realistic (aside from the magic part 😉 ), wonderful, and just a joy to read. I enjoy learning more and more about them as we get further into the series. The characters just draw you in and make you believe that you’re friends with them all. And let me tell you, I don’t normally do vampires, but I love Francis, so that’s really saying something!
This particular book found us learning something important truths. I did NOT see the plot twist coming at all. It makes things make a lot of sense, but I still wasn’t expecting it. The way that we find these things out is perfect.
I did figure out the villain before the reveal, though I hadn’t figured out how she had done it exactly, so that part was still a surprise when it was revealed.
All in all this is an excellent 4th installment in the series and I’m looking forward to the 5th book! If you wish to read the series, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you start at the beginning with Seashells, Spells, & Caramels. While each mystery in the series is it’s own separate story, you need the backstory on the personal relationships and other things that are happening throughout the whole series in order to understand why the plot twist was so astounding.
About the Author
Erin Johnson is a native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).
Welcome! Today, I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Pawprints and Predicaments, the third in the Lucky Paws Petsitting mystery series by Bethany Blake! I really enjoyed this book, just as I have the two previous books in the series. Underneath the review is an interview with the author, Bethany Blake.
The Tail Waggin’ Winterfest is the highlight of the season in the famously pet-friendly Pocono Mountains town of Sylvan Creek. But despite attractions like an ice sculpture display, a dogsled race, and gourmet hot chocolate, Daphne Templeton finds herself annoyed by TV producer Lauren Savidge, who’s filming the festivities. She’s critical, controlling, and as chilly as the January air. Daphne would like to tell her to go jump in a lake—and as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what they’re both going to do . . .
It’s the first-ever polar bear plunge in Lake Wallapawakee, and Daphne and Lauren are among the eighty or so people who charge into the frigid water to raise funds for animals in need. Daphne makes it back to shore—with the help of a mysterious St. Bernard—but Lauren is dragged out stone cold dead. Now, with her trusty basset hound Socrates at her side, Daphne intends to assist Detective Jonathan Black in his investigation—whether he wants her to or not . . .
Includes recipes for homemade pet treats!
Review – 4 out of 5 stars
I’ve really enjoyed all three books in this series!
Daphne is a wonderful, quirky character who has a fairly decent head on her shoulders. Sometimes she runs a little too impulsive for me, but most of the time she at least thinks about the danger before doing something. I also really love Jonathan Black as a character. We get to learn a little more about him in each book and I love that! It’s exactly how a series should be in my mind.
The plot this time around was very intriguing to me. I really had no idea who the villain was before it was revealed. The subplots were all great as well. The story was very well-written and I highly recommend it!
Author Interview with Bethany Blake
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. Blake’s Answer: I do have a second job being… a writer! I work for Bucknell University, a small liberal arts college, in the Division of Communications. It’s pretty fun. I write stories and get a lot of free food.
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. Blake’s Answer: I try to write every day, and I set page or chapter goals. I like to have music in the background. My Spotify playlist is huge and varied.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Blake’s Answer: Oh, my characters always hijack my stories! I don’t outline. I feel as if things always come up that lead me in new directions.
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. Blake’s Answer: I was fortunate to have a mentor who suggested that I join Romance Writers of America, and I found my agent there. I wrote a few manuscripts that I submitted to various places on my own, and those were rejected. Once I had an agent, I sold my first book pretty quickly. But, like every author, I have endured a lot of rejections since then. When I get a rejection, I give myself 24 hours to sulk and consider quitting. Then I pick myself back up and move forward.
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. Blake’s Answer: I usually have two or three revisions. I don’t have beta readers. Just my editors. And there’s always a period between the time I submit to my editor and the time I get revisions that I just set the manuscript aside. It’s good to take a break and see things with fresh eyes later.
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. Blake’s Answer: In my first book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, the villain—a vampire prince—was also the hero. I tend to view characters as complex and nuanced, so it’s not hard for me channel the darker aspects of my personality. And there’s no real inspiration for the villain in my upcoming book, Pawprints & Predicaments. But I can’t say more for fear of giving something away!
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Blake’s Answer: There are aspects of me and my sister in the characters of Daphne and Piper Templeton. Like pet sitter Daphne, I’m an animal-loving, world-traveling, poor-at-bookkeeping bumbler, while, like veterinarian Piper, my sister is rational, organized and a medical professional.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Blake’s Answer: I would write about my father, Donald Fantaskey. He was one of life’s great unsung heroes. Whether quietly fighting racism in the 1970s, leading by example, or making everyone around him laugh, he always made the world a better place.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Blake’s Answer: I have been revisiting some classic cozies by Martha Grimes. Whenever I need inspiration, I turn back to her books.
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Blake’s Answer: Everything by Dickens, Austen and Dumas. I was an English major, way back when, and those books paved the way for my future writing career.
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. Blake’s Answer: I would hang out with my amateur sleuth, Daphne. We’d start off with a big breakfast at the Silver Moon diner, then pick up her best friend, Moxie Bloom, and go shopping for vintage clothes. Next, we’d eat lunch at Casita Burrito and walk Daphne’s various fosters and clients. We’d round out the day with dinner at Franco’s, where only Moxie would admit to having a huge crush on Detective Jonathan Black.
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. Blake’s Answer: I don’t read reviews anymore unless my editor shares them with me. And I never respond. I don’t change my work to reflect reviews, either. There’s no way you’ll ever please everyone. I will say that the negative reviews I’ve received—and everyone gets some—have made me a more compassionate person. When I dislike a book or movie, I’m keenly aware that someone poured their heart into the project. I would never trash something that another person created. We should all be here to lift one another up!
Thank you to Ms. Blake for being willing to answer my questions!
Thank you for joining me today! If you wish to visit more stops on the tour, please click on the banner below which will take you to the main tour page!