Review: Death in Disguise by Emma Davies

Description (from cover): “Francesca Eve thought she was prepared for anything at the events she caters for in her pretty little Shropshire village. Missing canapes? No problem. Burnt brownies? A piece of cake…But a dead body? Now that’s a recipe for disaster.

Francesca is nervous about catering her first ever murder mystery party, but it’s clear from the clink of champagne flutes and piles of empty plates that the evening is a roaring success. The guests look spectacular in their disguises, whispering and giggling as they try to identify who killed beautiful young Becky. But days later the game takes a sinister turn when Becky is found poisoned, and all the signs point to the culprit being a party guest.

From the woman having an affair to the guest hiding her true identity, everyone had a secret–and it turns out that Becky knew them all. As Fran finds herself centre-stage in a real-life murder mystery, the finger of suspicion points at each guest in turn. And Fran starts to wonder, were any of these secrets dangerous enough to kill for?

Then the body of a second guest is found, and it becomes clear a deranged killer is going off-script. It seems anyone who was involved in the game that night is in their sights, even Fran. Can she unmask the murderer before the final curtain falls?

A page-turning cozy mystery packed with twists. If you love Clare Chase, M.C. Beaton and The Thursday Murder Club you’ll absolutely adore this unputdownable whodunnit.”

My Thoughts:

I am always on the hunt for new authors and new mystery series to read. I love reading series for some reason. I enjoy watching the characters evolve throughout series and come to love them as friends. A series that keeps me on my toes is one that I am sure to love and follow through the years. I was able to get an advance readers’ copy of this book from Netgalley and I decided to give it a chance. I was pleasantly not disappointed. Usually the first book in the series is my least favorite, but this one was incredibly engaging and interesting.

Fran is a caterer in a small English village. She has been hired to cater a local woman’s party and the theme is a murder mystery. Everything goes off without a hitch and when the victim from the murder mystery party, Becky, actually turns up dead poisoned by a mushroom days later, Fran cannot help but investigate. It seems everyone at the party had secrets and that Becky was blackmailing everyone. Everyone is a suspect and Fran doesn’t know who to trust. When the party host’s son Adam comes to Fran to tell her that something isn’t quite right with the entire situation, the two of them decide to investigate.

This book had many twists and turns and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the other shoe drops and nothing is as it seems. I just love a mystery that is going to keep me guessing until the very end. At the conclusion when the murderer is revealed, I was shocked as I really didn’t see it coming and I was impressed with the author’s ability to keep this reader in the dark until the conclusion. This was a delightful read in what I hope is to become a wonderful cozy mystery series.

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

Author: Emma Davies

Series: Adam and Eve Mystery #1

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: February 9, 2022

Pages: 357

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry

Description (from cover): “When junior barrister Daniel Pitt is summoned to the scene of a murder in the London district known as Mile End, he knows only that the victim is a senior barrister from the same firm. To Daniel’s relief, it is not his close friend Toby Kitteridge, but the question remains: What was this respected colleague doing in such a rough part of the city? The firm’s head, Marcus fford Croft, may know more than he admits, but fford Croft’s memory is not what it used to be, and his daughter Miriam–Daniel’s sometime sidekick–isn’t in the country to offer her usual help. And so Daniel and Toby must investigate on their own, lest the police uncover something that may cast a suspicious light on the firm.

Their inquiries in Mile End lead them to a local brothel and to an opium den, but also–unexpectedly–to a wealthy shipbuilder crucial to Britain’s effort to build up its fleet, which may soon face the fearsome naval might of Germany. Daniel finds his path blocked by officials at every turn, his investigation so unwelcome that even his father, Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, receives a chilling warning from a powerful source. Suddenly, not just Daniel but his whole family–including his beloved mother, Charlotte–is in danger. Will Daniel’s devotion to justice be the undoing of his entire life, and endanger Britain’s defense at sea? As ever, the fates of family and history are inextricably intertwined in this spellbinder from Anne Perry.”

My Thoughts:

See my previous reviews of books #2 Triple Jeopardy and #3 One Fatal Flaw in this series.

This book is the fourth installment in Perry’s Daniel Pitt series and while the previous book in this series One Fatal Flaw was a little lackluster, this book really brings the series back to where it was previously. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have to say that this is one of my favorites in the series so far. There was a lot of character development in this book and it provides a future for the characters. Also, appearances by Thomas and Charlotte Pitt play heavily in this book. The author has chosen to have them only appear in tiny bits in previous installments, and it was nice to have them play a more active role in this book.

Daniel Pitt is shocked when he is asked by the police to identify a body in Mile End, a dubious neighborhood known for its brothels, opium dens and seedy characters. He identifies the body as one of his colleagues at his law firm and due to the personal connection, he feels that he must try to discover why his colleague was murdered in such a violent manner. Nothing make sense: Was he murdered due to his previous legal cases, or was it much more personal? Using his investigative skills, Daniel enlists other colleagues, friends and his parents to assist him in this investigation. As more murders occur, Daniel feels he is set on a hopeless course for justice.

As I stated previously, this was probably one of my favorite books in this series. I found that it was well-written, the plot was very engaging and it was hard to put down. Twists and turns in the plot kept this reader very well entertained throughout this book. The only issue I had with this book was that I felt the ending was a little rushed and the author could have taken a little more time in concluding the storyline. Other than that, I would say that this was a great read and installment in a series that I am coming to love. I was lucky to receive the next book in this series, Three Debts Paid, which is due to be released in April of this year, as an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher. Make sure you stay tuned for that review in the next couple of weeks.

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

Author: Anne Perry

Series: Daniel Pitt Mystery #4

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: April 13, 2021

Pages: 296

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman

Description (from cover): “London 1814. Though newly-widowed Lily Adler is returning to a society that frowns on independent women, she is determined to create a meaningful life for herself even without a husband. She’s no stranger to the glittering world of London’s upper crust. At a ball thrown by her oldest friend, Lady Walter, she expects the scandal, gossip, and secrets. What she doesn’t expect is the dead body in Lady Walter’s garden.

Lily overheard the man just minutes before he was shot: young, desperate, and attempting blackmail. But she’s willing to leave the matter to the local constables–until Lord Walter bribes the investigating magistrate to drop the case. Stunned and confused, Lily realizes she’s the only one with the key to catching the killer.

Aided by a roguish navy captain and a mysterious heiress from the West Indies, Lily sets out to discover whether her friend’s husband is mixed up in blackmail and murder. The unlikely team tries to conceal their investigation behind the whirl of London’s social season, but the dead man knew secrets about people with power. Secrets that they would kill to keep hidden. Now, Lily will have to uncover the truth, before she becomes the murderer’s next target.”

My Thoughts:

I am always on the hunt for new historical mystery series to read and I had heard good things about this book. When I was able to snag a copy at my local library, I jumped at the chance. The thing that really drew me into this book was the description that lovers of Tasha Alexander and Rhys Bowen would really enjoy this book. Alexander and Bowen are two of my favorite historical mystery authors, so I knew that I had to give this book a shot. I was not disappointed. Lily Adler is newly widowed and is struggling to find her way in the world without her husband. She has returned to London with the hope of throwing herself back into the social scene to help her forget the loss of her husband. She soon finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation.

Attending her friend’s ball, Lily escapes to the garden for a moment’s respite from the overwhelming crush of London’s upper elite. In the garden she overhears an argument and is shocked when she hears a gunshot. She hurries over to the scene and finds a young man dead of a gunshot wound. No one else is around. Spurring into action, Lily finds some help and learns that the young man was involved in blackmail. But who was he blackmailing and why did someone want him dead? Lily plans to leave the investigating up to the police, but when she learns that her friend’s husband has bribed the local authorities to stop the investigation, she knows that it is up to her to solve the murder.

This book was a delightful read. I had a hard time putting it down. I immensely loved Lily’s character and how her drive for justice fueled her investigation. Even when she is in harm’s way, she is determined to solve the murder mystery because it is the right thing to do. Lily is a smart, strong and determined woman and she is not about to let anything stand her in her way. This was a great start to a new historical mystery series and I am anxious to read the next book in the series, Silence in the Library. I am wondering if any of you have read this book and what your thoughts are and how you feel this author compares to historical mystery greats Alexander and Bowen.

Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Author: Katharine Schellman

Series: Lily Adler Mystery #1

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Pages: 327

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: One Fatal Flaw by Anne Perry

Description (from cover): “When a desperate woman comes to Daniel Pitt seeking a lawyer for her boyfriend, Rob Adwell, Daniel is convinced of the young man’s innocence. Adwell has been accused of murder and of setting a fire to conceal the body, but Daniel is sure that science can absolve him — and Miriam fford Croft is the best scientist that he knows. Miriam connects Daniel with her former teacher Sir Barnabas Saltram, an expert in arson, and together, they reveal Adwell’s innocence by proving that an accidental fire caused the victim’s death. But it’s not long before Adwell is killed in the same fiery fashion. If these deaths are, in fact, murders, what essential clue could Daniel and Miriam have missed?

As their investigation deepens, one of Saltram’s former cases comes into question, and Miriam finds herself on the defensive. If the reasoning Saltram used in that case is proved false, several other cases will have to be re-tried, and Saltram’s expert status — not to mention Miriam’s reputation — will be ruined. Haunted by Saltram’s shady tactics in and outside of the classroom, Miriam is desperate to figure out truths both past and present and protect herself in the face of Saltram’s lies. What started as an accidental fire in Adwell’s case seems to be linked to a larger plot for revenge, with victims accumulating in its wake, and Miriam and Daniel must uncover who or what is stoking these recurring flames — before they, too, find themselves burned.”

My Thoughts:

This book is the third installment of Anne Perry’s Daniel Pitt mystery series. I have reviewed the second book in this series, Triple Jeopardy, on this blog. If you know anything about the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, you will know that Daniel is their son and he is now grown up and is a lawyer in his own right. He is just starting out in his career, but has had successful cases prior to this one and he is still struggling to find out more about the law and how to properly defend his clients. In this book, Rob Adwell, is charged with arson and committing murder during the course of the fire. HIs girlfriend, Jessie, pleads on his behalf with Daniel to represent him in his defense and Daniel takes the case believing Adwell is innocent of the crimes. Daniel is able to get the jury to acquit him of all charges and is shocked when Adwell turns up dead in the same manner that he was accused and now Jessie is charged with arson and his murder.

I feel like I struggled with this book. It was long-winded some parts and was probably my least favorite of the series so far. There wasn’t a lot of character development in this book and I am anxious to have the characters evolve at a more faster pace. This book felt more like a placeholder than an actual beneficial installment to this series. Also, most of the books in this series tend to follow one case, this one had three separate cases in it and it was a little hard to follow in parts. This book featured some forensic science and how it was developing in the early 20th century, which was fascinating; however, the same information was repeated frequently throughout the book to the point it was almost overdone.

While this book wasn’t one of my favorites in this series, I do like Daniel’s character and the supporting characters Perry has created in this series. I feel like the author could have taken this book in several different directions and the end result was a little disappointing. The ending felt rushed and while I liked the characters and their stories, it wasn’t enough to make this a very enjoyable read which is surprising coming from such an acclaimed author as Perry. Normally her books are engaging and very hard to put down. I am hoping that the next in the series, Death with a Double Edge, will be better. I have it on my to read list and I am hoping the next installment will be just as engaging as before.

Overall Rating: 2.5 stars

Author: Anne Perry

Series: Daniel Pitt Mystery #3

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Pages: 338

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poison by Kate Khavari

Description (from cover): “Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast paced, fearless adventure.

London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professor’s wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.

Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.

Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list?”

My Thoughts:

This is the first book in the Saffron Everleigh mystery series. Saffron is an assistant to a botany professor at London’s University College. She is smart and determined to make a name for herself academically. Although this is quite a hard feat for her as she is the first female assistant and is treated differently for being so. Her father was a well-known botany professor at the university and she is eager to make her own way in a world dominated by men. She is often looked over just because she is a woman. When the wife of a professor is poisoned at a party she attends, she knows that nothing is as it appears and she is determined to solve the case. Surrounded by men who think that they are better than her because she is just a woman, she is able to investigate on the sly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am glad that I was able to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy as I am always on the hunt for a new historical mystery series to love. In this book, the author does a great job of showing the reader how women were treated professionally in the 1920’s. Even though women were starting to leave the home and create careers for themselves, not everyone was on board. That is a struggle that the reader sees Saffron having to deal with a lot in this book. She is smart, but she is a woman and that limits her chances to advance in a field presently dominated by men.

With the help of another research assistant, Alexander Ashton, she sets out to determine who wanted to murder Mrs. Henry and why. Was it her husband who was having an affair or was it one of the other professors in the department who had grudges against her husband? I thought that this was a brilliantly written debut novel in this new historical mystery series and I cannot wait to read more about Saffron’s adventures in the future. I couldn’t put this one down and am extremely excited about this series and will be watching for new books in the future.

Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars

Author: Kate Khavari

Series: Saffron Everleigh Mystery #1

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Pages: 304

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry

Description (from cover): “On her first mission for MI6, the daring young photographer at the heart of this thrilling new mystery series by bestselling author Anne Perry travels to Mussolini’s Italy to rescue the lover who betrayed her.

Britain’s secret intelligence service, MI6, has lost contact with its informant in northern Italy, just as important information about the future plans of Austria and Nazi Germany is coming to light. And young Elena Standish, to her surprise, is the only person who can recognize MI6’s man–because he is her former lover. Aiden Strother betrayed Elena six years ago, throwing shame on her entire family. Now, with so much to prove, Elena heads to Trieste to track down Aiden and find out what happened to his handler, who has mysteriously cut off contact with Britain.

As Elena gets word of a secret group working to put Austria in the hands of Germany, her older sister, Margot, is in Berlin to watch a childhood friend get married–to a member of the Gestapo. Margot and Elena’s grandfather, the former head of MI6, is none too happy about the sisters’ travels at this tumultuous time, especially when a violent event at home reminds him that even Britain is growing dangerous. As his own investigation collides with his granddaughter’s, what’s at stake on the continent becomes increasingly frightening–and personal.

Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Europe, New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry crafts a novel full of suspense, political intrigue, and the struggle between love and loyalty to country.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the Elena Standish series by Anne Perry that takes place in the 1930’s in an Europe that is increasingly gearing up for war. In the period after World War I and the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany, Britain’s MI6 is actively engaged in preventing another war by using spies strategically placed in Nazi Germany, and in Northern Italy. There appears to be plans afoot to overthrow the new Austrian Chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, and have Nazi Germany take over the country to further the political ambitions of Hitler. MI6 has agent Aiden Strother in place in Northern Italy to pass along information to the British and to keep them informed of Hitler’s plans. When Strother’s handler, Max, seemingly appears to go missing with no contact, MI6 sends in Elena in order to find Max and bring Strother and his information back to England. The only reason they send in Elena is because Aiden was her former lover and she is the only one who can be relied upon to find him.

This book was a little chaotic and hard to follow at times. I had a hard time keeping up with everything for a little while, but towards the end, I was able to get hooked into the story and wanted to see how it ended. I felt the ending was a little rushed and could have been a little more thought out. I liked the characters and the historical context. I always find it interesting to read about World War II and how it started. Europe really didn’t want to fight another war right after one that caused so many losses and struggles, but Germany was determined to recover and make a name for itself at any cost.

Anne Perry has long been a favorite author of mine and I am glad that she has branched out and decided to write books in a different era as she normally writes in about Victorian England. While this book wasn’t the greatest book I read, I still appreciate her attention to detail and her way with endearing her readers to the characters. I will see what the next book in the series, A Darker Reality, has in store for these characters, but it seems that there will need to be a little more moving forward for this to become a series that I really enjoy and love.

Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars

Author: Anne Perry

Series: Elena Standish Mystery #2

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Pages: 305

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Murder at the Book Club by Betsy Reavley

Description (from cover): “Imagine nine women meeting. Tea and cake are on the coffee table. They’ve come together to share their love of books. They are friends. They trust each other. It’s a happy gathering. What could be more harmless?

Then scratch the surface and look closer. One is lonely. One is desperate. And one of them is a killer. When the body of a woman is discovered on a Cambridge common, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer are called in to investigate. But the motive behind the crime isn’t clear–and it all leads back to a book club. As the lies, volatile friendships, and tension among the group rise to the surface, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer must work out the motive and track down a cold-blooded killer. But just when they think they’re on the right track, a twist in the plot throws them off course…”

My Thoughts:

I very rarely check out book reviews from other readers prior to reading a book myself. It is a rule that I have set for myself to keep my reviews and thoughts unbiased. However, for some reason, I read the reviews of this book before reading it. The reviews overwhelmingly were a mixed bag. It seemed readers either loved this book or hated it and there really wasn’t a middle ground. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I read this book anyways and decided to give it an honest shake. While this book wasn’t a horrible read, it wasn’t fantastic either. I initially picked up this book because I thought it would centered around a book club, and as a lover of books myself, I felt I would be able to relate. It was centered on the members of a book club, but books really weren’t all that big of a part in this story.

Nine women are meeting for their book club meeting. When the members arrive, before they can even get started discussing the book, the ladies erupt into a large argument amongst themselves. The book club members are pitted against each other and soon the members are storming out angrily just minutes after getting started with their meeting. It seems that the book club is finally over as none of the members can seem to get along with each other. The next day, one of the members is found murdered on the common and the group is in shock. How could this happen to one of them and who is responsible? The police begin investigating the book club members and it seems every one has a secret.

I don’t think that there was one character in this book that I actually liked. None of the characters are likeable and they all seem to be self-centered and focused on their own selves. The constant fighting between the characters is very petty at times and just seemed unnecessary. I did like that each character could be a viable suspect and the plot had me guessing until the end. While this book didn’t quite blow me away, I didn’t think it was as bad as some of the other reviews I had come across prior to reading this book. I would just say it was an okay and average read. Nothing too exciting, but nothing too boring at the same time.

Overall Rating: 3

Author: Betsy Reavley

Series: Barrett & Palmer Mystery #1

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Pages: 218

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen by Rhys Bowen

Description (from cover): “Georgie is back and hanging the stockings with care when a murder interrupts her Christmas cheer in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen.

Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.

Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.”

My Thoughts:

**I have reviewed previous books in this series: The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Malice at the Palace, and Crowned and Dangerous**

Rhys Bowen has long been a favorite historical mystery author of mine. I adore her Molly Murphy mysteries and the Royal Spyness series, of which this book is a part of. Every single time a new book of hers is released, I jump right on it. Bowen has a way of creating characters that one simply cannot get enough of and books that never disappoint. I love her writing style and how she makes the characters all seem like friends. I devour her books in a matter of days as they are so good and impossible to put down. Georgie is a lesser royal, who has been down on her luck in the past, but the future is looking bright. She has recently married Darcy and they make plans of how to spend their first Christmas together. When those plans are thrown out the window due to a royal request, Darcy and Georgie head with her mother, her brother and his wife with their children to Darcy’s aunt’s house located on the Sandringham estate for a Christmas house party.

In true Georgie fashion, things start to go amiss from the moment they arrive. People start to turn up dead in mysterious circumstances and strange accidents are happening all over the estate. Georgie, along with Darcy, use their wits and skills to find out what is going on. Everyone is a suspect and no one is safe. Georgie and Darcy must race the clock and a killer before more murders occur. Georgie, while hoping for a relaxing first Christmas with her husband, finds herself in the midst of a murder’s cold blooded plot. With the return of beloved characters and a storyline that will keep the reader engaged and wanting more, this book is a great addition to the already fantastic Royal Spyness series.

Bowen has created another fantastic read with this book. I loved that I got to read this book right in the middle of Christmas season as that was a treat. Nothing like spending Christmas with your favorite characters. Georgie has come a long way in the series and the author shows no signs of slowing down in plans for her future in the books. As always, I am already eagerly anticipating the next installment of this book and only wish the author could write them faster. This was a delightful read and one that left us with a little surprise at the end. Have you read this book or this series? If so, I would love to hear in the comments what you think about the characters and this latest book in the series.

Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Author: Rhys Bowen

Series: Royal Spyness Mystery #15

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Pages: 302

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Description (from cover): “May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript–about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain–cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.

Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own–some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.”

My Thoughts:

**I have reviewed previous books in this series and you can find those reviews by clicking on the following links: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas and Jane and the Waterloo Map.**

Jane Austen has always fascinated me and having found a series focused on murder mysteries being solved by her, is just the icing on the cake. While it has been some five years since I have picked up a book in this series, I knew that I would enjoy reading about Jane’s adventures again. It did take me a little while to remember what happened in past books and try to figure out who the characters were (mainly Jane’s family members and their backstories). I feel that had there not been such a long gap in between reading the books, that it might have been a little easier to follow along. I did struggle initially with this book trying to keep everything straight. The plot was a little slow and it took me some time to really get into this book.

Jane and her sister, Cassandra, have left home for some rest in Cheltenham Spa where they plan on taking the curative waters to help with their many health ailments. Life has been a little chaotic for the family lately and the sisters hope that getting away for a little bit will provide respite for them. Upon arriving in Cheltenham Spa, they find that their housemates aren’t quite what they appear to be and intrigue is afoot with mysterious happenings. Jane cannot help but find herself in the middle of everything and her inquisitive mind leaves her searching for answers. When other houseguests end up being murdered in strange circumstances, Jane uses her wits and her friends to help solve the murders before someone else is harmed or worse.

As I stated previously, it did take some time for me to really start enjoying this book. The plot started out very slowly, but then as the book progressed, it started to get better. While I wouldn’t say that this was my favorite book in the series, it was nice to read about Jane and her life again. I love how the author uses real details about Austen’s life in the books and incorporates them into her stories to make them seem more realistic. While we all know Jane Austen wasn’t known for solving murders, I really enjoy the thought of Jane being a detective and solving murders in Regency England. This series has long been one of my favorites and it was nice to read this newest installment, which will be released in February 2022. If you are a Jane Austen fanatic like me, I would recommend this series for a different spin on her life and adventures.

Overall Rating: 3 stars

Author: Stephanie Barron

Series: Jane Austen Mystery #14

Publisher: Soho Crime

Publication Date: February 8, 2022

Pages: 336

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: An advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the Publisher through NetGalley. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Description (from cover): “A mystery of stolen antiquities has Kat Holloway setting aside her apron once again for the intrigues of the upper echelons of Victorian London.

Priceless artwork has gone missing from the home of a wealthy baronet, and his wife stands to take the blame. When Kat’s employer asks for help in clearing her friend’s name, Kat trades her kitchen for the homes of Mayfair’s wealthiest families. Soon antiques are disappearing not only from the extravagant households of connoisseurs and collectors, but from the illustrious British Museum.

As the thefts increase in frequency, Kat calls upon her friend Daniel McAdam, who has already set himself up in a pawnshop on the Strand as a seedy receiver of stolen goods. When a man is murdered in the shop, Kat must use all of her wits to see that the thieves are caught and justice is done.”

My Thoughts:

Kat Holloway is a cook in a wealthy household in London who has a penchant for solving mysteries and finding herself involved in dangerous situations. When her employer Lady Cynthia, asks for her help with clearing her friend’s name of theft of antiquities, Kat is eager to be of assistance. She uses her connections with the households of Mayfair and her mysterious friend Daniel McAdam to investigate the thefts and finds herself promptly in the middle of a murder investigation. Using her connections and her bright wits, she must help her friends and solve the case before someone ends up getting hurt or worse.

This is the second installment in the Below Stairs mystery series and there is a lot of potential for this series. I have come to love the characters, however, the ending of this book left much to be desired. I felt the ending was a little rushed and was confusing. Everything didn’t come together as smoothly as I would have hoped and I was left scratching my head at the head trying to figure everything out. The author did provide some character development in this book, as the reader is not entirely sure of Daniel McAdam’s mysterious past. The author gave us some clues into his past, but did not give away everything. That alone keeps me hooked on this series.

While this wasn’t my favorite read, it wasn’t absolutely horrible either. I really enjoyed the author’s attention to historical details and her knowledge of food and cooking. As a cook and foodie myself, I found that to be very interesting. I am not quite ready to give up on this series and will see what the future of the series holds. As of the writing of this post, there appears to be five books in this series. As this is only book two, I am hoping that the series shows some improvement. The characters are really what brings me back to this series and I am curious to see what the author has planned for them in the other books. If you have read this series, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I am eager to see how others feel about this book and this series.

Overall Rating: 2.5 stars

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Below Stairs Mystery #2

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: July 3, 2018

Pages: 316

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.