by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another catch up group of fun mysteries for your TBR-A Counterfeit Suitor: A Rosalind Thorne Mystery by Darcie Wilde, Petals and Poison: A Flower House Mystery by Jess Dylan, and To the Tome of Murder: A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery by Lauren Elliott. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
A Counterfeit Suitor: A Rosalind Thorne Mystery by Darcie Wilde
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sir Reginald Thorne is a drunkard, a forger, and a liar. Unfortunately, he’s also Rosalind Thorne’s father, thankfully estranged. When his misdeeds caught up with him, he ran off to Paris with his other daughter Charlotte, leaving his wife and Rosalind behind, penniless. After her mother’s death, Rosalind had to find a way to eke out a living. She became a Useful Woman.
As an adult, Charlotte was the means of income as a courtesan, supporting her father but keeping a tight rein on him. A fire in the neighborhood gives him a chance to escape. He was seen stepping into a carriage, but no one knows who it belonged to.
Moving on the edges of society, Rosalind’s able to help ladies in distress, who may have been careless in who they spent time with or who wrote a letter that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands—like those of a husband. She doesn’t accept anything so crass as money, but payment disguised as gifts are given.
Mrs. Walford, a widow, has been on the fringes of society and wishes her daughter to be properly married. A suitor has arrived on the scene, but is he who and what he claims? Blemishes are easy enough to find in his past, but he has a slick explanation for each one and a smirk that says he’s outplayed Rosalind’s every move.
That’s when Sir Reginald makes an appearance—at the opera in full view of society. He’s drunk, of course, and obscene to boot. He’s accompanied by Russell Fullerton, a blackmailer who has declared his wish to destroy Rosalind for her interference in his schemes in the past.
Rosalind is shocked when she hears of her father’s murder and Fullerton’s arrest. More shocking is Fullerton’s request that she prove his innocence.
With rumors of espionage, Napoleon loyalists, embezzled funds, gambling, and murder, a second body, and Charlotte’s return, Rosalind isn’t sure she will be able to solve this mystery in time to save her own life.
This is book five in the series. Rosalind is a woman to be admired. She is in dire circumstances but manages to make the best of them. It’s a change of pace to read about the lives of women who have strict rules of society to follow, who have servants, but no freedom and how they manage to get around the rules at times. Readers will be anxious to see if Charlotte stays in the picture, if Rosalind saves the day, and will the spark of romance in her life ignite?
Petals and Poison: A Flower House Mystery by Jess Dylan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Having given up her dream of making it in Nashville as a musician, Sierra Ravenswood moved back to her hometown of Aerieville, Tennessee, and has since become the new owner of the Flower House nursery. To help increase business, Sierra is opening a café within the shop, one that will be run with baker supreme and best friend from high school Deena Lee. Before they are ready for their grand opening, they are unexpectedly visited by a University of Tennessee Professor of Botany and his summer field students, all who seem to demand immediate (but unavailable) food and service. While the obliviously self-centered young adults eventually depart in a wave of chaos, it is the body of Professor Steve Lowry that Sierra finds in her back storeroom. Bludgeoned to death, apparently, by a candlestick from her orchid room.
It was quickly apparent to Sierra that the arrogant professor was disliked by many, but it’s her tenant Calvin Foxheart who becomes the prime suspect. Even though Sierra has reasons to distrust the man who hid his identity in order to follow a legendary treasure quest, Calvin has since been growing closer to her and winning an affectionate place in her heart. Phone records are able to eliminate half of the visiting students, but the remaining three are encouraged to stay in town until they are cleared. In a town full of gossips and nosy neighbors, Sierra knows that it won’t be long before her reputation of running a “Poison House” spreads and ruins her business completely, so she takes it upon herself to prove her tenant and her shop innocent while tracking down a murderer.
This second in the series quickly introduces new readers to Sierra’s supportive friends and unique family. The artsy one in a family of jocks, Sierra stands out with her love of plants and flowers while her parents and brother operate their Dumbbells Gym. The Flower House window display may feature botany symbolisms from a multitude of cultures, but the bamboo plant that many Asian cultures view as being good luck charms seems to be glitching for Sierra. Good fortune does seem to be abounding in numerous romances hovering around Sierra, with her bestie, brother, and the Bed and Breakfast owner all having secretive flirtations. Interwoven into the abundance of plant, flower, and gardening lore are academic shenanigans and infighting, which are always fascinating and so fun to explore. Sierra has a mostly amenable relationship with the Acting Chief of Police Renee Bradley, but both are mindful of boundaries and when to not cross legal lines. That’s going to be tricky when Sierra is locked in her own storeroom and the noose seems to be tightening around Calvin’s neck, as Sierra will do everything she can to see justice through before all the suspects leave town. Edible flowers, café treats, and the adorable Corgi Gus make this a charming cozy mystery that breezes along to a reveal that makes perfect sense for this botanical mystery series.
To the Tome of Murder: A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery by Lauren Elliott
Review by Cynthia Chow
As Thanksgiving closes in on the New England town of Greyborne Manor, Addie Greyborne is swapping out her Beyond the Page bookstore displays not for Christmas, but for the upcoming Make it-Bake It Food Market cooking and baking competition. Since the hosting Essex County Association Chapter of the Massachusetts Historical Society has selected the theme and are requiring that all of the entries must be recipes from the Civil War, contestants will be racing to Addie’s bookstore to find authentic resources. While one wouldn’t think of that time period as having the tastiest of treats, it does mean that there will soon be a high demand for Civil War recipe books. Flying off the shelves are the works by Sarah Josepha Hale, who from 1830 to 1878 also edited Godey’s Lady’s Magazine and was the reliable source for popular cuisine for nearly thirty years. Before any of that can occur, though, Addie receives a call from her cousin Kalea not with her usual spoiled-girl, frivolous demands, but with a desperate plea for help.
What Addie discovers is a distraught and cowering Kalea in her dress shop, standing near the body of her boyfriend Jared Munroe. As much as Addie might hope that it was an accident, his being stabbed in the chest with a plastic hanger would seem to pretty much eliminate that. The investigating Police Chief Marc Chandler should know better than to hope that his ex-girlfriend would remain on the sidelines while the officials take over, but he attempts to warn Addie away anyway. It’s a futile gesture, as Addie immediately inserts herself into the investigation with the assertion that Kalea could never have committed murder. Addie might come to regret – and question – her decision the more she learns about Kalea’s and Jared’s relationship, but for now she will prod, eavesdrop, and finagle as much information as she can from the officers and her current boyfriend, Simon. Her very own Dr. Dreamy might be reluctant to share details, but it’s the instinctively flirtatious moves by Kalea that really have Addie on edge.
In this seventh in the series, Addie has grown quite confident in her position as an unofficial official amateur detective. That often leads to her to become quite exasperated and frustrated when the Police Chief locks her out of his case, especially when Addie believes that she has past crime experience and inside knowledge on the case. Indeed, it is her connections with the sought after “Godey’s Lady’s Book” that help Addie to narrow down motives, learning that the declared creator of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” rhyme was a fascinating woman whose legacy extends to the present. Having experienced much loss in her life before moving back to the coastal town that bears her family’s name, Addie is able to help the flighty Kalea mourn even as she struggles with confused feelings of guilt. What Addie won’t be able to do is teach Kalea how to cook without burning down the kitchen, but readers will enjoy their exploits while more experienced contestants compete with their historical recipes. There’s booklore galore for bibliophiles and mystery lovers, and a Happily Ever After awaits Addie as long as she becomes as brave in love as she is when investigating murder.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “tbr” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 22, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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