by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a pair of magical mysteries-Mrs. Morris and the Witch: A Salem B&B Mystery by Traci Wilton and A Spell for Trouble: An Enchanted Bay Mystery by Esme Addison. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of both 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.
Mrs. Morris and the Witch: A Salem B&B Mystery by Traci Wilton
Review by Cynthia Chow
After the death of her beloved husband, Charlene Morris is starting her life over running a Bed and Breakfast in Salem, Massachusetts. For her first Halloween as a Salem business owner, Charlene is seeing just how over-the-top the tourist-driven town becomes as it celebrates a Psychic Fair, Witch Festival, and Witch Ball. Her own guests are signed up for a tour led by Kevin Hughes, one that takes them to Morganna’s Witch House, run by the alluring witch Morganna. When her shop closes earlier than expected, Charlene and Kevin have the horror of discovering the witch’s body, most likely poisoned to death by cyanide.
What no one knows is that Charlene has her own in-house ghost, that of recently deceased Doctor Jack Strathmore. She and her cat Silva are the only ones able to see his form, something of a shame considering his designer-clad body and undeniable good looks. Jack has his own issues with jealousy over Charlene, not hiding his resentment towards the attention she receives of Detective Sam Holden. This new murder will have both men vying for Charlene’s time, with Sam having the advantage considering that he is alive and has inside information on the investigation. Feeling overly protective of her guests, Charlene champions the police’s early suspect Dylan Preston, a young man with shifty alibis, an online date, and jacket left in Morganna’s store. Despite Sam’s pleas to stay uninvolved, Charlene doesn’t hesitate to begin questioning Morganna’s business rivals or disputing Wiccans.
This second in the series lives up to the charm of the debut, which introduced an emotionally wounded Charlene still recovering from the loss of her spouse. The ghost Jack isn’t shy about his interest in her, not seeming to see his lack of being alive as an obstacle to their future. Sam, of course, has the advantage of being amongst the living, and his patience as he continually finds Charlene questioning his suspects and in the midst of chaos makes him a prime candidate in her future. That he also recognizes Charlene’s need for time to mourn and accept of loss of the love of her life further sets him apart, although ultimately it will be her decision on how she decides to move on. Interactions with her parents and guests provide moments of humor and levity, as do Silva’s frustrations with Jack and his ability to be shed upon. This is a charming, light-hearted paranormal mystery that features a vulnerable, relatable heroine and a ghost who both enhances and complicates her life.
A Spell for Trouble: An Enchanted Bay Mystery by Esme Addison
Review by Cynthia Chow
After the death of her Police Chief father and losing out on a promotion, Alex Daniels needed to retreat back to her mother’s hometown of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina. It had been nearly twenty years since Alex had last seen her Aunt Lidia and cousins Minka and Kamila, and she had forgotten the beauty of their beautiful and relaxing garden home. A former risk management consultant, it takes a bit of adjustment for Alex to fit into the women’s Botanika herbal apothecary store that offers soaps, beauty products, and alternative medicine treatments. Even more alarming is Lidia’s angry outburst against customer Randy Bennett, rejecting his pleas for help and nearly throwing him up against a wall. When Randy is later found dead in his home, it doesn’t take long for suspicion to fall upon Lidia, especially when the cause of death is a reaction to deadly nightshade and a Botanika tea bag left by his side. Although Lidia is eventually released on house arrest with a restrictive ankle monitor, Alex refuses to leave the investigation to the police, even though it is being led by the admittedly attractive Jack Frazier.
As Alex looks into who would have wanted Randy Bennett dead – and the philandering multimillionaire real estate magnate left suspects aplenty – the secrets she discovers about her own life are far more surprising. For reasons unknown, Alex’s mother hid from her their heritage as water witches, descended from mermaids and gifted with the power over water. Living among the Mundanes not only caused Alex to forget her talents, it prevented her from learning spells and how to control her abilities to read minds. She’s quickly brought up to speed by her aunt and cousin Minka, while Kamila abstains and choosing instead to pursue a life as a police officer. Also leading Alex into the world of witchcraft is Dylan Wesley, scion of a powerful family and someone to whom she is both drawn and distrusts. Alex quickly finds herself sorting out the warring witch families, decades of resentment, and an entire magical legacy, all while attempting to track down a murderer and where she fits into this new community.
This debut series introduces a very intriguing and complicated new heroine. Alex is not without her flaws, blustering into scenarios and often ungracefully demanding answers and making accusations. Her career as a risk management consultant has given her a pessimistic view of the world, distrusting first and only slowly allowing others into her life. The shocking secrets she discovered about her life definitely have her unsettled, but thankfully her supportive cousins always have her back and empathize with her confusion. Alex’s use of her new skills are not always wielded deftly, especially when it comes to dealing with the mind and consent. She learns from her mistakes though, and readers are always on her side as she struggles through her challenges and makes her way towards solutions to the growing mysteries in her life. In a world of mermaid witches and spellcraft, the final resolution is handled realistically with not every puzzle resolved or wound healed. It will be fascinating to see where Alex’s new life takes her next, and where she fits in as she is embraced by her charming family and a fascinating new world.
Editor’s note: The release date for this book has been moved to July.
To enter to win a copy of both magical mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “magical,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 13, 2020. 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, and that the release date for A Spell for Trouble has been moved to July.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up last week!
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.