by Cynthia Chow
& Hannah Dennison
This week we have a review of Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison, along with an interesting guest post by Hannah about taking a leap of faith, and how she met Steven Spielberg. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall: Honeychurch Hall Mystery series by Hannah Dennison
Review by Cynthia Chow
England had their Civil War hundreds of years before America, but the two countries share a delight in celebrating particularly horrific battles. Honeychurch Hall is hosting their annual Skirmish, a re-enactment of 1643s conflict between Royalists and Roundheads (like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter). It’s a money-losing traditional event for the fifteenth Earl of Grenville, so Lord Rupert Honeychurch is less than pleased when a sewer line trench excavation uncovers skeletal remains that spur on his investigators taping off a portion of the land. Even more disturbing is that the skeleton is that of a woman, one wearing a horrific scold’s bridle, showing that she was possibly tortured as a spy or traitor.
Kat Stanford had left hosting BBC’s Fakes & Treasures following the demise of her marriage to her co-host, and she’s intent on making a go of it with her new antique appraisal business Kat’s Collectibles & Valuation Services. She’s not exactly rolling in the money, yet, so she’s caught off-guard when postmistress Muriel Jarvis requests a loan to tide her over. The death of Muriel’s husband has left her in dire straits, and she guilts Kat into providing funds to keep the lights on at the post office. There does seem to be something amiss, as along with numerous other small crimes in Devon, a vital piece of mail has gone missing since its postage. Unknown to most of the world, Kat’s mother Iris is bestselling romance writer Kystalle Storm, and her newest manuscript has failed to make it from their post office to the publishers. Iris demands that Kat investigates, as her on-parole uncle is busy on assignment for Lady Lavinia Honeychurch, perhaps the only one in the village uncertain as to whether Lord Rupert is having an affair. Their tenuous marriage is a union based on titles and money, and the arrival of Lady Lavinia’s father with his much younger bride heightens the tension. Lavinia’s brother also makes an appearance, and when not coordinating zombie soldiers to coincide with the skirmish, Piers Carew wields his considerable good humor and charm to make a very strong play for Kat.
The fourth in the Honeychurch Hall Mystery series continues to entertain by showcasing the hilarious interactions between the gentrified lords and the commoners, all of whom display equal moments of eccentricity. The tragic consequences of wars between families stretch from the past to the present, delivering somber emotional moments along with the humor. Kat’s first date with Detective Shawn Cropper ended disastrously and has since been followed by six or seven cancellations, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the impetuous Piers proves alluring despite his history of flirtations and delight in pranks. Kat has more than a few balls in the air as she attempts to monitor her mother, keep her business afloat, and assist Lady Edith Honeychurch in corralling her chaotic family. It is to readers’ delight that Honeychurch Hall’s attempt to be both respectable and profitable are often at odds, and the lords and ladies are never more entertaining than when at their wits’ end.
Leap of Faith
By Hannah Denison
It’s been said that pop icon Madonna is the Queen of Reinvention. At one time in my life I shared her hair colorist in Los Angeles, and he would tell me how every few years, Madge—as she was known—would completely reinvent herself. I found this concept very inspiring probably because when I was in my early thirties, I did exactly that.
Almost a quarter of a century ago, I took the plunge and moved from England to America as a single mother with my ten-year-old daughter and two cats to become a professional writer. When I look back now, I must have been mad. If I had known how hard it would have been, maybe I wouldn’t have taken that leap of faith. Sometimes it’s just as well that ignorance is bliss!
It was those three words, “leap of faith,” that sparked the beginning of my unconventional journey to fulfill such a crazy dream. At the time, I’d been working as a flight attendant on a private jet for an aviation company based out of Heathrow. I loved flying. I loved everything about it. I had no desire to move to Los Angeles. The ridiculous notion that I would even consider any kind of writing career couldn’t have been further from my mind.
And then Fate stepped in.
I was given a choice to fly HRH Prince Charles to Scotland or hang out with Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg on location in the Middle East where they were filming Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Of course I picked the latter.
It was only during an endless night flight that I got talking to Steven. (Please note he was not as well known in those days and therefore very accessible!) He asked me what it was that I really wanted to do and that was I seriously going to serve coffee and tea into my dotage. I mumbled something about wanting to be a writer. I’d always written journals, and I’d worked as a newspaper reporter for a while, but basically I thought that it was an impossible dream. Steven reminded me of one of the scenes they’d just shot in the movie when Indiana Jones is perched on a precipice overlooking a wide ravine, and there is no way he can possibly cross to the other side to rescue his father who will almost certainly die if he doesn’t. In the movie Indy hears a voice telling him to take a leap of faith. With great fear and trepidation, Indy steps off the ledge and suddenly a bridge magically appears.
After that conversation with Steven, I made a sincere and heartfelt intention to become a professional writer and surrendered my future to the universe in the belief that a magical bridge just might appear, too. Inexplicably serendipity and miracles came together very quickly. To cut a long story short, I somehow got a J1 visa and landed a job at New Line Cinema working in international sales and distribution. From there, I learned everything I could about storytelling, wrote a stack of screenplays, and as they say, the rest is history.
A few years later, I wrote to Steven to congratulate him after he won the academy award for Schindler’s List. He replied that he’d remembered our conversation on the aircraft all those years ago and urged me, “Never to lose sight of the passion that brought me here.” I keep his letter in my wallet.
Both of my series are set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside in southwest England. In my first series, The Vicky Hill Mysteries, a twenty-something aspiring investigative reporter flees to the countryside to escape her dysfunctional home life. As the only daughter of The Fog—a notorious silver thief on the run for armed robbery—Vicky reinvents history by claiming to be an orphan. Needless to say, her past—and her parents—eventually catch up with her.
In the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries my protagonist, former TV celebrity Kat Stanford, discovers that her newly widowed mother Iris has recklessly bought a dilapidated carriage house on a country estate known as Honeychurch Hall. Having been married for 54 years, Iris’s newfound freedom gets her into all sorts of trouble especially when it’s revealed that for decades, she’d been writing racy-bodice-rippers under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. For Kat, a failed long-term engagement means that she has to adapt to a new life, too.
Unlike Madge, I’ve retired from reinventing myself, but I will continue to enjoy putting my characters through the agonies of starting over…and stumbling across dead bodies.
To enter to win win a copy of Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “honeychurch,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 17, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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