by Cynthia Chow,
Sandra Murphy & Kathleen Costa
This week we have 5 more mysteries for your end of summer reading-Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding: Her Royal Highness series by Rhys Bowen, Grounds for Remorse: A Tallie Graver Mystery by Misty Simon, Midnight Snacks are Murder: A Poppy McAllister Mystery by Libby Klein, Murder at Ochre Court: Gilded Newport Mysteries by Alyssa Maxwell, Scandal Above Stairs: Kat Halloway Mysteries by Jennifer Ashley. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding: Her Royal Highness series by Rhys Bowen
Review by Kathleen Costa
Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenia is on the Case!
First published in 2007, Rhys Bowen has penned a popular twelve-book series Her Royal Spyness, but before I took on reviewing book twelve, I decided to start my journey with the audio version of book one aptly titled Her Royal Spyness. My interest was immediately captured by the superior voice artistry of Katherine Kellgren whose talent to mimic Grandfather’s cockney, Darcy’s Irish brogue, varying upper crust proper English including kings and queens, and even an American, a Frenchman, and a Scotsman greatly enriched Rhys Bowen’s engaging story. She has been the star of the audio version for eleven books and a prequel, but I was saddened to learn from the dedication of book twelve that Ms. Kellgren passed away this year. A new narrator will take on the series starting with book twelve, and I know she’ll have big shoes…better yet, a big microphone to fill!
Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenia is the thirty-fifth in the line of succession to the British crown. On her paternal side, her great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, but on her maternal side, she has a more down-to-Earth lineage. Society in the 30s doesn’t put Georgie in the lap of luxury unless she marries well, but her half-brother’s choice, Prince Siegfried, is a less than desirable candidate. So, she bolts off to London and decides with the help of BFF/bohemian Belinda to become financial independent. Along with entertaining interactions with royalty and commoners, mayhem, and murder, Lady Georgiana finds excitement, courage, and love. Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series is a Top Ten favorite!
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding: earns 5+/5 Mysterious Manor Mayhem!
Lady Georgie is extremely excited that she will be tying the knot with the handsome Honourable Darcy Bryne O’Mara, but without substantial funds and dictates from the Queen herself to include the crown heads of Europe on the guest list, her sister-in-law’s penny-pinching demands, difference of style for the wedding dress, rules in the Catholic faith, and the appearance of her over-the-top mother she wishes they’d followed through with eloping. Even the search for a post-wedding residence has been a serious cause of concern, but her godfather Sir Hubert Anstruther‘s letter reminding her she is his heir and can move in now to his family home, Eynsleigh, has been the silver lining for which she has been looking. But the Manor is less than ready for her to take up residence, servants are somewhat antagonistic or oddly ill-equipped for their duties, and sounds, sights, and a missing person’s report have made Georgie suspicious and on the search for answers.
BLOODY BRILLIANT!! I was so engaged in every fictional and non-fictional aspect of Rhys Bowen’s book. This series is more of a historical mystery, as Rhys Bowen comments herself, with many real events and real-life characters: King George V and Queen Mary of Teck, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, designer Elsa Schiaparelli and royal-wannabe Mrs. Simpson, and even references to Hitler and the rise of Germany in the 30s. Each chapter begins with Lady Georgiana’s entry in her daily diary offering a follow-up or a preview, and the first-person narrative was engaging with excellent descriptions of the setting, fashion, and personalities. But Bowen didn’t rely just on the narrative including delightful banter between Georgie and her mother, the Queen, and the servants that show she can channel her great-grandmother Queen Victoria just fine. I love Georgiana, but Bowen has created so many strong, courageous women characters. Queenie, Georgiana’s maid, has started to gain confidence, even though she still has incidents of awkwardness. I love this series, but you can start here with book twelve without any difficulty. You’ll fit right in! “Bob’s your uncle!”
Along with this twelve-book Her Royal Spyness series set in 1930s England, Rhys Bowen also pens the popular twenty-book Molly Murphy Mysteries set in 1902 New York, and the entertaining ten-book Constable Evans series set in North Wales along with short stories and recently two standalone novels set in the 1940s.
Grounds for Remorse: A Tallie Graver Mystery by Misty Simon
Review by Cynthia Chow
Tallie Graver adores her best friend Gina Laudermilch, and one of the responsibilities of being a Designated Best Friend is to approve said BFF’s new boyfriend. Unfortunately, Tallie is finding that task nearly impossible, since no matter how much she wants to like Craig Johnson, something about the too-smooth Don Juan rubs Tallie the wrong way. Tallie’s instincts prove to be correct when a woman claiming to be his wife storms into Gina’s Bean There, Done That coffee shop, dragging a cowed Craig off by the arm. Gina’s not about to let the relationship end quietly, loudly threatening no end of imaginative dire fates should Craig return. They are words that come to haunt her when Gina discovers Craig’s body, inexplicably left in her locked stairwell.
Never for a second believing of her friend’s guilt, Tallie – a former socialite and current house cleaner and occasional assistant for her family’s funeral parlor – begins to look into Craig’s cyber-lothario life. With numerous accounts on online dating sites and some shady construction business practices, there wasn’t exactly a dearth of suspects wanting Craig dead. Tallie’s boyfriend Max the Taxinator is finally back from Washington D.C. for a visit, and as much as her mother would love to see them making plans for the future, Tallie is happy just to have him back in the same town. While her housecleaning duties allow her to snoop and hone her observational skills, the demands of the family business have Tallie doing her best to keep the mourners – many of whom are not all that mournful – from pulling out hair and having meltdowns at Craig’s memorable memorial.
Once a snobby, high society housewife until her ex-husband’s financial crimes came to light, a humbled Tallie has admirably settled back into living above her family’s Pennsylvania funeral parlor. Dealing with her parents is of course a challenge, but eventually Tallie may convince them that she’s an adult who knows what she’s doing. One wouldn’t expect a funeral home to be such a hilariously entertaining setting, but Tallie’s quick wit, wry observations, and clever quips ensure that nothing is morbid about this series. The growing romance between Tallie and Max plays out charmingly in the background, with the financial investigator assuming a supporting role to follow Tallie’s lead. Her confidence, whether at handing out tissues to hysterical mourners or interviewing witnesses in a bathtub, make Tallie an effective and always delightful heroine in this outstanding mystery.
Midnight Snacks are Murder: A Poppy McAllister Mystery by Libby Klein
Review by Sandra Murphy
Poppy McAllister bakes gluten-free treats when not helping remodel an old Victorian house in Cape May. It’s her aunt’s dream to turn the house into the Butterfly House Bed and Breakfast. Poppy is ready to call for professional assistance. As if that’s not enough, Aunt Ginny is now sleep-walking—and maybe doing a little breaking and entering while she’s snoozing. At least she’s only stealing snacks from the neighbors—and a knickknack or two. It’s probably a side effect of her new sleeping pills.
It’s cause for some good gossip and a laugh or two until a local philanthropist is found dead. There are similarities, so the “Snack Bandit” is blamed for the man’s murder which means Poppy has to figure out who did it to clear her aunt. There are some similarities but differences too—the murder happened farther away than Ginny ever went while sleepwalking, violence happened, and a bigger mess was left behind.
Poppy’s been using a commercial kitchen for baking until her long-delayed stove arrives. Her friend Gia, a handsome hunk, volunteered his. Too bad that kitchen space is shared in his mother’s restaurant. Mama doesn’t like anybody who likes Gia too much. What’s not to like?
The humanitarian who was killed had a mixed reputation. On the one hand, he looked like a hero for his work with troubled teens, but there were rumors of unwanted attention to teen girls as well.
In Poppy’s personal life, there’s also Tim. It’s hard to decide if he’s a date or a buddy. At one time, Poppy was to be his pastry chef when they opened a restaurant together. Things didn’t work out and now their relationship is up in the air. Gia, on the other hand, is a catch. If only Mama wasn’t a concern. It will be interesting to see who wins that battle!
The mystery is a good one with red herrings, clues, and humor making readers eager to know more. This is the second book, Class Reunions Are Murder being the first. At the back of the book find an excerpt of Restaurant Weeks Are Murder, the next in the series. There are also recipes for Paleo expresso brownies, glute-free blueberry buttermilk muffins, Paleo chocolate-orange muffins, Paleo banana-walnut muffins, gluten-free honey maple pecan shortbread, and gluten-free oatmeal butterscotch bars.
Murder at Ochre Court: Gilded Newport Mysteries by Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
Emma Cross works for the Herald newspaper as a society writer although she longs to write real news. Of course, in 1898, she’s lucky to have a job at all, as women were expected to stay at home. Emma returns to Newport, determined to make changes in her life.
But first, the social event of the season is upon them. Cleo Cooper-Smith’s coming out ball is scheduled and even though the details are cloaked in secrecy, enough hints are given that everyone knows, it’s a must-see and be-seen party.
The centerpiece of the party is Cleo dressed as Cleopatra. Newly installed electric lighting will showcase her beauty. As she takes her throne, the lights go out. Is it part of the event or did the electricity fail? When the lights come on again, Cleo is found sitting on the throne but dead from electrocution. Emma needs to find out if it was murder or the fault of the electrician whom she knows to be a careful and cautious man.
The suspect pool contains the shady real estate developer who says he was to marry Cleo, the mother of a rejected suitor, and Cleo’s own over-shadowed sister.
It’s refreshing to read books set in another time. Electricity was a new-fangled novelty, not taken for granted like today. Emma has her old horse to pull her buggy, not a speedy car. She’s accepted by society because she’s distantly related to the Vanderbilts and because society matrons want publicity for their lavish lifestyles. Emma is someone you’d like to know and have for a friend.
For a change of pace, a slower one for sure, this series is a good place to start. This is the sixth book in the series. Maxwell also writes the Lady and Lady’s Maid mysteries, three so far.
Scandal Above the Stairs: Kat Halloway Mysteries by Jennifer Ashley
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kat Holloway is an excellent cook in London in 1881. It’s hard to keep her below the stairs though. Artwork is missing from one of the mansions, and Kat’s got a reputation for finding out the truth. Lady Cynthia is a poor relative who refuses to follow the usual social norms. She wears trousers and dresses like a man! The missing artwork belongs to a friend of Lady Cynthia’s.
That’s just the beginning though. Soon valuables are missing from other households and then, even the British Museum. Kat enlists the help of her friend Daniel McAdam, a man of many talents and dubious occupation. He can be gentry or the lowest stable hand and never miss a beat.
This time his cover is as a seedy owner of a pawnshop, eager to receive stolen goods. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last long when a man is found murdered in the shop.
Life in 1881 is surely different because of class distinction even among the servants, the slower pace of life without automobiles, cell phones, and computers, wealth and poverty. Kat doesn’t take unnecessary risks unless Daniel is in danger. She’s accepted among the gentry when accompanied by Lady Cynthia so gets to move about almost with the ease Daniel enjoys.
This is the third book in the series. Ashley also writes the Shifters Unbound novels (21), and the Mackenzies series (13). Death Below Stairs was reviewed for KRL. Both books are enjoyable reads, a nice peek into London of old times and full of good, interesting characters.
To enter to win copies of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer end,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 8, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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I would love to read all of these books! What a great giveaway!
Thanks for the chance to win! They all look so good.
faithdcreech at gmail dot com
What a fun set of titles – some old favorites like Lady Georgie and some new like Poppy. I hope to read them, if not from here, then my library.
OH HOLY COW! I would kill to win all these books. Well, not literally, but Golly Gee, this is a wonderful list of books. Each of them is wonderful on its own and to have the group…terrific.
I am very hopeful. Thanks for the opportunity.
Thanks for the chance to win all these great books.
I have read all of the preceding Georgie and Newport Mysteries and loved them! Would like to read the other mysteries, also firstname.lastname@example.org
What a great assortment of books! Thank you for the reviews and the chance to win them!
I am amazed at all the new books to come. It would be wonderful to add them to my to be read pile so I can be well supplied for the cold, blustery winters in northern Ohio.
I love historical Mysteries and this has a bunch. Love the titles and please enter me.
What a great selection of books. Would really enjoy reading all of them. Thanks for the chance.
some of these would be the
start of a new series, some are
old friends – love to win them all.
More new series and some old friends.
Love to catch up with them.
I’m surprised at all the new books to come. it might be wonderful to add them to my to be examine pile so I can be nicely provided for the bloodless, blustery winters in northern Ohio.
They all sound amazing and I’m intrigued they would be perfect for this coming fall and winter. Thank you for the chance.
What a fantastic giveaway–I’d love to win these! email@example.com
I’d love the chance to win these books. I’ve read books by some these authors, but not all.
We have a winner!