Thursday, January 26, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Under a Veiled Moon (Inspector Corravan Mystery, #2) by Karen Odden

Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden Banner

Under a Veiled Moon

by Karen Odden

January 2-27, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden

In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.

September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.

For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.

As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.

Praise for Under a Veiled Moon:

"[An] exceptional sequel … Odden never strikes a false note, and she combines a sympathetic lead with a twisty plot grounded in the British politics of the day and peopled with fully fleshed-out characters. Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles."

Kirkus Reviews

"Will keep readers curious and guessing to the end."

Manhattan Book Review, 5-star review

"Damn fine historical crime fiction."

Bolo Books

"Rich in emotion and historical detail, Under a Veiled Moon is a brilliant tale of the dark, thorny places where the personal and the political intertwine."

Mariah Fredericks, Edgar award-nominated author of the Jane Prescott series

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-1639101191
Series: Inspector Corravan, #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

London September 1878

Chapter 1

We all carry pieces of our past with us. Sometimes they’re shiny and worthy as new half crowns in our pockets. Sometimes they’re bits of lint or scraps of paper shredded beyond use. Plenty of my memories carry a stab of regret or a burn of shame with them, and honestly, there are times when I wonder how we all bloody well live with the fool things we’ve done.

I’ve made a fair number of mistakes since I first donned a Metropolitan Police uniform in Lambeth, over twelve years ago now. Investigating murders and missing people isn’t a task for those who aren’t willing to go down the wrong alley three or four times before finding the proper one. But those errors are a result of making a poor guess based on limited knowledge, and while they may cause a few sleepless nights, they can be set aside.

The mistakes that feel less forgivable are those that hurt someone you love. Worse still is when you discover your error only years later. Often, there’s nothing to be done. Too much time has passed to make amends. And those mistakes—ach, it’s bloody difficult to forgive yourself when you should’ve known better, should’ve known to pick your head up and cast about to see what might happen as a result of your actions. Perhaps there’s no easy way to learn that lesson, other than failing to do it once and discovering later just what it cost.

Sometimes, during the evenings we’re together, my Belinda reads aloud from whatever book is occupying her at the moment. One night she related a Greek myth about a man whose wife was killed by a snakebite. By virtue of his music, he weaseled his way into the underworld and convinced the king of Hades to release her. The king had one condition, however, of the rescue: neither the man nor his wife could look backward as they were leaving. And what did the fool do? He turned back to be sure his wife was still with him. He couldn’t help himself, poor bloke. So the mouth of hell opened up, and she vanished forever.

But perhaps we can’t always help what we do in a moment of crushing fear.

When I was nineteen, scared out of my wits and fleeing Whitechapel with only a bag of clothes and a small pouch of coins Ma Doyle thrust into my hand, I didn’t look back. Unlike the man in the myth, I should have, though.

Perhaps then hell would not have opened up around me thirteen years later.

***

On the first day of September, I woke to pale autumn sunlight and a feeling of well-being. It didn’t happen often, and it took a few moments to recall the cause. I lay still, listening to the Sunday quiet of my house, to a lone costermonger’s wheels creaking and rumbling over the cobbles outside, and the bells from St. Barnabas’s tolling from the next street over. I no longer attended church, but I did believe in God—a reasonable and just God, although sometimes the world twisted justice around, like a boat line hitched badly around a metal cleat so it emerged from the knot in a direction you didn’t expect.

As I stared at the ceiling, I collected my thoughts with some satisfaction. I’d been acting superintendent at Wapping River Police for three months now, and we’d just resolved a case involving smugglers who’d been bribing Custom House men to underweight the scales, to avoid paying proper taxes. It had occupied my every breath for the past four weeks, and now I felt a sense of relief, like a weighted yoke off the back of my neck, as I always did when an important case ended. The newspapers had even printed something good about the police yesterday as a result. God knows we needed it. Sometimes I still cringed at the memories of the corruption trial last autumn, with mobs cursing us plainclothes men for being frauds and cheats, and newspaper headlines proclaiming how London would be better off if we were all at the bottom of the Thames. But with the river murders of last April resolved and this smuggling case concluded, it seemed the police were slowly earning back public trust. Of course, the stories published about our successes were full of inaccuracies, and by omitting any reference to the tiresome inquiries, the endless walking, and the misleading clues, they were nowhere near the whole truth, but at least they painted the police in a satisfactory light.

The door to Harry’s bedroom, next to mine, opened and closed, and as I heard the boy start down the stairs, I slid out of bed. The coals in my bedroom stove had burnt to ash, and the room was cool, with a dampness that lingered after a rainy August.

Standing at the window in my nightshirt, I looked across the way at the two-story red-brick terraced houses, built cheek by jowl, mirror images of those on my side of the street. The sunlight, golden as a well-baked loaf of bread, inched down from the roofline and struck the upper windows, flashing a shine that made me squint. It was a pleasure to think I had no plan for the day but to visit the Doyles for Sunday tea. What with the smugglers and my new responsibilities at Wapping, it had been over a month since I’d seen Ma, Elsie, and Colin—longer than I liked.

From downstairs came the sound of our kettle shrieking.

Harry would be preparing tea for himself and coffee for me. My brew was a holdover from the tastes of the previous century, I knew, but I couldn’t abide weak liquids in the morning. I’d taught Harry how to make my coffee properly after he said he’d do whatever necessary to keep me from growling at him.

Harry Lish had come to live with me here in Soho six months ago, after his father died, his mother having passed away years before. Harry was Ma Doyle’s nephew, but as she’d told me when he arrived at her house in Whitechapel, he didn’t belong there. His speech was too well schooled and his manners more Mayfair than Merseyside. Although barely sixteen, Harry was determined to study medicine, and I’d found a place for him at St. Anne’s Hospital with my friend James Everett, a physician and surgeon who supervised the ward for brain injuries and mental disorders. Harry was leaving the next day to spend a fortnight or so observing in an Edinburgh hospital, a special opportunity arranged by James, who found in Harry an eager and intuitive student.

I pulled on my shirt and a pair of trousers with the special side pocket for my truncheon, a vestige of my days in uniform. It being Sunday, I was off duty, but the Doyles lived in the heart of Whitechapel, and there was no point in being foolhardy. I splashed water on my face and ran a comb through my hair before stowing my truncheon and heading down the stairs.

“Good morning, Mickey,” Harry said as I entered the kitchen.

“Morning.” I accepted the cup he pushed across the table. The pocketbook he always took to the hospital lay beside his saucer. “Are you not coming with me to the Doyles’s?”

He winced an apology. “I would, but there’s a special procedure.”

“On a Sunday?”

He nodded, his brown eyes keen. “Dr. Everett is performing a craniotomy on a woman with blood on the brain.”

The coffee suddenly tasted sour. But far be it from me to dampen his scientific ardor.

“You’ll only be watching, I assume?” I asked.

Regret flickered over his features. “Observing from the balcony.” Then he brightened. “Richard will be assisting, though.”

Richard was a second-year medical student at University College here in London, who worked at the hospital and had taken Harry under his wing.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “Blood on the brain?”

“She fell off a ladder,” he replied. “If Dr. Everett doesn’t operate, the blood will continue to press on the internal parts and organs.” He touched his fingertips to the side of his head. “She’s already having secondary symptoms—seizures, confusion, and the like.”

“Ah. What time is it? The operation?”

He upended his cup to drink the last of the tea. “Ten o’clock, but I want to be there for the anesthesia.”

“Of course.” What could be more entertaining? I thought as I raised my own cup to hide my smile.

He reached for his coat. “Besides, I doubt Aunt Mary will expect me. I saw them on Tuesday. My aunt and Elsie, I should say,” he amended as he thrust his arm into a sleeve. “Colin was out somewhere . . . as usual.”

In his voice was an undertone—hurt, strained, subdued—that could have served as a signal of something amiss. But it was one of those moments when you must be paying proper attention to take it in, when you must be standing quite still. And we weren’t. Harry was dashing up the stairs, calling over his shoulder, “Wait for me—I’ll be right down,” and I was rummaging on the table amid some newspapers for my pocketbook—where was the bloody thing?—and the warning went unheeded.

I swallowed down the last of my coffee. Harry did well by me, leaving no grounds in the bottom, meticulous in a way that boded well for his success in a profession that demanded precision. With my pocketbook found, I shrugged into my coat, and when Harry reappeared on the stairs, his boots sounding quick on the treads, I waved him outside and locked the front door. We walked to the corner, where we bid farewell and separated. I watched him, hatless, his lanky boyish frame hurrying along, not wanting to miss the thrills to be found in the medical amphitheater.

I found myself grinning as I turned away, for I liked the lad, and we’d come to understand each other. Belinda says that in our both being orphans and clever, as well as in some of our less desirable traits such as our prickly aversion to owing anyone anything, we’re more alike than I’m willing to admit. There’s part of me that agrees with her, though Harry and I have our differences. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if I’d had Harry’s book learning or someone overseeing my education and guiding my professional progress the way James does for Harry. Oh, my real mother had taught me to read before I lost her, and working at Ma Doyle’s store had made me quick at my sums. But every so often Harry would let slip a phrase in French or Latin, or he’d mention some curious bit of history, much the way James or my former partner Stiles does, not to show off his learning but just because it floats around in his brain. And I’d think about how we can’t be more than our past permits us.

Then again, my advancement within the Metropolitan Police has been my own doing. There’s some satisfaction in that too.

Chapter 2

It was a fine day for a walk, and I headed to my favorite pub— the only one within a mile of my house that served a satisfying wedge of shepherd’s pie in a proper crust. It was where I usually spent part of my Sunday, with the papers, and I knew the Doyles wouldn’t expect me before two or three at the earliest.

My favorite table was occupied by two men, but I chose another near the window where a newspaper was lying, its ruffled pages evidence of it having already been read at least once. I flipped it over to find the Times masthead and the bold headline “Sittingbourne Disaster,” with a drawing below it of a railway train with the engine, tender, and two cars tipped over on their sides and the usual chaos of people and their belongings flung from carriages.

I let out a groan.

Sittingbourne was fifty miles east of London, on the south side of the Thames, not far from where the river let out to the North Sea. I scanned the article, but there weren’t many facts provided other than it had happened the previous night, August 31, on the London, Chatham and Dover line, when an express train bringing trippers back from Sheerness and elsewhere had run off the rails. It seemed to be the result of either eroded ground or a rotted railway tie that destabilized the iron rail above it—the same problem that had caused the disaster at Morpeth last March, as well as half a dozen other accidents that had occurred around England in the past few years. Early reports indicated three dead and sixty-two injured, with numbers expected to increase. The article closed with the usual gloomy declarations about how, until railways are held to a standard of safety by Parliament, accidents such as this would continue to plague travelers.

I stood and went to another table, where I found a second paper whose account included the additional facts that, for some unknown reason, the railway train had been on the ancillary line instead of the primary line, approximately one hundred yards from the station; and five passengers, not three, had been killed. This version also included, on an inside page, lurid descriptions and illustrations of mangled bodies and children’s toys strewn among the broken carriages.

Those poor families, I thought. What a wretched ending to a pleasant excursion.

As I refolded the paper, worry nicked at my nerves. Belinda would be traveling home from Edinburgh by train in a few days. She’d been visiting her cousin for a month, which was the longest I’d gone without seeing her these three years since a burglary had first brought me to her home. The thought of her in a railway disaster carved a cold, hollow space in my chest.

But even as I imagined it, I dismissed my worry as nonsensical. Belinda had made this trip dozens of times, and the line from Edinburgh was one of the newest and safest. Besides, the newspaper’s pessimism notwithstanding, parliament had mandated new safety devices and procedures. No doubt this Sittingbourne disaster would require yet another Parliamentary Commission, and the Railways Inspection Department would be saddled with the task of providing weeks of testimony and filing endless reports. I didn’t envy them.

After finishing my pie, I took my time reading the remainder of the papers, then rose, shrugged into my coat, and left the pub, strolling east until I crossed Leman Street into Whitechapel. Many of the narrow, pocked streets were without signs, but I’d grown up among these crooked alleys, with buildings whose upper floors overhung the unpaved passages and oddly shaped courtyards, and I tacked left and right, left and right, until I reached the street with Ma Doyle’s shop. It always opened at one o’clock on Sundays, after Roman mass, and as I anticipated, there was the usual bustle around the door.

What I didn’t expect were the wooden planks that covered one of the windows.

Alarm pinched at the top of my spine and spread across my shoulders.

***

Excerpt from Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden. Copyright 2022 by Karen Odden. Reproduced with permission from Karen Odden. All rights reserved.

  

Review:

5 stars!

A dedicated and compassionate police inspector unravels a deadly politically-motivated case of historical terrorism.

Under A Veiled Moon is the second book in author Karen Odden's Inspector Corravan Mystery series, and it is a complex and compelling tale. Incorporating fascinating actual incidents from the time period, it is historical mystery fiction at its best and eerily reflects similarities in our current time and society. 

The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Michael Corravan, now the acting superintendent of the Wapping River Police. Corravan, an Irishman, diligently sets aside his biases for his culture and people yet still must suffer through society's prejudices, including those of his own supervisors and others working the same case. Thankfully, he has the support of his love interest, novelist Belinda Gale, and his former partner at Scotland Yard, Gorgon Stiles. He and Stiles remain a formidable pair working in tandem on the complicated case. While Belinda doesn't feature heavily in this book, she still has a significant role, with her outsider's perspective, in helping Corravan view his investigation through a different pair of eyes. 

The author breathes life into the time period and the London setting, so much so that I could almost smell the odors wafting off the river. I got a fascinatingly distinct impression of what life must have been like for someone like Corravan and his adopted family, the Doyles, and some of it was downright horrifying. Brief glimpses into Belinda's life accentuate the discrepancies in living conditions, treatment, and prospects for the future between the classes, especially for the immigrants. 

The plot is complex and absorbing, especially when it appears to be headed in one direction only to veer off into another. Some surprising twists and turns really upped the tension and the feeling of urgency to solve the case. Besides the eye-opening political machinations that Corravan must untangle, there is an utterly personal aspect to this case for him that was heartbreaking and absolutely riveting. 

With its dedicated and conflicted police investigator, vivid historical setting, and complex plot, I recommend UNDER A VEILED MOON to mystery readers who enjoy historical mystery fiction with a political basis and tense terroristic threats and readers who enjoyed the first book in the series.


Author Bio:

Karen Odden

Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published numerous essays and articles on Victorian literature, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Her fourth mystery, Down a Dark River, introduced readers to Michael Corravan, a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer from Whitechapel who serves as an inspector at Scotland Yard in 1870s London. The sequel, Under a Veiled Moon, is available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. A member of Mystery Writers of America and a national board member for Sisters in Crime, Karen lives in Arizona with her family.

Catch Up With Karen Odden:
KarenOdden.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @KarenOdden
Instagram - @karen_m_odden
Twitter - @karen_odden
Facebook - @karen.odden

 

 

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Vampires and Villains (Magical Mystery Book Club, #2) by Elizabeth Pantley

Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley Banner

Vampires and Villains

by Elizabeth Pantley

January 23 - February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley

Paige and her joyful Aunt Glo have learned that the home they inherited comes with a magical library. They put together a book club group of loveable kooks to explore the magic. They’ve recovered from their first book journey, and they all agree on their next book which takes place on a cruise ship bound for Hawaii. Problem is, they were so excited about the cruising idea that they didn’t read the entire blurb on the back of the book. (“It was entirely too long,” explains Zell.) Once on the ship, they meet a charming and likeable man who blends seamlessly into their motley group. Too bad they don’t know why he’s so scarce during the day but shows up to join them every evening for dinner, drinks, and a show. When a dead body shows up on board, their new friend is labeled a suspect. Can they help him out by finding the real murderer? Or is he the real murderer? The book club will need to solve the case to get off the ship, out of the book, and back to their home.

Praise for Vampires and Villains:

"another delightful Magical Mystery Book Club cozy murder mystery read"

Book Details:

Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Published by: Better Beginnings, Inc.
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 219
ISBN: 9798849790657
Series: Magical Mystery Book Club #2
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Here’s one with a cruise ship on the cover,” yelled Forrest. “It’s called Havoc in Hawaii.”

“Yes!” squealed Sebastian, doing a little jig. “I loooove Hawaii!”

Zell marched up to Forrest and he handed her the book. She began to scan the back cover and mumble, “Cruise … adventure … tropical islands …”

“Ah. The blurb is too long. I’m sure this will do!” She flipped the book open and before we could stop her, she began to read.

“Zell! Stop reading!” Vee yelled. “We don’t even know what the mystery is about yet—”

It was too late. The globe turned golden until it shone like the sun. It began to spin, faster and faster, the speed increasing by the moment. Sparks began to shoot from it, and the room slowly filled with fog until we could no longer see. In the quiet fog-filled room, Million’s thunderous gasp of a string of bad words made us all laugh.

As the dense fog continued to fill the library, we all became perfectly still and silent. Waiting. Wondering. What would be next? The silence finally gave way to the excited chatter of a crowd around us. Once the air was cleared, we found ourselves in a boarding line, heading onto a majestic, glittering cruise ship. Its name was painted across the bow: Serendipity of the Seas.

The air was warm, humid, and smelled of tropical flowers. Beyond the glass enclosed walkway that snaked back and forth toward the ship we could see palm trees and blue skies.

“Looks like we’re embarking right in Hawaii,” said Zell.

“Most likely Honolulu,” added Million.

“Probably Pier 2,” said Zell with a look of superiority.

“Looks busy today. I’d say we’re using the alternate terminal at Pier 11.” Million looked smug, as if he’d just won that round of their game of one-upmanship.

“This is so exciting!” squealed Sebastian. “And look at my outfit!” He did a spin showing off his crisp khaki trousers, an aloha shirt airbrushed with colorful bird-of-paradise flowers, and beige espadrilles.

We had all arrived in clothing that wasn’t ours but was suitable for the trip. The only person who looked perfectly normal was Moonbeam, except that the type of flowers displayed on her kaftan were more tropical than hippie. Even Forrest was decked out in a Hawaiian print shirt, though his was teen-appropriate, worn open over a white t-shirt, and set off with a stylish pair of sunglasses.

“Isn’t anyone weirded out about our clothes changing?” asked Vee.

“Hold up, Vee-Vee,” said Frank, sporting a floral print scarf around his neck. “You’re okay with plopping into a mystery book and solving a murder case, but you think it’s weird that your clothes have changed?”

“If you put it that way.” She shrugged.

Glo called out over her shoulder. “We’re almost to the front of the line!” She was leading the group and trotting so fast we could barely keep up with her. Her beach-print sundress was fluttering in the breeze behind her. My aunt loved adventures and having fun, and this was certainly both.

As soon as we were over the gangway the crowd split into two directions. Photo stations were set up on both sides with a screen shot of a Hawaiian beach, the Serendipity of the Seas cruise ship in the background, and a banner over the top saying “Welcome Aboard!” A photographer’s assistant was placing a lei around each passenger.

“Wait up, Glo! Veer to the right!” Zell shouted, then she turned toward us. “You need to pick your photographer wisely.”

“Yeah,” said Million, nodding in agreement. “Cuz they charge an arm and a leg for those photos, but you can’t resist buying them.”

“You’ve got the millions, so spend a few,” laughed Sebastian.

“Who told you I got millions?” Our newest member turned to Sebastian with a scowl.

“As I was saying,” Zell said. “You want the best one. See that guy on the left. He’s boring and bland. Looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. People are barely smiling for him. His assistant is passing out wilted leis. Now, that guy on the right – he’s the life of the party. Even his assistant is doing a little dance to the music. He’s joking, he’s talking. Everybody’s laughing. Makes for a great photo.”

“Plus, he looks like Mr. Bean. Makes you laugh before he even opens his mouth,” said Moonbeam.

“Who’s Mr. Bean, Mom?” asked Forrest.

“Google him, honey.”

A moment later Forrest chuckled. “He does look like Mr. Bean!”

“Hey! You have cell service. Good deal,” said Vee. “Means a contemporary setting, right, Zell?”

“Yeppers!” Zell nodded vigorously. “… as far as I know.” Her voice faded off at the end.

We were at the front of the line where Glo was eagerly waiting. “Picture time!” She was bouncing on the toes of her cork-wedge sandals – a pair she’d never buy for herself, though she was obviously enjoying them.

“Howdy folks!” called the photographer, Mr. Bean’s twin, with a name tag that said Grant Perkins, USA. “Welcome aboard!”

***

Excerpt from Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.

 

 

Review: 

5 stars!

It’s time for another meeting of the Magical Mystery Book Club!

Vampires and Villains is another fun and fanciful entry in the Magical Mystery Book Club series by Elizabeth Pantley. All but one of the group from the previous book have returned and are joined by the wonderfully quirky Maximilian “Million” Bettencourt III. He is the perfect addition to the club and something of a nemesis to the feisty Zell. I loved how the group returns after a month apart but has made great strides toward becoming a “family.” Forrest, in particular, is becoming a more solid member of the club and brings teenage energy and attitude, current pop cultural knowledge, and solid computer and social media skills to the table.
 
The story is set on board a luxury cruise ship and the Hawaiian islands when the group participates in excursions, and I loved how the Snapdragon Inn magically tagged along. The descriptions of the ship, activities, and trips ashore are vivid and put me on location with the characters. And even with a murder on board, it also put me in the mood to book my own cruise! 

The investigation was so entertaining that I read this book in one sitting. With nine (counting Frank!) sleuths on the job, the group can check out a lot of leads in a short amount of time, which is a good thing because there are beaucoup suspects. Starting out, there are almost 5,000 passengers and crew on board. However, after learning the manner of death, that is whittled down to the number of vampires on the ship. The story has twists and turns in it and I didn’t suspect the individual revealed as the murderer at all. I liked that each character regularly gets moments to contribute to the interaction and case. 

With a magical library theme, a fun group of recurring characters, including a snarky, talking cat, and vampires, I recommend VAMPIRES AND VILLAINS to cozy mystery readers who enjoy paranormal elements in their stories.


Author Bio:

Elizabeth Pantley

Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her serveral Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she's ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.

Catch Up With Elizabeth Pantley:
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Goodreads
BookBub - @DestinyFalls
Instagram - @destinyfallsmystery
Facebook - @DestinyFallsMysteryandMagic

 

 

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Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: The Pepper Peach Murder (Luscious Delights Mystery, #1) by Meg Benjamin

 

THE PEPPER PEACH MURDER
LUSCIOUS DELIGHTS MYSTERY, #1
by
MEG BENJAMIN

Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: January 16, 2023

Paperback
Page count: 296 pages
ISBN-10:1509246924 / ISBN-13: 978-1509246922

eBook
Page count: 265 pages
ASIN: B0BKYJPN22


SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

SYNOPSIS:


Roxy Constantine is the jam queen of Shavano, Colorado, and she’s fine with it. Not that things couldn’t be better. Her social life is a bust, and she’s still recovering from a bad experience as a line cook in Denver. But things are looking up when she meets local chef Nate Robicheaux. Roxy would like to get closer to Nate, but she’s fending off the unwanted attentions of another local, Brett Holmes, who won’t take no for an answer. 

When Brett threatens to derail Roxy’s appearance on a national cooking show, the two have a very public fight. A few days later, Brett is found murdered in his restaurant kitchen, and suddenly Roxy’s a prime suspect.

Now Roxy, Nate, and her other friends must find out the truth about Brett’s background and his murderer before the town of Shavano decides Roxy’s reign as jam queen is over for good.




READ AN EXCERPT:

I rounded the last curve in the path, heading toward the parking lot. And stopped cold.
 
My truck, which had previously been cleanish if not immaculate, was now caked in mud. I looked like someone had taken handfuls from the nearby riverbank and thrown it full force at the truck’s sides. There were clumps on the doors, the windows, the fenders and all along the locking cover over the back. If it hadn’t been for the cover, the booth I’d left in the truck bed would have been splattered, too. I didn’t want to think about how hard that would have been to clean up.
 
But the pièce de résistance was the word smeared across the windshield: slut. Done in shades of grayish black. My stomach clenched tight as I stared, and my mind tried to make sense of what I was seeing.
 
Who? Who did this? The words kept echoing through my mind. Did people in town really think I was a slut? What had I done to make them think that?
 
Nothing. I took a deep breath, pulling myself together. This hadn’t been done by the citizens of Shavano, who probably had no particular opinions about my sex life, given that I didn’t have one. This was done by somebody with a grudge. And the most obvious person in that category was Brett Holmes.


MY REVIEW: 
5 stars!
When the toxic head chef of a local restaurant meets his end, Roxy Constantine becomes suspect number one!

The Pepper Peach Murder is an entertaining debut to Meg Benjamin's new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights. While having all the fun hallmarks of the cozy mystery genre front and center, the story also explores a darker theme: sexual assault/harassment.
 
The protagonist, Roxy Constantine, is a great character. She's had her life disrupted, and her dreams smashed but is slowly coming back to life and taking a new direction with her career. What happened to her was horrible and unforgivable, but she refuses to let the assault and the betrayal which followed define the rest of her life.
 
Nate Robicheaux, Roxy's delectable love interest, is healing as well but doing so in the kitchen of his family's restaurant, now run by his brother, Bobby, and they don't quite see eye to eye on their business. I was glad there was a glimmer of them coming together by the book's end.
 
Susa is Roxy's "ride or die" best friend and is a competent and capable partner in crime-solving rather than the comic relief sidekick, which I thought was terrific. And perhaps, there's a little spark between Susa and the new police chief to fan in future books?
 
The plot builds when Roxy feels Chief Fowler isn't looking hard enough at other possible suspects for Brett's murder. There is little information forthcoming from that sector, so Roxy and Susa must create their own line of questioning based on who and what they know about the people in Shavano. I liked how Susa developed an online method for the two women to record and share with each other the results of their separate inquiries, and laughed over Susa's later discussion of the proper way to fill it out! With Brett's reputation as a jerk and a womanizer, there are quite a few avenues to pursue.
 
Since this is the first book in the series, many townspeople were introduced, and although many did not appear to have anything to do with the current murder, they were still easy to keep track of or follow as needed. When all was revealed, I thought the resolution made sense, and the case was wrapped up without going down a bunch of unnecessary rabbit holes. I am already looking forward to more of this series.
 
I enjoyed hearing about all the various jam flavors and enough of the jam-making process to know it was something I wouldn't want to tackle myself. I'll stick to trying out some of those amazing-sounding concoctions when I run across them at local farmers' markets and craft shows. Pepper Peach is absolutely on my shopping list, too. 

I highly recommend THE PEPPER PEACH MURDER to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of romance. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box and Brewing Love trilogies are set in the Colorado Rockies (all are available from Entangled Publishing).

Her new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights from Wild Rose Press, concerns a jam-making sleuth based in the mythical small town of Shavano, Colorado.
 
Along with contemporary romance, Meg is also the author of the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk trilogy from Soul Mate.
 
Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.


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Meg Benjamin will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: The Accidental Spy by David Gardner

The Accidental Spy by David Gardner Banner

The Accidental Spy

by David Gardner

January 9 - February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Accidental Spy by David Gardner

Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified.

So he outsources it to India.

Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry.

Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.

The Accidental Spy Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: November 2, 2022
Number of Pages: 274
ISBN: 9781645994206
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Encircle Publications

Read an excerpt:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.”
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.”
The Philips Dictionary of Espionage

Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.”
Harvey Hudson

Chapter 1: Bunny Ears

Summer, 2019

Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head.

What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three?

One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him?

He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later.

Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals.

He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber.

With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out.

He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him.

The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes.

She was his boss at his day job.

Also his high school sweetheart.

Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground.

Margo took a step back. “Oh.”

Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?”

Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.”

Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.”

Margo blinked twice.

“A sociologist,” Harvey added.

Margo gripped the edge of the door.

“Named Fred,” Harvey said.

Margo nodded.

“The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself.

He handed the basket to Margo.

Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out.

Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.”

“At least there aren’t any Skittles.”

Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?”

Harvey nodded.

Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy.

Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary.

And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.”

Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?”

No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.”

“And snoring?”

Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost.

She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?”

“No.”

She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.”

Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change.

Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence.

He didn’t quite know what to say now.

Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth.

He’d outsourced his job to India.

Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—“

“Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house.

“That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.”

Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with?

“Happy birthday, Dad!”

The daughter’s voice again from inside.

“Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?”

The daughter laughed.

Harvey recognized the man’s voice.

Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead.

So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar.

The hell with telling the truth.

Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?”

“Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.”

“Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?”

“Yes.”

Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She closed the door behind her.

Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head.

Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up.

Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation.

But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job.

Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him.

Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments.

Still, she had called him cute.

Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers.

Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears.

When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague.

What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears?

What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?)

Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?)

Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back.

Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right.

Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation.

Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job?

Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk.

A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free.

Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free.

He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky.

He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”).

Just one more reason to be angry with himself.

***

Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner. Copyright 2022 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Review: 

5 stars!

The Accidental Spy is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in forever!

I was so hooked! At the start of the book, the main character Professor Harvey Hudson is trapped in the depression trifecta: he’s lost his job, wife, and self-respect. But wait! There’s more. He’s secretly paying the mortgage on his widowed mother’s home while living in a dump over a poultry butcher shop, and the job at his old girlfriend’s software company is kicking his butt. I could completely relate to Harvey’s job security woes and his discomfort with his much younger coworkers. The fact that he knows absolutely nothing about the work at T&M exacerbates the problem and his deepening loss of self-worth. All in all, Harvey is a decent and lovable guy. The premise that he outsources his job to India absolutely sold me on picking this book up, and I was wholly behind Harvey’s strategy proving to be a successful move. And it really did work like a charm until it didn’t.

I was also completely caught up in Amaya’s backstory and involvement in the Russian cyberattack plan. She’s gentle and a total lady but feisty when she feels she’s been wronged. I rooted for these two to click and find their HEA. 

The author’s writing style was easy to read and deliciously witty. This was definitely a book I didn’t want to put down; it was a five-star read for me from the start. However, there was at least one sentence (if not more) where I wanted to round that up to “11.” (“Because I stole his wallet.”) 

With its outstandingly clever plot, witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and sympathetic main characters, I highly recommend THE ACCIDENTAL SPY to readers who enjoy spy thrillers and would like a lighter, less-than-serious take on the genre. 

 

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.

He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: "The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller," "The Last Speaker of Skalwegian," and "The Accidental Spy" (all with Encircle Publications, LLC).

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David Gardner:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @davidagardner07
Instagram - @davidagardner07
Facebook

 

 

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Friday, January 20, 2023

Cookie Monsters by Erika J. Kendrick

Cookie MonstersCookie Monsters by Erika J. Kendrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Within its exciting cookie sales campaign plot, Cookie Monsters also delivers a warm and wonderful story of recovery after the loss of a loved one.

It’s World Scout cookie season again, and Brooklyn Ace, Valentine Middle School’s leading cookie seller last year, has big plans to win the top spot this time around. Last year, she came in a close second to a high school senior who has since graduated and no longer poses a threat. However, this year’s campaign is going to be fundamentally different anyway; Brooklyn’s biggest supporter in her quest for sales domination was her mother, whom she recently lost to cancer. Brooklyn wants to honor her mother by dedicating the campaign to her memory.

But right away, there’s an unforeseen hitch in her successful campaign when the new girl at school, Piper Parker, announces her intention to take the cookie queen crown for herself. Soon, it becomes apparent that Piper will do whatever it takes, and no matter what, so she can win!

Cookie Monsters is a warm and poignant story about a twelve-year-old’s struggle with grief and its toll on her mental well-being, as well as an exciting and tense battle to sell the most cookies. Brooklyn is cool, popular, wholesome, and very much a regular pre-teen. From the outside, she appears to be coping well with her mother’s death but inside, she is drowning in pent-up emotions. She is surrounded by a supportive circle of girlfriends and has a loving father and grandmother at home, who are also dealing with their own grief. But as the results of Brooklyn’s loss visibly begin to affect her ability to function, she reaches out and accepts professional help and makes progress on dealing with her feelings. The story also reveals that her friends are dealing with their own difficulties, and Brooklyn is able to share her experiences and help get them on a path to communicating their needs with their own families.

The story is also about a very competitive race to sell the most cookies. Brooklyn’s nemesis, Piper Parker, pulls a couple of rabbits out of her hat, using her father’s business resources and wealth and promising incentives (bribes) to their fellow students to buy her cookies rather than Brooklyn’s. Although Brooklyn cries foul at all of Piper’s strategies, and some were definitely shady moves, frankly, Piper just had a better sales plan and executed it better than Brooklyn did (which Brooklyn slowly comes to recognize.)

Brooklyn’s scout squad is a wonderful mix of different personalities, each with their own strengths that they bring to their friendship and the campaign. Young readers will surely relate to one or more of these great characters and the individual issues they are facing in their lives. I enjoyed this group of girls so much.

The writing and pace of the story are absolutely flawless. I was completely drawn into the story and emotionally invested; I teared up a couple of times while reading, especially when she was making a breakthrough with her therapist. I know I’ll be thinking about Brooklyn’s tale for quite a while; I was that affected. Cookie Monsters would make an excellent read-aloud selection.

With its important messages nestled within an exciting cookie campaign plot, I recommend COOKIE MONSTERS to young readers who have experienced their own loss of someone close to them.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.


View all my reviews

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Snuffed Out (The Magic Candle Shop Mysteries, #1) by Valona Jones

Snuffed Out
(Magic Candle Shop Mystery)
by
Valona Jones

Paranormal Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Savannah, GA
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Hardcover
Page count: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 1639102051 / ISBN-13: 978-1639102051
Digital ASIN: B09XM5PKP7

SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

About Snuffed Out: 

Twin sisters Tabby and Sage co-own a candle shop, but will it all go up in flames in Valona Jones’ series debut, perfect for fans of Amanda Flower and Bailey Cates.

30-year-old fraternal twins Tabby and Sage Winslow own The Book and Candle Shop in Savannah. Sage is hot-headed and impulsive while Tabby is calm and collected, making them the perfect partnership. When one of their customers is found murdered, from a blow to the head, that partnership is put to the test.

Blithe McAdam had been seen in a heated argument with shop clerk Gerard, which immediately makes him suspect number one. The twins are convinced of Gerard’s innocence and start digging into Blithe’s past. But no one is cooperating. The neighbor who found the body isn’t talking, medical examiner Quig won’t give any details about the autopsy, and nasty rumors begin surfacing about the drowning of Blithe’s father years earlier—evidence that could seal Gerard’s fate.

Tabby and Sage dig desperately for the truth. But it’s not only their friend who’s in peril. With the clock ticking, the twins find themselves in the grip of an unseen and deadly energy that has seeped into their midst—and in the sights of a ruthless killer.

Review:
4 stars!

When a good friend is wrongly accused of murder, the Winslow sisters desperately search for the real killer.

Snuffed Out is a fun and unique new cozy mystery by Valona Jones and kicks off her new series, the Magic Candle Shop Mysteries. The magical element is provided by the two sisters, who are “energetics” and have the ability to absorb and manipulate energy. One twin, Sage, is comfortable and confident in her skills. However, due to a traumatic event in her past, Tabby is not. She blocks her abilities and refuses to tap into her special gift, and this causes some tension between the two sisters.

The story is told from Tabby’s point of view. Her hesitancy to accept her energetic talents stems from an incident several years earlier, which almost resulted in her killing someone with her power. That incident is never fully explained; only bits and pieces are revealed as the current story unfolds. In fact, there are a couple of backstories hinted at but left unexplained, which had me feeling so strongly that I had missed a previous book that I quit reading to research whether that was true or not. Perhaps, these stories will come to light in future books. 

Sage Winslow is a complicated character with hidden secrets or worries left untold at the end of the book. Early on, she’s very moody: one minute, a loving sister, and the next, an almost evil thing. She and their store clerk, Gerard, have a romantic history that continues to cause her some heartache.
 
The murder investigation was compelling, with many friends and acquaintances of the Winslow sisters involved. There is even a missing chihuahua to consider. I enjoyed the candle shop business, the descriptions of candlemaking, and the various other items the girls stocked in the store. The story also focuses on the subplots of the sisters’ budding romances, both with young men they have known since childhood. There are adult situations with discussions about their hookups, but it was still sweet watching Tabby navigate the change in her relationship with Quig from childhood friend to grown-up man and friend with benefits.
 
Central to this story is the lovely and historic Savannah setting. The Book and Candle Shop is in the heart of downtown’s historic district, a great draw for tourists. I like the mention of the various other businesses with their living spaces above that are neighbors to the Winslow’s shop.
 
With its unlikable murder victim and tense push-pull sibling relationship, I recommend SNUFFED OUT to cozy mystery readers who like candle or bookshop-related settings or stories set in the southern US, specifically Savannah, Georgia.

 

About Valona Jones:
 
Valona Jones writes paranormal cozy mysteries set in Southern locales. Her work blends mystery and the unexplained, along with a sprinkle of romance. A former scientist, she’s drawn to the study of personal energy. She sharpened her people-watching skills as a lifelong introvert and thankfully had a bank vault full of personal observations when she began to write fiction. Her forthcoming release, Snuffed Out, A Magic Candle Shop Mystery, is slated for January 10, 2023, release. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She lives in coastal Georgia, where time and tide wait for no one. Visit her at https://valonajones.com 



TOUR PARTICIPANTS:

January 12 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW

January 12 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 13 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 13 – Jane Reads – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 13 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 14 – I'm Into Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 14 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

January 15 – Brooke Blogs – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 15 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 16 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT

January 16 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

January 17 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

January 17 – Christy's Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 17 – Mythical Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 18 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 18 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 19 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read – REVIEW

January 19 – StoreyBook Reviews – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 19 – The Book's the Thing – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 20 – Books to the Ceiling – SPOTLIGHT*

January 20 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 21 – Melina's Book Blog – REVIEW

January 21 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: Pretty Evil by Zoe Rosi

Pretty Evil
Zoe Rosi
Publication date: January 17, 2023
Genres: Adult, Thriller

You’ve done a bad thing. She has you in her sights. Now you’re going to pay.

Meet Camilla Black: an affluent, respected, influential fashion magazine editor, who lives it up in her beautiful Mayfair apartment. But Camilla’s glamorous life is a lie. Behind her poised exterior beats the cold dark heart of a vigilante killer, a murderer hell-bent on wreaking vengeance upon bad men.

Camilla expects to get away with murder. She’s careful. And anyway, it’s worth the risk. She’s making the world a better place with each predator she kills. But when one of her victims’ bodies is unexpectedly found, his gruesome death is splashed all over the papers.

To make matters worse, she’s now being pursued by Detective Wheelan, a new addition to the Met with laser-sharp focus and a worrying habit of solving impossible crimes…

She knows she should stop, but she can’t. Some men just deserve to die. Will Camilla’s insatiable appetite for justice be her downfall, or can she outsmart the police?

Revised edition: Previously published as Predator, this edition of Pretty Evil includes editorial revisions.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Blackwell's


Review:
5 stars!

The story is riveting, and I was compelled to keep reading; it was that good!

Pretty Evil is a gritty and dark thriller of a novel: tense, twisted, and full of surprises. The story unfolds through the eyes of a murderer, Camilla herself, so readers are privy to her thoughts and feelings and firsthand narrative. Camilla is chameleon-like, and I wondered throughout the tale whether she was a reliable narrator at all. Her backstory is fascinating and horrible; she was an abused child whom no one believed.

Camilla functions in London’s world of high fashion and the ultra-wealthy: but that’s her “day job.” We are also treated to a variety of London’s less sparkling neighborhoods and suburbs as she researches and tracks down her next project. There are vivid descriptions of the murders that are committed and a good handful of explicit sexual encounters, making this book one for mature audiences only.

The action begins immediately and never lets up. The plot is tightly constructed with Camilla enacting her vengeance, seeking to blow off steam with her lovers, taking evasive maneuvers to throw off the police, and going on to track down her next victim. The story is riveting, and I completed the book in only two reading sessions; it was that good!

With its fascinating secret assassin as a protagonist and an exciting and compelling storyline, I highly recommend PRETTY EVIL to readers who enjoyed the series, Dexter, how-done-its, thrillers, and gripping tales set in London.


Author Bio:

Zoe Rosi has a background in journalism and copywriting. She worked as a reporter for local and national newspapers before moving into the fashion industry as a copywriter. Zoe had four romantic comedies published before writing her debut thriller. It was while working as a fashion copywriter that Zoe had the idea for Pretty Evil, which she describes as The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psycho.

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