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Review – Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Death Below StairsDeath Below Stairs is a historical mystery and it is set during the reign of Queen Victoria (after Albert died). It is the first in a new series.

Here’s the blurb:

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered.

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.

Review:

The main protagonist is Kat Holloway, a cook in Lord Rankin’s employ. Kat is new to the job, and she takes her work seriously. Her assistant is found dead—murdered—in the pantry, and Kat feels responsible for the girl. Everyone thinks the murder is a robbery gone wrong, but Kat thinks differently and starts to investigate. Along the way, she recruits people to help her learn who murdered Sinead—-her friend the mysterious Daniel, another friend of Daniel’s who is a whiz with math and accounts, and the eccentric Lady Cynthia who prefers to dress as a man.

Kat is a professional when it comes to her cooking and this book is full of interesting cooking details plus mentions of what the family ate for dinner. I enjoyed these fascinating snippets just as much as the mystery part of the plot.

The characters are fascinating since they run the gamut of social ladder, yet they pull together to solve the mystery of Sinead’s murder. Kat has strength and integrity while Daniel is a man of mystery. He loves and cares for his teenage son and it’s obvious he has a thing for Kat. The romantic thread between the two is subtle, but it’s there and made me happy.

The characters pull this story along and kept the plot moving at a steady pace until the climax when we discover why the murder happened and who did it. The plot kept me guessing and the way it intersected with the politics and problems of the time made this an entertaining read. If you enjoy historical mysteries with well-rounded characters and a fast-moving plot, you’ll enjoy Death Below Stairs as much as I did.

Scandal Above Stairs, book two in the series released recently, and I enjoyed that one just as much.

For a quick introduction to Kat and Daniel you can also check out A Soupcon of Poison, which is a short story.

A Soupcon of Poison – Amazon
Death Below Stairs – Amazon
Scandal Above Stairs – Amazon

Review: Collision Point by Lora Leigh #review #newrelease

Collision Point by Lora LeighFrom #1 bestselling author Lora Leigh comes Collision Point, part of the thrilling Brute Force series—packed with powerful men, steely women, and explosive passion.

SHE’S NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
Riordan Malone is more than a bodyguard. As an Elite Ops agent, he’s ripped, raged, and ready to rumble—a true warrior, inside and out. But no war zone can compare to the battle in Rory’s heart when he lays eyes on the only woman he’s ever loved—and thought he had lost forever. . .

HE’S EVERYTHING SHE NEEDS
As the daughter of a crime lord, Amara Resnova has endured the cruelty of her father’s enemies—and has tried to escape that world ever since. Now, she must reach out to the one man who saved her life, even if she’s never forgiven him for breaking her heart. But Amara is tougher today than she was then. She’s also more desirable to Rory—and dangerous to love. Can he protect her from her father’s enemies without surrendering to his own passions…or will love seal their fate for good?

Review:

Lora Leigh is one of the first authors I read when it came to erotic romance, and although I haven’t read her books in recent years, I grabbed the opportunity to review this one.

In a brief precis of the plot we have Amara Resnova who was abducted and badly injured six months ago. Also injured during her rescue, we have her lover Riordan Malone, soldier and protector. We meet our two lovers when they come together again. Amara doesn’t recall much about what happened or who did it and while Riordan knows more, he’s playing his cards close to his chest.

Amara is strong and determined. She’s feisty too, and her father’s overprotectiveness drives her crazy. She also has vulnerability due to the abduction. Now someone is attacking her anew and she seeks help from Riordan, bringing them together again.

Riordan is strong, arrogant and confident. He knows what he wants and that is Amara. He is determined to keep her safe. He and her father know more about her abduction, but they’ve been advised to let her remember on her own.

Emotion drips off the page, and the heat between Amara and Riordan is combustible. They push each other, yet the love between them is palpable, especially toward the end of the book.

The layers of this story unpeel slowly as Amara recalls the things that happened before and during her abduction. Danger lurks in this suspenseful read and everything comes to a suspenseful climax. The epilogue gives us the seeds of the next romance in this action-packed series.

There is a fated mates feel to this series that I like very much. I mean who doesn’t want to find the soul that completes them? This is the first book in a new series, but it feels as if it is the second because it ties into another one of Ms. Leigh’s series.

My one criticism is that the type of characters and the dynamics between them are very similar to those in other Lora Leigh romances. While I enjoy the bossy arrogance of the hero and the spirited heroine, I’d love to see something slightly different from Ms. Leigh.

I enjoyed this romance for its suspense, the heat and the emotion, and I ended it wondering why I’d drifted away from this author. Big mistake! She writes a steamy and highly enjoyable, highly emotional romance. 4 stars.

Grab your copy today!

Murder at The Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell #mystery #review

Murder at The BreakersMURDER AT THE BREAKERS by Alyssa Maxwell
Guilded Newport Mysteries 1

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…
 
 

The Breakers

View of The Breakers from the cliff path

 
Why?

I picked Murder at the Breakers to read after visiting The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. They were selling the book in the gift shop, and I decided I had to read it since I enjoyed my visit so much.

Quick highlights: This is a historical mystery set in Newport during the heyday of the Vanderbilts and it contains a slight romantic element. There are lots of suspects and the main character does a wonderful job of ferreting out clues. I enjoyed it, especially since I’d visited the property.

The Story: Cornelius Vanderbilt’s secretary is murdered during a ball at The Breakers, and Emma’s brother Brady is blamed for the death. Everyone believes the murderer is now in jail, but Emma is determined to clear her brother’s name.

The Characters: Emma is the main sleuth. She is a poor cousin of the Vanderbilts and must scrimp and save to survive. Her parents are overseas, and Brady is her only other family. She’s determined, resourceful and clever. To some readers, her actions might tip into the TSTL category, but I enjoyed this facet of her character.

The Vanderbilts feature too—her uncle, aunt and cousins. The police and several family friends, members of the 400 (the top echelon of society) and servants also form part of the mystery.

The Writing: I enjoyed this story, although I found the start a little slow. The setting is strong and places the reader right in the period. The romantic element totally worked for me. Obviously, we’ll see more development of this in the later stories in the series. I wasn’t certain who the murderer was until the end.

Conclusion: This mystery is the perfect souvenir of a visit to The Breakers. It’s a trip back to the time of the Vanderbilts and the wealth of the period. I recommend this first book in the Gilded Newport series.

Rating: 4 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Breakfast at Twenty 8 Acres, Sydney

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. It is an easy meal for a vegetarian, yet there is plenty for the meat lover too.

During our recent trip to Sydney, we checked Trip Adviser while flying over (Air New Zealand has a cool in-flight app) and came across a cafe called Twenty 8 Acres. They specialized in breakfast and lunch, and we decided to try them out since the reviews were excellent.

When we arrived, the restaurant was packed—a good sign. We waited ten minutes before securing a table. The owner/cook is Irish and the breakfast menu had an Irish flavor.

Mr Munro went straight for the full Irish Breakfast while I decided to try the Botanist and we ordered a pot of Irish Breakfast tea. The owner, with his Irish accent, was charming and efficient, a trait possessed by the rest of the wait staff. The service was excellent.

The meals were delicious. Mr Munro enjoyed his breakfast of black and white pudding, sausages, eggs, beans, potatoes and toast immensely. Mine, which was greens with poached eggs, avocado and toast, was enjoyable but there was a bit much kale for my liking. I hadn’t tried kale before, despite its current popularity, and to be honest, it’s not a vegetable I’ll ever want to have on a desert island!

Irish Breakfast

Hubby’s Irish Breakfast

Irish Breakfast Happy Hubby

A happy hubby.

Botanic Breakfast

My The Botanist breakfast with eggs, greens, avocado and seeds.

I’d be happy to visit Twenty 8 Acres again, but I’d try something else on the menu since I’m not a kale fan. Other offerings include fruit and cereal, eggs done in numerous ways. The full menu is here.

The seating area isn’t large, so I’d suggest going early, since Twenty 8 Acres is very popular with the locals for breakfast. They also do lunch. The rating on Trip Adviser is well-deserved, and I certainly recommend this restaurant.

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Review: First Touch by Laurelin Paige #review

first touch cover

Laurelin Paige is a new-to-me author, and I enjoyed this book very much.

Blurb:

When Emily Wayborn goes home to visit her mom while on hiatus from her hit TV show, she receives a voicemail from her former best friend, Amber. Though the two were once notorious party girls, they haven’t spoken in years. Although the message might sound benign to anyone else, Amber uses a safe word that Emily recognizes, a word they always used to get out of sticky situations during their wild days. And what’s more chilling than the voicemail: it turns out that Amber has gone missing.

Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she’s forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?

Review:

Emily Wayborn teamed up with her friend Amber when she was a teenager. Together, they sold their company and their bodies in exchange for somewhere to live and other material possessions. Then, one day, everything changed. Six years later, Emily receives a phone call from Amber, one in which Amber utters their secret code word that means she’s in danger and requires help. Thus starts Emily’s journey into the world of wealthy hotelier and mystery man Reeve Sallis as she searches for her missing friend.

Things I enjoyed about this book:

1. The main characters, Emily and Reeve. Emily is a multi-layered character with a definite dark side while the reader is never really sure about Reeve. We’re kept guessing. Is he a sexy, bad boy or is he a sinister murderer?

2. The author peels back the layers of the plot with a delicate touch, making it a real page turner.

3. The element of danger. As I mentioned, because this book is first person, we never know exactly what is going on with Reeve. He’s a real mystery man and he has dark and alpha tendencies.

4. The author is an excellent writer with an enticing style and voice. She pours on the emotion.

Things that gave me pause:

1. A couple of the love scenes were very dark and hard to read, although I will point out that they worked within the context of the story.

2. The ending. It really sucked for me and the cliff-hanger left me thinking, what? Now I don’t know anything more than I did when I started reading. While it’s obvious that this story will continue, the ending left me frustrated.

When it came to weighing up the story as a whole, I decided on 4 stars. If the ending had have been different, the rating would have been higher. Still, if you’re a fan of contemporaries with a darker edge, and you don’t mind a cliff-hanger, give this one a try. It’s an intriguing page-turner.

Review copy received via Netgalley.

Purchase: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks |

Review: Hard to Forget by Bella Jewel

I enjoyed the first two books in Bella Jewel’s loosely connected series, Alpha’s Heart. Hard to Fight and Hard to Break were both great books, so I was excited to read Hard to Forget, the final book in the series.

HardToForget200x300

HARD TO FORGET

An Alpha’s Heart Novel, #3

By Bella Jewel

St. Martin’s Paperbacks

On Sale: December 15, 2015

eBook only

$3.99 USD

Goodreads

About The Book

The third book in the sexy Alpha’s Heart series by USA Today bestseller Bella Jewel.

Delaney, a professional bodyguard, has spent years trying to prove herself in a male dominated industry.  Now she’s facing her greatest challenge yet. 

Bad boy billionaire Jax Shields has made plenty of enemies on his climb to the top, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time has put his life at risk. Now he’s putting his life in the hands of Delaney and her team. He demands the best in everything, and he doesn’t think she has what it takes to protect him. He’s also made it clear he’d rather have her on her back then covering his. Will Delaney be able to prove herself to the most arrogant-and devastatingly handsome-man she’s ever met?

Review

Delaney wanted to be in the military but bad eyesight means she needs to think of an alternative occupation. Her second choice is to become a bodyguard and she gives her all to become a fully-fledged bodyguard. She works for Thorpe Security, and her boss says she must get the better of him or a senior bodyguard before she can do a job on her own. Delaney is determined to get there, and when she finally does, she’s thrilled, but she hadn’t counted on falling for the man she’s paid to guard or that he might not want a woman guarding his body.

This book is written in first person

Things I liked about this book:

1. Ms. Jewel always writes heroines with unusual occupations, and this book is no exception. It’s a fun read watching Delaney go after her dreams in the male dominated bodyguard field.

2. It’s a page-turner. This was a book that kept me turning the pages in order to learn what happened next. It’s easy and pleasurable reading.

3. The hero, Jax. An alpha hottie with an attitude to match. I hearted him.

Things that didn’t work quite as well for me:

1. There were a few things that happened in the plot that made me think “Really?” Some of the plot edges toward over the top. That said, they didn’t bother me enough to stop reading.

Ms. Jewel takes an unusual occupation for the heroine and makes it work. A fun, sexy read with likeable characters and a suspense element. Recommended.

Note: review copy received via NetGalley.

About The Author

Bella Jewel is a USA Today bestselling author. She lives in North Queensland where she’s working on her next novel.

Social Links

Author Website | Goodreads | Facebook | SMP Romance

Buy Links  Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo |

Review: Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Flowers From The StormI read Flowers from the Storm many years ago and loved it. This year, I noticed there was an audio version, and I grabbed a copy. I wanted to see if the story had stood the test of time and was as good as I remembered. It was narrated by Nicholas Boulton.

Here is the blurb:

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant – and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the "D of J" in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives the shocking news – the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely – and bind them together in need, desire…and love.

Review:

The Duke of Jervaulx is a scoundrel. Quaker, Maddy Timms knows this, yet the man still fascinates her. Christian, the duke is suffering from headaches, and when he’s called out by an enraged husband, he collapses. In truth, he has suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. The doctors and his relatives think he is a lunatic and he is sent to an asylum. The asylum, an old country estate, is run by Maddy Timms’s Uncle Edward, and she is astonished to discover the duke is a patient. Most people think he is dead.

The duke is confused and finds it difficult to speak and communicate. He’s chained or bound in a straight jacket and despairs of ever getting out of the asylum where his family have sent him. His mother, sisters and brothers-in-law are after his money and property and are willing to have him legally declared a lunatic to seize the prize. Maddy spends time with Christian, nurses him and gradually, she gets him to trust her. He falls in love with her, but Maddy tries to stick to her Quaker faith.

Things I loved about this story:

1. The plot.

There are hundreds of historical romances featuring dukes. Mostly, the heroines are young girls of good families. Flowers from the Storm has a duke. He’s intelligent and enjoys advanced mathematics, he likes hot chocolate and he has a terrible reputation. He’s having an affair with a married woman. Maddy is a Quaker. She speaks with thee and thous, she dresses plainly and believes all are equal. No courtesy titles for her. Everyone is addressed in the same manner. Much of the story takes place in the asylum and the duke is unable to communicate. The plot is so far removed from balls and the London season that it stands out as original.

2. The characters.

The duke is arrogant even though he can’t communicate. He’s in a dangerous position and fears spending the rest of his life in the asylum. His family certainly want him there. Maddy is prim and proper and the contrast between the hero and heroine really works. Watching them fall in love is amazing.

3. The sense of urgency.

Throughout the story, Christian’s family want to take control. Maddy needs to help him prepare to pass the competency hearing. There is a sense of the ticking clock.

4. The narrator.

He was very good and did a great job.

Things I didn’t like quite as much:

1. Maddy’s insistence on sticking to Quaker ways. I think it is hard for the modern reader to understand her insistence on sticking to the plain way of life and her beliefs. Most readers would wonder why she held out for so long and didn’t return the duke’s love. The reader needs to buy into her strong beliefs, I think, and trust that she will do the right thing, no matter what.

Conclusion:

This is a stand-out historical romance and one that deserves all the awards and excellent reviews. The audio version was just as good as the book I read all those years ago. I loved it. Highly recommended.

Authors, Grab a Coffee and Tackle Social Media

Last year, author Amy Denim visited my blog with a post about Business Plans for Writers. It’s an excellent post and I recommend that you check it out. After hosting Amy, I decided to check out some of her other books, and I purchased The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media for Writers: How to Succeed on Social Media and Still Have Time to Write (Coffee Break Guides Book 1).

Coffee-Break-Guide-to-Socia-200x300I read it during my recent holiday, hoping for help, since I’m struggling with social media. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, and I don’t have time to get sucked down an internet hole!

Amy’s book covers all types of social media, some of which I’ve never heard of. It’s easy to understand and set out well. The book starts with an introduction and explains the concept of the coffee break mentality. We take short breaks for coffee in order to relax and recharge before we start our writing session again, and Amy says this is the length of time we should spend on social media – five to ten minutes at a time.

With the swift-moving world of social media, some of the information is slightly out-of-date, but that doesn’t take away from the usefulness of this book. There is a list of resources, an example of a social media plan plus a glossary of social media terms.

This book is perfect for the beginning author who wants to solidify their position. While I’m not new to social media, I found this book very useful and busily bookmarked sections to refer back to at a later time. I’m a convert and intend to put what I’ve learned into practice this year.

Amy has written several other books in her Coffee Break Guide series, and posts useful promotional tips at her website Coffee Break Social Media.

Purchase The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media for Writers: How to Succeed on Social Media and Still Have Time to Write (Coffee Break Guides Book 1)

Other Coffee Break Books:

The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers: The Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career (Coffee Break Guides Book 2)

The Coffee Break Guide to Self Publishing: The Step-by-Step Guide to Successfully Writing, Publishing, and Promoting Your Own Books (Coffee Break Guides Book 3)

I recommend The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media and urge you to check out Amy’s post on Business Plans.

Review: A History of Food in 100 Recipes

AHistoryofFood

Back Cover Copy:

A riveting narrative history of food as seen through 100 recipes, from ancient Egyptian bread to modernist cuisine.

We all love to eat, and most people have a favorite ingredient or dish. But how many of us know where our much-loved recipes come from, who invented them, and how they were originally cooked? In A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES, culinary expert and BBC television personality William Sitwell explores the fascinating history of cuisine from the first cookbook to the first cupcake, from the invention of the sandwich to the rise of food television. A book you can read straight through and also use in the kitchen, A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES is a perfect gift for any food lover who has ever wondered about the origins of the methods and recipes we now take for granted.

 

Review:

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

I’m a sucker for any book on the history of food since I love to cook and the origin of the recipes fascinates me.

The recipes in this book range from ancient ones for bread to more modern offerings like Asian salads, Steamed salmon with couscous and Fairy cakes. The earlier recipes are not recipes as we know them, and I wouldn’t recommend trying them even if you could source the ingredients, but they’re interesting none the less. Mr. Sitwell tells us stories of the past and the people who influenced food and wrote recipe books. We learn of the first known use of the recipes, the available equipment, and the interesting social details that give us a clear picture of the past. The book is written in a chatty manner with dry humor. It’s a book meant to be taken in small bites rather than read in one or two long gulps.

I enjoyed reading A History of Food very much and know I will refer to it often. The more modern recipes are ones I will make—in fact I’ve tried a couple already. I found this book interesting and learned lots of things I hadn’t previously known. A History of Food is the perfect book to give to a keen foodie as a birthday, Christmas or surprise gift. Highly recommended.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase A History of Food in 100 Recipes

Review: Knit Your Socks on Straight by Alice Curtis

Straight Socks cover

Back Cover:

Not interested in knitting in the round? Wary of double-pointed needles? Now you can knit comfortable, attractive socks on straight needles. Alice Curtis shows you the secret to straight-needle sock knitting with her elegant technique for turning the necessary seam into an appealing design element.

Step-by-step instructions and photographs introduce the stitches and explain how to make a beautiful seam. Twenty unique patterns feature a variety of yarn weights and motifs and include instructions for a range of sizes.

Review:

This book contains instructions for making socks on straight knitting needles—an innovative idea for sure! There’s the basic sock pattern plus nineteen others for keen knitters. I was thrilled with the way this book is set out in a clear and concise manner with little tips and troubleshooting throughout. Details of gauge and pattern notes are shown with each pattern. The photographs illustrating the socks and the different methods used in the making of each pair of socks are beautiful and enticing.

The socks come in different sizes, which is a bonus for me with my big feet!

This book made me want to start knitting immediately. The patterns are suitable for immediate to advanced knitters. Knit Your Socks on Straight would make a great addition to the library of keen knitters and an excellent gift for the knitter in your family. Highly recommended.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Knit Your Socks on Straight



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