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Lucky Stiff

Lucky Stiff - Annelise Ryan Dollycas’s Thoughts

Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston catches a case on Christmas Day. Firemen called to a fire have found a body among the ashes. They are able to identify the man as Jack Allen, a paraplegic who was said to keep the fortune he recently won at the nearby casino in his home. Evidence shows the fire was deliberately set and not an accident as the killer had hoped. They also find Allen’s hiding spot empty. Working with detective Steve Hurley Mattie chases down clues while trying to ignore the romantic electricity that is running between them. They are also drawn into another case involving a missing man that was found floating in the river. Again, the evidence shows foul play.

I loved the first 3 books in this series for many reasons.

It is set in my home state of Wisconsin.
The text is full of Wisconsin references and the dialogue sounds just like the way I talk.
The story is usually well-written and plotted.
The humor flows from beginning to end.
But the thing I liked the best was protagonist Mattie Winston. She is a curvy woman, 6 feet tall, with size 12 feet, and she never fails to find herself the butt of a joke of her own making. This time mud and fire ants lead to two of her misadventures. The woman and the situations she gets herself into are flat out hilarious.

But this time she does some really stupid things that almost had me throwing the book at the wall and not finishing it. I also wish she stood up for herself better with her ex. She is a smart woman but when David is around she turns to mush. He cheated on her! He is the one who got at work with his pants down literally! Yet, she just lets him get away with everything. It is a good thing I was wrapped up in the main mystery and needed to know who killed a man in a wheelchair or this would have been a DNF.

Like Jack Allen, I deal with paralysis, I am a hemiplegic where my right side is mostly paralyzed while he is a paraplegic, paralyzed from the waist down. I identified with this character and was sad he was the victim. It really got my dander up that someone took advantage of him and then killed him all out of greed. So I was totally focused on his killer being brought to justice. There is a long list of probable suspects and I was “in the right church, wrong pew, with my thinking when it came down to nailing the killer.

The second case was easier for me to solve and really broke my heart. It hit a little close to home for me and sadly was a sign of our time.

There was also a trip to Florida for a forensic convention during the holidays, that really made no sense and could have been completely left out.

The romantic issues were like a roller coaster ride and I was excited about it until the first curveball hit, but it was the final pitch that again had me wanting to throw the book at the wall and because the mysteries were solved I DID!

So, No! this was not a Perfect Escape but it wasn’t A Dreadful Detour either. There were things I really enjoyed about the story but there many I didn’t. I really want to know what happens next with these characters. So after a little break, I will venture into book 5, Board Stiff in hopes this book just had a couple of missteps.

Dakota Dream

Dakota Dream - Lauraine Snelling Dollycas’s Thoughts

We met Nora Johanson in Dakota Dawn, the first book in this series. Now we meet her sister Clara who received a plane ticket to bring her from Norway to Soldahl, North Dakota along with an unreadable letter and a photo of a man with blond hair and blue eyes. After days of travel and then hours waiting at the train station, she is disappointed when a man that looks nothing like the man in the picture shows up to take her to her sister’s home. Concentrating on seeing her sister and meeting the man she is going to marry, she gets in the boarish man’s buggy while trying to escape his smell. She knows got has a plan for her.

In Dakota Dream, Clara’s new life begins by helping others including Dag Weinlander, the man who met her at the station. With perfect amounts of drama and romance, we travel back to a very exciting time in American history.

I felt so bad for both Clara and Dag at first but in the end, they turned the tables. Hard work and perseverance along with their faith made a new life for them both.

The author is an expert at catching moments in time with stories everyone can enjoy and I sure did.

The Killing at Kaldaire House

The Killing at Kaldaire House - Kate   Parker Dollycas’s Thoughts

Emily Gates learned to make fabulous hats as a girl from her Mum and she is now a top London milliner in London. Her hats are in demand by all the Society Ladies and she does enjoy running her shop with her uncle and her deaf brother. She is not happy when the ladies or their husbands fail to pay her for her work. She has learned a few tricks from the shadier side of her family and is not beyond burglarizing their homes and holding their prized possessions hostage until her bill is paid.

She has made some beautiful hats for Lady Kaldaire but Lord Kaldaire has not paid her. She knows there is a painting that hangs in his study that he holds very dear. She decides to sneak in late one night to abscond with the portrait but instead finds Lord Kildaire on the floor. When he moans she realizes he is still alive and she has to call for help. Unfortunately, his injuries were severe and he dies before naming his attacker. Emily gains the trust of Lady Kaldaire who vows to keep the break in a secret if Emily agrees to find the killer. That isn’t going to be easy especially with an inspector from Scotland on her tail with some demands of his own.

I am a big fan of Kate Parker. I have enjoyed both her Victorian Bookshop Mysteries and her Deadly Series, So I escaped right into this story and was taken back in time with Emily Gates. A commoner who is drawn into the world of Ladies and Lords, Princes and Princesses. To help Lady Kaldaire gets the answers she needs Emily finds herself rubbing elbows with the elite, riding in motorcars, and attending parties. Detective Inspector Russell knows her truth as well and thinks she may be working with her father and his family. The family he believes are responsible for many of the thefts on his docket.

Ms. Parker’s characters are quite dynamic. Very fleshed out with vivid detail. The clothing and especially the hats are thoroughly described as are the estates, Emily’s shop, home, and workshop, and the automobiles including the dusty roads they travel on. I could picture every place and person perfectly. Emily is a very strong independent woman, but she did bend to Lady Kaldaire’s elaborate schemes sometimes to her own peril. I enjoyed their interactions though very much. I also find Emily’s dedication to caring for her deaf brother heartwarming. Her main goal is to have enough money to send him to a special school and that is what drives her through the story.

The mystery is a bugger to solve. Emily finds herself going to her grandfather for help, something she has shunned before. She feels she is in danger of losing her business if she can’t put all the pieces together and find the killer all while trying to stay out of her family’s shenanigans. She literally travels far and wide to get answers.

As stated in the synopsis this story does have a My Fair Lady mashed with a little Mary Poppins with a dash of Sherlock Holmes feel. The author has great world building skills and has created very memorable characters. I found the story to be delightfully entertaining and a perfect escape.

The Novel Art of Murder

The Novel Art of Murder - V.M. Burns Dollycas’s Thoughts

We are back in North Harbor, Michigan just in time for Samantha Washington’s Nana Jo to become a murder suspect. It seems her usual part in the Shady Acres Senior Follies has been given to Maria Romanov, a woman of questionable character. Said to be descended from Russian Royalty and a great actress, Nana Jo knows the woman is a phony. As soon as others hear her sing, they know it too. Nana Jo tries to take the woman to task publically so when Maria ends up dead, Nana Jo’s fate as a murder suspect is sealed.

Not so fast, Sam is on the case. Using her current work in progress where Lady Daphne is in the middle of a murder in the home of Winston Churchill to settle her mind and draw parallels, she is sure to find who has framed her Nana. The crew from Shady Acres steps in to help too and soon real suspects are uncovered and clues start to fall into place.

That’s Oreo and Snickers on the cover, Oreo looks nothing like my Oreo but I love the author’s choice of pet names. The expression of the dog in the back cracks me up every time I look at the cover.

Okay, the cover is great, but the story/stories within are excellent. Ms. Burns gives us a present-day cozy mystery and her character Samantha Washington is an author and we get to read her latest work too. I love that we get two stories in each novel. It took some getting used to with the first book, but now with book 3, I hit the rhythm right away. I really enjoy how they work together.

Full of colorful characters the story sets a nice pace. Intrigue with a big dose of humor keeps the pages turning and both stories had wonderful surprise endings. Some parts are truly laugh out loud funny.

I loved this book and can’t wait for more! This is the first book of 2019 to receive my top Paradise rating and a place on my Best Reads of 2019 list. While the story can stand on its own I recommend starting at the beginning of the series for maximum enjoyment.

Sweet Masterpiece

Sweet Masterpiece - Connie Shelton Dollycas’s Thoughts

Samantha Sweet has a unique occupation. She breaks into foreclosed abandoned homes for the USDA to get them ready for resale. She is never sure what she will find but she never expected to find a bedridden dying woman in one house and a grave in the backyard of another all in one day. The upside is meeting Deputy Beau Cardwell. She gets to see more of him as she uncovers major clues to help identify the backyard body. There is a spark between them that is undeniable.

Sam’s true passion is baking and she is working hard to make her dreams of opening her own shop Sweet’s Sweets come true. Her coffers are filling nicely until her daughter “borrows” some cash and then returns home after quitting her job before she finds another. With her baking orders, a daughter to encourage, a police investigation, and oh, an unusual discovery with magical powers Samantha Sweet has her hands full.

This was a fun read. A protagonist close to my own age it was a pleasure to meet Samantha Sweet. She has a few insecurities but she is a hard worker who is driven by her quest to own a pastry shop. Her relationship with her daughter is typical, I could identify, and her budding relationship with the handsome deputy was heartwarming.

The plot was very interesting. First, Samantha is given a gift from the dying woman. The woman dies shortly after Sam finds her but that gift is much more than it appears. Then she makes an amazing discovery in a closet in the home with the backyard grave. With the help of one of her friends, she not only uncovers the name of the deceased but their incredible story. Blended into the mysteries are all her baking adventures and the first step she takes in making her dream a reality.

The story is very well plotted and nicely paced. It has a great flow. The characters are introduced and pretty fleshed out for the first book in a series. The mystery of the man in the shallow grave is wrapped up nicely by the end of the book. There were really few suspects and with a few twists the investigation concludes with quite a surprise. The mystery about the gift Sam received is still open. We know a little but hopefully, more will be revealed in the next book.

Sweet Masterpiece was a sweet read. An intriguing mystery with the perfect amount of romance. I chose to read this book because it is set in New Mexico for a reading challenge. I have added the next story, Sweet’s Sweets to my wishlist and plan to read it soon because I enjoyed this one and I want to know what happens next.

In the Dog House (A Dog Club Mystery)

In the Dog House (A Dog Club Mystery) - V.M. Burns Dollycas’s Thoughts

First, I couldn’t resist that cover. That face, that face, that puppy dog face. I just had to find out what the poodle was up to.

It turns out that poodle belongs to Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson from Chattanooga, Tennessee, best friend of our protagonist Lilly Echosby, and she owns not one but two show poodles. She also has a toy poodle with her that Lilly quickly adopts and names Aggie, a nod to Agatha Christie. Dixie has come to town, taking a break from the dog show circuit to be with Lilly as she deals with her pending divorce. Her husband has left her for a child, well a woman who could be his child. I would say Albert Echosby was a low down dirty dog but that would insult dogs more than him. He hasn’t told his family about the divorce and actually expects Lily to still host his grandmother’s birthday party. She agrees after some negotiations, but tempers run high at the party.

The next day Lilly continues to make plans for his life sans Albert. She is going to pack up and head to Tennessee with Dixie. Her plans come to a screeching halt when she learns Albert has been murdered and she is the prime suspect. That makes no doggone sense. She does have one member of the police force on her side because he has clearly fallen for Lilly’s defense attorney daughter. They both, along with Dixie and Lilly’s son are going to help Lilly do everything they can to put the real killer in a cage. When another murder occurs they must double their efforts but realize they could be putting themselves in the line of fire.

This series is off to an amazing start. I love Lilly, close to my age with two grown children, it was easy to identify with her. When she adopted Aggie so fast I loved her even more. I liked that the romantic entanglement had to do with her daughter as Lilly had enough on her plate with Albert and his bimbo, Bambi Love. Oh my starts, Bambi was truly a piece of work. The aspect of Dixie coming to Lighthouse Dunes after receiving an email from her friend was fantastic. Advice from a total stranger and Dixie helped Lilly make crucial decisions and also brought out her strength. The rest of the characters are also very well developed for a first book in a series and easy to envision. The dogs stole my heart and added so much to the story.

The plot flowed so well. Perfectly penned and full of humor, I loved every minute of it. The descriptive writing style took me right into the story and into these characters lives. It turned out there were plenty of suspects and a variety of clues to follow. An unexpected twist brings the story to a very entertaining conclusion.

Reading In the Dog House was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I can’t wait to get my hands on The Puppy Who Knew Too Much. Lighthearted and Fun! This was a Perfect Escape!

Botched 4 Murder

Botched 4 Murder - J.C. Eaton Dollycas’s Thoughts

There is never a dull moment at the Sun City West Retirement Community and Sophie “Phee” Kimball always get dawn into the fun and games by her mother, Harriet. This time a board member has the bright idea to turn to golf courses into eco-friendly parks. Most of the residents are up in arms. There is also a big bocce ball tournament coming up and one of the members of the Sun City West team is performing up to par and some member want her out. These two things collide when the board member is found dead and misthrown bocce ball is found nearby sending the group into quite a tizzy. When the police arrive they find the real cause of death, and they call it murder. It doesn’t take long before Phee and Marshall, her investigator boyfriend, are fully involved in the investigation. Marshall helping the police, Phee on every wild goose chase her mother sends her on.

This series just gets better and better. This time Phee is roped into a group made up of the women from her mother’s book club and a group of men who are dead set against board member, Sorrel Harlan’s plan to get rid of two golf courses. Together they make plans to attend the board meeting and to try to convince the board to vote “no”. When the woman is found dead the group continues to meet to be sure the golf courses stay in tact and to “help” Phee catch the killer.

Harriet is a loving but very pushy woman. Phee has learned to just do as her mother asks to avoid confrontation and also because sometimes the chases do provide clues to move the case forward. It always cracks me up when Phee has to remind her mother and her friends that, yes, she does work for an investigation agency, but she is the BOOKKEEPER, not a detective. Eye-rolling is one of Phee’s great traits.

All the characters feel very real and Harriet reminds me a little bit of my own mom. The way the woman plans her life almost entirely around her Chiweenie dog, Streetman, is hilarious. I love the way the relationship is growing between Marshall and Phee. The man is a keeper, he puts up with all the things Phee does and her mother.

The plot was a twisty one. Plenty of suspects and red herrings. I was totally caught up in the story from start to finish.

Funny and entertaining. The entire series has been delightful. They are best read in order to get to really know these characters.

Gown with the Wind

Gown with the Wind - Stephanie Blackmoore Dollycas’s Thoughts

Juggling should be listed as a key talent for a wedding planner. Mallory Shepard has many balls in the air, two weddings, a Mother’s Day tea, a partner that wants to book more non-wedding events. All that before the murder.

Becca, her ex’s new bride has planned a Japanese Cherry Blossom wedding but then the groom’s mother steps in to put her own spin on the festivities. Becca finally decides she wants a Gone With the Wind theme to honor her grandmother and tells Mallory to plan accordingly. She even finds the perfect dress. Until a fight breaks out in the bridal salon with a childhood friend/enemy. She wins the dress but loses the war when the other bride is found floating in Becca’s pool. Of course, she is the prime suspect. Becca and her grandmother come to depend on Mallory to not only clear Becca but also handle another event.

This was a delightfully fast-paced read.

Mallory Shepard is a great protagonist. With all that is thrown at her she rarely gets rattled. I mean dealing with the wedding of an ex is tough but have to plan it and go with the flow of all the changes is beyond hard and she keeps it together for the sake of her business. Her sister Rachel also seems to always be pushing her buttons and the envelope with a more, more, more attitude when it comes to their business. Strong women that do make a good team but they need to be aware of their limits.

Again this installment brings in a batch of new characters that were very well developed. The author gave us great descriptions that easily brought them to life within the story. With the theme of this series, new characters are a must and really keeps each edition fresh. It also gives new readers to jump into this series anywhere.

The mystery is very well plotted and written with many twists and turns. The subplots were entangled perfectly into the mystery. The story completely held my interest, making it a difficult book to put down.

I have enjoyed each visit Thistle Park B&B and look forward many more.

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas - Jacqueline Frost Dollycas’s Thoughts

Mistletoe, Maine, the perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Holly White’s family’s tree farm is a magical place this time of year with its Reindeer Games. All kinds of treats and festivities are planned and a contractor named Christopher has promised their new inn will be ready to open by Christmas Eve.

The first big Mistletoe event is the annual tree lighting. Everyone is gathered in the town square but when the big moment arrives the night turns from Merry to Scary. There, next to the tree is a huge candy dish full of peppermint candies and a dead body. The man was stabbed with a monogrammed custom made knife. A knife that belongs to Holly’s best friend Caroline. The deceased is the same man that got handsy with Caroline at a recent dinner and the whole town was witness to her dressing him down. With all the evidence it isn’t long before Caroline is behind bars. Holly knows her friend is no killer, she just has to prove it. But the killer is watching every move Holly makes and leaving her special warning gifts. When the gifts escalate to real harm Holly just hopes she will survive until the killer is caught.

I loved the first book in this series, Twelve Slays of Christmas last year, so I put this book on my reading calendar several months ago. I was so excited to start reading and the author exceeded all my expectations.

The White family are such wonderful characters. They make everyone feel right at home and try to make their tree farm experience as merry as possible. Holly hands her hands full as she has been put in charge of all the building choices for the new inn, in addition to helping her mother in the cafe and making her glass jewelry, a business that has really taken off.

I wanted to sit back with a couple of cups of hot chocolate and savor my visit to Mistletoe, but there is so much happening that was impossible. The author sets a brisk pace and fully draws the reader in. Chasing down clues, running from a creepy Claus, keeping up with the tourists, Holly takes on a wild ride, at times literally! The pages were flying.

Ms. Frost’s descriptions really take us there. A sleigh ride around the tree farm was described in such vivid detail, I was enjoying the scenery and after a scary moment, I was feeling chilled to the bone and was pulling a blanket over myself. The blindfolded games played were also described so well. I easily pictured what was happening and was laughing at loud. Great ideas for family get-togethers too. I also enjoyed the details along the way as the inn neared completion and the entire subplot was heartwarming. I am ready to call in my reservation today.

This was an exciting holiday read, cozy mystery lovers will be overjoyed. It will also get you truly into the holiday spirit. Fun and entertaining, a book you will not want to put down. I loved it and I can’t wait for next year. I already have saved a date on my calendar and added this story to my Best Reads List for 2018.

Thread Herrings

Thread Herrings - Lea Wait Dollycas’s Thoughts

Finding treasures at auctions and estate sales is part of the fun, but for Angie Curtis it means MURDER! Her friend, a television reporter is dead and Angie is getting threatened that she will be next.

Antique shop owner Sarah Byrne takes Angie to her first auction and she is drawn to a needlework coat of arms. When no one else bids she raises her paddle and takes it home. She takes it out of the frame to see if it can be restored but she finds a real mystery instead, a claim from 1757 for a child from a foundling hospital. While researching to see if the child is connected to the family from the auction she runs into Clem Walker who suggests they do a piece on the local news to see if one of the viewers may have information. Angie agrees and even hosts a party so her family and friends can watch her on television.

Clem plans a trip to visit Angie in Haven Harbor to discuss the calls the station received. But Clem doesn’t make the meeting, instead, her body is found. Angie knows to find Clem’s killer she has to find who is connected to the coat of arms. The trouble is to keep her safe she is hiding out and it’s hard to investigate anything stuck in a house.

There is so much I enjoyed about this story. It had a totally different feel. The Mainely Needlepointers didn’t do hardly any needle pointing but one member of the group, Ruth, is a key player in solving this mystery. Also, Angie accepts that her life is truly in danger after a hairraising event and actually listens to the police and moves to Patrick’s secure home until the killer is caught. As long as she has her cell phone and laptop she can keep investigating and pass along what she finds to the police.

At the core of the story are two prominent Maine families. I love the way 79-year-old erotica author Ruth Hopkins knows her way around the genealogy sites. She delves in and finds as much as she can about the families giving Angie plenty of clues and red herrings to sort through.

All of Ms. Wait’s characters are interesting, fleshed out and realistic. Most of the recurring characters are very engaging. Patrick is starting to mesh with the rest but still has some work to do. The closer he and Angie get the more he becomes more real to me.

The story is pretty fast-paced and filled with suspense. Key characters are truly in danger and I found myself actually holding my breath waiting to read the actual outcome. I know I was reading much faster from about the midpoint on. The author’s descriptions of each person, place, and even the weather were fantastic. She pulls readers right into this story and holds them tight until the final page. OMG, my heart was racing at the ending!

Before my accident auctions and needlepoint were two of my favorite things. Finding samplers and other needlework treasures at auctions always made for a great day. I love that both meshed together in this book.

This book reads very well all in its own but I always recommend reading series in order to really get to know the characters.

This is a wonderful addition to this series. The next book in the series, Thread on Arrival, will be released April 30, 2019.

The Cat of the Baskervilles

The Cat of the Baskervilles - Vicki Delany Dollycas’s Thoughts

The West London Theater Festival is staging a production of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring legendary stage and movie star Sir Nigel Bellingham. This is great for Gemma’s Sherlock Homes Bookshop. Everyone will be shopping for Sherlock memorabilia. They have also been asked to cater a fundraising tea for the theater. Sir Nigel himself stops by the shop and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. Gemma can see the aging star is no longer up for the role especially when she observes his cane is also a flask for liquor.

The afternoon of the tea Gemma, Jayne and their crew arrive. Gemma is a little distracted by the home and its library but Jayne gets her back on track and the tea is quite a success. As the guests take their leave Sir Nigel is not to be found. A search is quickly organized and the lost man is found, dead at the bottom of a rocky cliff. Accident, suicide or murder? Jayne’s mother was seen arguing with Nigel so he becomes the prime suspect. Gemma decides to do her own investigation with Jayne and cast a wider net for suspects than the police. West London’s Sherlock and Watson will do all the can to put the real killer behind bars.

I love Gemma but this time I was not entirely happy with her methods. She finds a piece of evidence at the crime scene and removes it. She also tramples all over the area to see if she can help the man who was clearly dead. She has many talents, a keen intellect, and wicked strong observation skills. She is independent, strong-willed and can be very blunt. I know she took the evidence because she thought she was protecting Jayne’s mother, but it just felt beneath her stature to do something so wrong.

Jayne is a great counterbalance to Gemma and the perfect Watson to her Sherlock. She is friendlier and more easygoing than Gemma and is able to smooth over any ruffled feathers. That being said when it comes to her tea shop business she is super dedicated to getting everything just right. From the tea to the scones and finger sandwiches, she knows what she wants and how she wants it. She doesn’t let Gemma run roughshod all over her and I loved seeing this side of her.

The title to the story had me thinking Moriarty, the bookstore cat would play a larger role in the story, but I love that cat even though he clearly hates Gemma.

The story builds slowly as we get to know the new characters and how they fit together. The murder takes about midway into the story which I liked because we get to know the victim and everyone he is involved with to give us insight when looking at the suspects and their motives. The interplay between Gemma and detective Louise Estrada is interesting because the really don’t like each other. Gemma would much rather deal with detective Ryan Ashburton and it is easy to see why. This case had me completely in the dark and was surprised by the final reveal.

As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I get excited each time I pick up a book in this series. Ms. Delany knows how to tell a story. Her characters are unique and complex and are wrapped up in a mystery that kept me guessing.

Another entertaining tale from Vicki Delany! A fine addition to this series.

Six Cats a Slayin'

Six Cats a Slayin' - Miranda James Dollycas’s Thoughts

There are babies and kittens in the house and Charlie and Diesel have their hands and paws full even before new neighbor Gerry Arbitron invites Charlie to her party. Gerry a real estate agent, did not make a good first impression with Charlie, her overt flirting really rubbed him the wrong way. Then she put up the most hideous holiday display, he and the rest of the neighbors were not impressed. They wanted to stay home but most bit their tongues and went to her party. One guest did not hold her tongue and had quite the altercation with the hostess. Another guest had an argument with Gerry behind a not quite closed door that was overheard. Before the night ends the nosy neighbor crashes to the floor and was unable to be revived. First thought – heart attack – Reality – it was murder!

I love Charlie and his big Maine Coon cat, Diesel. The man doesn’t think twice when he opens his front door and finds a box full of kittens with a note asking him to keep them safe. Diesel steps in a chief kitty sitter and the rest of house falls for them as well.

This is also going to be the first Harris Christmas for the new grandchildren. Charlie’s son and his wife are struggling with their newborn and everyone tries to give good advice and help. I have seen a struggle just like this with my own eyes. The author’s take on this was excellent and heartwarming. These characters are so realistic and believable. I grab each new book in this series not only for the top-notch mystery but because I need to check in with the family and all the people they are connected with, including one big lovable feline.

Yes, the mystery is top-notch. Everyone at that party is suspect and the fact that some people left before the police arrived or that someone may have snuck in unseen makes the mystery difficult to solve. The conflicts earlier in the evening land two people high on police detective Kanesha’s list but there are more questions than answers for quite a while.

The other mystery confounding Charlie is who dropped off the kittens at his door. He knows it’s a child, maybe about 10, but whoever it is is very smart because all the things Charlie tries to do to see the person are thwarted. Reminded me of a certain grandchild of mine very much.

These two mysteries run in tandem seamlessly along with family dynamics and holiday preparations. The pace is comfortable but the murder doesn’t take place until mid-book. By this time we get to know a little bit about the victim but she has so many secrets and surprising things continue to be revealed right up until the murderer is uncovered.

Miranda James is one of my favorite cozy authors. She is a fantastic storyteller. Every time I see that big kitty on the cover, a kitty that reminds me of one of mine now gone, I get excited to see what this author has in store for the Harris family. I have never been disappointed. The characters continue to grow and evolve and the stories are fresh with unexpected twists and turns. Ten books into this series and still going strong!

Six Cats a Slayin‘ is a fun and entertaining cozy for this holiday season. All cozy lovers will enjoy!!

In The Dead of Winter

In The Dead of Winter - Nancy Mehl Dollycas’s Thoughts

A quick trip to Winter Break turns out to be more complicated than Samantha “Ivy” Towers ever imagined. With her parents overseas she is responsible for planning her Aunt Bitty’s funeral and tying up her legal affairs that may include selling her bookstore. Soon after she arrives she finds out that her aunt left everything to her with the exception of a few special gifts. But Aunt Bitty’s death is troubling and not just for Ivy. The investigation was quickly wrapped up and the body cremated a little too fast. She even finds an unsigned note that tells her it was not an accident. She knows most of the residents of Winter Break but someone is lying. She only has a few weeks off from college but she is not leaving until she finds out what really happened to her Aunt Bitty.

Winter in Winter Break sounds similar to winter in Wisconsin so I felt right at home. Like most small towns it is full of its share of quirky residents, but one thing is for sure everyone loved Aunt Bitty. She was a special lady and she will be missed. The author has created such wonderful characters. Hearing the people talk about Aunt Biddy made me really sad she was the victim of the horrible murder. Ivy though has a lot of the same qualities as her aunt, she just doesn’t realize it yet. Her upbringing was a bit unusual so there is a sense of insecurity. She evolved in this story but the author has left her plenty of room to grow.

We meet several of Winter Break’s finest including Amos, a deputy sheriff and old friend of Ivy’s and Ruby that owns the local diner with her signature burgers. A visitor in town lands squarely on Ivy’s suspect list, his arrival is just too suspicious and he is clearly hiding something.

The story had a couple of hitches for me, medical things mostly, but the mystery was well-plotted. It had plenty of twists but I picked out the murderer early on. It was interesting to read to the end to be sure I was right and the true motive for the crime.

The story does have a Christian theme and a clear message that blends with the mystery very nicely and does overpower it.

I found this to be a fine start for this series and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Bye, Bye, Bertie.

Forever Fudge

Forever Fudge - Nancy CoCo Dollycas’s Thoughts

Fudge shop owner Allie McMurphy is up to her neck in another murder. The quiet tourist destination has had a real crime wave since she came to town. Her dog, Mal, has found yet another body. A body the killer wanted Allie to find because he left her a note with the deceased.

She really doesn’t have time for another murder mystery. Frances and Mr. Devaney are off on their honeymoon so the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop is understaffed and some unusual and scary things are happening at the hotel. Allie doesn’t know if they are connected to the murder, but she needs to find out.

It doesn’t help that a film crew has set up on the island for a new murder mystery show and the town is running a contest to see which side of the street can come up with the most money. The winner will be a featured backdrop for the film which could be great publicity. The hotel and fudge shop had a good year, but Allie has other plans for her profits. This does not make the mayor happy.

Her personal life is in flux too and her BFF is leaving the island for a great job in Chicago. The idea of a peaceful offseason is not going to happen unless she helps find a killer and the film crew leaves town. Fudge! She is going to have to get involved in another investigation!

Escaping to Mackinac Island with Allie and the gang is always so much fun. This time the author has really stirred up a sweet mystery. Life at the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop is never dull. There is always something happening. The characters she has created are so engaging. It makes me want to pack my bags and head there right away. I missed having Frances there especially but it is after Labor Day and the newlyweds deserve some time off for their honeymoon.

Ms. Coco added an interesting element to the mystery this time. The killer is leaving clues stating chess moves. The problem is Allie doesn’t play chess so she tries to learn. But before she gets even a novice handle on the game another body is found and she realizes the killer knows her well, knows the previous crimes she has helped solve, and the people she cares about may be in danger. This adds a nice twist to the entire story.

Forever Fudge is a well-written cozy mystery with well-developed characters. The author blends the intrigue with a little romance and humor. I am team Rex all the way but looking forward to the next installment in the series to see if Allie finally makes up her mind.

The fudge recipes throughout the book are an added bonus.

This was an entertaining escape and a fine addition to this series.

Zero Control (Harlequin Blaze #506)

Zero Control (Harlequin Blaze #506) - Lori Wilde Dollycas’s Thoughts

Undercover security agent Dougal Lockhart has been hired by Euros Vacations to find out who is sabotaging their resorts and tours. Roxie Stanley is on the tour as a mole for one of Eros competitors. They meet on the plane from the U.S. to Great Britain and they are immediately attracted to each other. He has signed a morality clause and is not supposed to fraternize with guests. She needs to complete her mission or she won’t get a promotion. A promotion she needs to pay for her sister’s college tuition. Both of them are keeping secrets but it isn’t long before they can deny their passion. What will happen at the end of this fantasy vacation? Will they tell each other the truth? Can they really build a relationship after just knowing each other for two weeks?

So this story does have a mystery, who is sabotaging Eros Vacations. Are they just pranks or is someone trying to take the company down?

After that, it is a hot, steamy, close to an erotic story that will have you needing a cold beverage and maybe cranking up the air conditioner. I was surprised by the daring sex scenes. A little bondage in a dungeon, quite a bit a role-playing, I mean the guy was dressed as Shakespeare, ala Shakespeare in Love complete with tight leather pants, a couple of encounters in public places, and some sizzling hot romance in her cottage.

I did enjoy that there was a story between all the sex. Dougal seemed always to be one step behind the saboteur, even thinking Roxie could be the one causing trouble. They also step in to help to help with a fencing demonstration when the people hired were unable to perform.

As expected from Harlequin Blaze, this story brought the heat. A spicy read for a cold autumn night. My only complaint, the mystery was not solved by the end of the book.

Premeditated Peppermint

Premeditated Peppermint - Amanda Flower Dollycas’s Thoughts

Everything is not Merry this Christmas season in Harvest, Ohio. Eric Sharp, Bailey King’s ex has shown up with a camera crew to catch on film an authentic Amish Christmas for his new television show just in time for annual Harvest Christmas Market. Seems his producers need the celebrity chef to be more human/friendly and they think this episode will do the trick. The problem is that he wants to showcase Swissmen Sweets and just expects Bailey to go along with his plan, never thinking about her grandmother, an Amish woman that has no desire to been seen on camera. The Amish community itself shuns any type of photographic participation.

Early the next morning as Bailey is on her way to tell the producer that it is unlikely that her grandmother will approve any filming in the sweet shop, she notices something that draws her to the gazebo in the park. As she arrives she finds the producer dead and Eric Sharp standing over the body. Of course, he is the prime suspect but Bailey can’t wrap her head around Eric as a killer. She quickly finds herself involved in several Christmas Market events and she plans to use that as a way to try to clear Eric from the suspect list. She is no longer sweet on him, but she hopes to keep him out of jail for the holidays.

Peppermint, peppermint, and more peppermint. I was craving it throughout this whole book and it is darn hard to find peppermint bark or fudge or canes this time of year. I had to settle for the hard candy and that didn’t really curb my cravings. 🙂 Can’t wait for Christmas candy to hit the stores, probably any day now.

The characters in this series are so much fun. Amish and Englishers do their best to coexist in Harvest. Bailey and her grandmother have hired Charlotte to work with them at Swissmen Sweets. This way Bailey has time to get caught up in her investigations. Her relationship with Deputy Aiden Brody gets just a little bit closer. His mother already has them engaged and headed down the aisle. She and her pet pig, Jethro are involved again in the whole story and that leads to some very humorous moments. She thinks Jethro needs to make his television debut and someday have a show of his own.

The mystery was pretty complex. Who would want Rocky Rivers dead? Are they Amish or Englisch? and what was she hiding? I loved that Bailey’s BFF hopped on a plane and flew to Harvest to be at Bailey’s side when she heard Eric had come to town. Cass thinks on her feet and not only helped with the investigation but played a big part in getting Bailey an offer that may be just too hard to refuse. They work well together and find some huge clues the police had missed.

Well written and plotted, Amanda Flower has given her readers one sweet treat to devour this holiday season. Christmas in Harvest sounds delightful, sans the murder, of course. A perfect escape for when the temps get lower and the snow starts to fly.