Review: Death By Design by Paula Darnell

Laurel McMillan has been teaching her class how to make perfect pillows in her community center’s DIY class. While all of her students have made progress, she’s had a couple stand out and encourages them to participate in some local contests. Not surprisingly, Jennifer wins with her stunning beaded peacock pillow. Unfortunately, Jennifer’s husband is murdered soon afterwards, and it appears the pillow is the weapon. Can Laurel help uncover who the murderer is?

What a fun cozy mystery! Paula Darnell pulls the reader in quickly, introducing us both to the community and many of the characters. I love the idea of a homeowners’ association having crafting classes that members of the community can enjoy. The mystery itself is clever, with several red herrings thrown into the mix to keep the reader guessing.

DEATH BY DESIGN is the second book in the DIY Diva Mystery series but can easily be read as a standalone. I haven’t read the first book, but it’s on my stack to read as Paula Darnell writes an intriguing and entertaining cozy mystery. I love the crafting aspect, especially considering the students’ pillow projects vary from the very intricate work of Jennifer’s pillow to the more practical ones finished by Bud. I look forward to reading future books in the series!

Advertisements

Review: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Hardcover, 304 pages                 Published July 9th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN13: 9781250201492      Setting:  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania(United States) 

Rating: 4*

Set during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA two women come together, not realizing that in a short time, the secrets of betrayal and temptations they’ve held and kept will one day bind them together in a way that neither could have ever expected.

Arriving at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, Joanna is hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed. And her mother-in-law Susannah, is not someone who makes Joanna feel welcome.  Too many women in a house that has seen too much tragedy and heartache and kept too many secrets.

It was touted as a historical based on the titans of the steel-boom era, namely Bethlehem Steel, but it turned out to be more than that in what I would describe as women’s fiction.  Joanna has had to give up the house and home she had lived in with her husband and two children to move into the families humongous ancestral home.  Living with her husband’s grandmother and mother who had held the title of mistress of that home.  It made Joanna feel somewhat non-essential.  Everything was taken care of by numerous family retainers who Joanna felt had more claim to the home than she would ever have.  

Feeling somewhat neglected Joanna fell into the habit of spending her time in the nearby cemetery  where she made friends with the quirky cemetery keepers and their enigmatic grandson.  She also discovered the tiny gravestone of baby “Hayes” whom she wanted to uncover the mystery of who he was and why no one had claimed it to give him a name.

*** The book started slowly and to be honest, it was something I struggled with, but slowly the story started to make more sense as the author kept up the past and present theme of Susannah’s and Joanna’s life.  Both would discover that their lives were similar but different.  The characters were well defined, the pace did pick up, and it was a pretty good summer read.   

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me the ARC of this book for an honest review.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Outlaw Wolves

46253532. sy475

OUTLAW WOLVES is author Heather Long at her best. I have to admit that I was not particularly fond of Luciana in her other appearances, so for a writer to be able to take that person and turn them into someone likable, even sympathetic is rather amazing;

Luciana and her husband Rayne had gathered up lone wolves and gave them a pack, setting up in Seven Hills. This wasn’t something that was easily accepted by the other pack alphas. Cool heads prevailed and the new pack was watched closely. Then Luciana made a mistake and allowed the Russian wolves free passage through her territory. That itself is a different story, but to protect her Rayne challenges her and wins. She feels betrayed though she had admitted, though only to herself, that she had missed some things a good alpha should have known about her people

Communication is usually the root of all problems and this is evidently one of those times. So a little work in that field is necessary and a bit of cleaning up a problem that arises from her brothers pack and then they will be able to work together. That’s what Rayne wants after all.

We also get to meet up with a number of past characters that were much loved and/or feared in the “Wolves of Willow Bend” series. If you want to know who you need to read OUTLAW WOLVES.

 

Review: An American Duchess by Caroline Fyffe –

Paperback, 348 pages      Publication: June 25th 2019 by Montlake Romance

ISBN13: 9781542091671

Rating: 4*

The rules of Victorian society are defied in  bestselling author Caroline Fyffe’s novel of romance, royalty, and a little revenge.

In Kent, England, the arrival of Beranger Northcott, Duke of Brightshire, causes quite a stir.  Berenger left home more than 15 years ago, never expecting to return. Never expecting that he was th legitimate heir to a dukedom he brings with him his new American bride, who isn’t quite what anyone expects!  By accepting the hand of her beloved, Emma Brinkman went from hardworking Colorado rancher to duchess. Now she’s expected to comport herself as nobility. Overnight. For Emma—stifled, homesick, and unable to shake the feeling she’s being watched—the metamorphosis is a challenge. And if Emma’s suspicions are correct, perhaps even a dangerous one.

Not one to deal in formality, Emma makes friends with the help and fortunately, for Emma she has found a trusted friend in the orphaned Charlotte, Brightshire’s scullery maid.   Charlotte has dreamt if only for a moment what it would be like to live a privileged  life with out the daily back breaking life she’s lived—if only for a moment. When one of the duke’s handsome cousins takes notice of Charlotte, the castle kitchen is set abuzz with speculation that she just might be swayed into being ruined.  

In navigating their two different stations, both Charlotte  and Emma alike will discover all they have in common—from secret fantasies to daring hearts to upending the rules of society. And that finding their places in the world—and love—is a dream that can come true.

Very charming story which I could have fallen in love with.  Just a bit of nitpicking here though that I thought a bit more editing of starting and stopping their stories would have made for a smoother read.  Otherwise, I truly liked this story.

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor

  • Print Length: 380 pages                                 ISBN: 1250295998
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks    Publication Date: June 25, 2019
  • Rating: 5*

Right from the description I had a feeling I was going to love this story – and I was right!  Lady Theodora Worth had grown up on a remote Scottish estate by her loving grandfather, actually a pretty idyllic childhood, until her grandfather began to show signs of forgetfulness and Theodora then fell into the reverse roll of caring for him.     As a Countess in her own right she had kept the estate of Ladykyrk in excellent shape and the many tenants happy – well nourished and thriving.   However when her grandfather died the new Duke challenges her claim to the title and Ladykyrk estate.  Her long time lawyer (who now threw his lot in with the ‘new’ duke) advised her she needed a husband.    Thea’s wise elderly neighbor with a thoroughly modern sensibility and a dashing great-nephew just might have  the answer to Thea’s prayers. Except Thea has no intention of marrying the first man she meets, even if he’s so handsome he makes her flesh tingle!  

Naturally, Lord William Cavensham would do most anything to keep his Aunt happy but after a very youthful heartbreaking experience he was gun-shy of ever putting his heart on the line again.  But, there was no denying his honor and to help this beautiful lady in need he would be her ‘best’ friend and help her in anyway he could!

With wonderful dialogs, characters, and l even a nasty new duke there were many moments during the reading of this tome that I sat back in pleasure to simply bask in the delightful story.  One of the more relaxed (even if I had rouble putting it down) books I’ve read this summer!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Moscow Deception by Karen Robards

ublished June 12th 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton        ASIN B0723HDKHJ

Series: The Guardian #2                                              Rating:  5*

Bianca St. Ives makes her living as a high-end thief and a genius of disguise, conning criminals out of the money they stole – and all for the greater good. A femme fatale Robin Hood, she’s been taught everything she knows from her father. Since their last heist gone bad, Bianca has taken over running the family business, it’s not just Richard St. Ives on most-wanted lists, but Bianca, too.

After faking his own death, the word is out that Bianca’s father is, in fact, alive, and having just pulled off a major heist in Austria, he has a dangerous task for Bianca that will see her traveling to Russia to steal ancient jewels and artifacts. But now all eyes are on Bianca, and escaping international pursuit will be harder than ever. And especially her drop dead gorgeous pursuer.

I have to say – I am so LOVING this series!   There is nothing better than a kick-ass bad-ass heroine and Bianca St. Ives fills the role to perfection!  Kudo’s to Karen Robards for her art of making one truly feel the emotions of the characters she creates.  Along with Bianca, her enigmatic pursuer is surely a darn hottie and perfect for her but for some reason he can’t seem to hold on to her!   Add to that her extremely capable staff and ‘DOC’ her IT genius and it’s hard to stop her no matter how insane her escapades end up as the entire world – wants to kill her!  Ah, but that is the mystery isn’t it ?

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

Hardcover, 336 pages                 Publication: June 25th 2019 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN13: 9780735212572                 Rating:  5*

Venice (Italy) 

Based on the  intertwined fates of two Venetian orphans in Venice, 1736, fate brings Violetta and Mino together on the roof of the Hospital of the Incurables. They formed a connection that will change their lives forever. Both are orphans at the Incurables, dreaming of escape. But when the resident Maestro notices Violetta’s voice, she is selected for the Incurables’ world famous coro, and must sign an oath never to sing beyond its church doors.

Years before Violetta had seen and saved Mino after she witnessed his mother leaving him at the Incurables (where unwanted babies were left and brought up as orphans) Mino desperately wanted to find his mother and after his declaration of love ends in heartbreak, Mino flees the Incurables in search of his family. 

Known as the “city of masks,” Venice is full of secrets, and Mino is certain one will lead to his long-lost mother. Without him, the walls close in on Violetta and she begins a dangerous and forbidden nightlife, hoping her voice can secure her freedom. But neither finds what they are looking for, until a haunting memory Violetta has suppressed since childhood leads them to a shocking confrontation.

THE ORPHAN’S SONG is mesmerizing, emotional, and totally spellbinding.  The history of the city of Venice in that century made for such a compelling read.   The sensuality and romance was both thrilling, emotional, and exciting.  And the reveal of Mino’s mother was a thrilling twist.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Say No to The Duke by Eloisa James

ebook, 384 pages          Publication: June 25th 2019 by Avon

ISBN13: 9780062877840                    Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #4

Rating:  5*

Beautiful, accomplished and with a mind of her own, Lady Betsy Wilde’s first season was triumphant by any measure, and a duke has proposed!  Unfortunately, her wild nature being what it was she wants one great adventure before marriage!       Obviously no gentleman would agree to her scandalous plan—but Lord Jeremy Roden is no gentleman. He offers a wager. 

If she wins a billiards game, he’ll provide the breeches. If he wins – she is his, for one night.  Jeremy has suffered over what his actions during the war in America ended up losing his entire regiment.  Jeremy’s  latest show of unfeeling and drunkenness is not who he truly is.   But Jeremy realizes that one night with Betsy will never be enough? In the most important battle of his life, he’ll have to convince Betsy to say NO to the duke. 

Leave it to Ms, James to come up with another sensual and emotionally packed wonderful read.  Both the Duke and Jeremy were wonderful candidates for Betsy’s hand in marriage – I really loved them both and Betsy’s struggle in making the right decision was a really tough one!  

No hints here but all was not as it seemed to be an easy choice!   Just pick up this book and wrap yourself in romantic bliss – with a few chuckles along the way!

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: The Ultimatum by Karen Robards

Kindle Edition, 368 pages                               Published June 13th 2017 by MIRA

Series:   The Guardian #1                                 Rating:  5*

Thief. Manipulator. Con artist. Call it what you will—Bianca St. Ives is the best in the business. Additionally, I shall also add that the author and creator of ULTIMATUM is a master story teller and gave me hours of entertainment in the listening of this audiobook.   And more importantly, I discovered it is Book ONE of the GUARDIAN Series and I fully intend to read the next two installments in the very near future.  

Growing up, Bianca St. Ives knew she was different from all her friends. Instead of playing hopscotch or combing her dolls’ hair, she was sent to study martial arts with sensei masters and dismantle explosives with special-ops retirees. Her father, a man with many identities,  prepped her well to carry on the family business. Now a striking beauty with fierce skills, the prodigy has surpassed the master.

Working with her father, she makes a living swindling con men out of money they stole. She also does things on her own terms. But her latest gig went FUBAR—if you count two hundred million dollars and top secret government documents going missing and seeing her father blown up during the mission. The problem now is, the US government doesn’t believe he’s really dead. They’ll stop at nothing to capture Richard St. Ives, a high-value target and someone who has been on most-wanted lists all over the world for over two decades.  The people don’t really know that much about using Bianca as bait but know she could lead them to Richard St. Ives.   With only a fellow criminal for backup and her life on the line, it’s up to Bianca to uncover the terrifying truth of who Richard St. Ives is and discover truths of her own life to set it right, before it’s too late. 

This was an absolute rush of entertainment pleasure with an amazing pace and suspense that kept me listening avidly way past my bedtime.   Great imagery and descriptive language of visualizing all the many tools of the trade and setting the scenes of each exploit.   Can’t wait to follow up on this series!!!

Marilyn Rondeau