Review: ‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Jacqueline Frost

Holly White is starting to settle into Mistletoe, Maine. She’s back home working at her parents Christmas tree farm, Reindeer Games, while making her own jewelry on the side. Her closest friends, Cookie and Caroline, have opened a cupcake shop and all seems blissful… until a dead body is found and suddenly Caroline is the primary suspect. Holly is determined to help her friend, even though the local sheriff and her maybe-boyfriend, Evan Gray, insists she stop investigating. Will Holly’s investigating put her in harm’s way yet again?

‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is the second book in the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series. While it can easily be read as a standalone, I can’t imagine wanting to miss one moment of this fun new cozy mystery series! Jacqueline Frost provides sufficient background information on the characters and the Christmas festivities of the Reindeer Games so new readers can easily jump right in. However, please note that a few spoilers from the first book, TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS, are mentioned.

I absolutely love everything about Mistletoe, Maine. What a gorgeous, fun town Jacqueline Frost has created! I just discovered this series recently and it’s exactly the sort of read to get you in the Christmas spirit as Mistletoe is full of joy and quite Christmasy. However, it is the Reindeer Games that really put the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series over the top! Who doesn’t want to participate in one of the seasonal games, whether it’s the gingerbread house decoration or the sleigh rides. And oh, the scrumptious desserts! I think my blood sugar rose and I gained 15 pounds just reading about the yummy sounding food and drinks available all around Mistletoe.

‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a heck of a lot of fun! Whether you are in the mood for a Christmas read or not, don’t let Jacqueline Frost’s engaging cozy series, Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series, pass you by. Highly recommended!

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REVIEW: The Dane Law by Garth Pettersen

(The Atheling Chronicles #2)

After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, the main characters, Harald and Selia are called to England by Harald’s father King Cnute.  Their return home is met with violence and intrigue. 

Cnute, the king had vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, would inherit the throne, but Cnute also recognizes that the man is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. Regardless King Cnute is not a fool and urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha. Unfortunately, there is another brother to contend with. Sweyn, and he could be an even bigger threat to Harald.

***  While I appreciated the author’s research with names and terms that were used during the period of history and his preface of explaining what they were and meant was helpful, I had some difficulty getting into the story why I tried to understand what was going on.  It didn’t take that long and I did find myself totally swept up in the history and the events including scheming, murder, bribery and betrayal as the fight for power was going on.   This was definitely an all for themselves kind of life as well as a very brutal time to live and die which the author brought to glorious life.

Without giving too much away, I truly was into the many facet of the characters, their strengths and weaknesses and really enjoyed reading this chronicle.  Would definitely recommend all history buffs to read and enjoy!

Marilyn Rondeau  

REVIEW: The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor

368 pages       Publication: November 27th 2018 by St. Martin’s Paperbacks

ISBN13: 9781250295972         Rating 5*

Can’t say when I enjoyed a story more! Historical romances are my favorite and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE DUKE by Janna MacGregor was one I truly enjoyed.  

Lady Daphne Hallworth was ready to celebrate the holidays with her family but all the participants left assuming everyone had a ride.  At first quite piqued that she was left home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers.  Taking a bit of time out for a walk, she sat in the park and thought to make some notations in her very private journal, when a young pickpocket grabbed her reticule with the journal in it.   Giving chase she ran into her  brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart.   Her personal journal holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?

Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land, which Daphne wanted for her Home for unwed mothers, brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. 

Lady Daphne has held a tendre for Paul for most of her life, and in spite of the conflict between her brother and his once best-friend – Daphne still held him in her heart.  Amidst lots of scenarios between Daphne and Paul while he does his best to protect Daphne from ruin as her stubbornness of wanting to retrieve her journal leads her to several locations a lady never should be in, their passions ignite.  And in trying to turn over a new leaf, will Paul’s efforts to help turn her brother into wanting to call Paul out!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh

Since her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield has been thinking that she is about ready to enter into another suitable marriage. However, after she meets Baron Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party  she wishes she weren’t so old.  Elizabeth simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They both realize that any relationship between them, would be fruitless for she is nine years older than he.

Returning to London the following Season, both were dedicated to find more suitable matches, but  they also agreed to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. 

As is with all books by Mary Balogh I immediately fell in love with Lady Elizabeth who is portrayed as the kindest and warmest kind of person whom I would want to be her friend.  And Colin, of course, was the sweetest and most charming of characters so kind and caring.  Bittersweet at times but really the best kind of tome to curl up with and savor the romance.

Marilyn Rondeau  

Review: My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes

Series – Rogues to Riches #1

Mass Market Paperback, 442 pages

Published November 6th 2018 by Forever

ISBN13: 9781538728956

London banker Quinn Wentworth is facing execution, for a murder which he is being framed for.  But, before the floor drops out of the gallows he’s declared the long-lost heir to a dukedom! Quinn has fought his way up from the vilest slums, and now he’s ready to use every dirty trick he knows to find the enemy who schemed against him.

Except for one tiny problem! Thinking he was on his way to the devil, he had married  Jane Winston, the widowed, pregnant daughter of a meddlesome prison preacher. Quinn, believing his days numbered, offered Jane marriage as a way to guarantee her independence and provide for her child. Neither thinks they’ll actually have a future together.  And that is where the fun begins.  

One thing you can expect from Grace Burrowes are different scenarios which I have found are a trademark of this brilliant author.  And MY ONE AND ONLY DUKE the first book in this new series introduces us to the unconventional Wentworth family which I predict is going to be a winner!

Quinn is now an even  wealthier gutter rat out for vengeance. Jane is a minister’s daughter who must turn a marriage of desperation and convenience into a proper ducal union.   Add to that Quinn’s two sisters, and younger handicapped brother who were just as hungry for payback as Quinn for the dastardly person who framed their brother and Jane had her hands full.  With some training, albeit not in a role as a duchess, Jane had the task of turning this unusual household into a refined ducal residence as well as teaching Quinn that love and trust were part of having a real marriage.

Marilyn Rondeau 

Review: Whiskey Undone

Whiskey Undone (Whiskey and Lies Book 3) by [Ryan, Carrie Ann]

By Carrie Ann Ryan

A fantastic page turner that you do not want to miss.

Loch Collin just wants to raise his precious daughter, be near his family and his best friend Ainsley Harris and keep his past at bay. Unfortunately pasts always find a way of coming back to haunt people and his put not just himself and his baby girl in danger but his biggest weakness also gets caught up in it all.

Ainsley has been by Loch’s side helping him and being a friend but she has secretly been in love with him, but knowing her friend so well any change in their status will have to come from him. Finally he comes to his senses and realizes that being in love with his best friend can be a good thing. Or can it?

So many secrets, so much danger and so much love will have you reading and turning pages as quickly as possible then you’ll want to do it all over again. The characters are believable, especially with the bickering brothers, glares from mom and the adorable little daughter, Misty. And good Lord can author Carrie Ann Ryan make her bad guys really horribly bad.

This is the third and final offering in in Ms. Ryan’s “Whiskey and Lies” series. It is a standalone so you need not read the other two but … why wouldn’t you! All three are amazing reads.

 

 

Review: If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell

Violet Daugherty’s death seems an accident, a case of drowsy driving. Meanwhile, a comment made during the funeral planning for Frank Fiore has Funeral Director and reporter Desiree Turner questioning if something more sinister is going on in Verbena. Unfortunately, the rumor mill runs rampant in the small town and soon Desiree is faced with losing business, as everyone is worried they too will be accused of murder. Will Desiree risk the family business and defy her family’s orders or will she ignore her reporter’s instincts and sit this one out?

IF THE COFFIN FITS is the second book in Lillian Bell’s A Funeral Parlor Mystery series.  New readers to the series can easily jump right in and enjoy the series. Lillian Bell provides enough of the history on the characters that it’s easy to follow the mystery.

I was a little concerned about how I would enjoy a story featuring a funeral parlor and the funeral director but Lillian Bell pulled me right into her story line. Heck, Desiree has her own reservations about working for the family business and it is that edge that helps make IF THE COFFIN FITS so enjoyable. I like that Desiree is also a reporter as it also makes her amateur sleuthing far more believable.

IF THE COFFIN FITS is an entertaining cozy mystery coupled with some fascinating side stories. The conclusion of the book leaves me with so many questions that I can’t wait to see answered in the next book! If you love cozy mysteries with unconventional jobs (like a funeral director), then IF THE COFFIN FITS may just be your cup of tea as well.

Review: A Lady’s Escape by A.S. Fenichel

A Lady's Escape

Published October 2nd 2018 by Lyrical Press

Series:  Everton Domestic Society #2                       Rating 4*

Having a most disastrous London debut, Millicent Edgebrook has proven herself skilled at securing matches—for every young lady but herself. Resigned to spinsterhood, and eager to gain independence from her lovable but eccentric uncle, Millie works with the Everton Domestic Society. Her next assignment: find a bride for Preston Knowles, Duke of Middleton. How difficult can it be – As difficult, it seems, as resisting her own attraction to the duke…

Preston has promised himself not to be ruined by love. Yet he’s fantasizing about the lovely matchmaker his mother hired to find him a bride. Millie’s past is shrouded in secret, and the Everton Society forbids relations between employees and clients. But even with so many obstacles against them, Preston longs to convince Millie of his devotion, but what will he think if he discovers the reason for her ruin?

True love never runs smooth but when Millie is faced with the prospect of being blackmailed by the man who ruined her  – who but the Duke will come to her aid and save her!  Delightful story!  

 

Review Duchess by Design by Maya Rodale

Duchess by Design

Published October 23rd 2018 by Avon

Series:  The Gilded Age Girls Club #1

First of all – I absolutely LOVED this story!!!   Not only was it the first book in a  new series which I love to start from the beginning but Maya Rodale is a “new” author for me!  I have heard of her and seen her name many times but ashamedly I had never read her.  THAT is going to change!

Becoming a duke Brandon Fiennes, took his duties seriously especially having inherited a bankrupt estate along with the title and his dowager duchess mother and two sisters who needed to be taken care of.  Brandon had always been dependable and did his best keeping the estates afloat in spite of his father’s wasteful ways.   However, unless he found a wealthy bride his cause was hopeless.  

Heading to America he was on the lookout for a wealthy heiress who would trade their wealth for a title as a Duchess.  In fact he felt pretty lucky when he happened to bump into a young woman, Adeline Black, who totally intrigued him and seemed to occupying the suite next to his.  Unfortunately, she was simply a seamstress who was calling on the real heiress.  However the heart knows its own mind and after Adeline is found out to be what she purported to be Brandon did start shopping the New York heiresses, only to discover none measured up to Adeline.  

Expect the unexpected but told in a delightful and fun way as both find that true love leads to unexpected and surprising results.   A wonderful full bodied and delightful story.

Marilyn Rondeau