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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Cursed by S. J Harper

Author:  S. J. Harper
Series:  Fallen Siren 1
Publisher:  Roc, October 1, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425263297 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Cursed by S. J Harper
Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She's cursed. He's damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.


Jennifer's Review

Cursed is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series by S.J. Harper, the pen name for co-authors Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne Stein. The Fallen Siren Series follows Emma Monroe, an ancient siren cursed by the Goddess Demeter to spent eons on earth helping others in need, while seeking her own salvation and hiding her true self. Emma is trying to fulfill her purpose by working in the missing persons section of the FBI. Emma is dismayed when her new partner turns out to be an old flame, werewolf Zack Armstrong. While she deals with her undeniable attraction to Zack, the pair must race against time to stop the menace that is kidnapping area women.

Emma and Zack are both highly intelligent and strong, and they both harbor secrets and carry scars from their past. Neither one is perfect, but together they work perfectly. The chemistry between the two is red hot, creating amazing sexual tension amid the chaos of the cases they are trying to solve. They heat up the pages in some scenes in a wonderfully steamy way. The supernatural side of both Emma and Zack is a vital component to the story and is extremely well done. The world they live in is based on ancient myths in part, but is also enhanced by the imagination of the authors. They add their own flavor to the myths that I found delightful.

The story is told through Emma’s eyes, which was fine, but I found the tense the authors used to be a little off-putting at first. Emma uses the present tense, not something I’ve really seen in the first person very often, if at all. The tense wasn’t enough to detract from the story, but it did take a little getting used to. The plot revolves not only around Emma and Zack, but also their pasts and the current cases they are working on. These are all blended beautifully so that nothing gets pushed aside or lost. There are a few secondary characters of note. Emma’s friend Liz, who is privy to her secret, is a fun character, but the Goddess Demeter tends to steal the scenes when she shows up in all her angry glory. The mystery kept me sufficiently intrigued throughout the book and had a satisfying ending. There are a few surprises that add to the complexity of not only the plot of this book, but also to the world in which it takes place, and while the missing persons cases are solved, the fate of Emma and Zack is left up in that air. This means there will be more to come from this writing duo and I am very interested to see where they take the characters in Reckoning (Book 2) and how far they go with this new supernatural world they have created.

Review: Picked to Die by Sheila Connolly

Picked to Die
Author:  Sheila Connolly
Series:  Orchard Mystery 8
Publisher: Berkley, October 7, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425257111 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Picked to Die by Sheila Connolly
The new Orchard Mystery--from the New York Times bestselling author of Golden Malicious and Scandal in Skibbereen


It’s harvest time in Granford, Massachusetts, and orchard owner Meg Corey and her fiancé, Seth, are both racing to beat the New England winter. Meg is bringing in her apple crop with a team of workers, while Seth is working to restore an old building in the center of town. But when his project is set back due to the unexpected discovery of a skeleton under the building—and even worse, a young man related to one of Meg’s former apple pickers is found dead behind the local feed store—the couple’s carefully laid plans are quickly spoiled…

Meg can’t help but wonder: are they just unlucky, or is there something rotten in Granford? If so, she knows she’s got to seek out the bad apple before it ruins the whole bunch…

Includes Delicious Recipes

Jennifer's Review

Picked to Die by Sheila Connolly is the eighth installment of the Orchard Mystery series. The series is set in the small town of Granford, Massachusetts and follows big city transplant Meg Corey, who has left her high-stress finance career behind her and has become a small farmer, restarting her ancestor’s apple orchard. In this novel, Meg has become involved in yet another murder case when a relative of one of her regular Jamaican apple pickers is found murdered and she is asked by the prime suspect’s family to look into what really happened.

Throughout the series Meg has struggled with not only her new farming lifestyle, but also her burgeoning romantic involvement with local catch, Seth Chapin, and this installment is no different. Regarding her business endeavors, Meg is a strong and capable character who has no problem admitting that she is still relatively clueless regarding the running of a profitable apple orchard. She is willing to work hard and get dirty to make her business a success but also relies heavily on her young orchard manager Bree. Bree does her job well, but is often abrasive and moody, and while she may be young, a recent college graduate, she still has an annoying tendency to act like a cranky teenager. Seth is a seemingly flawless hunk of a man who has spent most of the series waiting for Meg to make up her mind about their relationship. In my opinion it took Meg far too long to come to the realization that Seth is the one for her, but I like the way the relationship is progressing now. This book begins soon after Meg and Seth have become engaged and shows them dealing with their disparate expectations of their future together. An old nemesis also returns in the character of Rick Sainsbury, a Granford native who is running for congress and has a bit of a history with both Meg and Seth. He is by no means an evil character, but is definitely a foil for the highly ethical Meg and squeaky clean Seth. Sainsbury’s teenage nephew, Jeffrey, is the prime suspect in the murder of the young Jamaican found behind the local feed store. Meg has taken a liking to the teenager and was determined to help him even before his family asked her to investigate. There are many strong recurring characters such as Seth’s mother and the local sheriff, that provide glimpses into small town life and politics and a couple of new arrivals in the form of Jeffrey’s divorced parents, that deal with the realities of a nasty divorce and the effects it can have on the children involved.

The plot unfolds as would be expected in a cozy mystery; there are a few minor surprises and a few things that are easier to figure out. Connolly’s writing style is smooth and seamless and she has added a nice subplot to this book in the form of a centuries old skeleton that is found underneath the town’s historical society. Looking into the mystery surrounding the skeleton also serves to highlight the undercurrents of the present day race relations between the seasonal Jamaican workforce and Granford’s local white population that adds depth to the overall story.

I have always enjoyed reading this author’s work and found this installment of the Orchard Mysteries to be the best so far. The characters seem to be more comfortable in their own skins and the mysteries become more and more interesting at the series progresses.

Review: Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown

Geared for the Grave
Author:  Duffy Brown
Series:  Cycle Path Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, December 2, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425268940 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown

Mackinac Island is a peaceful summer resort town where everyone coasts through the streets on bicycles. But after someone sends a prominent local on her final ride, it’s up to one resourceful visitor to get things running again…

Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss’s father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and operating his bike shop, Rudy’s Rides, is too much to handle by himself. But Evie’s good turn only leads to more trouble…

After Evie’s arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, Bunny’s brakes were tampered with, and now the prime suspect in her murder is also Bunny’s number one enemy: Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss’s good side, she’ll need to steer Rudy clear of jail. Now she must quickly solve this mystery so she can put the brakes on the real killer’s plan…

Jennifer's Review

Duffy Brown’s Geared for the Grave is the first book in the new Cycle Path Mystery Series. The series is set on Mackinac Island, a tiny resort town nestled in Michigan’s Lake Huron. The story begins with Evie Bloomfield’s inauspicious arrival on the island for what is really nothing but a glorified baby-sitting job that she is hoping will eventually further her career. Evie has been sent to Mackinac to provide assistance to her boss’s father, Rudy Randolph. Rudy has suffered a broken leg and Evie is tasked with helping him run his failing bicycle shop until he gets back on his feet. After learning that her job will be much harder than she thought due to Rudy’s reluctance to accept her help, Evie quickly stumbles upon the body of a very controversial and very wealthy resident.

I must admit that it took me quite a while to warm up to this book. I found the scrapes that Evie finds herself in a tad unrealistic and some of the minor characters to be a bit cartoonish. With that being said, in the end I did end up becoming engaged with the story and enjoyed seeing how it played out. Throughout the beginning and even middle of the book, Evie is a train wreck, and not an endearing one. She has major hang-ups about a past relationship and issues with her overachieving family back in Chicago. After she stops bumbling her way through everything, she becomes a much more likeable and relatable character, although she does still retain her incredible clumsiness. Rudy is a funny old guy and I enjoyed his character development. There are a plethora of townspeople that help further the plot and add comic relief, but the one I found the most entertaining was Irma. She was very charming in her ineptness and the scene where she inadvertently adds an extra ingredient in her fudge that causes the townspeople to become a little too happy is an absolute gem. The romantic interest in this story comes in the form of Nate Sutter, a ruggedly handsome acting police chief with a bit of a past himself. The chemistry between Evie and Nate starts out very subtle and builds nicely. The unexpected arrival of Evie’s mother and the mystery surrounding the town’s newest residents, a brother and sister with big city mob connections, add many fun moments to the mystery.

The mystery of Bunny Harrington’s death is central to the plot but does often takes a backseat to the shenanigans of Evie and the townsfolk. I wouldn’t say the mystery was formulaic, but there was a bit of predictability to how the mystery plays out. Being a fan of cozy mysteries, I can say that sometimes a more basic mystery is just what I am looking for when I need something quick and uncomplicated to help me unwind after a grueling day. This novel fit that bill for me. After the rough start, the characters did develop well and became interesting. I will be looking forward to seeing where the author takes the next installment in this series.

Review: The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star by Susan Wittig Albert

The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star
Author:  Susan Wittig Albert
Series:   The Darling Dahlias 4
Publisher:  Berkley, September 2, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price: $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425260593 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star by Susan Wittig Albert
National bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert returns to the small town of Darling, Alabama, in the 1930s—where the ladies of the Darling Dahlias garden club are anything but shrinking violets when it comes to rooting out criminals…

The Texas Star herself—Miss Lily Dare, the “fastest woman in the world”—is bringing her Dare Devils Flying Circus to Darling. Unfortunately, she’s also bringing a whole lot of trouble. As the Dahlias prepare for the annual Watermelon Festival—where they will present the famous female aviatrix with her own Texas Star hibiscus—rumors are flying.

Dahlias president Liz Lacy learns that Miss Dare has been threatened and her plane sabotaged. Apparently the bold and beautiful barnstormer has made plenty of enemies. And is it possible she may be involved with the husband of one of Darling’s local ladies?

As the Texas Star barnstorms into town, Liz and Verna Tidwell offer to help bring down a saboteur who may be propelled by revenge. Before it’s all over, there will be plenty of black eyes and dark secrets revealed…


Jennifer's Review

The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star is the fourth installment of Susan Wittig Albert’s series set in 1930’s Alabama. This installment continues to follow the “Dahlias”, an eclectic group of ladies from Darling, Alabama who run the local garden club. The girls, headed by club president Liz Lacy, find themselves in the midst of a mystery surrounding larger-than-life Miss Lily Dare, a female airplane daredevil in town for the highly anticipated annual Watermelon Festival, which the Dahlias are running this year.

In every Dahlias novel, the story revolves around not just one or two members of the garden club, but many of them simultaneously. Liz and Verna are, as usual, the central characters. Liz has developed wonderfully over the course of the novels. She is kind and independent with a wild imagination that often leads her down the wrong track when she is trying to puzzle out a mystery. Verna is as practical and dry as ever, but still lovable in all her competency. This installment has lots of little sub plots that run concurrently with the central mystery and that bring the story to life with heart and soul. I love that the story of Myra May, who runs the local diner and telephone exchange with her roommate Violet, takes a more prominent role in this book. I’ve been longing to learn more of her back-story for a while now and was very satisfied with what was revealed. All of the other inhabitants of Darling that I’ve come to love are also given time in Texas Star, including Mildred Kilgore, whose marriage takes center stage in this book. Fannie Champaign, who is fairly new to Darling and is still rather mysterious, adds a dash of romance to the story as we look into her relationship with another newer character, newspaper owner, Charlie Dickens.

I have been a huge fan of Susan Wittig Albert for a number of years now and have absolutely loved everything I have ever read of hers, including this novel. Wittig Albert crafts wonderful mysteries that are heavy on the interpersonal relationships of her characters. This fact is important when reading her various series. I would highly recommend they be read in order so the reader can appreciate how the characters and relationships have evolved over the course of the series. The author always incorporates amazing local charm into her books, whether she is writing about a fictional herb shop in Texas, the setting of her long running China Bayles series, or a small southern town during the Great Depression, as in the Dahlias series. She gives her settings such liveliness that they are almost another character in and of themselves. In Texas Star, the period details are superb, which is consistent with the first three books in the series. Wittig Albert is a seasoned cozy mystery veteran who never ceases to deliver intriguing mysteries and lovable characters that seem to grow organically and true to life. I am eagerly awaiting the next Dahlia installment, The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush, which is sure to be another gem.

Review: Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere

Suede to Rest
Author:  Diane Vallere
Series:  A Material Witness Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, November 4, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425270578 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere
Unraveling family secrets can be murder in Suede to Rest...

With her career as a dress designer in shreds, Polyester Monroe is looking forward to a fresh start. But as it all unfolds, the pattern to a new beginning looks a lot like murder.

When Poly Monroe was little, she loved playing in her family’s textile store. But after a fatal family tragedy, Land of A Thousand Fabrics was boarded up and Poly never expected to see the inside again. Now, as inheritor of the long-shuttered shop, she’s ready to restore the family business. However her two new kittens, Pins and Needles, aren’t the ones causing a snag in her plans…

Not everyone wants Poly back in San Ladrón, especially a powerful local developer pressuring her to sell—and leave town fast. But even when the threats turn deadly, she’s not ready to bolt. Because Poly is beginning to suspect that the murder behind the shop is tied to a mystery in her family’s unsettled past that she’s determined to solve…before her own life is left hanging by a thread.


Jennifer's Review

Suede to Rest is the first installment in the new Material Witness Mystery series. It introduces us to Polyester “Poly” Monroe, a dress designer and fashion enthusiast whose world is turned upside down by the death of her uncle. Poly inherits her family’s textile shop, which has been closed since becoming the scene of her aunt’s brutal murder over a decade ago. When Poly travels to the town of San Ladron, California with the intention of unloading the decaying property she is confronted with the reality of her aunt’s unsolved murder and begins to question the direction of her life and career. Before she can think seriously about what her inheritance means, she is embroiled in the questions surrounding her aunt’s murder, along with the investigation into the murder of a local elderly man, whose body is found right outside her newly acquired shop. Simultaneously, she is confronted with an aggressive campaign designed to make her sell her building and leave town, by person or persons unknown.

I found the character of Polyester, so named because she was born in the textile shop, a little hard to warm up to at first. She was in denial about the impact her aunt’s murder had on her life and flip-flopped for a long time about what she wanted to do with her life and the shop. However, as the story unfolded I saw that my initial assessment of Poly was all wrong. She was a little clueless about the murder, but there are reasons for that and I quickly saw the reasons for her hesitation and indecision regarding her personal life. Even though she received a less than warm welcome to the community she abandoned ten years ago, she refuses to be bullied or frightened into making her decision before she is ready.

During the course of the book we are introduced to various other members of the community. The author creates mystery surrounding these characters, so the reader is often left guessing right up to the end as to which characters are genuinely friendly and which ones have more sinister motives. We get to know Ken Watts, a former high school friend of Poly’s, now a successful real estate broker and get to laugh at the less-than-auspicious meeting of Poly and Vaughn McMichael, the handsome and seemingly arrogant prodigal son of the town’s wealthiest businessman. We also meet Charlie, a hard-as-nails female auto mechanic and Genevieve, the bubbly proprietor of a small tea shop. Of course, we also get acquainted with the local police force in the form of the skeptical Deputy Sheriff Clark and various other locals, along with some of Poly’s own family.

The mystery unfolds at a rather slow pace, but I feel that fact enhances the novel; the author provides so much in the form of intrigue that the slower pace works well. The reader is kept guessing right up to the end about not only the most recent murder, but also the murder of Poly’s aunt and the reason behind the systematic sabotage Poly was subjected to almost from the moment of her arrival in town. I also have to commend the author’s wonderful descriptive powers. She breathes so much life into the various textiles in Poly’s shop that the reader can almost feel the textures she is writing about. There is also a little hint of romance along with the business of solving murders. The ending was both surprising and enjoyable, a perfect combination in a cozy mystery, and sets up the possibility of more installments in the series, which I will be on the lookout for.

Review: Off Kilter by Hannah Reed

Off Kilter
Author:  Hannah Reed
Series:  A Scottish Highlands Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, October 7, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425265826 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Off Kilter by Hannah Reed
National bestselling author Hannah Reed brings mystery lovers the first in a brand-new series, in which a young writer finds herself swept up in a murder amidst the glens and lochs of the Scottish Highlands…

After the recent death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, thirty-something Eden Elliott is seriously in need of a fresh start. At the urging of her best friend, bestselling author Ami Pederson, Eden decides to embark on an open-ended trip to the picturesque village of Glenkillen in the Scottish Highlands, to do some hands-on research for a book of her own. But almost as soon as Eden arrives in the quaint town, she gets caught up in a very real drama…

The town’s sheep shearer is found murdered—clipped with his own shears—and the locals suspect Vicki MacBride, an outsider whose father’s recent death left her the surprise heir to his lucrative sheep farm. Eden refuses to believe the affable heiress is a murderer, but can she prove that someone is out to frame her new friend before she finds herself on the receiving end of more shear terror?

Jennifer's Review

This story follows newly divorced Eden Elliott, an aspiring romance writer, who has traveled to the quaint village of Glenkillen, located in the lush highlands of Scotland, for what she expects to be a quick trip to gather some local color to add authenticity to her writing. On the plane, she meets another American, Vicki MacBride, traveling to the village for her father’s funeral and before she even gets to the village inn, her rented car breaks down and she is rescued by the ruggedly handsome and charming Leith Cameron. On a whim she attends the funeral and wake for her new acquaintance’s father and stumbles upon the body of the local sheep-shearer, who has clearly been murdered. From then on she is on a whirlwind of close calls and confusing experiences all while trying to get her name and that of her new friend off of the suspect list and keep herself from being another victim.

Eden is a wonderfully strong and independent character who is a little lost at this point in her life. Her marriage is over and she has recently lost her mother after a long and debilitating illness. Her friend Ami is a successful romance writer who is trying to push her friend out of her comfort zone and into something adventurous. She has no idea just how adventurous the trip to Scotland will be in the end. Ami was a fun character, creating a good contrast to Eden’s reticence, but she has a very small supporting role in this book. Vicki becomes very prominent to the story right from the first time we see her on the airplane. She is kind hearted and sweet and possesses the gift for gab that can sometimes exhaust the reserved Eden. Leith is the perfect romantic hero for Eden. He is classically handsome, in the rough hewn Scottish way, and comes off as a genuinely nice guy. There are a mass of other characters that provide humor and local color. Most notably, Detective Inspector Jamieson and his bumbling sidekick, along with Vicki’s estranged family, who are doing everything they can to make sure Vicki, and by default, Eden know they are not welcome in the close knit community, and multiple villagers who provide both comedy and realness to the story.

This is a perfectly done cozy mystery. The author does a wonderful job of capturing both the beauty of the Scottish highlands and the undercurrents present in a small village. The characters are well drawn and so realistic, you find yourself really rooting for them. The mystery is complex enough and fast paced and Eden provides a wonderful point of view through her slightly cynical eyes. The romantic tension between Eden and Leith is subtle but builds as the story progresses. The plot is well thought out and executed perfectly and the denouement is very satisfying.

Hannah Reed is also the author of the Queen Bee Mysteries. I have not read any of those, but certainly plan to change that. I enjoyed the snappy style Reed used in this novel and imagine I will like her other books as well. Of course, I will be looking for the next installment in the Scottish Highlands Mysteries. I am very interested in seeing where the story goes and am looking forward to reading more about Eden and Leith.

Review: A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

A High-End Finish
AuthorKate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer-Upper Mystery 1
Publisher: Signet, November 4, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price: $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451469199 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review:  A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

In the seaside town of Lighthouse Cove in northern California, everyone knows the best man for the job is actually a woman—contractor Shannon Hammer. But while Shannon can do wonders with a power drill and a little elbow grease, she’s about to discover that some problems aren’t so easily fixed....

Shannon’s home-renovation and repair business is booming, but her love life needs work. On a blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton, she has to whip out a pair of pliers to keep Jerry from getting too hands on. Shannon is happy to put her rotten date behind her, but when Jerry’s found dead in a run-down Victorian home that she’s been hired to restore, the town’s attractive new police chief suspects that her threats may have laid the foundation for murder.

Determined to clear her name, Shannon conducts her own investigation—with the help of her four best friends, her eccentric father, a nosy neighbor or two, and a handsome crime writer who’s just moved to town. But as they get closer to prying out the murderer’s identity, Shannon is viciously attacked. Now she’ll have to nail down the truth—or end up in permanent foreclosure....

Jennifer's Review

This novel is the first in the new Fixer Upper Mystery series that follows home-renovator Shannon Hammer. Shannon runs a contracting business in the town she grew up in, Lighthouse Cove, a small seaside town in Northern California. Shannon’s troubles start when she goes on a disastrous blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton that results in her threatening to kill him when he gets too aggressive. This sets off a chain of events starting with Shannon discovering the lecherous Jerry’s murdered body in one of the houses she is renovating and progressing to Shannon fighting for her life.

Shannon is a fabulous lead character. She is strong and practical but has the soul of an artist. The real gems of this novel are the set of friends and family Shannon surrounds herself with along with two suitably hunky love interests. The friends and family are numerous, but easily kept track of. The best of the lot are Shannon’s best friends Lizzie, a local shop owner and the mother of two, and Jane, who is poised to open the town’s newest inn. Lizzie is determined that all her friends, including Shannon, find true love as she has, thus the ill-fated blind date at the beginning of the story. Jane has been Shannon’s best friend since childhood and is extremely loyal and protective of her. The aforementioned hunks are police chief Eric Jensen, who resembles a golden Norse God (think Chris Hemsworth in Thor) and Mac Sullivan, a famous crime writer reminiscent of James Bond. Both men are so dreamy it is kind of hard to decide which one Shannon should go for, but I found myself rooting for Eric. Along with looking for a murderer and trying to run her business all while trying to stay alive, Shannon is plagued by her nemesis from high school, Whitney, who happens to be married to her ex-boyfriend, and her bestie Jennifer, both of whom epitomize the stereotypical mean-girl.

This story is well paced, having just the right amount of downtime between the action scenes; even the quieter passages keep the reader’s interest with snappy dialogue. All of the characters are either completely lovable or relatable or even more fun to hate. This series is going on my must read list and I can’t wait for the next installment so I can see who Shannon ends up with. I’m still rooting for Eric.


This Old Homicide
A Fixer-Upper Mystery 2
Signet, January 27, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
(Clicking on the image will take you to the publisher's page)

Review:  A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries and A High-End Finish comes the second Fixer-Upper Mystery...

Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story....

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.

Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed....

Interview with Maia Chance and Review of Snow White Red-Handed - November 7, 2014

Please welcome Maia Chance to The Qwillery. Snow White Red-Handed, the first in the Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series, was published on November 4, 2014.

Interview with Maia Chance and Review of Snow White Red-Handed - November 7, 2014

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Maia:  Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog! I wrote my first book at age five, a thrilling adventure involving giraffes (spelled “drafs”), and have been at it ever since. I’ve always written mostly to amuse myself, writing those stories that I wish I could read, but haven’t been written yet.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Maia:  Well, I used to be a pantser, but now I’m a reformed pantser, mainly in the interest of saving time. But whenever I’m plotting a book in advance I feel like a kid staring out the window at all the other kids playing and having fun while I’m basically “grounded” with my plotting.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Maia:  I struggle with the uncertainty and lack of control in the first draft stage of a book. I love editing; editing is where the fun starts for me.

TQ:  Describe Snow White Red-Handed in 140 characters or less.

MaiaSnow White Red-Handed is a fun historical mystery that intertwines fairy tale lore with a classic whodunit plot.

TQ:  Tell us something about Snow White Red-Handed that is not in the book description.

Maia:  Many of the book’s scenes are set in a castle and in the forest, as the book description mentions, but another important piece of the setting is the fascinating (I think, anyway!) town of Baden-Baden. In particular, roulette games at the Baden-Baden casino play a pivotal role in the plot.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Snow White Red-Handed? Why rewrite fairy tales? Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

Maia:  I was inspired to write this book while I was teaching a writing course based on fairy tales while simultaneously reading 19th-century American literature in preparation for my PhD exams. And rewriting fairy tales? Well, we all live with fairy tales, and they belong to all of us, and I think they have themes that resonate deeply with us as readers, even when—especially when?—they are framed in fresh, new ways.

My favorite fairy tale is “Beauty and the Beast”—which I’m starting to work on now for the third book in the Fairy Tale Fatal series!

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Snow White Red-Handed?

Maia:  I had read quite a lot of academic fairy tale criticism going into the project, because of the writing course I’d taught. That certainly shaped some of Professor Penrose’s views on fairy tales. And then there was all the period research—clothes, transportation, and so on—that was incredibly fun. I also drew upon my travel experiences in that part of Germany, and I used historical travelogues and travelogues, too.

TQ:  In Snow White Red-Handed, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Maia:  Prue, Ophelia’s young friend, was somehow the easiest character for me to write. Prue is kind of a hapless waif, the classic fairy tale heroine who has stuff just happen to her. Ophelia was tougher for me to write because she’s very practical-minded. Although Ophelia is, deep-down, susceptible to love, she doesn’t allow herself to cry or act too sentimental. Great traits in a heroine and sleuth, but traits that I personally, um, well, I’m working on them! Also, writing a strong and resourceful heroine in a book set in 1867 turned out to be a bit challenging, since so many things are stacked against her—I mean, she has to wear a corset through the whole thing!

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Snow White Red-Handed.

Maia:  My favorite parts of this book are the tensions between “reality” and magical possibilities, and the tensions between beauty and the work women do to maintain their beauty (which is, after all, a big part of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”).

“Ophelia was suddenly afflicted with unfamiliar—and shockingly impractical—notions creeping into the back of her mind. Unwelcome, these notions were, like tiny intruders sneaking in through a rusted trap-door. Maybe Professor Penrose was right. Maybe fairy tales were real.”

“Just like a pastry, you had to make the most of a man’s lovesickness when it was fresh and hot.”

“‘Come on! Throw me that key!’ Prue struck her wistful Juliet’s pose in the tower window frame. Assuming Juliet ever had a pimple brewing on her left nostril.
       Hansel scratched his head. ‘Oh, all right.’”

TQ:  What's next?

MaiaCinderella Six Feet Under, the second book in the Fairy Tale Fatal series, will be released next fall. And next fall Come Hell or Highball, the first book in my new series, The Discreet Retrieval Agency, will also be released. It’s going to be an exciting and busy year.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Snow White Red-Handed
Author:  Maia Chance
Series:  A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, November 4, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425271629 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Interview with Maia Chance and Review of Snow White Red-Handed - November 7, 2014
Miss Ophelia Flax is a Victorian actress who knows all about making quick changes and even quicker exits. But to solve a fairy-tale crime in the haunted Black Forest, she’ll need more than a bit of charm…

1867: After being fired from her latest variety hall engagement, Ophelia acts her way into a lady’s maid position for a crass American millionaire. But when her new job whisks her off to a foreboding castle straight out of a Grimm tale, she begins to wonder if her fast-talking ways might have been too hasty. The vast grounds contain the suspected remains of Snow White’s cottage, along with a disturbing dwarf skeleton. And when her millionaire boss turns up dead—poisoned by an apple—the fantastic setting turns into a once upon a crime scene.

To keep from rising to the top of the suspect list, Ophelia fights through a bramble of elegant lies, sinister folklore, and priceless treasure, with only a dashing but mysterious scholar as her ally. And as the clock ticks towards midnight, she’ll have to break a cunning killer’s spell before her own time runs out…

Jennifer's Review

This delightful mystery that spans the genres of cozy and historical mysteries is set in the Victorian Era circa 1867. Snow White Red-Handed is the first in a new series that follows two American actresses, Ophelia and Prue, who find themselves unemployed while on a transatlantic trip. Ophelia uses her talents for subterfuge to obtain jobs for both her and her friend as maids to an American millionaire and his new bride. After they arrive at a fairy tale like castle in a German forest Ophelia and Prue quickly find themselves in the midst of a murder.

Ophelia and Prue are very well drawn characters. Ophelia comes across as very strong and able to adapt to whatever situations she finds herself in, while Prue is depicted as a bit of a ninny, albeit a very sweet natured one. I loved the vernacular the author uses for these two ladies. Their slang provides for humorous exchanges, not only with themselves, but with the highbrow sophisticates they come into contact with. The auxiliary characters are varied. The most memorable include a sinister gambling house owner, a mysterious princess, a well-spoken and handsome golden-haired young gardener aptly named Hansel, a meal-obsessed fairy tale expert hired to determine the authenticity of a tiny cottage purported to belong to Snow White’s dwarf friends, and his colleague, the attractive but aloof Gabriel Penrose. There is also great potential for romantic entanglements against the backdrop of the deep fairy tale forest.

The author does a wonderful job of keeping the reader’s attention with seamless and swift transitions in the action and point of view. The scenery was depicted in simple detail so it did not intrude upon the story, but did give the reader a good sense of place and time. The dialogue between the characters is realistic and delivered in snappy and refreshing style. There are many little twists in the plot that kept me interested. The characters are likeable enough to make me want to know what happens to them.

My only complaint with this book is minor and involves the ending. While the murder mystery is tied up in a satisfactory way, as one would expect of a cozy mystery, the interpersonal relationships between Ophelia and Prue and the dashing young men they met at the castle are left completely unresolved. This is done in a way that will lead into the second installment in the Fairy Tale Fatal series which takes place immediately after the events of Snow White Red-Handed. It is simply a personal preference of mine that I tend to prefer books in a series to have more definitive endings regarding both the mystery and the subplots. That being said, I think the ending left quite a bit for the author to pick up on in subsequent books in the series, and because she wrote such engaging characters in this first installment, I am already looking forward to seeing where she takes Ophelia and Prue.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this novel. The concept of a murder mystery encompassing fairy tale elements is clever and well executed and the characters are drawn in such a refreshing way as to leave a great deal to build on in the future. Snow White Red-Handed is a fun and quick read that never felt boring or flat. I will definitely be looking for the next installment entitled Cinderella Six Feet Under (January 2015).


You may have noticed a new name as reviewer. Please kindly welcome Jennifer Dean to The Qwillery family! We are thrilled that Jennifer has joined us. You may read about Jennifer on the About Us page.

About Maia

Interview with Maia Chance and Review of Snow White Red-Handed - November 7, 2014
Maia Chance writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series, and her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, will be released in November 2014 by Berkley Prime Crime.

Maia is a candidate for the Ph.D. in English at the University of Washington. This means that the exploits of Fairy Tale Fatal’s heroine, variety hall actress Ophelia Flax, were dreamt up while Maia was purportedly researching 19th-century American literature and fairy tale criticism. The Discreet Retrieval Agency series was born of Maia’s fascination with vintage shoes, automobiles, and cocktails combined with an adoration of P. G. Wodehouse and chocolate.

Upcoming titles include Come Hell or Highball (St. Martin’s Press, 2015) and Cinderella Six Feet Under (Berkley Prime Crime, 2015). Maia lives in Seattle, where she shakes a killer martini, grows a mean radish, and bakes mocha bundts to die for.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @maiachance  ~  Goodreads

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