Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Death on the Shelf by Allison Brook

While this author is prolific in a number of genres, this is the first novel I have read by her. The heroine is Carrie, the head of programs and events at the local public library. While at the reception after the wedding of her best friend, a well liked local doctor falls over dead. Having previously solved mysteries, Carrie is on the case.

The narrative is a good balance of Carrie's personal life and the amateur sleuth investigation. We find there have been a number of affairs and hidden relationships between various people so there is a plethora of suspects. Carrie has to do lots of talking and thinking to narrow the field. There is not much suspense except at the very end. Brook's writing style is clear and entertaining.

I found this to be an enjoyable cozy mystery. It is definitely a woman's book as Carrie goes clothes shopping and does other activities of interest mostly to women. Carrie sort of stumbles into solving the crime so there is no great intellectual work involved. I found the ghost in the library amusing but did not feel it was an essential aspect to this murder mystery.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Allison Brook is the pen name of Marilyn Levinson. She is a former high school Spanish teacher. She grew up in New York and studied at Syracuse University, majoring in Spanish. She also studied in Mexico and Spain. She has written novels in a number of genres and currently lives in New York. You can find out more at https://www.marilynlevinson.com/.

Crooked Lane Books, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Theft of the Magi by Miranda Atchley

I liked this Christmas novella that took me to 1922 New York. Fiona, a young Irish immigrant, is the heroine. She has recently opened her own detecting services. A string of thefts occur in her apartment building and Fiona is on the case.

Atchley immerses us into the culture and society of the 1920s era. Fiona's building contains residents from a number of ethnic backgrounds. On the serious side, we see some had deep prejudicial feelings, especially toward a young Russian woman. On the positive side, we experience some of the ethnic practices of celebrating the holiday. We get some insight into Hanukkah celebration and Russian nesting dolls too.

This short mystery has some good lessons on character. It was a financially difficult time for many. It was touching to see how Fiona and Max, her guy, were willing to give up something valuable to be able to give to others. We also see the restoration forgiveness produces and how it heals relationships. And even Fiona has to deal with a bit of prejudice in solving the mystery

This is a fun novella with good moral lessons, enlightening relationship interactions between people of differing cultures, a budding romance for Fiona, and an interesting historical exploration of the celebration of Christmas a century ago.

While this novella reads rather well on its own, you can read my reviews of the previous novels in the series: Deadly Pearls, Murder at the Picture Show.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Miranda Atchley is a history enthusiast with a passions for books and times gone by. She has written several novels, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When not writing at her home in Arkansas's Ouachita Mountains, she loves getting lost in a good book, spending time with her dogs, watching period dramas, and learning about her favorite period in time, the 1920s. You can follow her blog at http://mirandaatchley.blogspot.com.

Endless Stories Publishing, 165 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novella from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Golden Touch by Carole Brown Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: The Golden Touch

Author: Carole Brown

Genre: Romantic Cozy Mystery

Release date: April 30, 2021

Not again.

Ryle Sadler stared down at the financial statement lying on his desk. His investment firm had just sent him another record of overwhelming success. Time to sell his share in this stock.

Ryle came from the poor side of the tracks, but that had no bearing on his success in life—which he kept hidden from everyone, especially those in Appleton, West Virginia. But when he buys the local, rundown bed and breakfast, mysterious revelations from beneath the site are suddenly threatening to ruin his good standing with the citizens.

Then along comes Jazzi Sanderson. Jazzi has a reputation of being wild, but Ryle sees more than is on the top layer of this woman. Beneath that tough, wild streak lurks a woman who wants to be loved by the right person, a woman who is tender-hearted and who is just finding out that God is real.

Is Ryle and Jazzi’s worlds too far apart or can their differences help them solve the mystery that lies beneath Ryle’s bed and breakfast? Will the evil person behind it all be able to silence them, or can Ryle’s golden touch prevail in this too?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

If you have not read the previous novels in this series you may find reading this one is like coming into the middle of an ongoing story. Ryle is an inspiring character. He loves to help others and has the money to do so. Jazzi is an interesting character. She is trying to overcome her past but is not open about it and that causes much trouble.

The mystery revolves around someone trying to prevent the opening of the B&B Ryle is renovating. I felt the plot was a little confusing on this point. It seems this person wants to keep hidden something dating from generations ago. That motive didn't work for me. A secondary aspect to the plot was Jazzi being in danger. A pet peeve of mine is when a character is overtly threatened (Jazzi) and another vows to protect her (Ryle) yet leaves her unprotected. Ryle does this at least twice. Of course, suspense ensues.

Readers who have been following the series centered in Appleton will appreciate this mystery. Be sure to read the previous novels or you may be confused by some of the characters.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of thirteen, best selling, award-winning books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. She has found that the traveling and ministering has served her well in writing her novels. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

More from Carole

Discovering the Emotional Touch

When beginning the story of THE GOLDEN TOUCH, Book Five of the Appleton, WV Romantic Mysteries, I needed a KEY factor

Here’s what I knew:

  • the protagonists: Jazzi (Jazmine) Sanderson and Ryle Sadler, their careers and/or past, their personalities,
  • the basic plot: mystery, suspense and the romance
  • the setting
  • the first chapter

But I still didn’t have that thing—that emotion or feeling—the characters were searching for…until I, unknowingly hit upon it. What Jazzi and Ryle were both seeking, although unknown to either, was a place that felt like HOME. The place that makes a person feel content, relaxed and at peace, even when trouble is brewing, even when you’re still searching for that one person who makes the world go ’round for you.

Where was it? Appleton, West Virginia. The small town where everyone knew everyone and their business, or at least assumed they knew. Where friends were friends for life, even when that small town held secrets, trouble and problems.

Ryle, who was rich, innovative and smart, living in a big town and traveling across the country for work was happy, or thought he was. But when he chanced upon Appleton, West Virginia, small, friendly, clean and sometimes a nosy place, but where friends were loyal and ready to help in any way they could, Ryle realized he’d found that spot that felt like home. Adding that to solving the mystery and finding love, was the answer his heart had craved, even though he didn’t know it.

As for Jazzi, wild, beautiful young lady that she was, felt unloved by her adopted parents, and flew the coop from Appleton as soon as she was of age. What she didn’t realize, that instead of blaming others for her unhappiness, it was of her own making. It wasn’t until she returned to Appleton, more mature now, accepting of her own mistakes, and finding a meaning for her life, that her heart grasped the one place that could ever feel like home. Appleton.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 6

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 6

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 7

Betti Mace, December 8

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, December 9

Bigreadersite, December 10

Texas Book-aholic, December 11

Inklings and notions, December 12

For Him and My Family, December 13

Blogging With Carol, December 13

deb's Book Review, December 14

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 15

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 16

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, December 17

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, December 18 (Spotlight)

Mary Hake, December 18

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, December 19

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1419a/the-golden-touch-celebration-tour-giveaway


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Wonders of His Love by Champ Thornton

This is an informative and entertaining collection of devotions and activities for families during the advent season. Each week has five short devotionals meant to be read aloud. They are designed so that children can easily understand them. There are crafts and interesting discussion questions included too.

Each week centers on a passage from Isaiah. Week one looks at Jesus as the light of the world. (Isa. 9:2) The five lessons for the week include having children walk in the dark and later reflecting on what it means to be a light to others. Other Isaiah passages reveal Jesus as the Branch who gives life, the Good Shepherd who leads and carries us, God with us who calms our fears, and the Bread of Life who feeds us.

The fifth day of each week includes fun activities for kids like making ornaments, baking sugar cookies, going on a scavenger hunt, painting, singing carols, and helping others. There are some interesting asides too. One discusses whether Jesus was actually born in an animal stable. Another informs children of the real (saint) Nicholas.

I liked this advent devotional. It's great for families as they prepare hearts to receive the Messiah afresh.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Champ Thornton is associate pastor at Ogletown Baptist Church in Newark, Delaware. He pastored at Grace Bible Church near Spartanburg in South Carolina after seminary. He served as director of SOMA, a ministry training school in Columbus, Ohio. He is host of “In the Word, On the Go,” a ten-minute podcast for families and is the author of several books. He and his wife have three children. You can find out more at www.champthorton.com.

New Growth Press, 80 pp.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Little Town of Summerville by R T Douglass Blog Tour

The Little Town of Summerville

A Dog Named Chubby

by Robert Douglass

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Jack Wellington moves from the big city to make a new start. He jumps at the opportunity to become a detective in Summerville.

A peculiar case is assigned to him as artwork has been stolen and a dog is missing. Fellow detective Charlie Finch, a man adorned with decades of service, uncovers clues with Jack. They become intrigued by the words and actions of a neighborhood boy and wonder how much he might know.

Clues are followed but it’s the kids in the neighborhood who provide the most relevant clues. As the detectives get closer to them with their questions, the pressure of the kids struggle unfolds.

Kids, dogs, thieves, and a detective who meets a gal named Sally in the little town of Summerville.

My Review:

This is a suspense free, low key mystery. Douglass' writing style is very straight forward. There are no complex nor hard to follow sentences. I am not sure if this novel was crafted for adult readers or young people. There was one particular scene, about building a ramp for sledding, that seemed only for the interest of young readers as it really did not move the mystery plot forward. There is nothing in the mystery I feel would be inappropriate for young mystery lovers.

The novel centers around the details of a police investigation with Jack pursuing leads, mostly by talking to people and reviewing the crime scene. There is lots of description but it is woven well into the narrative. Jack is a low key character who seems to really have a heart for solving the crime. I thought Charlie was an inconsistent character. Sometimes he had a cold stare for Jack but other times seemed to pal along.

There are great lessons for young readers included on truth telling and forgiveness. Adult readers who like a complex mystery with a fast moving plot may not appreciate this novel. I think it suits young readers better.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Amazon
Publication Date: November 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 200
ISBN: 979-8677929410
Series: The Little Town of Summerville, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Jack poured a coffee and reached the back door with mug in hand. He stepped onto the screened-in porch as the twilight of morning brightened the yard. He enjoyed the peaceful surroundings of the porch. It was completely different from the small apartment he left behind a few months ago. He had worked in the Saint Louis police department for five years and jumped at the opportunity to work in Summerville.

He settled into an old wicker chair he’d found at a garage sale and grabbed the tablet lying next to it to get caught up on sports and local news. He was on his second mug when the phone hummed away on the table. He noticed the number was from the police station.

“Hello, this is Jack.”

“Hi Jack, this is Captain Ottoman. I need you to get over to 28 Little Creek Lane. Someone was in the house during the night and the homeowner is very upset.”

The captain sounded tired and cranky with no patience for conversation, so Jack didn’t bother explaining it was supposed to be his day off.

“Yes sir. I can get over there right away.”

“Thank you,” and the captain ended the call.

Jack got back inside, buzzed the electric shaver over his face, jumped into some clean clothes, and was out the door quickly. He thought about the history of the town as he drove to the location.

Summerville had been founded during the railroad days of long ago. It was a crossroads of railway tracks built by the Summers Rail & Cargo Company. John Summers became so impressed with the area he established the town and moved his family to the beautiful location with its wide valley and soft hills. Blueprints were drawn for the town which included shops, neighborhoods, and parks, which would enjoy the modern luxuries of the era, and of course, the ability to travel by railway.

Today Summerville still enjoyed the shops of the downtown area, its many parks, and the atmosphere of its small college. A group of businessmen and a strong town council maintained the town with its modest Midwest economy. At times, a getaway for some of the city dwellers to get refreshed by the small-town charm. It was a pretty town, safe and friendly, and Jack Wellington intended to keep it that way.

Jack pulled up to 28 Little Creek Lane as the sun cast its long early morning shadows. Each lawn had its own style, with a tree or two in the front yard and shrubs along the side that acted like a fence. There were sidewalks on the narrow residential street which had gas streetlamps that would shine day and night.

He got out of the car and checked his dark hair in the reflection of the car window. He was above average height with a lean and strong build for a mid-twenties guy, but his collar was crooked. He shook his head, rebuttoned his shirt, and hoped no one was watching as he tucked it back into his pants. A quick check to make sure he had pen and notepad in his back pocket, and he took the walkway across the yard to the front porch entrance. Up the stairs, across the porch, and a few taps on the door. The homeowner opened the door.

“Hello. I’m Jack Wellington from the Summerville police department. Captain Ottoman asked me to come over this morning.”

The homeowner tried to smile, but her eyes were swollen with a sunken tainted darkness around them. Her sterling gray hair looked a bit out of place with a sadness upon her face.

“So, you’re a policeman?”

“Yes, I’m a detective,” and Jack showed her his credentials.

She gave a soft grasp of Jack’s hand, “I’m Elizabeth Ashley,” and she invited him into her home. They walked down the entrance hallway and dropped into the living room. Two couches and a couple of chairs formed a horseshoe with a coffee table in the center. The couches faced each other, and the chairs sat on the end with a straight view to a fireplace. She sat on the couch and Jack took a chair.

***

Excerpt from The Little Town of Summerville - A Dog Named Chubby by Robert Douglass. Copyright 2021 by Robert Douglass. Reproduced with permission from Robert Douglass. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Robert has an AAS in Microsoft Networking Technology from Glendale Community College and is a Microsoft Certified Professional.

He likes reading, writing, and exploring natural wonders. His favorite pastime is telling tall stories around the campfire.

Catch Up With Robert Douglass:
RTDouglass.com
Twitter - @RTDouglassLit
Facebook - @RTDouglassAuthor

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and more!

Click here to view The Little Town of Summerville Tour Hosts.

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, December 3, 2021

Murder at Greysbridge by Andrea Carter

About the Book:

Benedicta (Ben) O'Keefe, a solicitor in Inishowen, County Donegal, attends a wedding at Greysbridge House Hotel. An American guest, not there for the wedding, drowns within hours of the wedding. Then another guest, an Englishman writing a book about the house, is found dead, apparently poisoned. The police are called in and Sergeant Molloy, Ben's ex-boyfriend heads up the investigation. Amateur sleuth Ben is on the case too.

My Review:

This mystery is part of an ongoing series. It is the first one I've read and felt it read rather well on its own. It has a very interesting setting for American readers. I liked being immersed in the customs and atmosphere of County Donegal. One aspect of the location might be a detriment to American readers as some laws of Ireland regarding petroleum and waste management are essential to the plot.

I felt this was a character driven mystery. Ben is a good amateur sleuth and does most of her investigating by talking to people and thinking out details of the murders. The troubled relationship between Ben and Molloy add a little to the plot interest.

There are a couple of layers to the mystery. On the surface are the murders. Underneath lurks the history of the Greysbridge house, the family that originally owned it and mystery surrounding some of them. Ben figures out some of the cruel history involved in the house's history.

I like to learn a bit when I read fiction and this time it was about poisons. I had no idea the flowers, buds and leaves of hydrangeas were poisonous. They contain a compound that breaks down into cyanide when ingested. It does seem, though, that it would take a great deal of the plant to actually cause death.

I felt some loose ends were left untended even as the murders were solved. The novel contains interesting characters, a good setting, and a mystery that did hold my interest to the end.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Andrea Carter grew up in Laois and studied law at Trinity College Dublin, before moving to the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal where she ran the most northerly solicitors' practice in the country. In 2006 she returned to Dublin to work as a barrister before turning to writing crime novels. You can find out more at https://andreacarterbooks.com/.

Oceanview Publishing, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Pickled Pink in Paris by P J Peterson Blog Tour and Giveaway


Pickled Pink in Paris

by PJ Peterson

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A major business deal is disrupted by murder.

But a young physician has the key to the case...

A dying man’s last word whispered in her ear: “...mushroom…”

When medical internist Julia Fairchild receives an invitation to Paris from her long-distance beau, Josh, she packs a bag, grabs her sister Carly, and jets off for the City of Lights. But once they arrive, death and suspicion take the place of champagne and escargot. Josh’s business partner is dying in the hospital, and the gendarmes are convinced Josh is behind it.

Naturally curious and driven to seek justice, Julia jumps at the chance to clear Josh’s name - but he doesn’t seem interested in proving his innocence. Is he hiding something? Will Julia uncover the true murderer and salvage what’s left of her Paris vacation, or is she next on the killer’s hit list?

If you love Louise Penny, Laura Child, and Sue Grafton, you’ll enjoy reading this fun-filled cozy mystery! Find out why fans say “It’s a must read!” Don’t wait…

My Review:

This is the first novel I have read by Peterson. For me, the strength of the novel was the setting. I liked the idea of taking a chocolates class at Le Cordon Bleu and taking tango lessons. I also like the descriptions of the buildings, museums, and streets of Paris. I was surprised to find in the end note that Peterson had not actually visited Paris.

The weaknesses of the novel included the plot and characters. The plot was quite complex, involving software and business deception. I was confused by all the double dealing and never really understood what was going on. Late in the novel Carly says, “It still doesn't make sense to me.” (2940/3459) I felt the same way. There were lots of assumptions in the denouement, things not evident in the plot but having to be assumed in order to make the plot work. I was surprised the police and Josh were not more involved in protecting Julia after a dangerous experience. Of course, at breakfast alone, more trouble happens to her.

I appreciate the sisters traveling together. I was not infatuated with Josh and why Julia would travel all that way to be with him was beyond me. Josh seemed to be doing some business deal on the sly which I never understood. Julia was a good amateur sleuth, persistent in figuring out the murder. The Paris police came across as really inadequate. That Julia could question shop owners and find out information the police never thought to pursue was a bit unbelievable.

The series has potential so I will be watching for more from Peterson.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Finngirl, LLC
Publication Date: August 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 246
ISBN: 1733567518 (ISBN-13: 978-1733567510)
Series: Julia Fairchild Mysteries, Book 3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Sunday

“Where could he be?” Julia asked Carly. “Josh said he’d meet us after we cleared Customs.” She again searched the crowd of hopeful faces in the waiting area of the Charles de Gaulle airport. Her heart dropped at not seeing him, then raced wildly in her chest as she had a moment of anxiety about making the decision to meet Josh in Paris at all.

She turned back to her sister. “Do you see him yet? Maybe I shouldn’t have come. Maybe he’ll be sorry he asked me to join him. Maybe he won’t be here after all. Maybe…”

Carly rolled her eyes as she listened to her older sister. “You sure have a lot of doubts for someone who has to make split-second decisions regularly in your real life. Haven’t you two been staying in touch regularly? Everything will be fine.”

Dr. Julia Fairchild, now in her late thirties, had built a busy internal medicine practice in southwest Washington State over the ten years since she finished her residency. It was a challenge to take more than a week off at a time, but she had persuaded her new partner to cover for her while she made this big trip. She had met Josh Larson, a fortyish Washington D.C. corporate attorney who specialized in mergers, a few years earlier at an international hospital conference in Monte Carlo. They had reconnected the previous fall, when he had shown up in Amsterdam while she and Carly were there on a tap-jazz dancing tour. She’d been thrilled when he had invited her to meet him in Paris the following spring, where he had scheduled business meetings. Josh had explained that he would be busy with his company’s clients much of the time for the first several days of her trip, so Julia had suggested inviting her sister to keep her company. Now doubts clouded Julia’s thoughts.

“What if you don’t have a good time after I’ve talked you into coming?”

“Julia, calm down,” said Carly. “I’m sure we’ll both have a grand time here. How could someone come to Paris and not enjoy themselves?” She patted Julia’s hand, which was resting on the fence separating the arriving passengers from the greeters. “Maybe we got through Customs faster than he could get through the airport traffic,” she added. “Didn’t he tell you the congestion here was horrendous?”

“Yes, but—hey, I see my name on a placard.” Julia pointed to a line of livery drivers holding up signs identifying their intended passengers. “Follow me.”

Julia and Carly dragged their luggage through the throng of travelers, saying “Pardon” several times as they moved slowly toward the uniformed man. He was of smallish build, with graying black hair, a cleft chin, and small dark eyes. He smiled as Julia and Carly approached him.

“Bonjour. I’m Julia Fairchild,” she said, pointing to her name on his sign, “and this is my sister, Carly Pedersen. I don’t see Josh. Isn’t he here?”

“Welcome to Paris, mesdemoiselles,” the chauffeur said with a slight bow. “My name is Vincent. Monsieur Larson is unable to be here. Please allow me to take you to your hotel and you will learn more.” He took charge of their luggage and led the way to a gleaming black limousine.

Carly whistled. “Pretty fancy, sis. I should travel with you more often.” Carly Pedersen, a homebody at heart with a golden mop of hair, hazel eyes, and an effervescent smile, didn’t usually get the opportunity to travel to Europe and had jumped at the chance. Her husband, Rob, was quickly mollified by her promise to learn to prepare some French dishes at Le Cordon Bleu.

Julia flashed her a happy grin, pleased that Carly had agreed to come on this trip. As a physician dedicated to continuing medical education, Julia had traveled over the years to international conferences, but had not made it to Paris until now.

The chauffeur poured a flute of champagne for each of the sisters once they were settled in the limo. They toasted each other and Paris, then enjoyed the crisp bubbly drink in comfort as they motored through the city. Though disappointed that Josh hadn’t met her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and a kiss, Julia was too enthralled with the thrill of visiting Paris for the first time to dwell on it.

Carly sighed. “Pinch me, Julia. I’m not sure this is real yet.”

“I don’t recall the last time I was in a limousine,” said Julia. “It wasn’t the ‘in’ thing when I went to our high school prom.”

“As if there even were any limos in our little town.”

“That would be the other reason,” Julia agreed. She pointed. “Look straight ahead, Carly. I can see the Eiffel Tower from here. It’s so majestic. Let’s plan to go to the top.”

“I hope you mean by elevator.” Carly had never been the athletic type but served as a cheerleader for Julia’s efforts at running and tap dancing.

“Maybe we can walk partway up,” Julia said, “and take the elevator the rest of the way.”

The limousine stopped in front of an elegant older building, Hotel du Champs de Mars, which was nestled in the chic Gros-Caillou neighborhood of Paris. Julia had noticed a mix of embassies and other posh hotels and upscale restaurants lining the tranquil streets as Vincent drove through the area. She loved the welcoming “Old World” ambience of the entrance, where a debonair valet dressed in a gold-trimmed red and black uniform stood at the door, ready to help the new guests.

“Bonjour, mesdemoiselles. Welcome to Paris.” He bowed gallantly, longish brown curls framing his young face, then helped Julia and Carly alight from the limo.

“Bonjour and merci, monsieur,” Julia managed to say in her rusty high school French.

Julia and Carly grinned at each other and linked arms as they entered the foyer. Josh had told Julia he had arranged their stay at this hotel because of its location near the Eiffel Tower and other popular attractions. He had also told her that it was his favorite place to stay when he had business meetings in the city.

“Welcome to Hotel du Champs, Ms. Fairchild and Ms. Pedersen,” said the desk clerk. “Mr. Larson left you a message, which you will find in your room. I hope you enjoy your stay with us.” He motioned to the bellman, who had secured their bags on a cart, and who then led them to the elevators on his left, and on to their room on the fourth floor.

The bellman opened the door and stepped aside while Julia and Carly entered the suite. Julia stood still momentarily, gazing at the elegantly appointed room. A small settee and chair graced the main room. The bed looked inviting, with layers of pillows and a lush comforter. “I feel like a princess in here. This is my favorite shade of blue. Look at the detail, Carly.” She plopped onto the bed. “I’m in love with Paris already.”

Carly peered out the window, which opened onto the street below. “It’s not far to the closest bistro either.”

After tipping the young man, Julia eagerly tore open the envelope, which she saw was written on high-quality ecru paper.

“What’s up with Josh?” Carly asked impatiently.

“His note says he has to entertain some important clients for dinner tonight. He says to meet him in the lobby here at four o’clock for a glass of wine.” Julia checked her watch. “It’s two now. We can wander around a little before we meet Josh and unpack later. Is that okay with you?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Carly. “So does a warm cookie. I saw them downstairs in the lobby, but the bellman walked right on by before I could grab one.”

Julia smiled, knowing Carly’s fondness for sweets, especially fresh-baked cookies. “We can go down and get one on our way out the door.” She headed back out the door and waited in the lobby while Carly nabbed their treats.

“How many museums on the list this time, sis?” Carly asked as they started walking down the street, cookies in hand.

“Six, I think. We can do more if you like.”

Six.” Carly groaned. “You know how much I loathe musty old museums. I saw my share of them on the last trip with you—as well as their storage vaults, art, and forgeries. I don’t want a repeat of that experience.”

Julia grimaced. Too true. Neither did Julia. In fact, Carly had been kidnapped because of Julia’s snooping around a murder in Amsterdam. Thankfully, with some help, Carly had been rescued. If anything, Julia owed her little sister a fabulous trip with no drama. “Agreed. Although you have to admit it was memorable.” Julia ducked as Carly pretended to hit her with her bag. “Anyway, there are only a couple of absolute must-see museums here. We can’t leave Paris without at least going to the Louvre and Notre Dame.”

“I can tolerate visiting two of them.”

“And maybe Versailles.”

“That’s three,” said Carly.

“One museum, one cathedral, and one palace,” Julia clarified as they negotiated crossing a busy street. “Think of them more as beautiful historical landmarks that happen to contain marvelous works of art.”

“Very clever, Julia. Where are we going now?”

“I want to get my bearings around this area.” Julia found their location on the map she’d accepted from the desk clerk. “The streets here are crazy, from what I saw in the guidebook. It reminds me of trying to find my way around St. Maarten.” Although Paris was a full-sized city compared to the small towns of the Caribbean island, both locations perplexed visitors with their seemingly haphazard layout. Julia tried to shake off the thought of that island vacation, another trip that went awry. Julia felt herself scowl. She’d taken that trip to meet up with Tony—and that certainly went sour. And here she was again, this time to meet up with Josh. Would Josh also prove to be not what—

“Where are the street signs? They would be helpful right about now.” Carly interrupted Julia’s thoughts as they stopped at the street’s end, and Carly looked right and left.

“Look on the corner of the building, about six or seven feet up.” Julia pointed out a plaque bearing the street name. “We probably shouldn’t wander too far away, since we’re meeting Josh at four.” She studied the map again, comparing it to her surroundings. “The Eiffel Tower is nearby,” she said, pointing toward the park surrounding the famous structure. “We can walk around the grounds for maybe half an hour, then turn around and get back to the hotel to change and freshen up.”

“Works for me. Lead the way.”

The stately buildings gave way to lush greenery as they approached the Parc du Champs al Mars, which surrounded the Eiffel Tower itself. All cares melted away for Julia as she absorbed the Parisian beauty. Trees and shrubs and lush green lawns covered the acres and acres of parkland. Julia had read that three hundred workers had built the tower from eighteen thousand pieces in two years, two months, and two days, finishing in time for the opening of the World’s Fair in Paris on May 15, 1889.

“Oh my. C’est magnifique,” Julia said, snapping a few photos with her Nikon.

“It’s worth the walk, I’d say. How many steps did you say it is to the top?” Carly asked.

“One thousand seven hundred ten. At the YMCA, there was a challenge to climb that many steps by doing one hundred eight round trips on the staircase.”

“Wouldn’t half of those be going downhill? That seems like cheating, kind of.”

“But how else would you get back to the bottom of the stairs?” asked Julia, craning her neck to peer at the top of the tower. “Frankly, I agree that the elevator is a perfectly good option when we decide to go up. The website suggested going to the top in the late afternoon, and then staying to watch as the nighttime city lights turn on. That would be gorgeous, I’m sure.” She sighed dreamily. “Then we could walk down.”

After a few more minutes of admiring the lush ground-level scenery, it was time to leave to meet Josh. “Okay, Girl Scout,” Carly teased. “Let’s see how you do with your directions back to the hotel.”

Julia turned the map upside down to help her retrace their steps. Then she raised her hand in the air, pointed her finger, and said “That way.”

They passed a few tourists and several people walking dogs—not a French poodle among them. Several kiosks plastered with notices and handbills were scattered along the way. Julia suddenly stopped and grabbed Carly’s arm.

“What is it? Why are you stopping?”

Tapping a handbill advertising tango lessons, Julia said, “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“Tango lessons? Not on my bucket list,” Carly said, shaking her head.

“But we’re in Paris. What better opportunity to learn the tango than right here?” Julia hummed a sultry tune as she danced solo on the sidewalk.

“Uh, Julia. People are staring at you, if you don’t mind.”

Julia giggled. “Oops. I got carried away.”

Carly stood with her hands on her hips. “What would we do for partners if we went?”

“Josh, for me. Perhaps they have extra men who take these lessons.” She tore off one of the stubs with the phone number. “Wouldn’t hurt to call.”

Carly shook her head more vigorously. “Not me. I’d almost rather go to a museum. Let’s keep walking.”

Five minutes later they were in the hotel lobby, where they found Josh waiting. Julia felt her breath quicken at the sight of the dark-haired, blue-eyed man with his trim athletic build. He returned her smile with a huge grin of his own, then enveloped Julia in a big hug, winking at Carly, who pretended to be embarrassed by the public display of affection. She was mollified by her own welcoming hug in turn. The trio chatted and laughed as they sauntered to the private patio, where a young, buff waiter seated them and took drink orders.

“Julia, let me explain what’s happened since my last email to you,” Josh said as he took Julia’s hands in his own. “As you know, I was planning to stay at this same hotel so I would be close to you.”

“You did say this was your favorite place. Where are you staying instead?”

“The Marriott on the Champs-Élysées. Roger Westover, one of my business partners, had arranged for us to stay in a suite of rooms because several of our clients are from out of town.”

“I don’t get it,” said Julia. “Why do you have to stay together?”

“Here come our drinks. I’ll explain in a minute.”

Julia caught the waiter winking at Carly as he served the beverages. She smiled, recalling other moments when her adorable golden-haired younger sister had attracted a man’s eye. Their Finnish heritage provided them both with striking high cheekbones, although Julia was bestowed brunette locks and sparkly blue eyes, in contrast to her sister’s blonde curls and hazel eyes.

“First, a toast to two beautiful women who make Paris even more lovely.” Josh raised his glass, with the sisters following suit. “Salud.”

Julia tasted the delightful pinot grigio, which had been chilled to the perfect temperature, as Carly sipped her gimlet.

“Here’s the story, Julia.” Josh took a big breath. “Okay, normally we would meet our clients at local restaurants or in their own offices; but these men, except Pierre, came to Paris from other cities. It seemed easier to have our meetings in the hotel rather than trying to find a restaurant with a meeting room. Anyway, Roger told me a couple of clients had insisted that we stay at the hotel with them.”

“Does that mean I won’t be seeing you?” Julia asked.

“No, but it will be less of me for now,” Josh replied. “That’s why I’m glad you have Carly with you. I know you will find fun things to do. We’ll catch up after these guys leave town in a couple of days.”

Julia sighed and said, “I understand.”

“In the meantime,” said Josh, “I have instructed your concierge to take care of any tickets or excursions that you would like to do at my expense. And the limousine is at your disposal.”

“You don’t have to do all that,” said Julia, disappointed that he had made arrangements as though he had known he wouldn’t be joining them.

“Actually, my company can afford it, and they owe it to me, seeing as how they put us in this position in the first place.”

Julia kissed Josh on the cheek. “Thank you, but I’d rather see you.”

“You will in a couple of days. I promise.”

Julia smiled hesitantly. “I knew we would have to entertain ourselves for the first couple of days anyway, so we have a Cordon Bleu course scheduled for tomorrow, and we can work in some sightseeing while we’re waiting.”

Carly piped up. “Julia is hoping you will want to take tango lessons with her while you’re here.”

“She is, huh?” Josh said, raising an eyebrow. “Sounds interesting. That might be safer than your tap dance adventures last year.”

“I’m not planning to get involved in any murders this trip. Scout’s promise.” Julia raised her glass.

Carly snorted. “As if you could avoid them.”

“A cooking class at Cordon Bleu sounds safe enough to me,” Josh said as he finished his drink. “Just don’t poison anyone.”

***

Excerpt from Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson. Copyright 2021 by PJ Peterson. Reproduced with permission from PJ Peterson. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

PJ is a retired internist who enjoyed the diagnostic part of practicing medicine as well as creating long-lasting relationships with her patients. As a child she wanted to be a doctor so she could “help people.” She now volunteers at the local Free Medical Clinic to satisfy that need to help.

She loved to read from a young age and read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books she could find. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she wrote anything longer than short stories for English classes and term papers in others. Writing mysteries only makes sense given her early exposure to that genre. Sprinkling in a little medical mystique makes it all the more fun.

Catch Up With PJ Peterson:
www.PJPetersonAuthor.com
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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

This is the first book I've read by Colgan and I liked it. It takes place in Edinburgh. The main character is Carmen. She's just lost her job in a retail store. She's unmotivated and out of desperation, her mother suggests Carmen go to her sister's. She'll relieve a nanny to take care of nieces and a nephew Carmen has never bothered to give birthday gifts. And, she'll be staying with a sister who irritates her to no end.

Relationship issues between sisters are huge in this novel. We see it between Carmen and her sister Sofia and also in Sofia's two daughters. Another issue arises when Sofia has a job for Carmen, working at a bookstore that is in decline and needs rejuvenation before all is lost. The bookstore owner is somewhat of a recluse and Carmen has her work cut out for her.

In a sense, this book is predictable. We see wonderful character transformation and relationship transformation. Both transformations evolve within the atmosphere of the Christmas season.

Colgan's writing style is a pleasure to read, although there is a bit of foul language. I really like how we are taken through many interesting areas and buildings in Edinburgh. There is a little humor along the way and a potential yet complicated budding romance too. Reading the novel, I felt like reviewing what really makes one feel OK. Is it a person or a thing? It was fun being on the journey with Carmen in finding her answer to that question.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels. Her novels have won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. She is married with three children and lives just north of Edinburgh in Scotland. Photo: Charlie Hopkinson

William Morrow, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)