Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Magic, Romance

5* #Review- Jenni Keer – The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows @AvonBooksUK @OneMoreChapter @JenniKeer @rararesources #GuestPost #BlogTour #Romance #Family #Friendships #Secrets

When Maisie Meadows finds herself single and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.

But a new job working at an auction house puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back together in the most unlikely of circumstances…

Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.

The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.

Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?

There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.

It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.

Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.

Guest Post – Jenni Keer
My Love for Auctions

Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.

When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze ( via Jenni Keer)

The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.

If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze (via Jenni Keer)

Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.

Image Credit – Jenni Keer

I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.

All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?

I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.

Jenni x

Jenni Keer

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.

The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.

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Giveaway Prize
Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker,  pack of Scratbag notelets,  pretty purple pen and a Maisie bookmark (Open to UK Only)

Giveaway Link

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery, Mystery

The Country Inn Mystery – Faith Martin 5* #Review @FaithMartin_Nov @JoffeBooks #MurderMystery #Crime #TheCotswolds

Jenny Starling is working at The Spindlewood Inn for the weekend. It’s hosting a Regency Extravaganza, involving historical costume, amateur dramatics and food. The leading actress of the amateur dramatic society and reputed man-eater Rachel Norman portrays a doomed noblewoman. But when she turns up actually drowned in the pond, there’s suddenly a murder to investigate.

There’s been plenty of trouble at the idyllic country inn. The performers weren’t a happy troupe, and Jenny discovers a simmering romantic tension. Who wanted Rachel dead and why? Jenny Starling is going to need all her wits to crack this complex case. This is the seventh in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.

JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Jenny is providing holiday relief for a friend at a Country Inn in the Cotswolds, the highlight of her visit is a Regency Extravaganza, where a select few from the local amateur dramatics society will be acting out a piece of local Regency scandal with a tragic end.

The clues for this one start early on, but are so well hidden that you don’t realise their significance until the end. There is slightly less emphasis on the cooking side of things, in this first time published Jenny Starling mystery. The focus is on the characters, mostly from Jenny’s point of view.

The characters are realistic and the tensions between individuals in the group of guests, and actors gradually revealed, but none seem relevant until an unfortunate incident occurs and someone dies. Is it suspicious or not? If it is, it appears to be a perfect crime, committed in plain sight of all.

The relationship between the investigating police officers and Jenny is less antagonist than usually the case, but her amateur sleuthing and astute observation skills make interesting reading.

An enjoyable book, with a well-described setting, enigmatic amateur detective and a twisty, absorbing plot.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Sweet Tea and Secrets – Joy Avon @crookedlanebks #CozyMystery #Coastal #SmallTown #MurderMystery #ATeaAndReadMystery #2 – 3*#Review

Sleuth Callie Aspen wants to light up the Fourth of July tea party by solving a celebrity’s decades-old disappearance, but her digging results in more fireworks than she expects.

Last Christmas, Callie Aspen left her tour guide job and settled in Heart’s Harbor, Maine. Now, she helps out at Book Tea, her great aunt’s vintage tearoom, where each treat has a bookish clue. Though she’s excited to start her new life, Callie worries she may regret having burned her bridges behind her. Fortunately, she finds immediate distraction in the preparations for a spectacular Fourth of July tea party, which will recreate key moments from the town’s rich history.

Intrigued to learn that 1980s TV star Monica Walker was last seen in Heart’s Harbor before she vanished—allegedly to elope—Callie probes the townsfolk for information. She’s stunned when several locals share contradictory stories about the last day before Monica’s disappearance. Did she intend to leave her hit TV series? Was she being stalked by her ex? And why is the newspaper editor who investigated the story at the time so anxious about the cold case heating up?

When one of the talkative townspeople turns up dead, Callie aims to catch the killer. But it’s no picnic: Deputy Falk doesn’t want her meddling, and the locals suddenly know more about the past than they’d been at liberty to admit. If Callie and the Book Tea crew can’t crack the case, they’ll pay a very steep price in Joy Avon’s explosive second Book Tea Shop Mystery.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Cozy mystery is the perfect escape. Quirky characters, quaint settings, a mystery to solve, this story has all these ingredients. Set in a small coastal town, on the Maine coast, it features Callie, who has just moved to the town, to her help her great aunt, run her vintage tea shop with a distinctive bookish theme, and a town that has a penchant for murder.

‘Sweet Tea and Secrets’, is the second book in the series, and although the mystery is solved within the pages of this story, reading the first book would be useful, for learning about the setting and characters. I struggled a little with the characters and the writing style, initially. Both grew on me as the story progressed, but the characters come across as two-dimensional, and less believable, spoiling my enjoyment of the story slightly.

Callie is wondering if moving to the small town is really for her, and if giving up the job she loves as an international tour guide is a wise move. Her Great- Aunt, aims to get her settled in, by finding her a place to make her own and getting Callie involved in the 4th July celebrations. She meets Quinn, another new visitor to the town, he is a little mysterious, but a willing partner in the celebrations, they stumble upon a cold case, of a missing person, and then the mystery really takes off. Romance is a feature of this story too, in keeping with the style, it is of the sweet variety, and on the slow burn.

There’s murder. Plenty of suspects and misinformation. I did manage to solve the mystery, but that is part of the fun. It is a little contrived in parts, but again this is part of the style, so not detrimental to the reader’s enjoyment.

In conclusion, it is full of quirky characters, with a decent mystery, I would like to see what happens next in the series.

11 June 2019

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime

Death at Beacon Cottage – A Sukey Reynolds Mystery Book 3 – 4* #Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP #PublicationDay #CozyMystery #Crime #SOCO #SukeyReynolds

The sun breaks through the clouds to shine on a little cottage where a mossy path leads to the front door, but inside something terrible has happened…

Police photographer Sukey Reynolds is looking forward to a quiet weekend gardening at home when she gets a call that there has been a shocking break-in at a local manor house. Once she begins to gather evidence, Sukey realises that this is the latest in a spate of well-crafted burglaries in the Cotswolds. Someone is targeting expensive houses with valuable art collections…

Thankfully, the police soon have a suspect in custody. But, during questioning, he suddenly catches a glimpse of Sukey, turns deathly pale and calls out to her. Sukey is sure she has never met this man before… Is this a bizarre joke, or is there a stranger out there who is Sukey’s perfect double in every way?

Just as Sukey begins to suspect she’s being followed, the police are baffled by a spate of local murders. With the body count rising, and the police unsure of where to turn, is Sukey herself a clue in this strange case? Can she unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I missed out on the second book in the Sukey Reynolds series, but no matter, this third book reads well as a standalone and is an enjoyable read.

Sukey comes to the fore as the main protagonist in this story. Art thefts and murder spoil the idyllic Cotswold’s setting, and Sukey becomes an integral part of the mystery when a suspect thinks she is someone else. This leads Sukey and her family into the direct line of fire and makes this an exciting story.

Again cozy mystery and police procedural are fused together to produce an intriguing, well-characterised story, set in the late nineties. The retro setting adds to the story’s ambience.

Looking forward to more adventures in Book 4.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Magic, Mystery

Breaking The Lore-Andy Redsmith @canelo_co @AndyRedsmith #fantasy #crime #humour-3*#Review

How do you stop a demon invasion… when you don’t believe in magic? Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning.

Suddenly the inspector is offering political asylum to dwarves, consulting with witches, getting tactical advice from elves and taking orders from a chain-smoking talking crow who, technically, outranks him.

With the fate of both the human and magic worlds in his hands, Nick will have to leave logic behind and embrace his inner mystic to solve the crime and stop an army of demons from invading Manchester!

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Creating a fantasy world that appeals to readers is difficult, everyone has their own preconceptions of what should be in this world, what the creatures look like, and how they behave. The key is perhaps to hold back on the descriptions of your fantasy creatures and let your reader imagine them. This is what I like to do, but in this mystery the creatures are so well defined, it leaves little to the imagination.

Once you’ve achieved this, the next obstacle is how to create a story that fits in with the world you’ve created, and entertains your reader. I have no problem believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or another world running parallel to ours, but largely unseen by humans. However, some of the descriptions of the creatures living in this fantasy world didn’t resonate. Believable characters or ones you can empathise, are important for the reader to connect to the story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that connection with any of the characters in this story.

Inspector Paris is amusing, but his addiction to cigarettes and whiskey, apparently supported by his employers didn’t ring true. A functioning alcoholic for a detective is not a new concept, but this didn’t fit with his almost naive belief in the supernatural. unless of course, they are part of his drunken haze?

The story fits into the cozy mystery genre, but the supernatural elements, if any, are usually implied rather than implict.as in this case. I admire the courage to merge genres but maybe the fantasy needs taming a little and the mystery deepening for it to work effectively.

The pacing and plot are good. The dynamics between the main players believable, and often amusing, If you are looking for a lighthearted read, and enjoy this type of urban fantasy, this is worth a read.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery

Death At Hazel House (Sukey Reynolds Mystery #1) Betty Rowlands @bookouture @FPBettyRowlands #MurderMystery #PublicationDay #FridayReads 4* #Review

Meet Sukey Reynolds: police photographer, proud mother… and amateur detective. Years ago, Sukey was hoping to become a detective but life took a different turn. Now she’s happy to be involved with the local police force, as long as she still gets to work the occasional murder case… When Sukey arrives to photograph the body of Lorraine Chant, the beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman, she’s baffled. At first, it looks like a botched burglary, as the huge family safe has been left wide open and empty. But why does Lorraine’s rich husband claim nothing was taken? And what is he not telling the police? Deciding to do a little investigating of her own, things take a darker turn for Sukey when she is brutally attacked by a masked figure. What do they think she knows? As Sukey finds herself in the firing line, can she expose the true killer before it’s too late? 

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

‘ Death at Hazel House’, the first of the Sukey Reynolds Mystery series, is a fusion of genres. Written originally in the late 1990s, like the Melissa Craig mysteries, this has a retro feel to it, most notably in its lack of political correctness.

I was expecting a cozy/murder mystery, and in part it is. There are multiple character points of view, murder, lots of suspects and misinformation. However, the language, tone and crimes are more aligned to police procedurals. So this story has wide appeal, for readers that want to try something different.

Suzy a scene of crimes officer (SOCO) becomes an unwilling amateur detective, although her role is not developed in this first book, she is likeable, intelligent and courageous, and I am looking forward to reading her next adventure.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in a Country Garden – 5* Review – Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP #MurderMystery #cozymystery #MelissaCraigMysteries #publicationday

A perfect country garden is full of flowers and gently buzzing bees… But the man lying dead beneath the trees can no longer see the beautiful scene.

Melissa Craig is thrilled that summer has arrived. She has decided to give up her career as an amateur sleuth and enjoy a quiet life in her beautiful cottage. The only digging in Melissa’s life now happens in her garden.

However, when a keen beekeeper is found dead, covered in multiple stings, her new resolve is tested. As she gets to know the family of the dead man, she realises he was no saint. Could someone have possibly wanted him dead? Could this be a very clever murder?

As Melissa starts to probe the victim’s friends and acquaintances, another member of the family is also stung to death. Who could have turned the bees against their keeper? And when will they strike again?

With the residents of Upper Benbury now fearful to open their windows to the summer air, and the police treating the deaths as accidental, Melissa must solve this case herself. To find the killer with the sharpest sting, she may have to delve deep into the hive…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

After reading book one in this series ‘Murder at Hawthorn Cottage’, I said in my review’ that the book is ‘The quintessential cozy mystery… the storyline is fast-paced and engaging… builds to an adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery. An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.’.

Now, after reading book twelve ‘Murder In A Country Garden’ the end of the series, all these things are still true, and since I have read twelve books in under eight months the stories are addictive.

If you enjoy dastardly crimes, committed in beautiful country settings, with larger than life characters, who all have secrets, but are not all murderers this series is for you.

Melissa Craig is the perfect reluctant detective, with sound knowledge of crime, and how its perpetrators are motivated, from her career as a crime novelist. Melissa is perfectly placed to discover the truth behind the crimes she discovers.

The last book in the series can be read as a standalone, as the story is complete and the main protagonist and characters are well described. The plot is clever and full of twists and the family where the deaths have occurred very mysterious. For fans of the series, we get to enjoy the final instalments of developments in Melissa’s private life, which adds depth and authenticity to this likeable retro cozy murder mystery.

This is an enjoyable end to a lovely series.