Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Peggy Jaeger on the theme of Forgiveness #HolidayBooks

Happy Boxing Day to All! As both the Holiday Season and this tumultuous year draw to a close, many of us take stock of our lives - the good, the bad, what works, what doesn't - and come up with resolutions for the new year. Peggy Jaeger's post about Forgiveness as a theme in her book and her life seems apropos to this reflective time of year.

Peggy released three (3!) holiday-themed books this season - color me impressed by her energy and talent! I read (and loved!) DEARLY BELOVED on a plane ride to a wedding this past month (it seemed fitting) and am excited to share Peggy's thoughts about her theme and her main characters.

The concept of forgiveness is one I struggle with daily. My faith dictates that forgiveness is necessary to achieve any kind of spiritual healing and should be granted for any and all wounds and transgressions, no matter what.

Way easier said than done.


When the concept for Dearly Beloved bloomed in my head, I wanted to tie the lives of the Colleen and Slade together with a common theme. Since they are such opposites in nearly every way – economically, socially, even the way they were raised – they needed some kind of story arc that would serve as a basis toward their HEA.

Forgiveness jumped into my mind because at the time I was struggling with my own decision to forgive someone who had hurt me tremendously. What would it cost me, I pondered, to forgive the person fully and just walk away from the hurt? First of all, could I even do that? And if I did, what would the aftermath look like?

That got me to thinking about my hero and heroine and the people that had hurt them.

Colleen caught her fiancé in bed with one of her co-workers. When she then dumped him, her life changed dramatically from what she was envisioning it was going to be. Would she be able to forgive him for not only cheating, but for destroying the dreams she so desperately wanted to come true? And what about her parents? They’d deserted the family when Colleen’s younger sister died of breast cancer, leaving behind the three girls to grieve together without their parents guiding and helping them through it. Could Colleen find it in her heart to forgive them for abandoning the family?

Slade’s life was set on a certain course that changed overnight when he had to take control of the family business because his father was ruining it with his numerous ill advised marriages and the subsequent expensive divorces. Would Slade be able to find it in his heart to forgive his father for his transgressions and for cheating him out of the life he wanted to live?

So much needed forgiving in this story, I worried it was too much for a reader to connect to on an entertainment level. But then I remembered something, something crucial, that my faith has taught me: Forgiveness is never for the person who is being forgiven and totally for the one who is doing the forgiving. The forgiveness benefits the forgiver waaaaaay more than the person who has sinned.

That little tenant made it easier for me to write the story. What didn’t hurt also, is that I could slip in as much humor and humorous pathos as I could fit in to temper the heaviness of the subject matter. I could find a way for both Colleen and Slade to move on with their lives – and with each other – without the hurts of their pasts and lives intruding on their HEA.

Considering the theme of forgiveness as a running plot point in the book helped me deal with my own ability to forgive the person who had so hurt me and done so much damage to my life. I think it made me better person, in the end, to forgive for forgiveness sake.

And I totally think it made me a better writer.

About the Book:

Colleen O’Dowd manages a thriving bridal business with her sisters in Heaven, New Hampshire. After fleeing Manhattan and her cheating ex-fiancé, Colleen still believes in happily ever afters. But with a demanding business to run, her sisters to look after, and their 93-year-old grandmother to keep out of trouble, she's worried she’ll never find Mr. Right.

Playboy Slade Harrington doesn’t believe in marriage. His father’s six weddings have taught him life is better as an unencumbered single guy. But Slade loves his little sister. He'll do anything for her, including footing the bill for her dream wedding. He doesn’t plan on losing his heart to a smart-mouthed, gorgeous wedding planner, though.

When her ex-fiancé comes back into the picture, Colleen must choose between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now.
Grab your copy on AMAZON

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday Book Review: White-Hot Christmas, by Serenity Woods #HolidayBooks

White-Hot Christmas, Christmas Wishes: Book 2, by Serenity Woods
Published April 2017 by Serenity Woods

About the Book (Full Amazon description):
By the bestselling author of the Three Wise Men Box Set (USA Today bestsellers list November 2016) – a series of individual sexy contemporary Christmas romances. Read in any order and enjoy!

White-Hot Christmas received the first ever starred review of a digital-first book on Library Journal's XPress Reviews.

Book 2: White-Hot Christmas

Previous published by Samhain Publishing.

He can extinguish every fire, except the one in his heart…

Merle Cameron comes to New Zealand looking for anything but love. A demanding job and a mother recovering from breast cancer make Merle desperate for some light relief from her everyday life.

Enter firefighter and all-round gorgeous hunk Neon Carter. Neon’s in no rush to settle down, but he’s more than happy to fulfill Merle’s desire for a hot holiday fling.

The weather’s hot, the sex even hotter. It’s not long before lust turns to love, but Merle’s booked a ticket home, and there’s no solution that won’t break someone’s heart.

Warning: Please do not read if you are allergic to any of the following: love at first sight, one-night stands in a one-man tent, rugby hakas, firemen rescuing children, and rough caveman sex guaranteed to put hairs on your chest. May contain nuts.

Book 1: Santa's Secret
Book 2: White-Hot Christmas
Book 3: His Christmas Present
Book 4: If Kisses Were Snowflakes
My Take:

Holiday escapism at its finest. Exotic locations, well written, light-hearted, lots of fun, and oh-so-sexy! Need a break from the holiday madness? Keep this book in mind and escape to New Zealand for a few totally enjoyable hours of anything-but-sweet romance.

When history professor Merle Cameron leaves London behind to spend Christmas with her sister in New Zealand, she knows she needs to get away and relax, but having a holiday fling doesn't cross her mind - until she spies Napoleon "Neon" Carter at the beach surfing with her sister's husband. Lust at first sight. And the lust goes both ways, since when Neon spots the blonde, long-legged beauty standing on the beach, the sun making her dress nearly see-through, he dumps off his surfboard like Cupid hit him with a two by four.

With light-hearted teasing and side-bets from both the sister and her husband, reserved Merle actually propositions Neon for a one-night stand, both of them fully aware that the fling has a definite expiration date, since Merle's job and sick mother are back in England, and Neon's a local firefighter, on the fast track to becoming the youngest fire chief in New Zealand. Neither is prepared when their emotions start getting involved and entangled.

Like I said at the start, Holiday Escapism at its Finest. The author actually lives in New Zealand, which bleeds through in the detailed and loving descriptions. By the end of the book you may feel like you took a holiday trip there yourself, or maybe like me you'll move it up a few spots on your bucket list. Either way, totally enjoyable romp of a read and highly recommend if you like your romance with sizzle and steam.

Grab a copy on AMAZON

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Feature: Need Last Minute Gifts? Check out #Holiday Books

My guest today is Melissa Chan of (See her ad in the left sidebar.)

Do you love to write? Perhaps you are an author. Maybe you publish to a worldwide audience or simply write for fun and don't show your work to anyone. While your writing is uniquely your own style and creative expression, the books you read are not.

I find this to be an interesting dichotomy. We all read the same books, but write different things. As a global community of writers and readers, we consume the literature and contribute back to it with our own work. Just as some books will impact certain readers in meaningful ways, so does some writing. Some novels rise to global fame while others remain in relative obscurity, yet are still loved by a small but devoted fan base. The ebb and flow of this ecosystem of literature is one that has been around for hundreds and thousands of years.

I started the online store Literary Book Gifts in hopes of bridging the gap between reader to reader. Clothing and accessories can be trivial things, items people buy out of necessity during their time of need. Or they can be articles of self expression. As continuous consumers of art, be it through reading books, watching movies, or observing visual art in museums, it is not often that we are able to express our own feelings towards this art. I believe that personal self expression is an important element of the human experience. Self expression is part of reflection, and self reflection is an aspect of personal growth.

Wearing a shirt with your favorite book or author on it is a way to connect with the literary community at large. Perhaps wearing your Edgar Allan Poe shirt to the local cafe will interest a stranger enough to strike up a conversation with you on the topic. Glance over to see another's The Hound of the Baskervilles shirt and pick up a copy yourself later that week at the library.
Reading books and discussing them with others is an amazing opportunity we have to uncover hidden secrets of our best loved stories as well as to pass on our favorite titles to own another. If you see someone walking down the street with a Pride and Prejudice tote bag consider letting them know you've also read Jane Austen's books, or would like to read them. Who knows, maybe you will find other things you have in common as well.

Melissa Chan loves chatting about books and designing shirts and totes at Literary Book Gifts. The code katieosullivan20 can be used for 20% off of any order. This code does not expire.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Got Backstory? Peggy Jaeger on writing and her new #HolidayBooks release CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS

As a special Writing Wednesday treat, I've got my sister Wild Rose author extraordinaire
here today to talk about the importance of a character's backstory, and how she came up with one for her latest heroine. Oh, and if you haven't heard, she's got a FABULOUS new holiday release out this week titled Christmas and Cannolis (which I've already read, loved and reviewed HERE) Take it away, Peggy!

As a writer, backstory is extremely important to me when I’m fleshing out my characters and giving them reasons for the way they talk, act, dress, interact with others, etc.

When the concept for CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS came to me one afternoon, serendipitously as I was making cannolis (!)  to take to a dinner party, I wanted to make sure I gave my heroine, Regina, a solid reason to explain why she is the way she is: a workaholic, relationship-avoiding, good daughter. To do this, I rummaged around in my memory banks and came up with the idea for her backstory and found an incident that occurred while I was in high school to a fringe friend.  I modified it a tad and viola, I had Regina’s character arc.

Regina San Valentino is the only girl in a family of 4 older brothers, all of whom are protective, overbearing, loud and loving – just like her father, Sonny. Regina was the favored child as the only girl, and doted upon by her family. So much so that she was a victim of smother-love. She never dated, wasn’t allowed to go over to friends’ houses for sleepovers, and was generally always with a parent, a brother or her cousins. Family was everything. Regina wanted to be a normal teenager, date, hang out and have fun, but she towed the family line like a good little Italian/American girl. Until one day, she tore that line and broke free. Regina’s one act of teenage rebellion changed the course of her life forever and led her to the moment CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS begins.

I don’t want to spoil the story by giving away the details of what that was, but suffice it to say, that one incident set Regina on the course that has brought her to the owner of her own bakery, childless, and single at the age of 32.

My own backstory as the step-daughter to a family exactly like Regina’s has enabled me to walk the walk and talk the talk of a member of such a loud, loving, loyal family.

Katie – a special thanks for hosting me today and letting me rant about backstory. I love knowing the reasons that make people – and characters – tic. I truly could talk for days about this – basically because I’m so nosy!!! Hee Hee
About the Book:
With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.

Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.

Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?
Grab your copy on AMAZON today!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday Book Review: Christmas and Cannolis, by Peggy Jaeger #HolidayBooks

Christmas & Cannolis, by Peggy Jaeger
Published 2018 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.

Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.

Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?

My Take:

Peggy Jaeger's writing style is warm and inviting, like a crackling fire on a chilly winter's day. She writes with heart and humor in a way that keeps the pages turning and makes you wish the book was twice as long.

Christmas and Cannolis revisits my favorite Italian-American family, the San Valentino clan, who Jaeger introduced us to in 2016 with her Valentine novella, 3 Wishes, and thrilled us with the followup Christmas tale, A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights. Now we've got cousin Regina's story - and I'm still in love with this boisterous, meddling, overbearing, wonderful family.

Regina San Valentino owns her own successful bakery, and her entire life is her work and her large extended family. As the busy holiday season approaches, a stranger comes into her shop with a request she can't refuse. It doesn't help matters that he's gorgeous and stirs her body and emotions in a way no one else ever has, not even her ex-husband. But the favor he needs is huge on so many levels - to create an elaborate "centerpiece" cake for a fundraiser for the one charity Reggie wishes she'd never heard of. Pearl's Place caters to children with cancer and their families, and even after six years, just thinking about her daughter's last days under their care brings tears to Reggie's eyes.

Okay, a sad premise for the start of a holiday romance, but this is all about love and family and second chances. Reggie's overprotective Italian family may be constantly all up in each others' business and lives, but they also love unconditionally and completely. Told in first person all from Reggie's point of view as the youngest and only daughter of a large (maybe-they're-mobsters?) clan, we get an insider's look at the machinations of an old-fashioned Italian family from the meals they eat together to the evil eye they cast on the relative coughing up a lung at Sunday mass. All told with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and mixed with Italian sayings and phrases. Think of it like reading an episode of the Sopranos, without any of the actual violence or killing.

Totally fun, totally irreverent, and full of surprises and even a few tears, this is a book I can see myself reading every year as the holidays approach. Five sparkling stars for this one.

Need a great holiday read to get you into the Christmas spirit? Grab this new story from Peggy Jaeger - you won't be disappointed.

Get your copy on AMAZON and don't forget to leave your own review for the author. I know she reads and appreciates each and every one!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from Mary Morgan's Magical Highland Solstice #HolidayBooks

Published December 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:

Laird Cormac Murray has witnessed how love destroyed his own father after the death of his mother, and he vows to never take a wife. Yet, when he comes upon a bewildered lass traveling alone, he finds his heart will no longer listen to his mind. In the end, Cormac risks everything to claim the love of a woman not of his time.  
Eve Brannigan loves helping others and baking. After winning a contest, she is stunned to learn that the Clan Murray has requested her assistance to cater to their guests during the holiday season. When a lost path in Scotland leads her to a handsome but gruff Highlander, Eve fights the temptation to allow love to enter her heart for the first time.  
Can the Fae and the magic of the Yule season bring together two souls who have forsaken love? Or will tragedies from the past separate the lovers forever?

Giving her no time to protest, he grabbed her around the waist and hauled her up onto Fingal. When he mounted his horse and settled behind her, Cormac felt her body stiffen as he placed an arm around her waist. He leaned next to her ear. Her mass of curls brushed his face, and he inhaled her scent—one of different spices. Lust instantly surged forth, powerful and intense. “Relax,” he urged in a hoarse voice. Though he found it difficult to do so himself.

He felt her tremble, but she nodded. Giving a tug on the reins, they moved up the path.

With each steady trot, her body swayed and Cormac tried to focus on the road. The castle.
Fighting in the lists. Bathing in the icy waters of the loch. Anything, but the soft curves of the lass’s body pressing against his own. What was wrong with him? He prided himself on being a man always in control of his emotions—especially his lustful ones. Yet, now he found himself confused, tongue-tied, and his gut twisted into knots.

So deep in his thoughts, he did not notice Fingal veering off the main road until the lass let out a giggle. She had the most musical sound, and he found himself smiling. Guiding his horse back to the path, he could hear his men doing their best to contain themselves. A glance back confirmed William was coughing loudly and Gordon trying his best not to fall off his horse.

“I swear Fingal, I am tempted to trade ye in for another horse. Ye must be going blind, or worse, old.”

His horse let out a large snort.

Eve clicked her tongue in disapproval. “For shame, Mr. Murray. How cruel. I think he’s a kind animal. Perhaps it’s the man holding the reins who can’t see clearly the path in front of him?”

The lass was quick with the wit, he mused. “I dinnae ken your word, but ye may call me Cormac.” He leaned near her again. “And I can assure ye, I am nae blind, nor old.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Grab your copy on AMAZON

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Ryan Jo Summers and Writing for Anthologies #HolidayBooks

After I had a few published books under my belt and started looking around the author landscape, I noticed that lots of authors I knew were taking part in "anthologies" - usually a collection of novellas grouped around a common theme. I even said out loud one morning, "I wish someone would invite me to join an anthology." Be careful what you ask for. The NEXT MORNING I woke up to find an email in my inbox from an author I knew from another publishing house, asking me to join their group. That was last summer's Hunks to the Rescue, with 18 authors, most of whom I was meeting for the first time and it was a learning experience...

Today for Writing Wednesday, I have a special guest post from a fellow romance author with The Wild Rose Press, Ryan Jo Summers. She's been part of several anthologies over the last few years, and I asked her to share her insights.

the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
of Writing for an Anthology

Anthologies are fun to both read and write for. They offer a lot of variety for the reader in one volume, and introduces them to new authors. They also offer the writer much more than sometimes meets the eye. So far I’ve written stories for four different anthologies with three different publishing houses. Each experience has been different.

The first anthology was a Christmas-themed collection with a publishing house I’d already released about four regular-length, stand-alone novels through. The anthology was a fantastic experience from start to finish. The story was fun to write, and the editing and releasing experiences left a positive feeling for me.

There were a total of seven authors, including me, and we really got to know one another. One of the ways we promoted the book was via a series of newsletters and it was fantastic for sharing little bits of personal information about ourselves within our circle and with our readers beyond the author hats we always wear.

The second anthology was food-themed and came from another house I’d released two novellas through. There were nine of us authors this time, and the house handled the title and cover art, which was something we authors in the Christmas collection had collaborated on. With the second book, all the decisions came in emails with a “here it is” announcement. It was still a good experience, though we contributors never achieved the level of friendship that the writers from the Christmas anthology did.

Anthologies #3 and #4 came from yet another house, one that I’d never released other books with beforehand. I discovered them from an on-line call for submissions. They are larger volumes, with twelve and thirteen authors contributing to each, respectively. The first one released January 2018 and the second one in September 2018 so the turnaround time for edits was fast.

These experiences taught me some important lessons.

First, the pros to writing for anthologies include many have a built-in theme, like Christmas, or food, or whatever. That’s a big jump on getting the mental wheels turning. In that vein, writing for anthologies offers the opportunity to write different topics, time periods, or genres than normal. I follow a Facebook page that routinely has calls for submissions and links to houses or contests looking for anthology submissions.

Have you ever wanted to write something involving Scotsmen? Cowboys? The mafia? Motorcycle clubs? Chick lit? Small towns? Churches? Dogs? Erotica? The list goes on. Here is a chance to try your hand. All of these are actual topics that have come across the FB calls at one point or another.
Now, on the negative side of that coin, some houses plan their anthologies sort of like a soap opera series. Not only is the theme shared, so is the setting, time period, cast of characters, etc.…just like a mini-series. You might not be able to have the names of places or characters you want if they don’t fit with the pre-planned story line.

Second. The largest plus factor by far is exposure. As a contributing author, you get to tap into the fan bases of each of the other contributing authors to that particular anthology. While the fans of Author X is reading something new by their fave author, they also discover you. Hopefully they will love your little story and look for other stuff of yours. You also get extra exposure over the social media platforms each time the other authors post and promote. Simple math: you can only promote over so many channels. If you are with an anthology of eight authors, you get seven more times the exposure over multiple and new channels.

Third. Another big plus is cost sharing. New release launches aren’t cheap. Nor are they easy. There is endless promo, blog tours, ads, reviews, the list is endless. When it’s a solo book, it’s the author who foots the bill and does the work. In an anthology, all promotional charges are shared equally among the authors.  For the last anthology we did a $115 blog tour with a company and each paid around $8. That’s pretty manageable!

And sometimes you can get lucky. If there is an author in the group who does a bang-up job on graphics, organization, or some other special skill, they usually provide that service for the entire group for gratis or very low cost. In the last anthology I was the ‘official organizer’ because I am an organized individual. Sometimes it felt like I was herding kittens, but it helped everyone and kept us all running on schedule. Also, since I was the coordinator, I searched out sources for promo, took the info to the group where it was decided upon, I paid the bills upfront, and collected from everyone else later. It made for seamless transactions.

Fourth. Perhaps the biggest plus, at least for me, has been the lasting friendships with the authors I’ve worked with while collaborating the books. I’ve discovered new authors I went on to read their full-length books. And writing for anthologies is a “Foot in the Door” with new publishing houses who might welcome your longer works once they see what kind of author you are. Additionally, most anthology stories are only 10,000-12,000 words long each, so they can be written alongside your longer projects. Doing edits is usually quicker too, due to the shorter lengths.

Now, naturally, there has to be a few downsides to writing for anthologies. Number one is the reversal of cost sharing—royalty splits. Most authors do not make much on anthology royalty, even if they sell more copies than of their own books. Each sale is split equally between all included authors. So if there are ten authors in the collection, that 7 or 8 or 9% royalty is shared between all ten authors. It’s completely feasible to sell ten copies, and make 25 cents in royalties. The general rule is the more stories, the bigger the book, the more it will cost, which means more royalty, split among more people.

Another big downfall is the chance most decisions could be made either by the publishing house or by group vote. This includes book title, cover image, placement of each story, and inside images. Being part of an anthology can either release you from having to make those choices or limit your decision-making options. If you are totally into controlling each step of your release, anthologies are not a good options. If you can share the choices or hand it over completely to a house, they are super.

I am part of a collection with interior images I consider racy. In hindsight, a pseudonym might have been wise. Regardless, I am now careful which readers I recommend that book to, just because I am uncomfortable with its interior.

All things being equal, I am a fan of writing for anthologies. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and I am actively on the lookout for more outlets seeking submissions. For me, they are a great place to use those scraps of story ideas that never seem to be enough for a full-length book, but are perfect for a 10-15K story. It’s only a matter of matching the bones of a story idea to an anthology call and fleshing it out. Then the fun begins!

Eight Christmas stories by eight different authors, offering heartwarming tales of second chance love for the holidays. Grab your copy for $2.99 on AMAZON and read my review HERE

About Ryan Jo Summers:
I was born in Michigan and grew up surrounded by books, pretty much all piled and stacked in my room. I had bookshelves to hold them since I could remember. Christmas and birthdays were easy, just buy me books.

My tastes in subject matter and genres grew as I matured.

It seemed only natural to write as well as read. The first book I wrote was at age ten and was about a twelve page story that I also illustrated and stapled together into book format. I was so proud! If only I still had that about somewhere.

Since then, I never stopped writing. Some articles made it into magazines, some stories made honorable mention in contests, my journal has grown thicker. Writing poetry also serves as therapy to life's hurts, a trait apparently inherited from my dad's aunt. Writers, poets and songwriters run through my lineage. I guess you could say I come from a line of wordsmiths.

In 2012, selling "Whispers in her Heart" for publication has been not only a dream come true of becoming a novelist, but also a pinnacle of thirty odd years of writing. With each new story, novel or novella that comes out, I grow as a writer and take another step on this incredible journey called life.

Find Ryan online:

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday Book Review: A Recipe for Murder by Jo A. Hiestand, #HolidayBooks

A Recipe for Murder (A Peak District Mystery, Book 2) by Jo A. Hiestand
Published 2017 by Cousins House (third printing, revised edition)

About the Book:
December bullies its way into the village in a swirl of snow and biting wind, threatening to cancel the annual St. Nicholas festival. But winter’s slap pales when a body is discovered in the candlelit church. Someone is not living up to the seasonal wish of ‘peace on earth, good will towards man.’
But the village harbors more than Christmas gifts, DS Brenna Taylor discovers as she and her colleagues from the Derbyshire Constabulary begin working the case. There is the feud between two rival authors; a wife’s open disdain of her husband and his secret comfort in the arms of another woman; the pent-up emotions of a vicar’s wife forced to conform to idealistic conceptions; the tacit threat of a troubled teenager and his delinquent girlfriend.
Brenna also discovers emotions she didn’t know she had when DS Mark Salt, her harassing macho cohort, makes overtures of genuine friendship. Now Brenna must not only examine her love for her boss, DCI Geoffrey Graham, but also consider the likelihood of its ever being returned.
As if sorting through the affairs of the heart and the tangle of motive and suspects in the case weren’t hard enough, a series of arsons threatens the very village itself. And Brenna wonders if they are looking for two felons or just one very disturbed individual.
My Take:

 I grew up reading English mysteries in paperback, that my mom would devour by the truckload. Agatha Christie was her favorite, and I soon traded in my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy stories for Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. 

The appeal of mysteries is the puzzle - the idea that all the pieces are there if you look at them the right way. As the main characters unfold the clues on the pages, the reader tries to solve the crime before the detectives (or little old lady, in the case of Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote, another of my mom's favorites.)

In later years mom also discovered P.D.James and Martha Grimes, for the straight police procedural. None of the coyness of the cozy mystery, these authors walk the reader alongside actual detectives as they work to solve crimes the "real" way. The best books in the genre also strive to make the police themselves into "real" people, with emotions and problems outside the job that might color their abilities to see things clearly.For a modern twist on this I love the series by Toby Neal set on the Hawaiian islands, following a young female police detective battling crime as well as racism for her island roots and a macho society that doesn't think a woman should be a police detective in the first place. But I digress.

This mystery and this series by Jo Hiestand is more old-fashioned, set in the English countryside and reminiscent of P.D.James in style and tone. Definitely a slower read which needs a roaring fire and a cup of tea to go along with it. The story is told in first person by Detective Sergeant (DS) Brennan Taylor, the first police person responding to the murder scene on the very first page of the book. The story unfolds through her eyes, meeting all of the potential suspects as well as gathering the potential clues. She also struggles with her own emotions, emotionally drawn to her boss but keeping her feelings hidden away, adding depth and humanity to her character. Her own emotional struggles color how she interacts with the suspects, all hiding various emotional secrets of their own, which the reader knows she understands all too well. Her own secrets help grant her insight into the reasons others may keep secrets.

So... in writing a review of a mystery, I'm not about to tell you much about the story itself - that would spoil the fun of it all. The author put enough of the teases and clues into the back-of-book blurb to let you know the gist of what to expect. The twists and turns and red herrings - those are what make a mystery fun to read. To outline them in a review defeats the purpose. Suffice to say, it's a well-plotted mystery that will keep the reader guessing, and rooting for the lead detective to figure things out before someone beats her to it. While stories like this are no longer my favorite genre, I'll give this one 4 stars for a well-done mystery, and a book my mom would've loved.

Grab a copy on AMAZON