Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday Memes: Rembrandt's Station by Christie Meierz

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This, thought Bertie, will be fun.
Friday 56:
The Monral bent over him. "My love, I beg you--"

"Must...must stay human...the Duke..."

The Monral slammed his other hand onto the treatment bed and looked up at the apothecary, knowing his face betrayed the pain of his next words. "You cannot give it to him unwilling."
This week I am spotlighting Rembrandt's Station by Christie Meierz. This is a recent addition to my TBR pile. Here is the description from Amazon:
Stationmaster and exiled aristocrat Albert St. John Rembrandt—Bertie to his friends—is in love with a Tolari ruler he's always believed he can't have, and finding out the hard way that some Tolari are as poisonous as their planet is only the beginning of his troubles. A ship has gone missing. His station is in crisis, and Bertie must somehow recover his health and manage the disaster while trying to decide whether to accept genetic modification in order to be with the man he loves.

And no Rembrandt has ever taken a gen mod.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Audiobook Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women

Author: Sherry Thomas
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: The Lady Sherlock Series (Book 1)
Publication: Blackstone Audio (October 18, 2016)
Length: 11 hours

Description: With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper-class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She'll have help from friends new and old, but in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society's expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

My Thoughts: A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN is a vastly re-imagined version of Sherlock Holmes. In this case, Sherlock is actually Charlotte Holmes, the youngest daughter of a gentleman and his wife. She is something of a favorite of her father in that he is amused by her eccentricities  but not enough of a favorite that he feels obligated to keep his word to her. Having expressed her desire to never marry, he agreed to send her to school and finance her quest to become a school mistress when she turned 25. However, when that date came, he reneged and left Charlotte to do something outrageous to take herself off the marriage market. She is caught in flagrante delicto with a married man which ruins her reputation and would have caused her parents to send her away to their country home if she hadn't decided to run away first.

Previously, to relieve some of her boredom and to exercise her talents and high intelligence, Charlotte had worked through a friend to offer the police insights on certain crimes. Her friend is Lord Ingram Ashburton who happens to be the only man she has ever kissed. Unfortunately, he has entered into a society marriage and is the father of two young children. Even though he and his wife are living a sham of a marriage, his morals don't allow for him to take Charlotte as his mistress which she would like. They have developed a strong friendship though. When she runs away to London, he keeps an eye on her and engineers a meeting with a former member of the demimonde, actress and widow Mrs. John Watson. Mrs. Watson takes Charlotte in as a companion and encourages her to set herself up as a consulting detective. 

There are three interconnected crimes that she is working on. The first is the suspicious death of a man who lived a reclusive life but who was connected to society, the second is of another young woman who was also a member of society, and the third was the death of the mother of the young married man who compromised Charlotte. The cases are nicely tricky and provide quite a challenge for Charlotte. 

There are many parallels to the original Sherlock Holmes stories with Charlotte as Sherlock, Mrs. Watson playing Dr. Watson as a companion and sounding board. There is even a Mycroft Holmes equivalent in Lord Ingram's older brother Lord Bancroft. The police contact is Inspector Robert Treadles of the Metropolitan Police. What I found particularly interesting was the way the author managed to infuse each of the characters with beliefs of the day and make them each - with the exception of the shadowy Lord Bancroft - well-rounded and fully developed people. This story is firmly set in Victorian England and the characters really act as Victorians.

This was a page turner of a mystery for me. I wanted to know who committed the crimes and why. I also wanted to know that Charlotte would finally find a place for herself that let her use her talents to the fullest. I hope that Charlotte has many further adventures.

The narrator did an excellent job distinguishing all of the many characters. 

I got this one from Audible Plus. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Downfall by Mark Rubenstein


Mark Rubernstein
Publication: Oceanview Publishing (April 4, 2023)

Description: First, his doppelganger is killed—then it’s his father. Rick Shepherd is being stalked by a murderer.

When Rick Shepherd, a physician, approaches his office on a busy Manhattan street, he finds police cars, an ambulance, and crime scene technicians. He soon learns a passerby was shot three times in the back, murdered at the front door to Rick’s office.

Later that evening while watching the local news, Rick and his fiancee, Jackie, see a photo of the victim—to their horror, the deceased looks identical to Rick.

Two nights later, while making a house call in a Brooklyn apartment building, Rick’s 64-year-old father is shot and killed in the exact same way. Detectives Art Nager and Liz Callaghan are assigned the case, and they launch an investigation. There are no clues leading to the perpetrator.

Even more ominously, someone has been calling Rick and Jackie’s apartment and hanging up. Whoever is targeting Rick must have murdered his father, and they now have Rick in their crosshairs. Nager and Callaghan seem to be making no progress with their investigation. Rick’s quest for the truth draws him into a labyrinth of secrets, past tragedies, and the agonizing pain of lives shattered by a single event. Can he make it out before he meets the same fate as his father?

My Thoughts: This multi-viewpoint mystery centers around the death of a 64-year-old doctor who was making a house call. It also includes the death of a man outside a doctor's office. Both methods of murder - three shots in the back - are the same. 

Dr. Rick Shepherd and his fiancée are watching TV when they see a picture of the man who was shot outside Rick's office and are dismayed to learn that he looked very much like Rick. When Rick's father is killed the same way, Rick feels that there has to be a connection. He's wondering is someone is also targeting him. He's had a high frequency of hang-up calls on his phone lately.

Detectives Art Nager and Liz Callaghan have the case of the death of Rick's father and are busy looking into his life to find out who wanted him dead. They are also building a relationship with each other despite their trainer/trainee relationship and complicated pasts. 

The killer also has a viewpoint as we see him planning his kills and learn something about his past. 

This was a pretty introspective mystery with all the characters spending a lot of time reflecting on their past experiences. Fans of the introspective will be the best audience for this one. 

Favorite Quote:
Only a few days ago, Rick could never have imagined his father being murdered while he wonders if he's in some maniac's crosshairs.

When is murder part of anyone's life?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

ARC Review: An American in Scotland by Lucy Connelly

An American in Scotland

Lucy Connelly
Series: A Scottish Isle Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 4, 2023)

Description: The small idyllic town of Sea Isle, Scotland, harbors some dark secrets, and Dr. Emilia McRoy is determined to uncover all of them—no matter what the diagnosis in this charming cozy, sure to enchant fans of Sheila Connolly and Charlene O’Connor.

Sea Isle was supposed to be the fresh start Dr. Emilia McRoy dreamed of. Far from the busy emergency room across the Atlantic in Seattle, she hoped to settle down and begin this new chapter as a small-town doctor to the quirky residents who immediately welcomed her. When she stumbles across a dead body, she starts to think that she may not be as Scot free of the drama and intrigue as she initially thought.

Emilia soon learns she has bigger issues at hand. It starts with realizing she'll work closely with the less than helpful local constable, Laird Ewan Campbell. Her luck continues when she discovers that part of her new responsibilities includes being the coroner for the very body she found. Finally, when the body goes missing before she can even begin the autopsy, Emilia must convince the townspeople that a crime did, in fact, occur. The deeper she digs into the picturesque town, the more suspicious she becomes. And then there are her sleep issues. It may be due to the ever-growing list of suspects, a number of threatening letters, or the surprise visitor who breaks into her house at night. But she’s never backed down before, and she doesn’t intend to start now.

Someone doesn’t want this doctor to treat the ailments of Sea Isle, but Emilia McRoy is determined to find the murderer before they kilt again.

My Thoughts: This cozy mystery introduces Doctor Emilia McRoy who has given up her life in a fast-paced Emergency Room in Seattle for a rural post in Scotland. She isn't even over her jet lag when she discovers the body of Smithy in an unused bothy.

When the laird lets her know that she's also the coroner, it is up to her to discover the cause of death for this unsavory character who may or may not be a blackmailer. Only the body disappears before Em can begin her autopsy.

She's convinced that there was foul play and the disappearing body seems to indicate that she's right. But the laird who is also the constable seems to be downplaying the murder leaving Em to begin her own investigation. 

The story is filled with a wide variety of interesting characters and Em quickly finds herself finding a new circle of friends and a few possible romantic possibilities too. However, she's coming off a bad relationship and isn't interested in romance. 

As the dangers mount, Em has to decide who she can trust if she wants to solve the murder and keep herself alive. 

I enjoyed the setting and enjoyed Em who is a real mystery buff in addition to being an excellent physician. 

Favorite Quote:
The fire illuminated the area. I spotted the road where Mara said Smithy lived.

I glanced around as I stepped behind the tent and into the cover of darkness. If I was quick about it, I could get down there and back with no one the wiser.

I'm going to find that book if it kills me.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

ARC Review: Fateful Words by Paige Shelton

Fateful Words

Paige Shelton
Series: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery (Book 8)
Publication: Minotaur Books (April 4, 2023)

Description: In Fateful Words, the eighth Scottish Bookshop Mystery from beloved author Paige Shelton, bookseller Delaney Nichols stakes her reputation―and her life―when a literary tour turns deadly...

When Edwin, Delaney’s boss at the Cracked Spine bookstore, leaves town on secret business, Delaney is called upon to guide his yearly literary tour around Edinburgh. But on the first night of the tour, at the inn where the tour group is staying, the inn manager falls―or is pushed―off the roof of the inn, and killed. Then, one of the tour members disappears, leaving a trail of puzzles in her wake.

In a race against the clock, Delaney sets out on the expedition of her life, following clues around Edinburgh to get to the bottom of this mystery. Exploring sights from Greyfriars Bobby to the Royal Mile to the Sir Walter Scott Monument, she'll have to put the pieces together quickly, or the bookstore's survival could be on the well as her own.

My Thoughts: Delaney is stuck with leading the annual personalized tour of Edinburgh when her boss Edwin has to leave on some sort of secret business. She's nervous and very worried about Edwin.

Things don't start off well when the manager of the inn where the tour guests are staying falls, or is pushed, off the roof and the counter girl is attacked and is in a coma. Things get even worse when one of the four tour guests disappears. 

Delaney is not going to investigate on her own and is constantly on the phone with her police contact since more and more unexpected things keep happening. 

This was an engaging episode in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series. I especially liked all of the tourist attractions that Delaney showed off for her guests. 

Favorite Quote:
Geoff bit his bottom lip and took a deep breath as if to steel himself. "Ms. Nichols, there was ...I need to let you know that there was an issue with Edwin's card. I've been trying to reach him."

I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Blind Spots by Thomas Mullen

Blind Spots

Thomas Mullen
Publication: Minotaur Books (April 4, 2023)

Description: Seven years ago, everyone in the world went blind in a matter of months. Technology helped people adjust to the new normal, creating a device that approximates vision, downloading visual data directly to people’s brains. But what happens when someone finds a way to hack it and change what people see?

Homicide detective Mark Owens has been on the force since before The Blinding. When a scientist is murdered, and the only witness insists the killer was blacked out of her vision, Owens doesn’t believe her―until a similar murder happens in front of him. With suspects ranging from tech billionaires to anti-modernity cultists―and with the bodies piling up―Owens must conduct an investigation in which he can’t even trust his own eyes.

Thomas Mullen, the acclaimed author of Darktown and The Last Town on Earth, delivers an unputdownable crime novel about one man's search for truth in a world of surveillance and disinformation that’s all too recognizable.

My Thoughts: In a dystopic future seven years after all the humans on Earth went blind, Homicide Detective Mark Owen is trying to solve the murder of a scientist. Technology has created Vidders which allow those who can afford the devices to see.  But the only witness to the crime insists the killer was blacked out of her vision. Something that is supposed to be impossible.

As Mark deals with this mystery, he is also being called to testify before the Truth Committee which is looking into the events of The Blinding and how the police reacted when they were the first to get the new Vidders. 

Mark doesn't see the point of the whole commission. He believes that he and his fellow officers did the best they could under horrible circumstances. He's also still dealing with the apparent suicide of his wife who was a visual artist. 

This story had intriguing worldbuilding along with an engaging mystery. I liked the characters and was swept along trying to solve the mystery.

Favorite Quote:
The reality, he likes to say, is that organizations are comprised of people, and people are deeply flawed. That's it, end of conspiracy theory. You want a perfect government or perfect company, staff it with perfect people. Best of luck finding them.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, March 27, 2023

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 27, 2023)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Want to See What I Added to My Stack? links to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality.

Other Than Reading...

Spring in Minnesota!
My Front Yard

My Backyard

We added 3.4 inches of snow this week, but the bright sun has reduced the amount of snow officially on the ground from 35 inches to 33 inches. Mostly snow-free solar panels are also producing some electricity for us. The backyard picture has me (5' 3") holding the camera at my eye level and barely being able to see over the drifts. You can see our snow-covered deck on the left in the picture.

I haven't been driving at all this week since my brother is using my car while waiting for parts for his exhaust system. The roads are snow-free both as a result of plowing and the sun melting the remainder. The snow piles on the sides of the road do make turning onto a busy street an adventure though.

I'm still keeping busy watching Spring Training baseball and watching The Voice. This week games start for real, and I can't wait. I also listened to my first audiobook of the month this past week and have more in my plans for this week.

I had a huge week for adding new books. First, I got Kindle copies of all of the In Death books I didn't already have on Kindle. Then Chirp had a sale on Donna Andrews's series. Then I was approved for a number of review copies. Anyway, 21 new books were added to my stacks.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
  • Promises in Death by J. D. Robb (Book 28; reread)
  • Kindred in Death by J. D. Robb (Book 29; reread)
  • An American in Scotland by Lucy Connelly (Review; April 4) -- ER doctor from Seattle uproots her life for rural Scotland and discovers a body before her jet lag has worn off. Interesting characters and a nice setting. My review will be posted on March 29.
  • Downfall by Mark Rubenstein (Review; April 4) -- Interesting contemporary mystery told from multiple viewpoints. My review will be posted on March 30.
  • Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb (Book 30; Reread)
  • Salvage Right by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Review; July 4) -- I couldn't wait to read the latest in the Liaden Universe as soon as Baen Books made the eARC available. I enjoyed it, but will want to read it again before I write my review nearer to the book's release date.
  • Indulgence in Death by J. D. Robb (Book 31; Reread)
  • Captive Star by Nora Roberts (Mine; Audiobook) -- Entertaining romantic suspense. It's the middle book in the Stars of Mithra trilogy. My review will be posted on April 4.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?


Audiobooks from Chirp:
What was your week like?

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Book Review: Farryn's War by Christie Meierz

Farryn's War

Christie Meierz
Series: Exiles of the Drift (Book 1)
Publication: Parania Press; 1st edition (September 22, 2015)

Description: A novel of love, vengeance, and a world re-opened to the stars.

The empathic Tolari of the Beta Hydri system shunned space travel for thousands of years, until the former ruler of Monralar, Farryn, tried to shake his people from their isolation—tried and failed, losing his honor in the process. Now an exile, he strives to put his past behind him by building his own criminal empire among Earth's colonies.

Only Farryn’s estranged lover Sharana—scholar, political analyst, and empathic sensitive—dares to follow him into human space, desperate to find out what has become of him, hopeful of convincing him that she never betrayed him. Unfortunately, Earth Central Security is watching, and when she falls into their hands, Farryn decides to rescue her – so he can kill her himself.

My Thoughts: After being exiled from Tolari Space after an attempted coup, Farryn is building a new life and empire of his own in human space. But when the bond-mate he believes betrayed him comes to look for him, he needs to save her from Earth's Central Command in the person of Adeline Russell.

Sharana is a scholar and empath and makes a perfect tool for Adeline who wants to capture Farryn and learn all of the Tolari secrets.

This was a fast-paced story. However, just a trigger warning, Adeline isn't at all opposed to torture to reach her goals. There are lots of examples of Sharana being tortured throughout the story. 

I enjoyed the worldbuilding in this story. The Tolari are interesting people with lots of interesting abilities including the ability to disappear. I liked the romance between Farryn and Sharana which really had to go through difficulties before things worked out.

Fans of space opera will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Pallavi's voice dropped even lower. "Central Command." She clenched one hand on his shirt front. "They have her. They killed her bodyguards. My fault, I'm afraid."

"Who, Lady?" he asked. "Whom did they take?"

"Your bond-partner."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday Memes: Farryn's War by Christie Meierz

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.


The dead nurse sprawled across a desk partly covered by medical monitors, pale hair green under their glow. Her charge, the Chairman of Central Command himself, lay ancient, withered, and unconscious in his life support bed in the middle of the spacious bedroom, but his life was safe -- for now.
Friday 56:
"The Monral is going to beat me senseless the next time I spar with him," he went on. "He cares about you, and I made this possible -- against my better judgment, I might add. So did it work? Did you find him? Tell me you did not just cripple yourself for nothing."

"I cannot sense anything more than a pace away, Bertie."

His eyes narrowed. "You fail to answer my question."
This week I am spotlighting Farryn's War by Christie Meierz. I got this one recently after watching a book launch on Amazon. Here is the description from Amazon:
A novel of love, vengeance, and a world re-opened to the stars.

The empathic Tolari of the Beta Hydri system shunned space travel for thousands of years, until the former ruler of Monralar, Farryn, tried to shake his people from their isolation—tried and failed, losing his honor in the process. Now an exile, he strives to put his past behind him by building his own criminal empire among Earth's colonies.

Only Farryn’s estranged lover Sharana—scholar, political analyst, and empathic sensitive—dares to follow him into human space, desperate to find out what has become of him, hopeful of convincing him that she never betrayed him. Unfortunately, Earth Central Security is watching, and when she falls into their hands, Farryn decides to rescue her – so he can kill her himself.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Book & Audio Review: Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood

Death at Victoria Dock

Kerry Greenwood
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Series: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Book 4)
Publication: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (January 3, 2017); Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd (March 25, 2010)
Length: 177 p.; 5 hours and 27 minutes

Description: From the author of the bestselling Phryne Fisher Series comes Death at Victoria Dock, the next historical mystery featuring the wit and authenticity of Miss Fisher. When a terrible crime hits a little too close to home, Phryne will stop at nothing to seek out the truth.

Driving home late one night, Phryne Fisher is surprised when someone shoots out her windscreen. She alights to finds a pretty young man with an anarchist tattoo dying on the tarmac just outside the dock gates. Phryne does all she can to help, but soon realizes she holds death in her hands. He bleeds to death in her arms... and all over her silk shirt.

Enraged by the loss of the clothing, the damage to her car, and this senseless waste of human life, Phryne promises to find out who is responsible. These kinds of crimes simply don't happen in Victoria, Australia. But she doesn't yet know how deeply into the mire she'll have to go: bank robbery, tattoo parlours, pubs, spiritualist halls, and Anarchists. Then when someone kidnaps her cherished companion, Dot, Phryne will stop at nothing to retrieve her.

My Thoughts: The fourth Phryne Fisher mystery starts with a pretty young man dying in her arms. Phryne is determined to get justice for the young man. But to do so she will have to get involved with Anarchists who are planning a bank robbery.

Meanwhile, she is hired to find a young girl who had disappeared. The girl goes to the same school as Phryne's newly adopted daughters. As she searches for Alicia, she uncovers quite a number of unsavory secrets from her family.

This was another excellent entry in this series. 1928 is vividly realized and Phryne is an independent woman who sets her own course and lives by her own moral code. Phryne's maid Dot gets a nice part in this one when she is kidnapped and has to use her own ingenuity to prevent a future crime. 

Fun historical mystery engagingly read by Stephanie Daniel who does a great job with all the characters and with the pacing of the story.

Favorite Quote:
"You know how I feel about pretty boys -- there aren't enough of them in the world as it is -- we can't have people wantonly removing them. And I need new upholstery in the car. Someone is going to pay for that."
I bought this one January 3, 2021. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: The Murder of Madison Garcia by Marcy McCreary

The Murder of Madison Garcia

Marcy McCreary
Series: A Ford Family Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: CamCat Books (March 28, 2023)

Description: Sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free―it gets you killed.

Detective Susan Ford notices a missed call on her phone from a number she doesn’t recognize, and when Madison Garcia, a woman with past ties to the town of Monticello, New York, is found stabbed to death the next morning, Susan realizes that Madison was the one who had called her. But why?

Susan teams up with her father, retired Detective Will Ford, to find the killer, and their investigation soon threatens to uncover Madison's family secrets―an inheritance, accidental death, money laundering, extramarital affairs, and family rivalries, just to name a few―and they don’t appreciate the Fords digging into their business.

As the investigation twists and turns, the Fords discover that Madison was planning to confess to a long-kept secret, but someone brutally silenced her. Everyone she knew is a suspect. Anyone could be her killer.

My Thoughts: This was an entertaining police procedural with a lot of complexity. 

Susan Ford, in the middle of a nasty summer cold/sinus infection, catches the case of the death of young woman. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the woman had tried to phone Susan just hours before she was murdered but didn't leave a message. 

Now Susan who is reluctantly including her father retired detective Will Ford has to figure out who wanted Madison Garcia dead. And there are loads and loads of suspects and possible reasons why someone would want her dead. 

Not only is Susan investigating suspects but she's trying to mediate between her warring parents who are no longer speaking to each other. 

Fans of police procedurals will enjoy this title. 

Favorite Quote:
A therapist once told me that my penchant for punctuality was probably an unconscious counterpoint to Mom's constant tardiness. She was wrong about was totally conscious. I relished any circumstance in which I could behave conversely to my mother. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the author. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

ARC Review: Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller

Hotel of Secrets

Diana Biller
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin (March 28, 2023)

Description: Diana Biller's Hotel of Secrets is chock full of banter-filled shenanigans, must-have-you kisses, and romance certain to light a fire in the hearts of readers everywhere.

During ball season, anything can happen―even love.

It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way - not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.

Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead - a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos - and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.

My Thoughts: HOTEL OF SECRETS was an entertaining historical romance with more than a touch of mystery. 

Maria Wallner is the fourth generation of Wallner women who have owned and managed Hotel Wallner in Vienna. She is very determined to restore the hotel to its past magnificence after the mismanagement of her mother who was more interested in her 30-year affair with a married man and the economic collapses of the past. She's not going to let anything stand in her way. Not sabotage from a rival hotel or attempts on her life or the fascinating new guest from America.

Eli Whittaker is searching for the person who is selling American codes and his only clue is a letter sent from Hotel Wallner. He isn't interested in romance but happens to be on hand when a couple of the attempts on Maria's life are made and he can't just ignore them. Nor can he ignore the fascinating Maria Wallner.

This story was filled with fascinating characters and all sorts of secrets. I liked the setting and really liked Maria. She was a determined woman who wasn't going to let anything stand in her way. Eli was also interesting and became more interesting as his troubled past was slowly revealed. 

Fans of historical romance will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
He looked down at his feet, as if to verify that he was indeed dancing in the middle of the street, and sighed deeply, "I was afraid of this," he said, in a tone of deep resignation, "The madness in contagious."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Book & Audio Review: Sinister Magic by Lindsay Buroker

Sinister Magic

Lindsay Buroker
Narrator: Vivienne Leheny
Series: Death Before Dragons (Book 1)
Publication: Self Published (February 28, 2020); Lindsay Buroker (May 13, 2020)
Length: 250 p.; 9 hours and 35 minutes

Description: I’m Val Thorvald, and I’m an assassin.

When magical bad guys hurt people, I take care of them. Permanently.

This doesn’t make me popular with the rest of the magical community—as you can tell from the numerous break-ins and assassination attempts I’ve endured over the years. But thanks to my half-elven blood, a powerful sword named Chopper, and a telepathic tiger with an attitude, I’ve always been able to handle my problems with aplomb. Maybe some cursing and swearing, too, but definitely aplomb.

That changes when my boss is afflicted with a mysterious disease, a government agent starts investigating me, and a godforsaken dragon shows up in the middle of my latest job.

I’ve taken down vampires, zombies, and ogres, but dragons are way, way more powerful. And it doesn’t look like this one is going to like me.

Worse than that, he wants to use his magic to compel me to do his bidding, as if I’m some weak-minded minion.

That’s not going to happen. I’d die before being some dragon’s slave.

But if I can’t figure out a way to avoid him, save my boss, and get rid of the government spook, I’m screwed. Or dead. Or screwed and dead. And that’s never comfortable.

My Thoughts: This beginning to a new urban fantasy series stars Val Thorvald, a half-elven assassin, who rids the Earth of law-breaking supernatural criminals. She runs afoul of a dragon who has come to Earth to capture those criminals and bring them back to their own dimension to face the Dragon Court and be rehabilitated.

When her boss is stricken with a magical form of cancer, Val needs to track down the Dark Elf who made the potion and find a cure before it is too late. However, with her boss away, a new young officer is in charge of the division who really wants to shut the division down and convict both Val and her boss of financial malfeasance. 

Val finds herself trying to elude the cops, find Dark Elves who were an unknown species to her, and keep out of the way of the dragon who wants her to become his bait to capture criminals. Luckily, she has some allies including a part-dwarf who makes magical garden statuary and a snarky tiger who comes from another dimension when she calls for aide. And she has her weapons including a magical sword and a gun that fires magical bullets. 

I really enjoyed this series beginning. Val is a great character who is dealing with a difficult job and who seems to have developed asthma from the stress of it. She has deliberately distanced herself from her young daughter and her mother in order to keep them safe but regrets what she sees as the necessity to be so alone. 

I enjoyed the narration by Vivienne Leheny. I look forward to reading more in this series. 

Favorite Quote:
"And try to keep them distracted. Keep saying arrogant things."

Zav looked over his shoulder, pinning me with his glare. "I do not take orders from law-breaking mongrels who do not acknowledge the supremacy of dragons."

"Yeah, say stuff like that." I gave him a sarcastic thumbs up. "You're a natural."
I bought this one February 5, 2021. You can buy your copy here.

Book Review: The Prince Next Door by Sue Civil-Brown

The Prince Next Door

Sue Civil-Brown
Publication: HQN Books; Original edition (November 15, 2014)

Description: When Serena Gregory's clothing-optional Caribbean cruise fell through at the last minute, the thrill-seeking dermatologist decided that helping Darius Maxwell, her mysterious new neighbor—who might or might not be a crown prince—commit a felony would be a worthwhile alternative. Yes, it would involve clothes—for the most part—but the risk of skin cancer would be drastically reduced. Not to mention she'd be helping to secure the future of an entire European country…that she'd never even heard of.

That's how Serena wound up over her head in trouble when she should have been next to naked in paradise—and risking her career and cold, hard jail time for a man she'd only just met!

My Thoughts: When dermatologist Serena Gregory's "clothing optional" cruise is cancelled, she is left to find some other exciting thing to do during her vacation. Her immediate attention is drawn to her new next-door neighbor Darius Maxwell who may or may not be the Crown Prince of a tiny country in the Pyrenees.

Darius is happy being an art dealer. He has no desire to be tied down in a small, poor country. But his mother who is an excellent schemer very used to trying to run her son's life wants him to take the job. In fact, she schemes with the delegates at the embassy in Tampa to convice her son that she has been kidnapped in order to force his hand. 

Darius has a plan. There is a painting from the 1500s that shows all the family trees in the country and could prove that he is not the prince they are looking for. The painting is in storage at a local museum. He plans to borrow it so that he can get a good look at it and prove his claim.

Serena is all in. After all, what could be more exciting than committing a felony? They recruit a band of quirky characters to aid them and begin planning. But others - including Darius's mother - have plots and plans of their own.

This was very much a slapstick heist story with some romance woven in. It was a nice romance.

Favorite Quote: 
"Aren't you worried about n=her?" Ariel asked.

"Ha! the only person who worries about my mother is God, and that's only because she wants His job. No, I'm not worried about my mother. Not by a long shot."
I bought this one sometime before 2008. You can buy your copy here.