It seems that the busier I get, the more I read. As I mentioned last week, this is the way I de-stress. So since this was an insanely crazy month with my daughter getting married, I actually read more than I did during the months when I wasn’t up to my eyeballs in deadlines. I even managed to complete writing a novella for an anthology my local writing group is putting together! I’ll tell you more about that another time, but for now, here are the books I read and reviewed:
Gators and Garters by Jana DeLeon
Miss Fortune Mystery, Book 18
Just when I was bemoaning having come to the end of the Miss Fortune series, a new adventure was released! As Fortune and Gertie help Ida Belle with her wedding preparations, the caterer suddenly disappears. The Swamp Team 3 is soon hired to investigate, and we’re taken through the usual series of red herrings and hilarious situations. The dark issue of child abuse is addressed, including long-term complications from it. Of course, the big drawing card was finding out if Ida Belle would actually go through with her wedding to Walter, since she’s been turning him down for four decades, and if so, what shade of cammo she’ll wear as she walks down the aisle. Since I devoured this book in two evenings, I’ll be checking out some of DeLeon’s other series while waiting for the next book!
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Stoker and Holmes, Book One
Three years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop entitled “The Nuts and Bolts of Writing” presented by Colleen Gleason. She showed us how she manages to churn out an amazing array of titles in several different genres. I purchased two of her titles, wanting to see if the quality equaled the quantity. This particular title is the start of a steampunk series about two young women – Evaline Stoker, younger sister of author Bram Stoker, and Alvermina Holmes, niece of detective Sherlock Holmes. I was enchanted by everything about this book. The mysterious and ominous streets of nineteenth century London come alive, and the action is non-stop – except, of course, when Mina Holmes is using her extraordinary powers of observation, analysis, and deduction to come to her conclusions. The male characters provided interesting foils, as we’re kept guessing whether their acquaintance will become a romantic relationship. When I finished reading this I immediately requested Book Two from my local library.
A Fair Weather Friend by Charlotte Brothers
A Year in Cherrybrook, Book Two
I’m always eager to read new releases written by people I know personally. Charlotte is an active member of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. I reviewed her first release a few months ago, and when she announced the second installment in her series was available I snapped it up. Like Book One, this short novella is a sweet, gentle romance set in Georgian England. Marian Lyle is the eldest daughter of the vicar in Cherrybrook, and in addition to assisting her father prepare for his sermons, she tutors her younger siblings and sews clothing for herself and others. She’s flattered when Jonas Talcott, a handsome young lawyer, arrives and appears to be attracted to her. When Jonas suddenly disappears, she’s disappointed, but then his older John brother appears, presenting more puzzling questions. There isn’t a lot of action, but it’s a nice, easy read for a rainy afternoon. I’m looking forward to Book Three in this series.
Jed Phony by Idabelle Aylor
Blue Collar Series, Book Three
Idabelle was my guest author here a few months ago. This is a sweet inspirational romantic comedy about Cora, a young lady who comes up with a unique way to discourage unwanted attention from men she has no interest in. And since her mother has been nagging her relentlessly about finding someone to love, she comes up with a boyfriend – in the form of a mannequin. Unfortunately, having Jed (the plastic boyfriend) around also discourages Berney, the one person she would like to get to know better. Cora gets advice and assistance from her younger sister, while Berney gets some sage advice from his grandfather. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, and as well as some tender moments between the main characters.
The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason
Stoker and Holmes, Book Two
The local branch of our library system had a print copy of the second book in Gleason’s steampunk series, and during the week of my daughter’s wedding I was able to settle my nerves and excitement each night by reading for an hour or two. As with Book One, I was enchanted by the two main characters – both seventeen years old, but extremely capable of investigating and solving mysteries set before them. Mina Holmes and her powers of observation and deduction keep me scrambling to keep up with her, and Evaline Stoker provides the entertaining action, with a little help from her friend Pix. This time they’re out to determine why a young woman is turning to the spirit world to communicate with her dead mother. She believes her mother is sending her messages which command her to do odd and dangerous things to locate her missing brother. The investigation takes them not only into seances and messages from the departed, but into the world of vampires. In solving the case, Evaline uncovers another mystery that I’ll hopefully find the answer to in Book Three. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available at my local branch, so I’ve requested a copy to be sent from another library.
A Chocolate-Box Summer Breeze by Josie Riviera
This was a light, sweet romance between a mature couple. Both Emily and Joe have lost their spouses, but they’re not looking for love. They happened to meet when stranded in a diner during a storm, and strike up a friendship. The difference in their economic status seems to be the main conflict: Joe is from the working stock, still driving a delivery truck in his 70s, while Emily is used to designer clothes and country club meals. Their differences are heightened when Joe convinces Emily to go with them to a rural cabin for a weekend. Though their growing attraction is nicely done, I felt the ending was rushed, as we really aren’t shown how the couple works out their differences. Emily seemed a bit naive and at times spoiled. We get short glimpses of her privileged but cold-hearted relationship with her first husband, but we don’t learn anything about Joe’s marriage. His actions at the end of the weekend trip were a bit puzzling, too, in light of the way he acts through the first 80 percent of the book.