The new Lady Hardcastle book came out last week and I’ve just finished it so it seems like an ideal week to feature the series here!
These are Edwardian-set mysteries, following the widowed Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid. Lady Emily is in her forties and spent most of her marriage abroad with her husband who was in the diplomatic service. She moved to the countryside with the faithful Florence hoping for a quiet life – but they keep stumbling across murders! The books are written in the first person from Florence’s point of view and this gives you a fun perspective on the somewhat eccentric and very headstrong Emily. As you go through the series you discover more about what the two women got up to abroad, which explains why they’re good at solving murders. And the core duo get some regular assistants as the books go on too.
The duo live in the Gloucestershire and their village and the surrounding area provides the settings for the various murders so that it doesn’t seem like the Edwardian version of Midsummer! The series are fun, lightly comic, easy to read, very bingeable and the Edwardian setting makes a change from the various Victorian and 1920s series that are more common.
With the latest release, there are eight books in the series, with a ninth already planned for the autumn. As you can see from the picture, I own a couple and then they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so perfect for a binge. And if you’re not in KU, they are somewhat of a bargain at the moment: books one and two are 99p (or free in Kindle Unlimited) A Quiet Life in the Country is the first and In the Market for Murderis the second.
We’re in binge reading territory this Friday, because it’s that time of year where people are starting to think about what to read on the sunlounger – and what is better than a series to binge read. And to be fair, basically anything Simon Brett writes is totally bingeable. They’re fun and moreish and won’t make your head explode.
This is a cozy crime series with a sense of humour and at its centre are Jude and Carole, next door neighbours in the seaside town of Fetherings who just keep stumbling across bodies. The two women are unlikely friends – Jude is bohemian and free spirited. Carole is not and more to the fact, Carole doesn’t really know how to be friends with anyone, so as well as trying to solve the mystery the reader has the fun of watching the two of them – Carole desperate to ask questions about her new friend but never quite managing it and Jude, who knows Carole is desperate to know more about her but not volunteering anything unless asked. It’s a hoot.
I’ve written about another Simon Brett series here before, the Charles Paris books, which are great – but written across a large span of time and so if you do binge them then you’ll notice that we’ve gone from the 70s to the now and Charles has not really aged! Fetherings doesn’t have that problem!
There are 20 books in the series – with a 21st due out in the summer. I’ve only read 9 so far, but I have a few more ready to read when I’ve got the NetGalley pile a bit more under control and finished rereading Sookie Stackhouse. Yes I know, I’m easily distracted. Too many books, not enough time – my perennial problem. Still it’s nearly hammock season – so that will help won’t it! Anyway the first one – so probably the best place to start – is The Body on the Beach. In fact the first two are in Kindle Unlimited at time of writing, so if you’re a subscriber to that you can have a read for free.
This was quite a hard post to write this week because February is a short month, I have already written about so many books and have also done so many rereads. What a problem to have. Anyway, here are a couple of quick reviews to end the February content!
Well Matched by Jen De Luca
This is the third in book in Jen DeLuca’s series about the people who work at a Renaissance fair in Maryland – and yes I know this is the second time this month I’ve mentioned this series. This time our heroine is April – the single mom elder sister of Emily from Well Met and Mitch, the hot guy in the kilt who teaches high school gym during the months of the year when he’s not working the Ren Faire. This is a fake relationship and older woman and younger man romance but also deals with April trying to figure out what she wants her life to look like having spent years focusing on the idea that as soon as her daughter goes to college she’s moving away from their small town. It’s a delight and it was a lot of fun watching the two of them – even if I did sometimes wonder why April was being so stupid!
Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan
So one of the things that happens when I try to do the fifty states challenge is that I try a lot of different cozy crime series that are available on Kindle Unlimited as they’re set all over the place. Anyway the next two both fall under that. Death by Intermission is the fourth book in the series – and is the first one from the series that I’ve read – as it is the one that was in KU. Anyway our heroine is Abby and our corpse is a local insurance agent who is found dead in his deckchair as Abby is helping tidy up after an open air cinema screening. Her mum’s beau is one of the suspects so of course Abby starts investigating. This is an idea is good, execution is a bit patchy, mostly when it comes to the relationship between Abby and her mum which is very angry and shouty and escalates fast. But the solution to the murder was neat and I liked Abby’s boyfriend Tripp, although there were a few too many ex-special forces soldiers around for my general liking.
Prologue to Murder by Lauren Elliott
Another cozy crime, another good idea with less good execution. Addie runs a bookstore in a seaside town in New England where the locals are bizarrely and incredibly rudely hostile. When the local librarian is found dead, Addie investigates to try and clear her name because the local newspaper gossip column keeps hinting that she is responsible. This is the second in the series and I felt like I’d really missed out because I hadn’t read the first to understand why the whole town hates Addie so much. It’s a little bit high school mean girls and not enough cozy mystery of that makes sense. Which is a shame, because the eight book in the series comes out in April so I could have had a good binge!
Anyway this three is your lot for this month – stats coming up tomorrow and a Series I Love post on Friday.
Pinch, punch, first day of the month, white rabbits etc. Welcome to February everyone. Despite the fact that January is my birthday month, it does always feel like a bit of a slog to get to the end of the month, but we’ve made it through and into Freburary, which always feels like it rattles by at speed. All the usual goodies coming up on the blog this week – monthly stats, mini reviews etc. But first: a book of the week review.
In a week that saw most of my “reading” actually be revisiting audiobooks that I have listened to before, mostly from series that I have already written about so it’s a good thing that this was really good – even if it’s a sort of rule breaker because it’s not a first in series book! This is the third in the Ministry is Murder series, which features a Minister’s wife in small town Ohio. There are five books in the series – the newest of which is from 2010. In Beware False Profits, Aggie and her husband’s trip to New York is disrupted when a member of their congregation goes missing on a work trip there. And when they get back to Emerald Springs, the mayor’s wife is murdered at an event for the local foodbank – which is run by the missing man.
What I really like about Aggie is that she has an excuse for snooping – as a minister’s wife she has an excuse for being involved in the locals lives – especially as you need to keep your congregation happy to keep your job. And that’s another reason I like the series – it’s an insight into a way of life. I nearly wrote a profession, but that felt wrong – even though Aggie isn’t the one with a vocation, it’s her husband. I should add that it’s definitely not a Christian cozy – because I read one of those at the end of last year and this doesn’t have the detail of the sermons or biblical verses to reflect of that that did. Anyway there are a lot of cozy crimes featuring bakers and small businesses and the like and although Aggie also has a side line in house flipping, the ministry side of things gives it a nice twist. And the actual mysteries that need to be solved are good too. All in all a very nice way to spend an afternoon or two on the sofa.
Now because these are an older cozy (and boy does it feel weird to be saying that about something that was published this century!) they’re not available in Kindle – so in the UK you’re likely to be looking at picking them up from Amazon or second hand. I found the first in this series in a second hand bookshop – I think maybe one at a National Trust house, but subsequently I’ve bought from Amazon when the prices have been acceptable – I see that the first two at the moment are insanely expensive there though. So maybe one to add to your list to watch out for the next time you’re mooching around a charity shop!
Happy Friday everyone! It’s the end of another week and I am back with another series I love post. Yesterday I was talking about my search for a new historical cozy crime series, so today I’m doing one of my reliable favourite contemporary cozy mystery series.
So Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series follows Mel Cooper and her friend Angie DeLaura as they run the Fairytale Cupcake Bakery. Along with their friend Tate, they’ve been stumbling across bodies for thirteen books now, with a fourteenth due this year. I’ve read eleven of them as you can see from the photo, which is – unusually for me – somewhat out of order*. Over the course of the series the cast of secondary regular characters and getting the bakers out and about so that you’re not constantly wondering how a cupcake bakery can stay in business if a bodies keep turning there!
You mostly see the action from Mel’s perspective, but because you have the trio of main characters, you’re able to get personal life developments for each of them – which also helps the series avoid falling into the pitfalls of an endless love triangle for the heroine (see Steph Plum) or an endless on off relationship for the heroine (see Agatha Raisin) or marrying the heroine off very quickly and landing her with kids the author doesn’t know what to do with! The complexity of the murders can vary a little – depending on how much running plot stuff is going on – but they pretty much always manage to avoid the Too Stupid To Live pitfall, although Mel and or Angie do find themselves one on one with the murderer at the denouement with alarming regularity!
But as a calming way to pass a few hours, they are fairly hard to beat. I keep meaning to try out one of the cupcake recipes at the end, but the combination of having to turn the measurements into British (how much *is* a stick of butter in metric?) and the fact there are only two of us in our household and cupcakes need eating quickly means that I’ve never got around to it. They do always sound like they should taste good though – which isn’t a given for cozy crime recipes.
When I started buying these, they were only available in the American mass market paperback editions that you see in the photo. But the good news (for you, not me because now I’ve started in physical copies you know I’ll carry on**) is that you can now get most of them in Kindle!
* and yes it does bug me that the spines changed mid series and so they don’t all match.
** yes, I did indeed buy book 12 while I was writing this post!
A short post this week, but a festive -themed one. I read a whole bunch of books last week for my 50 states (and D.C.) challenge but there wasn’t a lot I wanted to write about – except this one which is not the first in a series and is a series I’ve written about before. But hey ho, rules are made to be broken at Christmas aren’t they?
Christmas in Paradise is the fourth book in Kathi Daley’s Tj Jensen series. The series is set at a resort on a lake in a town called Serenity. As you might suspect from the title, this one is set at Christmas and Tj is planning a big celebration but also waiting for the arrival of the man who says he is the real father of one of her sisters. Tj’s mother is dead – and she’s the guardian of her two younger sisters and is worried about what this might mean for their little family unit. When the new boyfriend of one of her neighbours is found dead in the grounds of the resort, Tj can’t help but try and find out who did it – to clear her friends’s husband of suspicion.
This is another Henery Press cozy crime from the period where they were really on good form. This isn’t too gory or thrillers – it’s a good mystery that runs nicely alongside the ongoing story strands for the main characters. I’ve read these wildly out of order, but this is the seventh in the series that I’ve read and they’re a very easy way to pass a few hours. And of course this has the added bonus of being set at Christmastime – and we’re just days away now.
Christmas in Paradise and the rest of the series are in Kindle Unlimited, which means they’re off the other digital platforms at the moment – unless you want the audiobook. But if you’re a KU member, it’s an ideal time to binge!
As we hurtle towards the end of the year, this week’s book of the Week is the first in a cozy crime series that I picked up as part of my fifty states challenge for the year. Technically I finished it on Monday, but a lot of the other stuff I read last week was from series I’ve written about before – or didn’t like enough to write about.
Leslee Nix – Nixy to her friends – goes to Lilyvale to check in on her aunt. One of the local detectives has been calling her after a series of kitchen explosions at Aunt Sherry’s house and he wants Leslee to go and find out what’s going on before officials have to take more notice. Aunt Sherry shares her house with five friends – who call themselves the Silver Six. When Sherry arrives in town, she finds them in the midst of hosting a craft fair, with products that they’ve all made. But when a property developer who has been trying to bully Aunt Sherry into selling her house turns up dead, Nixy finds herself investigating to try and clear her aunt’s name.
This has a lot of the cozy crime tropes – small town, a police detective who is interested in the heroine, a quirky group of friends and a hobby/pastime – in this case crafting of various kinds for the aunts. The mystery is quite a good one – the victim is a horrible person so there are plenty of suspects and Nixy being new in town makes her snooping easier and explains why everyone has to tell her all about themselves. It is doing a fair bit of set up introducing the characters as the first in the series, but it’s actually relatively late in the book that it starts dealing with Nixy needing to stay in town – rather than returning to her job at an art gallery in Houston. And even writing that I think you’re probably going to have an idea how that’s going to work! There are a few bits that are a little bit mad, and there are two characters who confusingly had the same first name which threw me when the second one turned up late on, but all in all a fun way to spend a few hours and I’ll pick up the next one so that I can see what happens next.
I bought my copy in paperback from Amazon, but as it’s a US mass market paperback, I suspect that’ll probably be the only place you can get a physical copy. But it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo.
Despite all the books I really ought to be finishing, I started a new series last week and it was fun so that made my choice today easier – because the other option was V for Vengeance and not only have I written about Kinsey Milhone before, I’m nearing the end of the series and I feel a series I love post on that in my future!
Carole Sedden is sensible. She makes sensible decisions about what to do with her sensible retirement from her sensible house in the desirable but slightly insular village of Fethering on the south coast. She doesn’t want to get drawn into the petty rivalries of her neighbours or draw too much attention to herself. Her new neighbour Jude is clearly not a sensible person. She wears clothes that waft and encourages visits to the pub and day drinking. Carole isn’t going to encourage her. Except that Carole found a body on the beach while she took her dog on it’s morning walk, the police can’t find the body and don’t believe her and a woman has turned up at her house and waved a gun at her. She’s not quite sure why she told Jude about it, but soon the two of them are investigating the (potential) murder and Carole is doing some very un-sensible things indeed!
So I was recommended this as a “if you like Richard Osman try this” series* and I would say that that’s not a bad call. They predate the Thursday Murder Club series by about twenty years and the protagonists are not quite as old, but this is a fun and clever mystery with two interesting central characters and a cast of eccentric secondary characters. I love Simon Brett’s Charles Paris series, and they have a similar sense of humour in the writing style, although Carole is nothing like the probably alcoholic, grass is always greener, not as successful as he would like Charles. But if you like Charles, definitely try these.
The Body on the Beach is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment and also available on Kobo. If you want a paperback, you’ll probably have to dig around a bit or go second hand (or both!
*yes I am aware of the irony of reading this start to finish whilst not having finished the new Richard Osman, but there are a lot of these in the series and I’ll have to wait another year for the next Osman.
I’m finishing the month as I started it, with another murder mystery book pick for my Book of the Week, in a slightly cheaty move because I finished it on Monday, but I’ve talked enough about Inspector Littlejohn recently already, and that was pretty much all I actually finished last week! But before I get down to my review of the new Derek Farrell, a quick reminder that tomorrow is the Mini Reviews and Thursday will be the August Stats.
Danny Bird is facing up to a scary prospect: a weekend at a country house to help Caz fulfill a promise to a dead friend. Pub manager Ali is chauffeuring them down to Dukes Halt where they find a mismatched set of weekend guests: a Hollywood actress, a right-wing MP and an Albanian gangster among them. Soon there’s a body in their midst and Danny is detecting again to try and clear himself and his friends. But he’s also trying to work out what happened at the house decades ago when he discovers an unhappy boy’s secret diary.
This is the fifth outing for Danny and the gang and it’s a good one. Farrell has taken Danny out of the Marq (the Asbo twins are left in charge of running a talent night while they’re gone and I look forward to seeing how that works out) and put him into a country house murder mystery in the grand tradition of the genre. It’s got everything you would expect from an Agatha Christie – but updated to the present day. In one of the earlier books in the series Danny is described as Poirot on poppers, which is a great line but doing Danny a slight disservice now because he is not the isolated external figure that Poirot is. He’s got friends, relationships, a perspective and that all comes into focus in this. You also see him more on his own in this that he has been in the previous series so there’s a lot more about who Danny is and what he believes in that you’re used to and that’s a really good development. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of witty banter and oneliners. The pandemic means there has been a longer break between full length books than I was hoping when I finished Death of an Angel (although Death of a Sinner did help) but I think Death at Dukes Halt has been worth the wait.
You can get Death at Dukes Halt direct from the publisher, Fahrenheit Press, who have it in various ebook formats and paperback. If you do get the paperback from them, you get the ebook with it as well which is nice – I started reading the paperback and then switched to the kindle so I could read it on the move. But you can also get it on Kindle.
It’s only a few days to go before Christmas now, and so it’s time for my annual Christmas reading post, which as is traditional coming slightly later than I had hoped!
Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance by Riane Konc
Lets start with something utterly cheesy and frivolous! Remember the old choose your own adventure books that we all used to read, well this is one of those but for Christmas movies and written by some one with a sharp eye on the tropes and stereotypes of the Hallmark Movie genre. Depending on how evil you are depends on how long the story is and where you end up, although there is an overarching story. I got this for Christmas last year and it would make a great gift for the person in your life who’s been watching Christmas movies since the day after Halloween!
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
For years Maelyn Jones has spent Christmas in a cabin Utah with a big group of her family’s closest friends. But this year it’s all gone horribly wrong, and even worst it could be the last Christmas at the cabin too. On her way back to the airport, Mae asks the universe to show her what will make her happy. Then tyres screech, metal collides… and she wakes up on the plane on the way to Utah before the holiday has even started. And what happens next is basically Groundhog Day with a romance and Christmas twist, as Mae tries to make her way through the holiday all over again – fixing what went wrong each time to try and break the loop and find her true love. This funny and sweet and it really worked for me – despite the fact that I don’t usually like time travel. I’ve written about Christina Lauren before (most recently about the Honey-Don’t list) and when they work for me, they really work. This is on the right side of the pranks and embarrassment scale for me, as well as being lovely and escapist in what’s been an awful year. The isolated nature of the cabin also means that you don’t really think about how different life in reality at the moment compared to what you’re seeing in the books. Wonderfully escapist.
The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews
I mean honestly it wouldn’t be a Christmas post without a mention of Meg Langslow. Donna Andrews has been on a two book a year schedule with this series for a while, but for the last few years the second book has been a Christmas one. This is the 28th book in the series and sees Meg’s already busy life complicated with the Helping Hands project – matching volunteers up to people who need help with jobs. There’s some one who needs a ramp building for wheelchair access, someone else has a quilt that needs finishing – and then there Harvey the Hoarder who is in danger of losing his home. Meg’s helped him before, so she’s sent in to work her magic again, but after some initial success, he’s found dead in his garage. But who killed him? One of his relatives hoping there’s something valuable in his junk or one of his neighbours who got fed up of living next door to his mess? After last year’s snowed-in murder, this is back in town and has some of the series’ Christmas traditions back in evidence. The mystery is good and I love spending time with the characters. And I think it would just about work for someone who’s never read the series before.
The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Willa Davis knew Keane Winters at high school, but when he comes into her pet shop needing someone to look after his aunt’s cranky cat while he’s at work, he doesn’t even remember her. Despite this inauspicious start, the sparks between the two of them just keep flying. But both of them have issues in their childhoods that make them think that relationships are not at thing that will work for them so they’ll have to work together to build trust and break down each others barriers to get to their happy ending. Now I know this doesn’t sound that Christmassy, but the backdrop to all this is the run up to Christmas and the festivities going on in Willa’s shop, so it totally counts and it has mistletoe in the title of course. This is the second book in Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay, and although you don’t have to read them in order, you will spot stuff from the other books in the series cropping up or being cued up in it. Perfect reading material for the sofa in the cold weather.
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery
This book 12.5 in Mallery’s long-runing Fools Gold series (which feels like it has more in between titles than it does “proper” titles) and is actually closer to a novel in length than to a novella. Our heroine is Noelle, who moved to town to open a festive-themed store The Christmas Attic. Army doctor Gabriel is in town to recuperate after an injury and to visit his brother Gideon. Their parents are in town for the holidays too – and both men, but especially Gabriel, have a difficult relationship with their father – a literal drill sergeant. Gabriel doesn’t believe in happily ever afters, but when he ends up spending more time with Noelle to get away from his dad, he starts to reconsider. As an added bonus here, Gideon is the hero of book 11, and so if you’ve read that, this gives you a sort of extended epilogue opportunity with some old friends too.
The Naughty List by Ellie-Mae MacGregor
A bit of a wildcard here. This is a steamy Christmas novella with a single mum who wakes up on her sofa on Christmas night to find Santa is in her house. Santa – aka Nikolai – is lonely and horny and so is Kate. Thus high jinx and sauciness ensue. It’s not long, but it is fun. Don’t read it on the train though, it might make you blush!
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond*
And finally – the one I haven’t finished yet: this is Gary Raymond’s response to all the people who think that Love Actually is a perfect Christmas movie. I loved Love Actually when it came out, but as time has gone on, I’m more fond of some of the characters than I am about the whole thing, and there are definitely elements that have not aged well to say the least. Whether I’ll come out of this a convert to the Church of Hating Love Actually I don’t know, but I’m a third of the way through and it’s definitely making me laugh as well as think.