A Soupçon of Poison by Jennifer Ashley

  • Title:  A Soupçon of Poison
  • Series:  Kat Holloway Mysteries, #.5
  • Author:  Jennifer Ashley
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Pages:  89
  • Published:  December 2015 – JA/JG Publishing
  • Source:  Purchased

Description:  London, 1880

Kat Holloway, highly sought-after young cook to the wealthy of London, finds herself embroiled in murder when she’s accused of poisoning her employer, the loathsome Sir Lionel Leigh-Bradbury. Her only help as she works to clear her name comes from the mysterious Daniel McAdam, a handsome man-of-all-work who seems to know everyone and always happens to be in the right place at the right time. Kat and Daniel investigate the crime, but the mystery of Daniel’s background might be just as elusive and dangerous as the poisoner bent on framing Kat for murder. (publisher)

My take:  Kat Holloway is a talented young cook for the less than desirable Sir Lionel. She won’t stand for his shenanigans though, which apparently he’s not used to. When his demise is pinned on her she is forced to find the real culprit. Luckily she has help from the mysterious Mr. Daniel McAdam and his son. There’s definitely some chemistry where Kat and Daniel are concerned. She’s determined to ignore the attraction given her prior history with men. He’s amused by her and enchanted by her cooking. Their relationship will grow in this series, I’m sure of it. Just as I’m sure they’ll solve whatever mystery comes their way. A fun introduction to a new series.


 

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Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

  • Title:  Death Below Stairs
  • Series:  Kat Holloway #1
  • Author:  Jennifer Ashley
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  January 2018 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Beloved young cook Kat Holloway charms readers with her fierce sincerity as she takes on a new position in the household of powerful Lord Rankin.

Kat discovers a slew of odd characters living in the Rankin manor, from a lethargic Lady Rankin to her masculine spinster of a sister, to an eccentric cast of servants, and finally a very lustful, tempestuous Lord Rankin. Even more striking, however, is the trouble brewing in the home, which boils over when Kat’s young assistant is found murdered.
 
As Kat and her friend Daniel McAdam begin covertly investigating the murder, they soon find themselves working against a most daunting scheme – can they manage to escape the trouble they’ve cooked up for themselves?  (publisher)
*
My take:  Every so often I like to read an historical mystery. I like being able to imagine myself living in those circumstances and then go along for the ride of the mystery. In Death Below Stairs author Jennifer Ashley’s main character is the new cook for a prominent Mayfair household. She’s not quite thirty years old and is a bit of a mystery herself. I suspect there’s even more to learn about Mrs. H. in future books.

Death Below Stairs is chock full of interesting characters who fall on one side or the other of  abhorrent (evil) and sympathetic (good). It has its share of eccentrics too – which I loved. And there’s the matter of Daniel McAdam. It seems he has a crush on our Mrs. H. He’s a mystery to her though.

I won’t spoil with plot points and such but I’ll say if you’re looking to try the genre there’s no better time than with this first book in the Kat Holloway series. Kat has me hooked and I look forward to finding out what challenges she, Daniel and their friends face next. Fans of the below stairs goings-on of Downton Abbey or Victoria will surely enjoy the world of Kat Holloway.


A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

  • Title:  A Conspiracy in Belgravia
  • Series:  The Lady Sherlock Series, #2
  • Author:  Sherry Thomas
  • Pages:  319
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Published:  September 2017 –  Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half-brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London? (publisher)

My take:  After being compromised, Charlotte Holmes finds herself exactly where she wanted to be – out from under the expectations of her parents and the rest of Victorian society. She’s been able to find her place in the world at Upper Baker Street and among friends. Our Miss Holmes is quite resourceful and blessed with amazing powers of deduction as well as a good supply of wits and the ability to bluff her way through various situations. There are some (well, at least one – in the form of a certain Lord) who are on to her. She’s okay with that fact and is happy in her new life. This particular novel is filled with family, cryptic codes, and a dead body or two. Miss Holmes is up to the challenge of solving all and I enjoyed following her path to doing so. I look forward to reading more about Charlotte, Lord Ingram and their adventures. If you haven’t already, it would be helpful to read the first book in the series to get the back story on Charlotte.


 

Blog Tour: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

 

  • Title:  A Strange Scottish Shore
  • Series:  Emmeline Truelove #2
  • Author:  Juliana Gray
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery; Time Travel; Fantasy
  • Pages:  400
  • Published:  September 2017 – Berkley

Description:  The acclaimed author of A Most Extraordinary Pursuit brings a dazzling voice and extraordinary plot twists to this captivating Scottish adventure…
 
Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing that, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea and married the castle’s first laird.
 
But Haywood and Truelove soon realize they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide. When their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, their quest takes a dangerous turn through time, which puts Haywood’s extraordinary talents—and Truelove’s courage—to their most breathtaking test yet.  (publisher)

My take:  Emmeline Truelove and Maximilian Haywood, Duke of Olympia, find themselves on another adventure – this time to Scotland. It involves a selkie legend, the Orkney Islands in the 14th century, and a chase like no other that could threaten Truelove’s newfound happiness. No one is more surprised than I that I thoroughly enjoy a time travel series. I love suspending all logic and belief and just go with the story. I guess it’s my kind of adventure. This novel moves from the early 20th century to the 1300s. I love the prim and proper (smart and intuitive, as well) Truelove, her handsome and clever colleague Silverton, and the rather enigmatic Max who seems to know more than he’s letting on. They’re all on the side fighting against evil, this time in the form of a vengeful, potty-mouth, 21st century thug. There’s a mystery to solve and plenty of medieval action scenes. I liked it all and look forward to whatever Juliana Gray comes up with next for Truelove, Silverton, and Haywood. Recommended to fans of time travel/fantasy.


About the author:

Beloved New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams is known for her beautifully wrought historical women’s fiction novels including bestsellers such as, A Hundred Summers, Tiny Little Thing and Along the Infinite Sea. Last fall, under the pseudonym Juliana Gray, fans became familiar with another side of her writing in A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, the first in a historical mystery series unlike anything she had ever written before. Now she is back with the highly anticipated follow up in the Emmeline Truelove series, A STRANGE SCOTTISH SHORE (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; September 19, 2017).


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Description:

The game is afoot as Charlotte Holmes returns in USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas’s Victorian-set Lady Sherlock series.

Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?


About the author:

Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed historical romance authors writing today, winning the RITA Award two years running, and appearing on innumerable “Best of the Year” lists, including those of Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Dear Author, and All About Romance. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and sons.


Praise for Sherry Thomas:

“Thomas’s lyrical writing is really the star of the show. There are writers who can tell a great story, and writers who can tell a great story with beauty and artistry. Thomas is in the latter category, and her writing is, quite simply, a cut above.” —All About Romance

“Searing, tender, and filled with passion, her writing is nothing short of a revelation.” —Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

“Thomas…has made a name for herself with her exquisite use of language.”—Library Journal


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Review/US Giveaway: In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

  • in-farleigh-fieldTitle:  In Farleigh Field
  • Author:  Rhys Bowen
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Pages:  396
  • Published:  March 1, 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.  (publisher)

My take:  I’m a fan of historical fiction so I was pleased to receive a review copy of In Farleigh Field from the publisher. It involves the aristocracy, WWII, and spies!

During this time most of Britain wanted to help the cause in any way they could. Pamela, one of Lord Westerham’s daughters, and a very bright young woman, works her way into Bletchley Park‘s code-breakers. After a while she’s asked to do even more sophisticated work for her country. For security reasons no one can talk to anyone else about what they’re doing so she’s surprised when one of her oldest and dearest friends becomes involved in her latest assignment. This assignment will have them questioning their relationship as well as some of their closest friends and family. Can one truly trust anyone else at times like these? They will find out.

I thought Bowen’s mystery was entertaining and it kept me turning the pages wondering who was intending to kill the most important British leaders of the day. There were so many possibilities and I was glad I didn’t know until the reveal. I liked the balance between light moments and more intense ones as the story played out. I wouldn’t label it a cozy but it wasn’t an all-out thriller either. I’ll have to say somewhere in the middle. At any rate, I’m glad I had the chance to read it.


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in-farleigh-field


rhysbowen_authorphotoRhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty mystery novels. Her work includes the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City, and the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England, as well as the Constable Evenas mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won fourteen awards to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including the 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com.

IN FARLEIGH FIELD
by Rhys Bowen
Lake Union Publishing | March 1, 2017

Hardcover: $24.95 | ISBN:

1477818294

eBook: $4.99 | ASIN: B01HBKAYMA


Advance Praise for In Farleigh Field

“This well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller from Agatha Award-winner Bowen follows the lives of three childhood friends…. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.” —Publishers Weekly

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic and stylish—like binge-watching a great British drama on Masterpiece Theater.” — Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.” —Louise Penny, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“If you loved Downton Abbey, you’ll adore this compelling saga of an aristocratic English family finding courage on the home front in WWII. Unputdownable!” —Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author

“For those of us who didn’t get enough Downton Abbey…. It’s firing on all cylinders.” —Hallie Ephron, bestselling and Mary Higgins Clark-nominated author

“Irresistible, charming and heartbreakingly authentic. Rhys Bowen’s knowing voice transport Downton fans into an unputdownable family saga—a compelling journey through history, loss, honor and love. When war gets personal, every heart is in peril.”
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha Award-winning author


 

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell

  • in-the-shadow-of-lakecrestTitle:  In the Shadow of Lakecrest
  • Author:  Elizabeth Blackwell
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Pages:  271
  • Published:  February 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description: The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.

After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past? (publisher)

My take:  This historical mystery was a quick read. Two people, a young governess and a young man who’d been attending to his family’s business in Europe, met on board a ship sailing home to America in the 1920s. There was an instant attraction and the two married soon after reaching Chicago. What followed was Kate’s story of learning what it meant to be part of Matthew’s family. There’s a creepy mansion and family secrets and a domineering matriarch who is mainly interested in appearances.

I liked the setting of the Lake Michigan shore as well as the era of the 1920s. I think fans of mysteries with gothic undertones would enjoy In the Shadow of Lakecrest. I’m glad I had the chance to read it.


About the author:

Elizabeth Blackwell is the author of While Beauty Slept. A graduate of Northwestern University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she lives outside of Chicago with her family and piles of books she is absolutely, positively going to read someday.