Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: A Sensible Arrangement

A Sensible Arrangement (Lone Star Brides - Book 1) by Tracie Peterson

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Imprint: Bethany House
Genre: Christian/Inspirational Fiction
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 0746210580
ISBN-13: 978-0746210587

(Received for an honest review from Bethany House)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, ChristianBook, Indiebound

Tracie Peterson on the WEB: website, blogfacebook, goodreads


Synopsis:

Marty Dandridge Olson is ready to leave behind the pain of the past.Answering an advertisement for a "Lone Star bride," she leaves her Texas ranch and heads to Denver to marry a man she doesn't know.

Jake Wythe is the man waiting for her.Burned by love, he marries now simply to satisfy the board of Morgan Bank, which believes a man of his standing in society should be wed. Together Jake and Marty agree they are done with romance and love and will make this nothing more than a marriage of convenience. 

When missing money and a collapsing economy threaten his job, Jake's yearning to return to ranching grows ever stronger, much to Marty's dismay. But a fondness has grown between them, as well, further complicating matters.

What will happen when their relationship shifts in unexpected ways...
and dreams and secrets collide?


Thoughts:

Christian/Inspirational readers often have go-to authors when it comes to great historical romance reads and Tracie Peterson is often at the top of that list. Peterson's 100th novel, A Sensible Arrangement is a well crafted historical romance with a Christian slant that will have readers clamoring for more. It is the first book in the new Lone Star Brides series and brings together two people who have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Weaving two great themes together, a mail order bride and a marriage of convenience, Peterson gives readers a novel that easily become a favorite.

What I liked:

Tracie Peterson is probably one of my favorite Christian/Inspirational authors. Though she has written 100 novels, I did not find her until a few short years ago. But once I did, I devoured the books she has written with great gusto. That sometimes happens when I find an author I feel like I can really connect to and understand. I am a former history major and historical detail is often very important to me in reading this kind of novel. Peterson is one of the best at making history come alive for her readers. She knows just the right elements to add to give each of her books the right balance between romance and history and A Sensible Arrangement is a great example of that.

Marty was a heroine that I truly enjoyed. She was a very capable and nurturing woman, with a loving spirit. She had seen tragedy in her life, but was able to withstand and grow. But she needed change. Her husbands death on the ranch was tragic and affected her so deeply that she wanted to leave that life behind. Who wouldn't? She didn't want to be reminded on a daily basis of what she had lost. I thought Peterson did a great job with the character and that she made her easy to relate to and understand.

Jacob is a man who acquired a very upstanding position on a Denver bank, but it requires attending a lot of social functions. His employers feel that he must be married in order to continue in his position. He hasn't had the best of luck when it comes to love and he doesn't want all the entanglements that go with it, so he decides to advertise for a bride. Knowing he wants to return to his love of ranching in Texas one day, he stipulates that he is looking for a Texas bride. I thought Peterson portrayed Jake as a man on mission. He wants to return to Texas, but in order to do that he needs a wife. He doesn't need a lover. I liked how determined he was and that both he and Marty are flawed. Nobody's perfect and it's a good thing too!

I loved all of the historical detail that Peterson weaves into this story. Colorado at the time of this book was up and coming with Denver as a major city and it's opulence and grandeur can easily be seen in Peterson's writing. The circumstances surrounding the repeal of the Silver Act and the political and social climate of the times was very well documented and Peterson uses it to her advantage. The best part of the book for me was the detail and description Peterson gives to the setting and the times. Very well done.

I also truly enjoyed the romance aspect of this book. Marty and Jake don't realize that by leaving out some of their own desires, they are compromising their relationship. Yes, it is a marriage of convenience, but trust is still so important in making any kind of marriage work. Marty wants nothing more to do with Texas, and the desire of Jake's heart is to return there. Keeping these facts from each other nearly destroys the possibility of real love for them and Peterson certainly makes it intense. This part of the book was realistic and believable. The characters were flawed and imperfect and redeemable.

The Christian themes were not preachy or overwhelming either. There was just the right balance to add to the flavor of the book. Peterson focuses on anger at God in this novel, through Marty's anger over the death of her husband. It was interesting to watch her fight against her own feelings to get back to a place where she loved and trusted God. Peterson did a great job with this aspect of the book as well.

What I didn't like:

Jake was very intense in his desire to return to Texas as a rancher. But I didn't feel like Marty had that same kind of intensity in her own desires. She eventually takes on the task of helping orphans which fills a place in her heart for children and that was a very good way for her to have purpose, but it is not one of the main themes of the novel and comes across as less important. I think more importance on this part of the book would have been nice.

Bottom Line:

This is a very well written Christian historical romance. There are few authors in this genre that really satisfy the historical elements for me and Peterson is definitely one of the best. I'm glad this is the first novel in a new series, because I enjoyed it very much and look forward to more.

Available April 2014 at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:


Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 90 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Belgrade, Montana. Learn more at www.traciepeterson.com.

Review: What Follows After

What Follows After by Dan Walsh

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Imprint: Revell Books
Genre: Chrisitan/Inspirational Fiction
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 0800721209
ISBN-13: 978-0800721206

(Received for an honest review from Revell Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, ChristianBook, Indiebound

Dan Walsh on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Excerpt from, What Follows After, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

In October 1962, Colt Harrison and his little brother, Timmy, hatched a plan. They would run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt's house in Savannah, Georgia, and refuse to come home until their parents got back together. But things go terribly, terribly wrong. Colt's mother and father must come to grips with years of neglect and mistrust in order to recover their beloved sons, their love for one another, and their broken marriage.

In this emotional story, Dan Walsh takes readers on a journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life--love, truth, and family.


Thoughts:

What's really important to you? What are your main priorities in life? These are a couple of the questions readers will be asking themselves once they read the latest novel from author Dan Walsh. What Follows After is an intense and emotional novel that will take readers on a journey that will leave them breathless. With gripping suspense and a message that will seep into the soul, this is a book that readers won't soon forget. A fantastic new novel from a well respected voice in the field.

What I liked:

Dan Walsh always provides Christian/Inspirational readers with a good well thought out novel. But his latest book, What Follows After takes it a step further than the average book from this genre. The intensity is ramped up to an unbelievable level, partly due to the time period the novel focuses on and partly because of the subject matter. The Cuban Missile Crisis afforded Walsh a very climatic time in which to write about. The country was literally balanced on the head of pin, teetering back and forth as Americans feared the worst was about to happen to our country. While one family in Florida was also hanging the balance.

Walsh grips the reader with a very intense tale of two boys who only wanted their parents to stay together. Forced to lie about the fact that their parents were separated, Colt and Timmy hatch a plan not unlike that of most children when they don't know how to handle a situation at home. They will run away. But as often happens with these plans, things don't turn out the way they had planned. And so starts a novel that will leave readers completely invested and emotionally spent when the last page is turned. 

I was totally caught off guard by how emotionally wrenching this book was. Walsh is not an author I generally associate with highly suspenseful and engaging reading. Don't get me wrong, I love his books, but they don't usually elicit such a strong reaction from me. But this book was different. I wanted so desperately for this book to turn out as a happy ending, that I couldn't put it down. It was a quick read for me, because I had to know what happened. It was just that intense. Walsh grabbed me from the first line and I was hanging on for dear life from then on. Definitely, his best novel to date!

The Christian message in this one was something I think everyone thinks about from time to time whether they are a believer or not. If there is a God, and I know there is, then why does he allow certain things to happen in this world. Bad things. Ugly things. Painful things. I think Walsh really hits it on the head with this novel. I honestly believe that God has a reason for everything and though I may not be able to understand when the situation is happening I can rely on the belief that He does not make mistakes. This novel shows how one very bad situation changed the lives of more than one person. How God used something bad to bring about something good. 

What I did't like:

I didn't want this one to end. I loved the edge to it, the sharpness and the clarity that it brought to the way I was feeling and thinking while reading it. I wanted to know more about this family to see how this situation changed and molded them in the future. What the true result of all of this was. Just goes to show you, this was a good one!

Bottom Line:

I loved it. That's all there is to it!

Available April 2014 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:


Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Unfinished GiftThe Discovery, and The Reunion, as well as The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley. He has won three Carol awards, and three of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year (2011-2013). Dan lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit www.danwalshbooks.com for more.


Giveaway Details:

If you are interested in possibly winning a copy of this book, check out The Book Club Network. It is a site that requires signing up, but there are tons of Christian book giveaways. The giveaway for What Follows After is not scheduled to post until April 20th, so keep the date in mind or sign up for emails from The Book Club Network.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: A Killing Notion by Melissa Bourbon (Guest Post, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Melissa Bourbon to Debbie's Book Bag today. Melissa is here promoting her fifth book in the Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, A Killing Notion. Enjoy her guest post, along with my review of her book and a giveaway.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes, and often they come unbidden. They come when you least expect it, and when you’re not looking. 

That’s how Harlow Cassidy came to me. I knew she was a fashion designer. I knew she was coming back home to Bliss, Texas. And I knew she had a charm. I can’t even pinpoint the moment when I knew she was a descendent of Butch Cassidy. It was more like I just opened my eyes and knew.   

Harlow is the great-great-great granddaughter of Butch Cassidy. In A Magical Dressmaking mystery series, Butch has an alternate history. He still escapes to Argentina, but instead of leaving with Etta Place and the Sundance Kid, he’s got a true love, Texana Harlow, a Texas woman and he leaves her behind (out of necessity, not choice).

But in my history, Texana is pregnant, gives birth to a daughter, Cressida, and just like that, Butch’s lineage continues.  The women call themselves Cassidy because that’s how they’ve always known Butch (although his surname is really Parker). It’s a little creative license I’ve taken. 

Back in Argentina, Butch makes a wish in a fountain (a real fountain where wishes are still made) that his descendants will be blessed. That wish becomes the magical charms his female descendants embody. Nana is a goat whisperer. Tessa, Harlow’s mom, has a green thumb. And Harlow sews people’s wishes and dreams into the garments she makes.

So where did all of these ideas for charms came from? Deep in the recesses of my mind. I just knew that Tessa could make things grow, both flowers and weeds. But how to have checks and balances when the weeds get out of control? Nana’s goats, of course. It made perfect sense. 

Ideas are everywhere. I never know what will inspire me next, or what story element I’ll weave into the next Harlow Cassidy book… or where that idea will come from.  Usually it springs from my head, fully formed just like Athena springing from Zeus.

A Killing Notion is the fifth book in the series and I’m so excited to share Harlow’s continued journey in Bliss, Texas.  You don’t have to love sewing in order to be spellbound by the series.  I hope you enjoy!



~ Melissa

Book Information:

A Killing Notion (A Magical Dressmaking Mystery - Book 5) by Melissa Bourbon


Publication Date: 04/01/2014

Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 0451417208
ISBN-13: 978-0451417206

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)


Melissa Bourbon on the WEB: websitetwitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

A Magical Dressmaking Mystery

2. A Fitting End
3. Deadly Patterns
5. A Killing Notion

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.


Synopsis:

Harlow Jane Cassidy is swamped with homecoming couture requests. If only she didn’t have to help solve a murder, she might get the gowns off the dress forms....  
 
Harlow is doing everything she can to expand her dressmaking business, Buttons & Bows—without letting clients know about her secret charm. When she has a chance to create homecoming dresses with a local charity and handmade mums for several high school girls—including Gracie, whose father, Will, has mended Harlow’s heart—she is ready to use her magical talents for a great cause.
 
But when Gracie’s date for the dance is accused of murder, Harlow knows things won’t be back on course until she helps Gracie clear the football player’s name. If Harlow can’t patch up this mess before the big game, her business and her love life might be permanently benched.

Thoughts:

Melissa Bourbon returns readers to Bliss, Texas with her fifth installment in the Magical Dressmakers Mystery series, A Killing Notion. This book will steal the heart of readers who are pulling for the relationship between Harlow and Will to grow into lasting love. Harlow is out to help Will's daughter Gracie prove the innocence of her boyfriend who has been accused of killing his father. Readers are treated to a mystery set against the back drop of the homecoming dance, a ghostly member of the family and plenty of bodies to go around. A great new book from a trusted author.

What I liked:

Melissa Bourbon struck on a really creative idea when she decided to make her main character in the Magical Dressmaking series, a descendant of the infamous outlaw, Butch Cassidy. In Harlow, Bourbon gives readers a lead character who is thoughtful, inquisitive and gifted. Thanks to Butch's lucky coin thrown into a fountain, Harlow is able to sew garments that have the 'wishes' of her customers in mind. Using a few touches of the paranormal, like the special gifts and of course the ghost of meemaw, Bourbon gives this series a light touch that draws the reader in.

In this installment of the series, it's homecoming in Bliss and all of the girls are going to turn out in beautiful dresses. It's a good time for Buttons and Bows with lots of special dresses being made and mums for the dance. Harlow is doing good as well. Her relationship with Will is flourishing and she adores his daughter Gracie, which is exactly what gets her right in the middle of another murder investigation. I liked the way Bourbon gave Harlow a vested interest in finding this killer. This one hit close to home for her since the sheriff's number one suspect was Gracie's boyfriend. I loved all of the descriptions of the dresses and how homecoming was celebrated as well. All great touches in book that centers around sewing as one of it's themes. A great idea.

Meemaw was back as usual and I always love her input into Harlow's cases. The paranormal aspects of this series are always one of the highlights. When I first starting reading the series, I thought Bourbon should have focused on one area of the paranormal and not two, but Meemaw has grown on me and I always find her perspective on things interesting. She sometimes provides comic relief and sometimes just the clarity that Harlow needs to follow her instincts. So, I think the author knew what she was doing with this one, even if I didn't.

What I didn't like:

I found the fact that Shane was blamed for his own father's death a little disconcerting. It definitely worked into the plot of the story and I can see why Bourbon chose to do it that way. I also know that, that kind of thing happens, but I don't often like to think that way. I still loved the mystery and how it all turned out in the end. Just a little quirk of my own.

Bottom Line:

This is a great addition to this series. A Killing Notion is probably one of my favorites so far. I loved all of the homecoming hoopla and thought it showcased Harlow's abilities as a seamstress and well has her gift for solving mysteries.

A Killing Notion is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name, Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in northern California to write full-time amid horses and longhorns in north Texas. She is the author of the Magical Dressmaking Mystery series (A Custom-Fit CrimeDeadly PatternsA Fitting End).

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of A Killing Notion by Melissa Bourbon.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 24th.

1. Please leave a comment about your favorite dress or outfit.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack (Guest Post, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Amanda Carmack to Debbie's Book Bag today. Amanda is here promoting her book, Murder at Westminster Abbey the second book in the Elizabethan Mystery series. Enjoy her guest post, along with my review of her book and a giveaway.

When I started writing Murder at Westminster Abbey, I had lots of fun digging through boxes looking for photos and scrapbooks of my trips to England, and I got to revisit my very first visit to Westminster Abbey! It was a rainy, stormy day, and I had just arrived in London after a long overnight flight. The hotel room wasn't yet ready, I was jet-lagged and a bit silly with lack of sleep and too much Chardonnay (I am a terrible flier!). So what could be better than a few hours wandering around in the cool darkness of Westminster Abbey, out of the rain?

For a lifelong history geek like me, the Abbey was a magical place.  I spent hours at Poet's Corner, visiting Chaucer and Browning.  I stumbled across Anne of Cleves, Margaret Beaufort, and Aphra Behn, and stood atop where Oliver Cromwell once lay, before the Restoration came and he was dug up again.  Best of all, I found myself nearly alone for a few precious minutes at the tomb Elizabeth I shares with Mary I.  
It was wonderful to revisit my memories of that trip (and re-watch a DVD of William and Kate's wedding, just for research on cathedral details, of course!).  It was also a lot of fun to delve deeply into the events surrounding Elizabeth I's coronation—I almost feel like I could have been there now, and met all the historical figures who played a part in the glittering events.  I loved weaving the real pageantry with my fictional characters and what happened to them on those momentous days in January 1559.

Queen Mary's funeral was on December 14, 1558, and Elizabeth then moved to Whitehall Palace to celebrate the Christmas season with a series of feasts and dances, organized by her newly appointed Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley.  But there was work to be done as well as dancing, a household to organize, counselors to appoint, and a coronation to plan.  The city, which had been quiet and somber for the last months of Queen Mary's sad life, sprang to life. Viewing stands were built, streets graveled, the river cleaned up, and vast quantities of cloth of gold and silver, silks, velvets, and satins were ordered.  Seven hundred yards of blue cloth was laid as a carpet from Westminster Palace to the Abbey.  Despite the economy of re-making Queen Mary's royal robes for Elizabeth's more slender figure, the Exchequer paid out more than 18,000 pounds.

Dr. John Dee, the new queen's favorite astrologer, laid out a horoscope predicting January 15 as the best date for the coronation.  He didn't predict the fact that the weather would be gray, cold, and icy, but the party went on.  On January 12, the queen boarded her barge at Whitehall and processed along the Thames to the Tower, where new monarchs traditionally slept before their coronation. Accompanied by dozens of other barges, musicians, the Mayor and his aldermen, she floated past hundreds of people lining the riverbanks to toss flowers and shout their approval.  (The poor victim in my story, Nell, watches this procession before she sadly loses her life.  She'd heard from her grandmother about Queen Anne Boleyn's procession, and wants to see Queen Anne's daughter go by now...)

On leaving the Tower, Elizabeth processed four miles through London, wearing 23 yards of cloth of gold and silver trimmed with ermine, riding in a white litter lined with gold and drawn by white mules.  Trumpeters proceeded her, and her household rode behind, dressed in their finest red velvets and furs to watch five stately pageants that symbolized the new beginning of the reign.  I loved having my heroine, Kate Haywood, ride behind the queen, taking it all in.
As for the coronation itself...you will just have to read Murder at Westminster Abbey for a glimpse of it!

For more historical background on the events of January 1559, and some great resources I came across in my research, you can visit me anytime at http://amandacarmack.com

Book Information:


Murder at Westminster Abbey (Elizabethan Mystery - Book 2) by Amanda Carmack

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0451415124
ISBN-13: 978-0251415127

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Amanda Carmack (aka. Amanda McCabe) on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Elizabethan Mystery

1. Murder at Hatfield House
2. Murder at Westminster Abbey

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from, Murder at Westminster Abbey, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life…and once again school herself as a sleuth.
 
Life at the center of the new royal court is abuzz with ambition and gossip—very different from the quiet countryside, where Kate served Elizabeth during her exile. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen’s favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other—which makes Mary’s murder all the more chilling.
 
The celebrations go on despite the pall cast over them. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trail of a killer whose grievance can only be answered with royal blood.


Thoughts:

Amanda Carmack returns readers to the time of Elizabeth the first with her latest historical mystery, Murder at Westminster Abbey. This is the second book in the Elizabethan Mystery series and takes readers from Elizabeth's exile to her triumphant entry into London for her coronation and beginning of her reign. Unfortunately, someone is targeting women who resemble the new queen and it's up to her friend and courtier, Kate Haywood to find the killer. This is a great blend of history and mystery, that readers will quickly be drawn into.

What I liked:

Amanda Carmack is an author who does her homework. It takes a great deal of research to pull this kind of mystery off, because of the historical detail required to make it authentic. The reign of Elizabeth I has been well documented in history, but it's another thing when it comes to making these historical figures become real characters in a book. The reader has to be fully engaged in the characters to make the story enjoyable and Carmack seems to really understand how she needs to portray them to bring them to life. 

I absolutely loved all of the imagery and description that Carmack put into the coronation and the days leading up to it. Readers are treated to seeing the court during it's hay day so to speak. This was a time when the people were glad that Mary's reign had ended and that a new queen would rule in England. The festivities were magnificent and Carmack captured the expectant atmosphere and even the treachery and betrayal being plotted behind the scenes. It was very well written.

I have always really enjoyed Kate, since the first book and she comes into her own even more in this book. She has some experience in sleuthing under her belt now and she goes about it in a more reasonable manner. But like an good amateur sleuthing tale, the suspects don't always do what you think they will and the motives might be totally different than what you expect. In this case someone is murdering women who look like the queen and it stands to reason that she is the real target. I thought Carmack did a great job with Kate's character and the mystery itself was well thought out and executed. 

What I didn't like:

As usual with this series, the author relies heavily on the historical aspects of the novel to carry it. But luckily this time it is a bit more balanced. I thought Carmack did a much better job of making the mystery aspects of the story a top priority. It made the book seem a lot more realistic and less like typical historical fiction.

Bottom Line:

The second book in this series, Murder at Westminster Abbey is much better offering than the first book, although I enjoyed it as well. The history is important, but so is the mystery and that's what was missing in the last one. I think this series has a lot of potential and it's getting better as it goes along.

Murder at Westminster Abbey is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Amanda Carmack is a pseudonym for a multipublished author. Her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. Her Elizabethan Mystery series includes Murder at Hatfield House.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 23rd.

1. Please leave a comment about what you think of the historical time period of this novel, the reign of Elizabeth I.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: A Second Helping of Murder by Christine Wenger (Guest Post, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Christine Wenger to Debbie's Book Bag today. Christine is here promoting her second book in the Comfort Food mystery series, A Second Helping of Murder. Enjoy her guest post, along with my review of her book and a giveaway.


From the office of 
TRIXIE MATKOWSKI
Owner
SILVER BULLET DINER &
SANDY HARBOR HOUSEKEEPING COTTAGES
"On the beautiful shore of Lake Ontario in Sandy Harbor New York"

Greetings from Sandy Harbor, New York!

It's summer as I write this note to you and the tourist season is in full swing! I thought that things would calm down after my first several months here, but I'm busier than ever and so is my staff.

Moving to New York and buying the Silver Bullet Diner (circa 1950, Open 24 Hours, Air-conditioned, Breakfast Served All Day) from my aunt Stella Matkowski, who retired to Boca Raton, was a big change for me. Things proved even more difficult when the restaurant inspector turned up dead in my kitchen! My beautiful diner became a ghost town overnight!

With the help of my neighbor, Deputy Sheriff Ty Brisco, a cowboy transplant from Houston, Texas, I got to the bottom of what had happened to the inspector. My friend Christine Wenger, who loves to write and fancies herself the historian of Sandy Harbor, documented that horrible part of my life in DO OR DINER (Obsidian Books, August 2013). She said that fiction was stranger than the truth, so the story just had to be told.

And Chris just finished recording the details of two more murders which occurred in town about twenty years apart in A SECOND HELPING OF MURDER (Obsidian Books, April 2014). The scene I discovered in Cottage Number Eight will be forever etched in my mind. The lovely citizens of Sandy Harbor are starting to wonder about me!

In spite of the bad stuff, I've kept busy cooking and playing with recipes at the Silver Bullet, have almost stopped reeling from my divorce (almost!), made life-long friends, never laughed so much, and still find time to polka!

Life is good at the lake. Come visit!

                                                Trixie

Book Information:

A Second Helping of Murder (Comfort Food Mystery - Book 2) by Christine Wenger

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages:304
ISBN-10: 0451415094
ISBN-13: 978-0451415097

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Christine Wenger on the WEB: websitetwitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Comfort Food Mystery

1. Do or Diner
2. A Second Helping of Murder

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Synopsis:


Trixie Matkowski is warming up to running her family’s diner in the small town of Sandy Harbor in upstate New York. But the only thing more demanding than serving up piping-hot comfort food twenty-four hours a day is getting to the bottom of a double homicide....

Trixie fondly remembers summers as a child spent visiting the shores of Lake Ontario. Not much has changed—there are still vinyl booths at the Silver Bullet Diner, families eating home-cooked comfort food, and days of swimming in the lake.

But before Trixie can say “Order’s up,” someone’s summer is abruptly cut short. One of the cottage residents is found dead, and Trixie suspects the crime might be linked to an unsolved disappearance in the picturesque town’s past.

As Trixie works with Deputy Ty Brisco to solve both mysteries, their shocking discoveries will shake up the small town. And when word gets out that she’s on the case, Trixie’s in trouble—after all, the murderer won’t spare her life just because she makes a killer corned beef sandwich....


Thoughts:

What's up with Cottage Number Eight? Readers are returned to Sandy Harbor, New York with Christine Wenger's latest book in the Comfort Food Mystery series, A Second Helping of Murder. With the tourist season upon them, Trixie and the gang from the Silver Bullet are gearing up for Cottage rentals on the lake as well as more great food from the diner. Readers are treated to a twenty-five year old murder along with a current one, that are intertwined in an amazing whodunit. Wenger does it again with this great new installment to the series!

What I liked:

Christine Wenger's first book in the series, Do or Diner was a good book. It introduced readers to the small town of Sandy Harbor and to new cozy mystery heroine, Trixie Matkowski and her diner, the Silver Bullet. I was interested to see where Wenger took the series with her latest book, A Second Helping of Murder. I was not surprised to find Wenger's great descriptive prowess at work. I could almost smell the delicious smells coming from the Silver Bullet, even though the majority of the mystery focused on the lake side cottages that Trixie is renting. I loved the way the setting conveyed the perfect seasonal getaway, minus the murder of course. 

Trixie is once again in the middle of a mess. Just where readers expect a good amateur sleuth to be. Not only is a missing persons case from Sandy Harbor's past solved when a body is found in a local cave, but a gunshot takes out a customer renting the same cottage as the fateful family. Are the two related? It's up to Trixie to figure it out. I loved the way the two murders seem to be connected but the reader isn't sure exactly how. And the suspects are drawn from the friends and people who may have known the first victim. I thought Wenger did a great job of using Trixie's natural inquisitiveness to get her involved in the case, since she is losing more money because of the publicity. A great tactic used to the heroine's advantage.

Once again the small town setting for this series was perfect. A town set on the shores of Lake Ontario was very believable as a tourist town and the setting for a double murder of sorts. Wenger keeps the reader just off balance enough to keep them flipping the pages, as Trixie sorts through the clues to find the killer. I liked all of the interaction with the townspeople and the gang from the diner. I don't think this heroine knew was she was in for when she took over the family business. She's a real go-getter and fans of the series will love the way she looks at the world, through the eyes of an amateur clue finder.

The mystery itself was very entertaining. I admit to being clueless as to who the killer was until the very end. There were just so many to choose from. The whole thing was just 'fabulous' one of Trixie's favorite words to describe just about everything. I liked the way she used a few red herrings to throw readers off the trail of the real killer, but still kept things so close to the truth it was hard to tell the difference. Wenger knows how to draw it all out and make the reader yearn for more when it's over. 

What I didn't like:

Repetitive wordings doesn't always bother me. Sometimes it just becomes a characteristic of the character and I just think of it as one of her or his idosencracies and don't pay it much mind. But when more than one character starts to use the same turn of phrase or words, it starts to become an issue. It hasn't gone that far yet with 'fabulous', but it's getting there.

Bottom Line:

Despite the word issue, this was a great novel and second book in the series. Fans who love good food and a good mystery can't go wrong with this series, set in a small town diner. Wenger knows how to describe things in such a way that the reader feels like they are right there with the characters sorting it all out. You gotta read it!

A Second Helping of Murder is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Christine Wenger has worked in the criminal justice field and written romances for Harlequin. She’s always loved to read cozy mysteries, and is thrilled to bring the beauty of upstate New York to life in the Comfort Food Mystery series (Do or Diner).


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of A Second Helping of Murder by Christine Wenger.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 22nd.

1. Please leave a comment about what you think of culinary cozies vs. other kinds of cozies.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: How to Handle a Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy (Guest Post, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Joanne Kennedy to Debbie's Book Bag today. Joanne is here promoting the first book in her Cowboys of Decker Ranch series, How to Handle a Cowboy. Enjoy her guest post, along with my review of her book and a giveaway.


My Favorite Scene

I always love the “meet cute” in romantic comedies, whether I’m reading a book or watching a movie. It’s best in books, because you have the advantage of reading the characters’ minds when they first meet each other, and then you get to see how that perception changes as they get to know each other and finally fall in love. 

This scene from How to Handle a Cowboy is social worker Sierra Dunn’s first encounter with rodeo cowboy Ridge Cooper. She’s been informed by her boss that a local resident has volunteered to coach the foster kids she cares for, but she’s expecting a soccer or football coach—not a cowboy who wants to teach the kids to rope and ride.

Sierra headed for the front door, wondering what kind of sports coach Phoenix House’s owner had come up with. Mike Malloy was the son of a senator and an overgrown frat boy. His friends reminded Sierra of a bunch of overweight Labrador retrievers, falling all over the place with their tongues hanging out. They were rude but good-natured, handsome but a little soft in the gut. 

Swinging the heavy wood door open, she gaped at her guest. Surely, surely this wasn’t any friend of Mike’s. 

There wasn’t an ounce of frat boy in this guy. Not an ounce of fat, either. 

Just to make sure, Sierra let her gaze drift downward from the brim of his battered felt hat to his broad shoulders and muscular chest, which were both hidden—unfortunately—by a plaid Western-style shirt. He was wearing some kind of fancy belt buckle too, with a picture of a horse on it. Squinting, she tried to read the lettering around the edges but found herself distracted by the very obvious bulge beneath it.  The jeans fit just fine everywhere else but seemed a bit strained here. 

The hat. The hat. Look at the hat. And stop staring at his—his whatsit. 

She’d once heard a country song about how you could gauge the quality of a cowboy by the condition of his hat. Barstool cowboys had shiny new hats, but real cowboys had hats that had been through everything from snowstorms to stampedes. 

This guy was apparently the real thing, and the battered brim shaded the hard gray eyes of an outlaw. His jaw was darkened by stubble that made him look like he’d just come off the Chisholm Trail with Kevin Costner and Tom Selleck, though she suspected he could outride and out-rope both of them. 

“I’m supposed to talk to the manager,” he said. 

He didn’t sound like Kevin Costner or Tom Selleck. He sounded like Sam Elliott, all gravelly and masculine. His voice curled into Sierra’s ear and slid down her backbone, coiling up somewhere warm and making it even warmer. 

“The manager?” he repeated. 

Sierra sighed. At five foot next-to-nothing, with short, blond hair and dimples that popped into being if she even thought about smiling, she was rarely taken for authority. Certainly no one ever guessed she’d been a Denver cop for three years. 

Then a child abuse case inspired her to go back to school, majoring in social work and child psychology. When she’d returned to Denver as a social worker, she’d worked some hard cases in dangerous neighborhoods. It had been her oversized tough-girl attitude, born from a childhood on those same streets, that kept her safe.

It was her tough-girl attitude that got her the job at Phoenix House, too. These kids needed special protection, and her combination of a social work degree and law enforcement experience had made her the perfect applicant. 

So where was that tough-girl attitude now? 

Evidently it had taken a break to curl up in her belly with Sam Elliott’s voice. 


I hope you enjoyed the scene. Ridge and Sierra seem like total opposites, don’t they? But they have more in common than you think…

Book Information:


How to Handle a Cowboy (Cowboys of Decker Ranch - Book 1) by Joanne Kennedy

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 416
ISBN-10: 1402283660
ISBN-13: 978-1402283666

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Joanne Kennedy on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, goodreads

Excerpt from, How to Handle a Cowboy, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:


His Rodeo Days May Be Over...
Sidelined by a career-ending injury, rodeo cowboy Ridge Cooper feels trapped at his family's remote Wyoming ranch. Desperate to find an outlet for the passion he used to put into competing, he takes on the challenge of teaching his roping skills to five troubled ten-year-olds in a last-chance home for foster kids, and finds it's their feisty supervisor who takes the most energy to wrangle.
But He'll Still Wrangle Her Heart
When social worker Sierra Dunn seeks an activity for the rebellious kids at Phoenix House, she soon learns she's not in Denver anymore. Sierra is eager to get back home to her inner-city work, and the plan doesn't include forming an attachment in Wyoming—especially not to a ruggedly handsome and surprisingly gentle local rodeo hero.

Thoughts:

Joanne Kennedy brings readers the first book in her new Cowboys of Decker Ranch series. How to Handle a Cowboy is a heartwarming story about kids and adults who might be considered damaged. Kennedy shows how one person can make a difference in someone's life and readers will find both love and hope in this remarkable story. Readers who love a good cowboy romance will quickly fall for the resilient and protective heroine, Sierra and the big-hearted cowboy, Ridge. Their story is poignant and one readers won't soon forget.

What I liked:

There are so many things about this book that I could write about here. Once in a while a romance will come along that transcends the idea of what romance is all about. How to Handle a Cowboy is one of those few. It has not only the sweet and loving romance between the heroine and the hero, but it is also a story about loving the unloved. The five rowdy little boys that make this story so special and not only great secondary characters, but they show the spirit and resilience of children who have been put through the wringer. Kennedy gives readers two different kinds of love stories in this book and that makes it completely unforgettable.

Sierra, the heroine, is not without her own issues. She did not have the best of childhood experiences, so she has a kind of kinship with these boys that not many could understand. When she becomes their foster mother, she is determined to give them the love they so desperately need. But not only that she wants them to find acceptance and understanding in their community as well. A tall order for kids who come the kind of background these kids do. I loved Sierra's commitment to making the world a better place, to providing a loving home for these boys and her undaunted spirit. Kennedy gives readers a heroine with a true heart for service.

Ridge is the kind of hero that readers will quickly fall for. He had his life all planned out. The rodeo was in his blood and he so passionate about it. Readers could feel his untamed spirit, and need for the rush of the rodeo. When all that is taken away due a serious energy Ridge is more than just at loose ends, he is restless like the stallions he once rode. He is driven, but driven to what, now? He was a man who needed a new purpose and he found it in teaching and mentoring these boys about life and how to live it. What a remarkable character and the relationship that he fosters with these children was a testament to one person's ability to change the world. Especially the world of five troubled little boys.

The romance between these two characters, wasn't all about misunderstanding and break-ups and filled with all the angst of failed attempts to communicate. It was just a sweet and loving romance that builds from a searing attraction. When these two finally connect the situation is combustible. Both are passionate about different things in their lives and from the outside looking in are probably not a good match. But you can't help who you love most of the time and it's a good thing because they were meant for each other. Kennedy really impressed me with her ability to give readers double the love in this one. Can't wait to see how Ridge's other brothers find their own happy ever after's.

What I didn't like:

I thought Kennedy did a great job with this book. She balances the relationship between heroine and hero against their relationships with the boys with a deft hand. Being from Kentucky and being a former horse owner and rider, I thought the way the boys interacted with the animals was probably not as accurate as it could be, but that certainly did not take away from the story. Kennedy should be granted a little lee-way because of the scope of this amazing book. It's all about hope, not about which side of the horse you get up on.

Bottom Line:

If you love a good cowboy romance, this one is a cut above the rest. It gives the reader not only a feel good love story, but also gives them hope, that the world can be a better place, where people do show love and respect and help each other and those who need it. A fantastic book.

How to Handle a Cowboy is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Joanne Kennedy's lifelong fascination with Wyoming's unique blend of past and present inspires her to write contemporary Western romances with traditional ranch settings. In 2010 she was nominated for a RITA award for One Fine Cowboy. At various times, Joanne has dabbled in horse training, chicken farming, and bridezilla wrangling at a department store wedding registry. Her fascination with literature led to careers in bookselling and writing. She lives with two dogs and a retired fighter pilot in Cheyenne, Wyoming.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of How To Handle a Cowboy and a special gift from the author, Joanne Kennedy.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 21st.

1. Please leave a comment about your experiences with either foster children or the rodeo.
2. Please fill out the FORM.