Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Bitter Harvest

Bitter Harvest (Orchard - Book 5) by Shelia Connolly

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 304pp
ISBN-13: 9780425242766

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Shelia Connolly on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter



Now that Meg Corey's apples have been harvested and sold, she's enjoying some free time. Especially since she's snowed in without power or heat. Luckily, her maybe-boyfriend, Seth Chapin, is keeping her company, and has agreed to help her clean out her house.

In a dusty corner Meg finds an early-nineteenth-century silk sampler embroidered with apple trees, but she doesn't recognize the names on it as any of the earlier owners of the house. Then she starts being plagued by a series of small but annoying mishaps. Meg doesn't want to appear paranoid, but when she finds herself locked in the unheated barn overnight, and then her kitchen window is shot out, she can't ignore the problem any longer. And if she doesn't figure out how the sampler she found is connected to the motive of her modern-day tormentor, her first harvest could be her last...


Author Sheila Connolly takes readers back to Granford, Connecticut and Meg's apple orchard with the fifth book in the Orchard Mystery series. Readers who love this series, will find Bitter Harvest a departure from the standard cozy mystery formula. Most notably absent is a present day murder for the heroine to solve, but there is still plenty of mystery and small town charm to keep readers interested. Connolly proves that not every mystery involves murder!

Meg's first harvest is past and her first New England winter is looming. It's time to make some hard and fast decisions about her future. As she waits for her Orchard manager Bree to get her the financial reports, Meg has lot on her mind. Will she be able to keep the business afloat? Is there enough profit left over to buy new trees and make needed repairs to the house and grounds? Just where does she stand with her next door neighbor, Seth? When Seth comes over to check on Meg's ailing furnace, they become snowbound together. Trying to distract herself, Meg asks Seth to help her explore the old farmhouse. On a long forgotten shelf in an upstairs closet, Meg finds a "mourning sampler" that must have belonged to the long ago owners of the house. When mishaps start piling up around Meg, she begins to wonder if it the pranks are somehow tied to the sampler? She'll have to use her wits to figure out who's behind the mischief before someone gets hurt!

Bitter Harvest is the fifth book in the very popular Orchard series by Sheila Connolly and I must admit it is definitely different from her normal fare. Readers who are expecting murder and mayhem will be a little surprised by this one. There is in fact, no present-day murder for our heroine, Meg to solve. There is however a mystery. Sometimes it's very difficult for readers to throw out their expectations, but I think cozy fans who can do that will find a lot to like about this book.

There are a lot of things that I like about this series in general. As with most cozies, the small town setting is often very important, as well as, the hobby or profession of the heroine. Granford, Connecticut is the kind of small New England town that I could picture myself living in. Connolly has created a town, with lots of interesting characters for Meg to interact with and build relationships with. And though we didn't see a lot of the townspeople in Bitter Harvest, we learn more about what Meg is up to with her manager Bree and her neighbor Seth.

I also really enjoy learning about the inner workings of a small orchard. When I was growing up we had an apple orchard just for personal use and I liked the idea of seeing what goes into making something like that a profitable business. In Bitter Harvest, the orchard is basically at a standstill. The harvest is over and there isn't much going on when it comes to apples. But, I realize that not every book in the series will go into new details about this aspect of Meg's life. However, readers will learn a lot more about Meg herself and her genealogy. For readers who enjoy genealogy and finding out more about the characters, this is a great book. It goes into detail on Meg's ancestors and those who lived in the old farmhouse long ago.

The mystery aspect of the book centers around a "mourning sampler" that Meg finds dating back to the late 1700's. Though there is no murder to solve in this book, there is definitely a puzzle. How does the sampler tie in with all of the pranks that keep happening around Meg's house. She gets locked in the unheated barn overnight, she finds a dead squirrel on her porch, someone tears down a part of her fence and even shots out the kitchen window. Though these pranks might not seem too bad, they are getting progressively more serious and could lead to someone, probably Meg, getting hurt. I don't know if I read mysteries for the murders or for the interactions of the characters. I think I like both aspects and I found that I enjoyed this puzzle, almost as much as a murder. But not everyone will!

I think Connolly was trying to show versatility with this book, and perhaps transitioning the series in a new direction. I don't think this will be the last murder Connolly has in the series or the last puzzler. The key is let go of what you expect and just enjoy the book for what it does contain and not what it doesn't. I loved the genealogy parts of the book. I also liked the setting of deep winter in New England. I enjoyed finding out more about Meg and it whetted my appetite for what's to come next in the series. I recommend this one to cozy fans who are looking for something a little different. It may be a departure from Connolly's other books in the series, but it's still a great book!

Bitter Harvest is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Sheila Connolly is an Agatha Award-nominated author (as Sarah Atwell), and has taught art history, structured and marketed municipal bonds for major cities, worked as a staff member on two statewide political campaigns, and served as a fund-raiser for several nonprofit organizations. She also managed her own consulting company, providing genealogical research services. In addition to genealogy, Sheila loves restoring old houses, visiting cemeteries, and traveling. Now a full-time writer, she thinks writing mysteries is a lot more fun than any of her previous occupations. She is married and has one daughter and three cats.


The Publisher is offering one copy of Bitter Harvest for giveaway to one lucky winner from Debbie's Book Bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US Addresses only! (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST September 7th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation of the author on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.


mamabunny13 said...

My interest is piqued, I gotta find out about that sampler! Thanks for the giveaway.
mamabunnuy13 at gmail dot com

Tea said...

Locked overnight in an unheated barn?? I would lose my breath screaming. Great review.

I'm a Google friend connect follower.


holdenj said...

Would love to learn more about Meg and this great setting! Thanks for the info and chance to win.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE these cozy mysteries! This author is a wonderful one :-) Thanks for the giveaway.

Linda Kish said...

I haven't read any of this series. This sounds like a good place to start.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Martha Lawson said...

Another new to me author, which I love finding. The book look really good, I'm looking forward to reading her books.

cyn209 said...

i'm new to cozies, so i'm always excited to learn of new releases!!

thank you for the giveaway!!!

lag123 said...

No murder in this one?! I think I would love to read this!

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Theresa N. said...

I'm adding it to my reading list, I love cozy.
Theresa N

Karen B said...

A cozy with no murder - how intriguing! I've been eyeing this series for some time and this looks like a great place to start reading.

ann said...

No murder in a mystery. I would like to find out what all the mystery is about.

amhengst at verizon dot

Carol N Wong said...

I am from Indiana and we still have some trees from Johnny Appleseed so any book that is connected to orchards are fun for me. A mystery without a murder sounds like a nice twist!


Carol M said...

I love trying to solve a mystery even if a murder is not involved. This sounds like a book I would enjoy!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Anita Yancey said...

Sounds like a wonderful mystery. I would love to find out what the sampler has to do with her mishaps.


Luvdaylilies said...

I just love The Orchard Mystery Books, Good reading!
Thanks so much,
Luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net