Monday, November 28, 2011

Silent Night

It's Christmas time, and for Raine Stockton and her Search and Rescue dog, Cisco, Hansonville, North Carolina is just like a Norman Rockwell painting-- except for the rash of thefts of baby Jesus figurines from nativity scenes, an abandoned box of golden retriever puppies that someone leaves beside her mailbox, and a mysterious gift from one of Cisco's a grateful admirers. Raine already has her hands full with her own misbehaving pooches, unexpected house guests, and a complicated new relationship. But when a newborn is abandoned in the manger of the town's living nativity and Raine walks in on what appears to be the scene of a murder, she has more to worry about than keeping the Christmas spirit alive.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have blogged about my love for the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series before, and this story set at my favorite time of the year is the best one yet. Without rehashing the plot, there are several story lines going on, yet they all come together in the end in a very satisfying conclusion. I had mixed feelings at first on the addition of a new character, Miles' 9 year old daughter Melanie, (must admit my feelings about kids lean towards Raine's LOL), but I came to just love her, and enjoyed how she became Raine's "partner in crime". Look forward to reading more about her and her new pup Peppermint in the future. I also got several chuckles from the Aussies' Christmas decorating. Raine has an absolutely delightful critter crew and I hope there are many more books to come in this series!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Buried in a Book

After losing her job as a journalist at the age of forty-five, Lila Wilkins accepts an internship at A Novel Idea, a thriving literary agency in North Carolina. Being paid to read seems perfect to Lila, although it's difficult with the cast of quirky co-workers and piles of query letters. But when a penniless aspiring author drops dead in the agency's waiting room-and Lila discovers a series of threatening letters-she's determined to find out who wrote him off.

I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this book from the author, the first in the new A Novel Idea Mystery Series. Lila is a terrific character who lands a dream job (in my opinion) at a literary agency. Her co-workers are a quirky, fun crew I look forward to meeting again in future books. I was completely stumped as to the identity of the killer, making it even more enjoyable. The entire time I was reading this book I couldn't help but think what a wonderful job being a literary agent would be...getting to read fantastic new stories before anyone else, being the one to discover fresh new voices. Reading for a living sounds like the job for me!

Mark down February 7,2012 on your'll be sure to want to pick this one up!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Christmas Homecoming

Among the brilliant array of Anne Perry’s New York Times bestselling novels, her Christmas stories occupy perhaps the warmest spot in the hearts of readers. Each one is a masterpiece of suspense; each is alight with the true holiday spirit.

A Christmas Homecoming, a familiar face from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels—Charlotte’s mother, Caroline—travels with her young husband, Joshua Fielding, and his theatrical troupe to Whitby, the Yorkshire fishing village where Dracula the vampire first touched English soil in the sensational novel named after him. Joshua has arranged to produce a stage adaptation of Dracula by the daughter of Whitby millionaire Charles Netheridge during the Christmas holiday, but after the disastrous first read-through of her amateurish script, only the fact that the company is depending on Netheridge’s financial backing for their spring tour keeps them at work.

As tempers flare and wind and snow swirl around Netheridge’s lonely hilltop mansion, a black-cloaked stranger emerges from the storm—an eerily opportune arrival, for this enigmatic figure, one Anton Ballin, turns out to be a theatrical genius. At the same time, a brooding evil makes itself felt. Instead of the theatrical triumph that Netheridge desired for his daughter, there is murder—shocking and terrifying.

Anne Perry’s ninth Christmas novel keeps us poised on a razor’s edge of suspense, hypnotized by a story in which the heartwarming power of goodness is challenged by the seductive power of inner darkness. In the end,
A Christmas Homecoming lifts the spirit and rejoices the heart.

No holiday season is complete for me without a Christmas novel from Anne Perry. This is the 9th in the series and I have devoured each and every one of them. I'd have to say this is one of my favorites, not only because it's set around a play production of Dracula, one of my favorite books ever, but also because it's a "locked house" mystery. All of the characters are stranded at a mansion in Yorkshire in the midst of a snow storm, with no way in and no way out, and a killer is among them. Do yourself a favor and pick up an Anne Perry Christmas novel this Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wild Lilly

When Connecticut socialite Lilly Brooks inherits land in Caldwell, Kansas, she finally has the chance to break free from the gilded cage of Victorian society and chase after her dreams of excitement and romance in the Wild West. Excitement arrives with angry Indians, smelly dogs, and drunken cowboys who won't take no for an answer. Romance comes in the form of a ruggedly handsome rancher named Paul McGregor. Too bad he calls her a whore within the first minute of their acquaintance.

Paul has spent the last three years trying to hold his family and ranch together after the death of his parents. When he saves a stunning blonde, who he thinks is a soiled dove, he tries to do the right thing and get her work at a good saloon. He soon discovers the woman whose favors he would love to buy owns land key to his family's financial future. Paul decides to use his best weapon to win Lilly over and get her property: seduction.

A wicked cattle baron wants Lilly’s land as well and threatens to kill anyone who stands up to him. Paul must decide what he needs more, the land or the beautiful and courageous, wild Lilly.

It's books like this that remind me why I love the western historical genre so much. This one has everything the genre is famous for: sexy cowboys, dancehall girls, soiled doves, Indians, bad guys (some aren't as bad as they initially appear), land deals, train robberies...every page is action packed!

I love Lilly...fearless girl from the east who can't wait to begin her wild west adventure. I must say Paul got on my nerves at times they way he deceived her. I can't read to read Estrella's story...will she get her happily ever after? And what about Eunice...what will her new life bring? And will Lady Catherine and Sleeping Bear act on their forbidden love? So many rich characters that I can't wait for book #2 in the Willow Creek series!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Schooling Miss Burke

A letter from home shatters politician Caleb Jamison's world, returning him to his empty family home and cattle ranch.

Hettie Burke's life takes a life-altering turn when she becomes the parent of her twin niece and nephew. Looking for work, she stumbles upon a covey of soiled doves on vacation and learns sometimes fate takes precedence over best-laid plans.

According to the author's blog, the inspiration for this story came from reading about how the "city" prostitutes of the west would go on "vacation" during the summer to the mountains where it was cooler and the sheep herders and cowboys were hanging around caring for their livestock. A subsequent trip to Happy Meadow in SE Oregon and the rest is history. Love reading stories about how authors get their story ideas!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Desperate Housedogs

When Caro Lamont, former psychologist turned pet therapist makes a house call to help a client with his dogs, she expects frantic dogs, she expects a frantic dog owner, she even expects frantic neighbors.  What Caro doesn’t expect is that two hours later her client is dead and she is knee deep in murder doo doo. Now with a killer on the loose, her best friend, Diana, in jail, and the police suspicious of her motives, Caro is chasing her tail, sniffing out a killer, and hoping the killer doesn’t find her first.

Lighthearted first entry in Sparkle Abbey's Pampered Pets mystery series set in ritzy Laguna Beach. I enjoyed how the dogs were used not only to sense trouble coming, but also as part of the motive and solving of the murder. Looking forward to further adventures with Caro and cousin Mel.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goodnight iPad

Modern life is abuzz. There are huge LCD WiFi HD TVs and Facebook requests and thumbs tapping texts and new viral clips of cats doing flips. Wouldn't it be nice to say goodnight to all that? Like the rest of us who cannot resist just a few more scrolls and clicks, you may find yourself ready for bed while still clinging to your electronics long after dark. This book, which is made of paper, is a reminder for the child in all of us to power down at the end of the day. This hilarious parody not only pokes loving fun at the bygone quiet of the original classic, but also at our modern plugged-in lives. It will make you laugh, and it will also help you put yourself and your machines to sleep. Don't worry, though. Your gadgets will be waiting for you, fully charged, in the morning.

This is the *cutest* little book for people like me who can't stand to turn their toys off at night!!! Love the pictures of all the darling little animals playing with their gadgets! My favorite is the bookshelf holding 3 Nooks with 10,000 books, while paperbacks are in the trash can. And the precious cat with his mechanical mouse hiding when Mom is tossing all the gadgets out the window :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wicked Woman

There are some things a man can’t walk away from. Nathan Bender is on a quest for vengeance. What he finds is sexy saloon-dolly O’Dell Murphy. She holds the information he needs—and becomes a temptation he can’t resist.O’Dell longs for a respectable life outside the saloon. When the man Nathan is searching for steals O’Dell’s savings, she has no choice but to go after him.Torn between passion and revenge, Nathan reluctantly accompanies O’Dell through the Sonoran Desert. There are some things a man can’t walk away from—and Nathan is finding it’s not revenge that binds him. It’s O’Dell, and the wicked, sinful pleasure she provides.

This is a fantastic western historical that made me feel like I was smack dab in the middle of the Wild West. There's romance, intense passion, humor, tons of action. Nathan is a to die for hero, O'Dell is a fearless heroine. Together they create more heat than the desert they travel through to find the outlaw they both despise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blog from Catherine Gayle


Thank you, Melissa, for inviting me to guest blog!

I write interconnected stories all the time. My novels are series, where characters from one pop in on another from time to time…sometimes more than others. I wrote a series of short stories, Wanton Wives, in which all of the individual stories combined to tell a greater, overall story. There are even characters from my novels who’ve shown up in the short stories, and who have moved from one series to another.

Needless to say, the idea of writing a story involving numerous other characters who had their own stories did not intimidate me.

But when a few of my critique partners approached me with the idea of taking part in an anthology, where all of the characters belonged to the same greater family, I got a little nervous.

For two reasons, actually. The first nerve-inducing thing was that they wanted me to write a novella. I’d never successfully written a novella before. Short stories, yes. But anything longer than that tends to turn into a full-length novel in my hands. I didn’t know if I could keep the idea small enough to write a shorter story that still felt complete. The second reason was that I tend to write the characters that I write, and they interact with the other characters in my head, but I’d never had them interact with another writer’s characters. What if I screwed it up?

Writing this anthology, for all of us, turned into an incredible experiment. We sent emails back and forth constantly. “Would your character be available on X day at Y time for me to use them in Z capacity?” “Um, sorry, but my character would NEVER say, ‘Balderdash.’” “Has anyone given J character a hair color yet? If not, I’m saying it is red.”

Some worked very closely together, as their characters were siblings (or even twins!), and so they had to all know the history of the others. Others took a branch of the family tree and kept to themselves, so as not to have to deal with too many spare characters popping in and out of their stories.

I think we all would say, however, that it was both a positive experience and, at times, a trying experience.

So, what do we have to show for it? The Regency Christmas Anthology, twelve novellas in four collections. The powerful Duke of Danby has ordered all of his wayward grandchildren to return to Danby Castle for Christmas. You’ll have to read them to see what takes place.

Have you ever done something you were intimidated to do? How did it turn out? If you leave a comment and include your email address with it, you’ll be entered in a huge drawing for prizes, including books, gift cards, and even a Kindle. More info at

My novella, An Unintended Journey, is in the third collection: A Summons From the Castle.

What once was lost…
Abby Goddard’s life is going along just swimmingly, apart from the disappearance of her life’s love—Wesley Cavendish, a man well above her station. Just before Christmas, Grandmama dies after revealing the identity of Abby’s grandfather. The Duke of Danby, no less. Now the entire family will travel to Yorkshire to confront Danby, hoping to gain a dowry for Abby. But then Wesley reemerges, sparking a hope Abby thought long destroyed.
Now is found…
Shall the prodigal son’s sole inheritance be an unsightly gash? Wesley Cavendish aspires to the political realm, despite his father’s near-murderous opposition…not to mention his opposition to Abby Goddard. But since Father died, will the new Earl of Fordingham rescind Father’s disgraceful allegations? Fordingham thwarts Wesley at every turn, threatening marriage to a prominent Tory family—which precludes Abby—to put an end to Wesley’s Whig involvement…unless Wesley can find a loophole.
You can buy A Summons From the Castle at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Look for the other collections at those same websites, as well: A Summons From Yorkshire, A Summons From the Duke, and A Summons From His Grace.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Diva Haunts the House

Domestic diva Sophie Winston is getting into the Halloween spirit- her decorations for a community haunted house are so good, it's scary. Not to be outdone, rival domestic diva Natasha is throwing a spooktacular Halloween party at her house. But when Sophie arrives, she discovers one of Natasha's guests dead in a Halloween display, and a pale, fanged partygoer fleeing the scene.
Could the killer be a real vampire-the same one rumored to have lived in Sophie's haunted house back when it was a boardinghouse? Good thing a domestic diva never runs out of garlic.

One of my favorite cozy series, set this time during the Halloween season. I love the decorating tips, and would love to visit the haunted house that Sophie and her friends put together. I enjoyed the backstory of the boardinghouse that was used to create the haunted house, and the ending with the bat is very cool. And the mystery completely stumped me. The only problem I had with the book is way too many characters made it quite confusing and distracting at times. I'd go completely crazy if I had as many people in my house all the time as Sophie's obvious I'm no domestic diva LOL