A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang


A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

The author takes us back in time to the days of moneyed people having more stature than the poor and women being possessions of men. It’s also the time of the Spanish Flu and the war with the Germans. Besides worrying about friends and family being called to duty, Allene has more to worry about. She’s engaged to marry a man she doesn’t love and her friends from the past have been banished from the house. She doesn’t understand why her father hates them so but she has to follow his rules while living in his house.

The reader learns about wartime rules, how the poor survived, and how bleak some of their lives were. It’s realistic but not too in depth about the flu, which is a blessing. When Allene reconnects with her friends, she’s happy to be reunited. When people in their lives begin dying, she starts to get worried. They are not dying from natural causes, they are being poisoned!

This is a tantalizing mystery that gives the reader enough details to ferret out the killer but she always holds back the final clue. The killer is a surprise. The reason why makes sense. And the survivors have to recover and move on.

This world in the past is one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Who wants a man telling you what to wear, what to think, and your whole goal in life is to make him happy? Even if you inherit money, if you marry, it all becomes his. It’s no wonder people in this day and age did desperate things. The ending is a bit sad but it’s appropriate. Justice does prevail.

Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton


Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full length (310 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Meredith Talbot has a secret. In fact, she has nine secrets – her own and those of the eight orphans at Seaton House, a home for children. Each of them has a special talent that if exposed would get them labeled as witches. It is her responsibility to protect the children and their secrets and keep them safe from persecution. Marauding Indians force them into a nearby fort where their safety is threatened by fanatical townspeople and a captivating army officer who try to unmask the children’s extraordinary abilities.

Lieutenant Preston Booth has one goal – to serve and protect his country. The military is the only life he has ever known. It’s the only life he wants. When a child is abducted and Preston goes after the culprit, Meredith has a vision of what will happen to him.

Does she risk everything by exposing her gift? Or keep her secret and risk losing him forever?

Meredith has visions. She can’t control them and she needs to be next to a deep rooted tree to bring them to life, but she can see the future. When she tells her parents her stepbrother is going to be killed by their bull, no one believes her. When it comes true, her father bans her from the house. She has nowhere to go. She finally travels cross country to her aunt’s orphanage. She can help run that.

All the children in orphanage have special powers, so they spend time inside learning to control them and they are sworn to silence about such things when in public. All is going well until the Indian threat comes close to them and they must join the others in the fort.

This story is set during the time Indians were being relocated to reservations. The author describes life at that time and the hardships everyone faced. If hiding abilities isn’t hard enough, they have to eat at the mess hall. While there, one woman gets in Meredith’s face and tells her she can’t be friends with the lady she invited to sit with them. One of the girls tells the woman secrets from her past and they suddenly called witches!

There’s danger, lots of action, Meredith finds herself falling in love with a soldier, and the ending is exciting. The story flows well and it’s a joy to read. When a boy goes missing towards the end of the story, you find yourself worrying about him just as much as Meredith. It’s also fun to watch the soldier who didn’t like children come under their spell. This was a very good read.

Bandit’s Bride by Gail MacMillan


Bandit’s Bride by Gail MacMillan
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full length (284 pages)
Heat Rating: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Is Louisa Abbott a witch? The villagers, who saw her burn the ship where her doctor husband’s body lay with others who had died of an unnamed illness, believe so. Even worse, she communicates with animals. No one, other than her Native friends, is interested in her healing abilities, so she lives alone, companioned by a wolf who owes his survival to her. Brodie MacMillan is a Highland bandit with the New Brunswick law hot on his trail, despite the injustice of the accusation against him. When he arrives at Louisa’s remote cabin desperately wounded and nearly frozen stiff, her magic might save his life, but how can he rescue her from the wrath of the villagers and then from the vengeful woman who is out to make him pay for past deeds?

He’s in the tavern having a beer when his nephew comes in and tells him he needs to come with him right now, there’s a witch outside. He asks if she’s green with a big wart on her nose and he gets told no. When he sees her, all he can do is stare. She’s a beautiful female picking up stores at the market next door. He hears them taunt her and offers to help carry her goods out. She lets him and thanks him and he’s smitten.

This author not only paints a picture of a beautiful land, she takes you back to the time period and makes you believe you’re living there with them. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance and you feel their disappointments and sorrow as one woman plans to bring his family down.

He’s the bandit. He and his friend he calls his brother fought in Scotland. They’re in America now and they have left the bandit life in the past but actions of the past come back to haunt them. He makes the mistake of trying to help a woman who’s laying in the snow and has lost her horse and then she drugs him and accuses him of rape. His brother arranges his escape but he gets shot. He thinks he’ll die in the snow but he finds the witch’s house…

With a mix of Indians, pirates, rebels and more, the story is exciting and full of action. There isn’t a dull moment in this book. The woman after him is dangerous and wicked and the final confrontation is an all-out war with some sad consequences. It’s a happy ending, though. Love wins.

Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford


Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (259 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Mike Latta can’t forgive himself for the death of his daughter. It was a freak accident, but fathers should protect little girls from the bad things that can hurt them. He didn’t, and a descent into divorce and the bottle has gotten rid of every happy ending he ever hoped for.

A year of solitude on an island in northern Hollow Lake, away from the booze and the reminders of grief, may be the last chance he has. There’s more than peace and quiet on the lake though, because the ghosts of a long-ago murder haunt Echo Island. If Mike can’t figure out what the ghosts want from him, it may cost another little girl her life.

This story begins with a young boy setting his mother’s bed on fire and killing her. It’s easy to tell this read has a wicked character in it. He’s a bit like a chameleon and doesn’t show his true colors often.

A recently divorced male comes to town ready to settle on an abandoned island. His daughter died and it tore his marriage apart. His wife gave him the island and he plans to try to get himself together there. The only problem is that the island has ghosts. And the ghosts follow him…

Murder surfaces several times in this story. If you have a man who has no guilt, no conscience and a volatile temper that’s a very bad combination.

Mike tries to avoid the ghosts. He doesn’t recognize them as such when he first sees them but when he gets accused of acting wildly and talking to himself by his pickup, he realizes nobody else sees them. They pester him. And one day he finally understands why.

The story moves right along and has lots of action. The killer is someone easy to hate. He also has lived in the community long enough everyone believes his side of the story. That makes it hard when a ghost has told you how they got that way. Who believes in ghosts? And how do you solve a ten year old murder?

The ending was a bit abrupt and seemed a bit false but sometimes life is strange. Nobody that evil should have survived so long…

Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton


Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (254 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Claire Conover is back in the sequel to Little Lamb Lost. She has taken a 13-year-old girl into custody after she is found sleeping behind a grocery store. The girl’s murdered mother is found at a construction site owned by a family friend, then the girl disappears. Her mother worked in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham. Things only get more complicated from there. Is it possible the girl pulled the trigger? She doesn’t have a lot of street smarts, so where could she have run? Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.

She works for the county child welfare division. It’s the beginning of a new school year and she knows her workload will pick up. Teachers see a lot more than they should on the line. They report injuries and she must intercede and get the child help. She gets a phone call about a young girl found sleeping in a box outside. The girl won’t tell them anything…

The first thing Claire does is try to get the girl to talk. All she gets is a name. She is lucky that the home she wants to place her in has an opening. This lady is sincere and helps the children get off to better start in life. The only problem is that as soon as she’s been fed and cleaned up, the girl skips. Then they find out her mother is dead. Did the girl kill her?

The social worker keeps trying to trace her. She meets a lot of volatile people, visits homes she wouldn’t want to live in, finds abuse in other places, and she keeps closing in on the girl. However, will she get there before the killer does?

This is a hard look at family dynamics and expectations. Children experiment, children rebel and children defy. Not all parents react the same way. Some hurt their children in their frustration. That’s inexcusable but it happens. You can tell the author has worked in social work because she’s very honest and believable as you read the story. It flows well and she keeps your mind going trying to figure out what happened before the end.

The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts


The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (234 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A dead man on a Ferris wheel and a cold-case murder take Cavendish Brown into a world of carnival exotics, ghosts, and killers.

The annual carnival comes to Maiden Falls, a small town in the West Virginia Mountains, but everything is not merry.

The ghost of a woman appears to Cavendish Brown, a carnival worker lies dead aboard a car on the Ferris wheel, and a bullied teenager plots to kill people at the carnival with a homemade bomb. More complications arise. Cavendish again butts heads with the local sheriff, Clinton Pike.

Marbella Wellingway, owner of the newspaper where Cavendish works, receives a visit from the Angel of Death. And a Fortune Teller at the carnival knows something that could forever change Cavendish’s life.

With the aid of Jane, a disturbed psychic, and Alexandra, a Goth witch, he must find the killer, help the mystery woman, and risk his life to prevent more deaths.

Cavendish gets awakened at night by a woman who asks him to help her. She’s a ghost. He sees her die and since he can’t touch her or talk to her, he’s not sure how he could solve her mystery. He also doesn’t speak of it. Everyone around him seems to have powers but he thinks this is just a dream…

Nobody is actually what they show the public world. In this case, the women have witchly powers. Cavendish has some, too, but he doesn’t know it. He was adopted and knows nothing about his real parents.

He works with Alex, who comes and drags him out of his house and takes him to the carnival. He sees a ghost again while he’s there but he tells Alex he needed to relieve himself. And when the Ferris wheel come down to the ground, there’s a dead man in the seat…

With the sheriff arresting the wrong man, the discovery of a body from years ago, and a father who misses his daughter and wants to avenge her, there’s a lot of clues and a lot of misdirection.

This author makes you believe all these powers are real and how people use them is both amazing and amusing. He also throws in a budding romance between Alex and Cavendish.

With a fortune teller who keeps trying to get Cavendish to visit her, Alex’s mother seeing the Angel of Death and knowing someone in her family is going die, a family curse, blackmail and murder, there’s plenty to keep your attention.

The story flows well, has several subplots, and it entertains well. This was a very good read.

Jeopardy in July by Barbara Venkataraman


Jeopardy in July by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (220 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Old people were dying at an alarming rate at La Vida Boca, a posh assisted living facility in Boca Raton, Florida. With its sterling reputation, dedicated staff, and top-notch medical care, none of the deaths are considered suspicious, but when members of the poker club start to die under strange circumstances, attorney Jamie Quinn finds herself once again embroiled in a mystery. With help from her new friend, Jessie Sandler, and her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie uncovers a crime that took place forty years earlier. Can she stop the killer in time? Or is she in danger of becoming the next victim?

Jamie has a new client. They are in a nursing home and have been married for years but now they are getting divorced and he wants her to divide their assets. She wonders what brought it on but goes to meet with them anyway. She certainly didn’t expect to meet EMT’s and a stretcher on the way out on her way in but nursing homes are familiar with death. Unfortunately, that was her client on his way out…

This is the second cozy mystery I’ve read by this author and it’s even better than the first one. It turns out the wrong was done forty years ago and someone is trying to eliminate the others who know the truth.

Ms. Venkataraman makes her elderly characters as cantankerous and sarcastic as the old can be. They play cards together, flirt with each other and gossip like everything. They even have a book club group. Jamie is still a bit clueless but she’s learning along the way. Her friend, Duke, helps her on the cases.

Beyond a fake painting, murder at the nursing home, and the FBI visiting with her, she’s also a bit worried about her boyfriend. He was supposed to be returning home and now he’s got another assignment he wants to take. Does he really love her?

The story is busy, exciting, and has a surprise ending. This was a really good read for anyone that loves cozy mysteries. Parts will make you laugh and parts will scare you but you’ll keep reading.

Engaged in Danger by Barbara Venkataraman


Engaged in Danger by Barbara Venkataraman
Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery Book 4
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (226 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Finally, life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn–her father may get his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like crazy–but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything falls apart. What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy their friendship and tear their town apart. Why couldn’t Jamie just leave well enough alone?

Jamie’s life is good. Her father is getting a visa to come and visit, she loves her boyfriend, and the cases she’s getting are keeping spending money coming in. Then things all fall apart. Her boyfriend is going away on a job and will be gone for three months (THREE MONTHS?!?) and the new case she just took on is high profile and the man involved is dangerous like a shark. Not only that, she’s having a fight with her best female friend. How’s she going to resolve all this?

She starts doing research into the couple’s assets and she finds the wife knows nothing about them. He’s a lawyer but he doesn’t have an office or any jobs she can see. Where is all this money coming from?

The author has a talent for adding enough just enough odd facts to keep you interested and keep you reading to see where the story will go. Jamie is an independent woman who is afraid she may lose her boyfriend to the pretty young woman on the job and you can sympathize with her. She tends to assume things which can be dangerous in her business.

With Russians, money laundering, blackmail and more going around, there’s lots of pieces to pick up, tie together and then do something to fix it without getting hurt. It’s a good thing Jamie is a resilient person and bounces back.

This is a good cozy that romps through the lives of the characters and the case both. It’s just the right length and it has a surprise ending.

Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele


Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (338 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In 1836 John McGregor, a Scottish and Seminole half breed, kills a white man in Florida. The crime is worse when the man turns out to be an Army sergeant. Self-defense is no excuse. McGregor is angry––angry with God, the Maker and Taker of Breath, angry with the red man as well as the white. Among the Indians, this rage earns him the name, One-Who-Gives-No-Chance.

The hardened outcast hides among hundreds of Creek Indians being forcibly removed to Indian Territory. No-Chance ignores the human misery until a scream awakens a hidden memory. He risks exposure of his secret and intercedes for an injured woman in labor. The birth of the infant begins the redemption of John McGregor as he seeks to escape past demons and, despite the hardships, make a place for himself in Indian Territory.

John McGregor is half Scotch and half Seminole Indian. He looks mostly Indian but his blue eyes give him away. He got in a fight with a white man in Florida and killed him. It was self-defense but he’s a half breed and the white man was an Army sergeant. They’re after him. He joins Indians that are being taken to a different reservation and keeps his head down.

This book is factually accurate and covers a very painful time in the history of the US. The Indians were driven from the land they grew up in. They were promised goods and meat by the Army but it never came to be. Ms. Steele bases her story on the Indians themselves and while it’s a sad tale, it’s told well and makes you think of all their suffering.

Things start to go wrong when he notices a young pregnant woman who can barely walk. He tries to give her aid but when she falls, the soldiers are ready to whip her to get her to move again. He stops that and it takes the Indian Scout to save him from trouble. They leave the woman behind and assign John (No Chance) to get her up with the group later. Her husband remains behind also. The woman goes into labor, the men have no idea what to do, and while the baby lives, the mother dies. They bury her and join the Indians again.

Despite all the hardships and loss of hope, No Chance doesn’t give up. Trying to hide among the Indians is not so easy to do. They won’t give him away but they won’t stop the soldiers either.

The story reads well and keeps your interest. As you get into the spirit of the Indians, you can relate to their fear of the white man. No Chance has visits from his dead father. He needs his guidance. It’s all believable as you read it. No Chance ends up with a chance at the end of the book.

If you’re familiar with Indian history, this is a visit to the past with memorable characters. If you’re not, this story will be enlightening. Give it a try; it’s an excellent read.

Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon


Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (194 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

With the Tasty Tomato Tournament just days away, the small town of Martha’s Point is all abuzz. This is the first year without a sure winner, and the competition is fierce to gain the judges’ approval, even before the tournament starts.

But when Ivy finds one of those judges dead in a shed across the street, things go from bad to worse. All she wanted was seven glorious, kid-free days of messing around with her husband. Instead, she’s going to be tracking down a killer, staying out of the way of a pickle-obsessed farmer, and dodging the new cop who seems out for her blood.

The Tasty Tomato Tournament is just a few days away and Ivy is very glad. Someone is destroying other contestant’s tomatoes and her husband has brought all his in the house in pots. He’s also brought in his gnomes. He says those make his tomatoes grow well. Maybe so, but they aren’t going to be in her house…

While she’s helping carry them back outside, her next door neighbor calls to her. She thinks she’s her husband and wants him to help her. When Ivy says he’s in the shower, she takes Ivy over to show her the problem. What she didn’t mention was that the problem was a dead body.

This is a cozy mystery that flows well, has plenty of action, romance between Ivy and her husband who are trying to vacation since their children are away for a week, cliques of town folk, tomato judges and more. The dead man was a tomato judge. It seems he got stung by wasps but there were no wasps around. He wasn’t all that stellar of a judge either. Then there’s the pickle man who’s handing out flyers and trying to get support for his festival.

With lots of suspects and bad behavior all around, you can’t guess who the killer is ahead of time. The rookie cop would like to blame in on Ivy and her husband. They spend a lot of time fending him off during their investigation. It makes for some amusing reading and a few laughs.

This was an overall good read and Ivy now has her own private investigator license. Life is going to get even more exciting in the future!