Charity’s Heart by Sophia Diana Gabel

Charity’s Heart by Sophia Diana Gabel
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (214 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Charity Llewellyn, 19, looks forward to her wedding, but upon learning that her intended groom is Mathias Baptiste, the immoral son of a wealthy banker, she runs away from home to avoid the betrothal. Angry at her attempt, her father appoints a handsome and mysterious man, Alexander Sutton, as her constant chaperone.

Furious, Charity plots an escape with help from her friend Lillian, although that leads to involvement in an unsolved 20-year old murder and a shallow burial of human bones. As she tries to unravel the secrets of the old murder, she meets a frightening man who could be Jack the Ripper.

But that’s not her only obstacle. As she and Alexander grow closer, she learns a dark secret he’s been keeping and when Mathias finds them together, he’s overcome with rage and will stop at nothing to get her back, not even murder.

Suspense and mystery added to the pot, gives this story a darker tone than some may be accustomed to in a historical romance. Personally, I like this combination of romantic suspense and historical romance which is a nice change of pace.

Charity’s father has kept her under virtual lock and key until the day arrives when she should be married. When she discovers who her father has chosen for her, a brutal man named Mathias Baptiste, Charity begins to take charge of her life in order to save herself, not only from a loveless marriage, but from being abused for the rest of her life.

Charity’s attempts to avoid marriage introduced her to Mr. Alexander Sutton, a man who has been hired by her father as a temporary bodyguard, his sole purpose being to make sure Charity arrives at the party where her betrothal is to be announced. However, Alexander is outed as the son of a former law officer, who now stands accused of murder.

For those who know me and follow my reviews online, you know that I have come to detest fluffy period novels with no substance, and an incredibly inaccurate portrayal of women’s hardships in this era of time, mainly by sugarcoating them. However, in this instance, the author got a little heavy handed with the cruelty to women. Every man in this book was mean, cruel and nasty, even Alexander, Charity’s love interest was cold, harsh, and mostly apathetic to Charity’s situation, (or ran hot and cold towards her) and not all that sexy or romantic much of the time.

The women is the story are not much better, with Charity starting off being “too stupid to live”, her best friend being very obtuse at times, although she does redeem herself somewhat, and Charity’s mother is just plain useless, making all the women in the book appear naïve, tepid, or silly.

However…. Charity does progress and grow quite nicely as the story moves along. She is still stuck in her situation and is left with little or no recourse, but to flee, if she can. I liked seeing her break out of her shell and take charge of her life, at least as much as she was able.

The mystery is a secondary plot line and eventually connects to people Charity is closely associated with. Initially, I found the set up with Alexander’s absentee father being accused of murder and leaving his son alone to take the heat and suffer a tarnished reputation, a bit odd. The evidence was circumstantial but very overwhelming. So, we cheer Alexander on as he tries to uncover the truth, with some help from Charity and her friend, although unwittingly.
The murder plot was a tad transparent in some places as you will most likely be able to ascertain who is involved, but there are still a few surprises and twist along the way.

The mystery part of the story is what kept me from sinking into utter frustration with some of the characters and events in the book. I stuck with it mainly to see the mystery solved and to see how Charity would manage to wrangle herself out the arranged marriage to Mathias. I was beginning to wonder if she would be free of this horrible man and if Alexander would simply stand by and watch it happen.

But, in the end Charity made me proud and I was glad to see she was happy, even it I did wish she had been able to experience more sigh worthy romantic elements. Overall, the story has some flaws, and it wasn’t exactly one I would gush over or highly recommend, but I found it enjoyable enough that I read it all the way through. So, if you like your historical novels with a slight edge, with a bit of mystery and suspense, you might want to give this one try.

The House by Lara Parker

The House by Lara Parker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Hauntings in the Garden

Unexpectedly, Leslie Harrison inherits a sprawling horse farm in Florida from a distant relative. She packs up her life and relocates to the Sunshine State with no idea what awaits her. Upon her arrival, she meets the farm manager, Preston McClay and, to her chagrin, he isn’t happy to see her. Quickly the cantankerous, but rather good looking, farm manager becomes the least of her worries when things start to go bump in the night. Will the sinister activity in the house chase Leslie away, or will she prevail in the struggle between good and evil?

This is a good old fashioned haunted house story written by the actress best known for her role as Angelique on the wildly popular Dark Shadows serial in the early 1970’s.

When Leslie inherits a house from her Aunt Victoria, she was stunned. Even more so when she sees the estate. This is a new beginning for Leslie and she is ready to get started. Things get off to a rocky start when a horse handler named Preston takes an instant dislike to her . But, that’s nothing compared to the reaction the house has to Leslie. However, Leslie refuses to give up on her new life without a fight.

This story would be the perfect tale to share around the campfire or on Halloween. Classic haunted house elements like footsteps, doors that won’t open, and cold spots abound, but this is not the usual benign spirit, this is an evil entity and Leslie will need help to rid her home of it.. if she survives. Thankfully, Preston gets over his initial impressions of Leslie and the two find they are a good team.

If you like a classic haunted house tale with chills and thrills and a mild romantic element, then this is the book for you!

The Journey by Susan Downham

The Journey by Susan Downham
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Everyone has secrets, including Katie. These secrets gnaw at her insides and leave her raw and exposed. Katie makes the physical and emotional journey home to Mt. Isa, Australia to attend the funeral of Alistair whom she shared her childhood with, and who she once believed was her first true love.It is this journey when the secrets are revealed that forces Katie to remember Alistair and the secrets they shared. But as she admits her past to herself she risks losing everyone. Is she strong enough to deal with the truth of her own life and hold on to everyone she truly loves?

This book is absolutely absorbing. I had no idea what to expect and was totally surprised by the depth of emotions the story evoked in me.

Katie and Alistair grew up together in tiny Mt. Isa, Australia. Alistair was Katie’s first love , the man she knew she would be with forever, the big grand love of her life. But, obviously things did not turn out like she had envisioned, since we know from the start she is married to a man named Ricky and has three young children.  Out of the blue an old friend calls and informs Katie that Alistair has died.

Taking this news incredibly hard, Katie decides the time has finally come to return home to Mt. Isa to pay her final respects and maybe exorcise a few demons as well. Traveling alone by train, Katie begins to reflect upon her relationship with Alistair. Through flashbacks we are taken back to when Katie is a child and how even then she was drawn to Alistair. We travel back and forth to different moments in their relationship, the ups and downs and the shocking turn of events that ultimately separates them forever.

Katie has immortalized Alistair as we are often tempted to do with our first love. We never forget it, right? That all consuming passion that borders on obsession, the knowledge deep down in our souls that this is the one, there will never be another feeling like this.

But, as the story progresses we begin to see flaws in the relationship. Katie is just a young girl, impressionable and naïve, while Alistair is several years older. It is obvious he holds Katie in the palm of his hand and he knows it, but it doesn’t matter what he does, her faith in their love for each other is unwavering, all the way up until something so horrible transpires that Katie loses Alistair, her parents and the entire community of Mt. Isa, cast her out. Yet, even then, she has a very hard time shaking off her feelings for Alistair.

But, now with Alistair’s death–a man Katie referred to as “God”–those pastel memories in Katie’s mind begin to change to a much darker shade and a slow, but horrible dawning in Katie begins to emerge and all that has gone before takes on an new hue, one that will eventually lead Katie to a stunning, gut wrenching realization.

I was stunned by this book and the double standards Katie lived with, the judgment heaped onto her while the golden boy, Alistair walks away with his reputation unscathed. I found myself burning with anger, appalled, and shocked as the story reveals more and more of Katie’s life in Mt. Isa, and the situation that lead to her becoming a pariah.

The return home and all those potent memories coming to the surface shakes Katie to the core and the scales fall from her eyes as a result. Now, finally Katie is able to realize what really happened with Alistair and his almost Svengali like power over her. and this gives her the freedom to start all over with a fresh start. This is not only a liberation for Katie, but for Ricky too. He is a great guy who stood far too long the giant shadow of Alistair. This is an incredible and cleansing journey, an apt title for sure. Very well done.

While You Were Writing by Virginia Nelson

While You Were Writing by Virginia Nelson
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (128 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Only one way to tame Crankenstein’s monster. Heart-to-heart combat.

Watkin’s Pond, Book 2

Bestselling author and infamous town hermit Radcliffe McQueen knows what he likes, what he doesn’t, and refuses to pretend social niceties. Particularly with a red-hot mess of a woman who’s taken it upon herself to smooth his rough edges.

She thinks she can change him? Bring it. He’s more than willing to teach her the wisdom of doing things his way. Besides, it’ll distract him from the horror of facing a blank page.

Stodgy. Stubborn. Sanctimonious. Sheri Riddle can think of a long list of adjectives to describe her newest project. An artist by trade, a personality renovator by calling, she’s sure she can transform the blockheaded author into a reasonably personable human being.

Yet as they lock horns, each scrapes away layers of the other until something happens that’s quite outside of Sheri’s plans. Something that’ll take more than one taste of passion to satisfy…

What a fun and quirky short romance story!

Short, saucy and offbeat, While You Were Writing centers around Radcliffe McQueen, a male romance novelist and Sheri Riddle, an artist in town visiting her brother.

Radcliffe is a mess, and I mean truly in a bad way. He doesn’t take care of his appearance, his house could be featured on an episode of “Hoarders” and he has writer’s block to top things off. Sheri has decided the man needs her help, after all that’s what she does besides being an artist. She takes on “projects” , people who are going through a hard time and sets them back on a productive tract. But, she never dreamed Radcliffe would turn HER into HIS project and the two of them would wind falling in love despite the odds against such a thing.

The only very small issue I had with the book, is one I often have with shorter stories, and that is, some areas are not fleshed out enough. In this case, I wish some of Radcliffe’s issues had been addressed further, maybe with more insight into his depression and other problems , which he was susceptible to, to begin with. I felt we got a bigger look at Sheri’s problems, which of the two, were easier to address, but Radcliffe’s issues were deep and serious, thus needing more air time.

I laughed, cried, and cheered for this odd ball couple who each had a cross to bear in life. Radcliffe really does have some mental instabilities working against him. Think Jack Nicholson in “As Good As If Gets” , in someways. While he is not the warmest person in world, and he can certainly say and do things that are not nice, Sheri puts a mirror in front of his face and he begins to see himself through her eyes and he doesn’t care for that image at all. But, by the same token, Sheri is carrying around her own baggage and Radcliffe, in his blunt way, opens her eyes as well, causing her to do some very serious soul searching of her own.

Some serious mental health issues are addressed here and the message is simple, pure and sweet. We are all flawed in one way or another. Some people have noticeable flaws, others have hidden flaws they are in denial of, some issues are long term and require more work to live with, but with love and patience relationships can grow, prosper, and yield wonderful rewards. While this couple is not your typical H/h, they are more charming because of it. This was a very nice, enjoyable romance.

The Maid’s Secret by Jane Whitney Clark

The Maid’s Secret by Jane Whitney Clark
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Historical
Length: Short Story (149 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Twelve years ago, Jameson Parish spent a summer at her best friend Dancie Duvall’s estate of Blue Chimneys. At first, it was all Jameson hoped for, including a passionate romance with Callen Marsh, the local bachelor that every woman seemed to have in her sights.

When Dancie died in a suspicious fall off a footbridge, Callen was suddenly nowhere to be found, and Jameson left for college amid rumors linking her to Dancie’s death. Now she returns to Blue Chimneys, hoping to clear her name and put her lingering feelings for Callen to rest.

Callen, handsomer, wealthier, and more seductive than ever, falls in love with Jameson all over again. But, hungry to rekindle what they once had, he hides one devastating truth.

Soon, sparks fly between them, igniting old passions and lighting the fuse that will send long-buried secrets and lies raining down like fireworks on them all.

The tone and atmosphere of this novel sucked me right into the story from the very beginning, all the way to the end.

Twelve years after the tragic death of her good friend, Dancie, Jameson returns to Blue Chimney Estate for a dedication ceremony honoring her friend. She had left under a cloud of suspicion and although she remembered finding her friend’s body, she has no memory of what lead up to her death. Although most everyone agrees Jameson should never have come back, it is important she clear her name once and for all.

Being back at Blue Chimney after all this time and seeing all her old friends, and a former lover, has Jameson experiencing flashbacks about the night her friend died. Slowly she begins to piece together what actually happened that night, revealing an incredible, shocking revelation that will knock Jameson’s world off its axis forcing her to face truths she has buried for twelve long years. But, someone will work very hard to make sure Jameson doesn’t live long enough to reveal the truth.

Jameson’s initial discomfort sets the stage for a tense and edgy suspense novel that kept me riveted. The tension builds at an agonizing pace, as long buried secrets slowly begin to reveal themselves.

The only flaw in the story was that Jameson seemed to walk into a few too many convenient eavesdropping opportunities where she was able to obtain information she felt might be relevant to the crime or even information about Callen, her old lover.

I found the flashbacks to be more effective and described very vividly, just like a person would really feel if a painful, long buried memory kept trying to resurface. As desperately as Jameson wanted the truth , she was also scared and worried about what she might remember, and the flashbacks often left her confused and disoriented. Despite her fears, Jameson was determined to face her past and I admired her courage and tenacity.

Every person seemed like a viable suspect and I could never settle on one person, try as I might. So, I admit, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and wound up reading this in one afternoon.

I love old secrets and buried memories and love affairs being rekindled against the backdrop of a small community. I also love cold case mysteries and the satisfaction of knowing justice will finally be served. If you like romantic suspense that uses a psychological edge to build suspense you will really like this one. Well done.

A Princess by Christmas by Jennifer Faye

A Princess by Christmas by Jennifer Faye
Publisher: Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary, Holiday
Pages: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

A royal kiss under the mistletoe

Prince Alexandro Castanovo arrives in snowy New York intent on protecting his royal family from scandal. And when Reese Harding—down-to-earth and heart-stoppingly beautiful—finds room for him at her inn, it seems like the perfect twist of fate.

Not long ago Reese’s world came crumbling down, shaking her foundations. But this enigmatic stranger intrigues her! She’s learned to be wary of secrets…but when she discovers Alex’s true identity, might there be enough magic in the air to make this regular American girl a princess by Christmas…?

This story is a modern day fairy tale romance with a holiday backdrop which makes the romance that much sweeter.

Reese is a strong young woman who has survived some pretty big emotional wallops in her life. She doesn’t trust men, with good reason. As the story opens, Reese is struggling to keep the old mansion she has set up as a B&B afloat after her father left Reese and her mother in deep debt. Reese has had to give up her dreams in order to keep her business running and take care of her emotionally fragile mother.

When a handsome man with a sexy accept shows up at the house claiming he has a reservation, it’s immediately apparent there has been some kind of mistake. Arrangements are made for this mysterious, and rather persistent man despite having no available rooms for him.

Alex is a prince who has traveled to America in hopes of drawing attention from the media away from this brother and his latest scandal which could put his country’s regime in peril. He never dreamed he would meet the woman who would cause him to question his staunch adherence to duty and obligation.

The story was just a bit uneven at the beginning and was oddly disjointed which disrupted the flow. It was just little slow moving at first and the set up took up a little too much time. But, once the story reached the half way mark all those little kinks had been smoothed out and I found myself really involved in the plot.

Alex was so nice and sweet and so open with his feelings but, he was also bogged down by the rules of his family and country and their expectations. I thought it was kind of ironic that his wayward brother would teach Alex a thing or two about love and life. Reese would have to work hard to open herself up like Alex. Her guard was up at all times, but Alex was simply too irresistible…the ultimate prince charming. Who doesn’t love this fairytale like story where the poor girl who has given up her dreams to face life’s harsh realities winds up becoming a princess when she meets the love of her life? This is sigh worthy every.single.time. The poignancy of the holiday season was very difficult for Reese, so it was only fitting that she would find true love and all her hopes and wishes would come true at Christmas. This is a very sweet holiday themed romance and I really enjoyed reading it.

Deadly Influence by Lynde Lakes

Deadly Influence by Lynde Lakes
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (170 pages)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Laced with romantic intrigue, Air Force Intelligence Lieutenant Jay Corning, and his grandmother’s bodyguard, Lisa Dixon, struggle to keep their attraction for each other in check while they work together to uncover the evil soul trying to kill the strong-willed matriarch.

Danger closes in from the dark corners of the small community, stirring fears and steamy emotions. The heat rises at the Corning Estate, drawing Lisa and Jay closer, while a mysterious force threatens to drive them apart.

This is a very twisty story full of greedy, selfish characters, a cool grandmother, a hot military guy and a strong leading lady.

When Lisa’s career as a police officer didn’t work out, she goes into the private sector. She is now a bodyguard for an elderly woman someone wants dead. But, who? Why? Lisa begins to care for Meta just like she was her own grandmother. Meta’s two grandsons are another matter entirely. Dealing with Bud is a pain but when Meta’s other grandson, Jay arrives, Lisa finds him even more infuriating, and not only that, too attractive and not as easy to blow off as Bud.

Jay returns home from his military duties to see what has been going on with his grandmother after he is informed there has been an attempt on her life. He is very uneasy and angry to learn that the nurse, Lisa, has ensconced herself firmly into Meta’s life, and has even been included in his grandmother’s will. But when another attempt is made on Meta’s life, Jay gets an up close and personal introduction to the real Lisa…and a gold digger she is not.

Although there were some areas in the plot that were transparent in regards to the whodunit part of the story, there were still twist that took me by surprise. The action and shoot outs make up for any predictability. While the story was equal parts suspense and romance, Jay and Lisa’s saga was the best part for me. I couldn’t believe what was happening with them and wanted to somehow reach into the book and punch a certain master manipulator in the mouth. Grrrrr!!

What I liked the most about the story was the subtle message about our own individuality. Jay and Lisa had to come to the realization that they were nothing like their parents and didn’t need to worry about carrying their parent’s undesirable traits themselves.

This book was a quick and entertaining read and I would recommend to romantic suspense fans.

Dark Prince by Eve Silver

Dark Prince by Eve Silver
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Innkeeper’s daughter Jane Heatherington is sold into indentured servitude to cover her father’s debts, sold to Aidan Warrick, a man whose handsome face and form mock the rumors that skulk in his shadow, rumors that paint him a smuggler, a pirate…and worse.

On the rainswept Cornish coast, Aidan’s business is carried out in the darkest hours of moonless nights, his secrets are many, and death follows in his wake. Isolated and alone, Jane’s only companion is the man she dare not trust, the man who looks at her with heated desire that she both fears and craves.

As she finds herself ensnared in the twisted schemes carried out within the walls of Aidan’s looming estate, Jane must decide if Aidan Warrick is the dark prince of her dreams or a monster preying on the innocent…

Dark Prince harkens back to the days when dark Gothic mystery and romance were all the rage. I have read a few more modern novels which attempted to capture that dark, brooding atmosphere, but they usually come up short.

Today’s readers might not “get” this type of novel having missed out on the glory days of this genre. If the word Gothic is mentioned to modern readers the first image that comes to mind is usually something to do with vampires or a novel somehow dealing with a supernatural tone. That is not necessarily the case. This Gothic style novel falls more on the Jane Eyre side of Gothic romance, only quite a bit darker. It is my sincere hope that younger, and more modern readers will approach this type of historical romance with an open mind, without preconceived notions, and will appreciate it as much as I do.

Before I go into my take on the story, I feel I must point out this book does have some typographical errors. There are only a handful, but it does need to be corrected, in my opinion, before asking someone to pay for the book. That is my only complaint about the book and it has no bearing on the story itself, but I did reduce the star rating because of this issue.

Jane is a young lady, handicapped with a bad leg, in dire circumstances due to her father’s mishandling of funds. He owes a great deal of money and when the man he owes comes to collect, Jane winds up being the bargaining chip.

Aidan is a very handsome man, but he is dangerous, dark, sinister and quite handy with a knife. He now has Jane as his bond servant, the price that was paid him by Jane’s father. While Jane is expecting Aidan to behave toward her in a cruel manner, he surprises her by doing just the opposite.

Aidan is almost an anti-hero as he makes his living by being a smuggler or pirate. He is hard and angry, filled with bitterness against Jane’s father, but is very protective of Jane, always treating her fairly, and admitting she has taken him by surprise. He has lived his life for this moment, the moment when he will finally have his revenge on the man who wronged him many years ago. Jane was to be a tool he used as part of that revenge. Will Jane have an impact on his plans for vengeance?

Hardly the noble hero many are used to reading about in romance novels, Aidan is still a character I felt compassion for, especially after realizing his painful past. I saw he was dangerous but I also knew I could trust him with Jane. When love enters his life, his priorities shift, making it difficult to justify his plans for vengeance. In the meanwhile, Jane, who has never known a way of life other than the one with her father, begins to slowly realize the kind of man her father really is. There are quite a few twist of irony in this story. Aidan falling for the daughter of the man he most reviles and Jane being the one to lift him out of the dark turmoil that has plagued him for years. Also, Jane’s realization she is in love with her captor, the man who owns her legally, the man she should hate, but can’t. So, this may not be the type of love story many are accustomed to but, it is truly a wonderful story about being lifted from so much pain and grief, letting go of one’s anger and hatred, choosing love over revenge and coming away with a new life, one filled with joy and peace. While most of the novel is very dark in nature, the darkness gradually lifts as love gains more power and we watch Aidan and Jane stand in a bright clear dawn.

This novel did manage to capture the essence and nuance of the Gothic style mystery and romances of old, adding in a more sensual touch. Perhaps one day this genre will see a revival of sorts. So, if you are looking for something a little off the beaten path, say something totally different from the over saturation of regency tales we are overrun with currently, something that has a darker tone, a mystery, suspense, and an unconventional love story, this one is worth giving checking out.

Death Rub by Ashantay Peters

Death Rub by Ashantay Peters
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press Inc
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (244 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Class reunions can be murder – even after finding the perfect dress.

Struggling massage therapist Maggie Jenkins only worries about rent, ducking her fifteen-year high school class reunion and whether she’s too old for her new boyfriend. Until she finds her client dead with no one else in the building. And all clues point to Maggie.

Construction supervisor Cam Darrow knows the seven-year difference between him and Maggie means nothing when love is at work. Convincing her to believe in him isn’t easy when her first love returns to town, evidently set on winning Maggie back. Not to mention the increasing stack of evidence against Maggie makes Cam worry she’ll be permanently out of his reach – in prison.

When another of Maggie’s classmates dies, it’s apparent the Class of 1999 produced more than graduates. Will the murderer add Maggie to the growing roster of death?

This book is just the right kind of romantic mystery that would be perfect to curl up with a cold winter night or a lazy weekend afternoon.

Maggie has worked hard to build a life for herself as a massage therapist. She has a devoted boyfriend, even if the seven year gap in their ages has her concerned. She has all but forgotten the pain and betrayals from high school which are all in the past now. But, with Maggie’s high school reunion fast approaching, she is reminded of all those rivalries, and the backstabbing and teenage angst. It was a time in her life she would rather forget, but someone from her class is harboring more than just a little resentment. When a murder takes place, it looks like one of Maggie’s old classmate could be responsible, but it’s Maggie who becomes the primary suspect.

With people coming into town to attend the reunion, Maggie meets up with her old high school boyfriend, Travis, who claims he wants a second chance with her. But, her old nemesis from high school, the one who stole Travis away from her, is still hell bent on destroying anything that Maggie has.  When it becomes clear Maggie may be arrested for murder she and her friends do a little sleuthing on their own, which gets them some unwanted attention.

I agree that high school angst and the old pains we suffered can stick with us for years to come, no matter how silly that is. However, murder usually isn’t a part of the equation. In this case it is and I loved how Maggie and her friends became partners to solve the crime.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and found Maggie a character I could relate to. She’s a little sassy and sarcastic at times, but is a good person with the same frailties all us are prone to, making her a believable and real character. The secondary characters are her friends Ginger and Katie. Each one of them adds their own quirkiness and humor and are super supportive of each other.

I am always a sucker for the amateur sleuth type mysteries. This book is a whodunit in the cozy mystery vain with a romantic suspense blend. There is no graphic violence, just a light mystery with great characters and a plot that kept me guessing all the way to the end.

Wayzata by Ted Korsmo

Wayzata by Ted Korsmo
Publisher: John Edward Korsmo
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Full Length (178 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

A detective. A Millionaire. A Millionaire’s wife. A mistress.

Hijinks and tragedy ensue.

Set in the late 1930’s, our yarn is set in the rural, resort suburb of Minneapolis. Detective Carroll LaRue has quit his badge, picked up stakes and put a haunted past in Hollywood behind him — after all, his fellow officers on the LAPD kept mistaking him for a perp. LaRue exchanges the hilltop lifestyle and orange groves for a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth existence in the blue-gray Midwest. Taking photos through windows, even if the people aren’t movie stars? It might not be sexy, but it’s a living.

“Wayzata” pays homage — hell, it outright steals — from the great writers of pulp fiction: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James V. Cain; an intricate, convoluted mystery story full of seedy characters and dialogue sharp enough that you just may have to read a sentence over once or twice to get it. Funny, tough, with short chapters built to be read in airports. And check it: when the movie comes out you can say, “Hey, I read that when it was a book.”

Sure you did, smart guy.

Many mystery fans has a love for the old detectives from the 1930’s and 40’s. This author is obviously a fan, a person that has a respect for the hardboiled detective, the pulps, and this novel is a like a homage to those by gone days.

Carroll LaRue finds himself a long way from the glitz of Los Angles, where he was in law enforcement. Wayzata , Minnesota is where LaRue hangs his hat and works as a private detective. He is hired by the wife of a millionaire to keep tabs on the woman she believes may be having an affair with her husband. This is oldest job there is for a detective, but LaRue finds himself embroiled in a mess of frame ups, cover ups, deceit, adultery, greed, and of course murder.

This novel is set in the late 1930’s when millionaires were not as commonplace as today. But, the mindset is still the same… everyone wants a piece of the pie, especially the ladies, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the money. LaRue gets sucked into their vortex as he tried to solve the mystery of what makes these people tick. There were some interesting twist, and some surprising double crosses.

A few things didn’t quite work for me. While it is obvious the author is attempting to mimic the works of someone like James M. Cain, and I believe this was done with his heart in the right place, this is a super ambitious undertaking, especially for a first novel, so it didn’t quite pull off the dark, sleek, edgy atmosphere it was trying to accomplish. At times it became more of a parody ,which I am sure is hard to avoid if you are purposely trying to emulate a specific genre or sub- genre. At this point I do want to add that I was under the impression the book was categorized under “ Noir” and for the record, noir is similar to hardboiled fiction, but protagonist is not a detective.

The other issue I had was a plot hole involving the divorce laws of the period. Some things had lightened up a little in the late 30’s, but it was still uncommon to divorce and it was big deal, I mean HUGE. This part of the story wasn’t all that plausible, not for present day, and certainly not in that time frame.

But plenty of the story did work for me. For a first novel I thought this book was very well organized and planned out. The dialogue was true to the period and didn’t lapse into using modern terms and phrases. The story was compelling and was an interesting look into the dark recesses of human nature. This author does have talent and it’s exciting to that. Despite the critiques I mentioned earlier I was truly impressed with the effort. I think a little professional editing and some research for authenticity is all this book needed to give it a nudge up the leader board. Hardboiled and pulp fiction is very hard to pull off. Too much one way or the other can make a mess of the whole thing, but this was an admirable job overall.

Overall, this is a good book and I do recommend it to lovers of historical mystery and detective novels. I enjoyed the book and appreciate the author’s ability to reprise a by gone era. I happened to love Noir, Pulps, and detective novels from the 30’s and 40’s. I have an extensive vintage paperback collection of books from this time era and I still enjoy reading them.