Anita Hughes: Christmas in Paris Thursday, Oct 6 2016 

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Auntie M wants to travel with Anita Hughes when she researches her books. With a penchant for combining wonderful settings in her previous books (Lake Como, Rome in Love, Santorini Sunsets, et al), Hughes makes those places spring alive with her mix of high-society settings and romance.

From time to time, Auntie M veers away from crime to give readers a chance to see what else is out there, and what else is a holiday treat Hughes is serving up this time in Christmas in Paris. Talk about Christmas in October! This one will be in the stockings of several of Auntie M’s friends for sheer delight. It is unabashedly a hearty romance with a fairy-tale bent, set in the City of Light, and while “La Ville Lumière” really refers to the City of Enlightenment, it’s also divine to be amongst this most romantic capitol at the holiday time.

Isabel Lawson may have the kind of brain that can compute calculus spreadsheets for fun, but the banking executive has a rocky road behind her in the romance department. She’s cancelled her wedding three days before the big winter event, and this is her second broken engagement. Her very tolerant Main Line Philadelphia parents, especially her mother, seem to understand Isabel gets numbers in a way she doesn’t distinguish between romantic love and true love.

In a gesture that shows he wasn’t a bad guy, her ex Neil has told Isabel to use their tickets and honeymoon stay at the Hotel de Crillon herself. Auntie M and Doc had a lovely evening at the Crillon on one of our own Paris trips, and Hughes’ descriptions of the elegant lobby and restaurant took her right back to that special evening. But then they’d returned to their tiny guest room with the bathroom on a different floor, while Isabel has an 800 square foot suite with heated marble floors all to herself.

One of Isabel’s first acts upon arriving is to check out the magnificent view from her balcony, filled with holiday lights and bustling shoppers. She’s convinced herself she’s made the right decision a week ago to cancel the wedding–and then realizes she’s freezing cold.

Only the balcony door has locked shut behind her. What’s a girl to do? She hurls one shoe after another (Ferragamo’s, of course) at the balcony door to the next suite. When the door finally opens and reveals a rather scruffy young man who promises to call Housekeeping to let Isabel into her suite, she soon finds out his fiancé left him for an Australian cricket player.

What happens next combines the best tour of French food and history, Paris museums and sights, and more of that haute-couture, as Isabel cements her friendship with Alec Braxton, a children’s book illustrator, even as she tries to find the the French aristocrat a fortune teller has told her she will marry. Somehow the originator of Gus the Cocker Spaniel books doesn’t seem to fit the bill.

Readers will be captivated by the way Isabel, wealthy in her own right, can spend money on pricey evening gowns in her quest to find her French count, while still enjoying all that Paris has to offer with Alec on a picnic. And Alec has his own ghosts, besides that of his broken engagement: French law means if he’s not married by a certain date, his mother will lose the home she loves. And that seems a certainty if his wicked stepsister has anything to say about it.

How it all works out is half the fun of getting to an ending that won’t surprise the reader but will delight them. The attention to detail is wonderful, and Auntie M can see many more trips to the romance that is Paris being booked.

Sharon Bolton: Daisy in Chains Tuesday, Oct 4 2016 

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Sharon Bolton’s Lacey Flint series and stand-alones have in common their ability to hold the reader’s attention while comprising riveting crime novels of suspense.

Daisy in Chains is Bolton at her finest, bringing an original plot to the mix in this twisty tale where each and every detail may have more than one meaning. It’s a masterful blend of sleight of hand and at the end, the reader will understand just how good a plotter and writer Bolton is–and clamor for her next outing.

We are introduced to Maggie Rose, the blue-haired writer and attorney whose specialty is reversing convictions for murderers. The books that come out of this have given her a nice house in the country, even while she shuns publicity and appears to be a loner.

Then she’s asked to investigate the case of good-looking doctor, Hamish Wolfe, in jail for three or four murders, depending on who’s counting. What the victims all have in common is their body style, larger women whose heaviness has often caused them issues.

While an undergrad in Oxford, Hamish had a relationship with a heavy woman. There is the suggestion he filmed himself and his lover having sex, but the video has vanished, as did his girlfriend.

The police seemed to think this was reason enough for his suspicion when the newer murders occur and each woman was heavyset, with their bodies found in caves Wolfe is familiar with. They are his “type.” Forensic evidence places one of the dead woman in his car. Game over.

Maggie agrees to see Wolfe but is cautioned by the detective who put him away, Pete Weston, that Wolfe is a dangerous, charismatic character. Stacks of letters from woman who have fallen for his charms from afar arrive at his prison at the Isle of Wight daily. A group of misfits headed by his mother have formed a group to try to get his conviction overturned.

Maggie isn’t certain at all that she wants this particular case, but finds herself drawn in. And then someone breaks into her house and leaves a strange message: He love me.

Weston seems attracted to Maggie, a nice subplot as he’s going through a divorce and the man his own wife has left him for just happens to be his boss.

There’s a lot here and close readers will still be surprised at the twisted ending. Bolton successfully explores issues of body image as the tension heats up quickly and stays there. Life in prison, body image issues and bullies, murder and mystery: it’s all here in letters and emails exchanged between various participants; and in the wonderful scenes between the well-drawn characters. Highly recommended.

Joyce Tremel: Tangled Up in Brew Sunday, Oct 2 2016 

Please welcome Joyce Tremel, who will describe how she came to be writing cozy mysteries~

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If someone had told me even ten years ago that I’d be writing cozies, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Back then, I was the part-time secretary for my local police department. The book I was writing was more of a police procedural, and my main character was an ex-cop who taught martial arts.

It was definitely NOT a cozy in any way, shape, or form. It made sense to me to “write what you know.” I knew cops and I knew martial arts—I had a second degree blackbelt in Taekwondo.

Then in 2008, I was let go from that job and I wondered what to do next. Did I find another part-time job? Or should I take the opportunity to write full time and see what happened?

Fortunately we didn’t need the tiny bit of income I’d had so I chose the latter and started a new book. The new story featured a police secretary named Irma Jean. She was a bit of a smart aleck. I let myself write without putting a label of “procedural” or “cozy” or anything else on the book. I just wrote the story.

When it was finished I sent out queries and an agent liked it enough to work on revising it with me. She had me restructure the book and soon it was ready to submit to publishers.

Except . . . she dropped a bombshell on me. She was leaving to take her dream job with a publishing company. Eventually I found another agent who started submitting the book. Then she left agenting to go back to school, but the good news was another agent at the same agency took me on. Whew.

To make this long story a little shorter, In Spite of Murder ended up on the desk of an editor at Berkley. She liked the story but the book wasn’t cozy enough for their line. She liked my voice and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a cozy.

Well, YES.

I’d been reading a lot of cozies and I realized deep down that was what I wanted to write. That was the genre I had the voice for. I just had to figure out what my book would be about.

I didn’t do crafts. I did help hubby with some home improvement type things, but there were already cozies that covered that topic. I tried to think up unusual occupations, but it seemed like most had been done. It finally dawned on me ( I may have been drinking a beer at the time) that there were no cozies with a craft brew theme.

Max O’Hara, my protagonist, would be a female brewmaster and I’d set it in my hometown of Pittsburgh. She’d have five older brothers and her dad would be a homicide detective. Her romantic interest would be her childhood crush—the best friend of one of her brothers.

I wrote a proposal for what I was calling the Brewing Trouble Series. The proposal included a synopsis of the first book, To Brew Or Not To Brew, plus ideas for following books. I sent the proposal along with the first three chapters to my agent. The rest, as they say, is history.

And now I’m launching the second book in the series, Tangled Up in Brew. I really hope yinz guys (as we say in Pittsburgh) will give Max O’Hara and her friends a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail.

Her flash fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. Her debut novel, TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW (December 2015) was nominated for a 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award for best amateur sleuth by RT Book Reviews. The second book in the series TANGLED UP IN BREW (October 2016) has been chosen as a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews. The third book, A ROOM WITH A BREW, is tentatively scheduled for release in October 2017.

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