Chick Lit Cafe’s Book of the Month: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

murder-and-moonshine-a-mystery-416948-3d2bd95f279b0f78a91eI must confess, I totally bought this book based on its cover. It looks like a Sookie Stackhouse story—sans the bad boys with pointy fangs. I just love mysteries set in the rural South, so when I saw this gorgeous cover on the new release shelf at BookPeople, it was a done deal. Was it worth the hardback price? Keep on reading my review to find out!

The mystery begins one fateful morning at the H & P Diner, a greasy spoon known for Daisy’s prize-winning pastries. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies where all the local yokels stop and stare at any strange interloper who walks through the door.  Daisy’s busy going about her morning routine when an old hermit, Hank Dickerson, staggers up to the counter, mutters the word “burger” and drops dead.

Soon, people start talking about death-by-poison, and the possibility of H&P closing down for good. This doesn’t bode well for Daisy, who has been left penniless after her no-good husband skipped town. She depends on her meager paycheck to pay for her ailing mother’s medical bills and hopes to save up enough money to open her own bakery. But without a steady job, how will she ever scrape by? Little did she know, that was the least of her problems.

Things go from bad to worse when she makes connections between her boss, Hank Fitz, and the dead man. Still grieving over her father’s tragic death at her former family homestead, she’s unwilling to believe that a longtime friend could be capable of cold-blooded murder. Why would he have any reason to poison the town recluse?

Hank’s stories aren’t adding up, but Daisy just can’t find a motive. The local bad boys, however, certainly seem capable of murder. Somehow, the tobacco-chewing Balsam brothers managed to buy her family property, acres upon acres of valuable rolling green hills and cornfields. According to local gossip, they’ve been doing some dirty dealings with some city folk. There sure seems to be a lot of interest in her childhood stomping grounds, and somehow old man Dickerson got in the way of their money-making schemes.

The plot thickens when a handsome stranger from the city walks into the H&P. When Daisy finds out that he’s an ATF agent, she immediately regrets flirting with him over a hot plate of peach cobbler. You see, she has some bad history with the ATF and refuses to have anything to do with a member of a federal agency that ripped her family apart.

But as the mystery intensifies, she reluctantly enlists his help in hunting down clues, which all seem to lead straight to her old family homestead. How did the Balsam brothers manage to buy such an expensive piece of land? And why would a dying man order a burger in his final moments on earth? You’re going to have to read the book to find out!

Aside from the murder mystery, Daisy sure has a lot to figure out. She’s got a sexy bad boy on one side and an irresistibly handsome federal agent on the other. They’re both hers for the taking, but she’s too mixed up with bad memories to make a move. Plus she’s got to look after an invalid mother and a zany, gun-toting aunt. To say that she has a lot on her blue plate special is an understatement!

What I love about Daisy is that she puts family first and is willing to stop at nothing to clear her beloved boss’ name. I was rooting for her every step of the way. Hopefully we’ll get to see her open up a bakery in the next book. As for the love triangle, the jury’s still out on those guys. If she ends up with the Balsam brother, I hope he changes his redneck ways. I may live in Texas, but I’m sorry, there’s nothing sexy about a wisecracking good ol’ boy who whores around with the town tramps and makes unwanted advances toward hard-working waitresses. No thank you!

All in all, I must say that this is a mighty fine mystery that is sure to win over fans of authors like Jana Deleon, Cathy Pickens and Riley Adams. There’s romantic tension, small town mystique, and downhome Southern cooking. Who could ask for anything more?

The Friday Five: Veiled Revenge by Ellen Byerrum

In honor of my favorite day of the week, I bring you The Friday Five. Every Friday I will ask the same five questions to myself, or any other willing participant! All my fellow book lovers are welcome to join in on the fun.

15808443From the publisher: Washington, D.C., fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian has always believed clothes can be magical, but she’s never thought they can be cursed. Until now. Lacey’s best friend, Stella, is finally getting married, and at her bachelorette party, fellow bridesmaid—and fortune-teller—Marie Largesse arrives with a stunning Russian shawl. A shawl, Marie warns, that can either bless or curse the wearer. When a party crasher who mocks the shawl is found dead the next day, the other guests fear the curse has been unleashed. But Lacey has her doubts, and she must employ all her Extra-Fashionary Perception to capture a villain who has vowed that nobody at this wedding will live happily ever after…

Why did you choose this book? I recently watched a re-run of Killer Hair on the Lifetime channel and felt the urge to delve into another Lacey Smithsonian adventure. And really, how could I turn away from a mystery revolving around a cursed shawl? Plus Stella’s getting hitched, which means lots and lots of outrageous fashions and melodrama galore!

Where did the author go right? Or if it’s a turkey, what went wrong? Like going to my favorite hamburger joint in a city full of restaurants, I know without a doubt that any book by Ellen Byerrum is a surefire winner. It’s like she studied me and figured out how to blend all of my most favorite elements into a book series: Quirky gal pals, vintage fashions, a headstrong reporter sleuth, and just a dash of romance. As a journalist, I tend to be a little biased toward my fellow newshounds, which must be why I’m rather fond of Lacey. But there are many other reasons why she stands out among the many amateur sleuths on my bookshelves. She’s fiercely devoted to her friends, and she’s got this mysterious connection to her aunt Mimi. Although Mimi is long gone, she still gives comfort to Lacey through the treasure trove of vintage fashions she left behind in her trunk. Wouldn’t it be fun if the author wrote a spinoff about the enigmatic Aunt Mimi? Perhaps she was a fashionable amateur sleuth back in the 1940s!

Did anything bug you about the book? Ugh, yes! Stella’s sanctimonious new-agey mother totally bugged me. I almost threw my book against the wall when she threatened to torch Stella’s pretty princess wedding gown in a “cleansing ritual.” Oh and while I’m at it, I’m also really annoyed that the Lifetime channel didn’t continue on with the series. Go here to read more about my thoughts on the books vs. TV series.

Dear Lifetime Channel, please reinstate the Crimes of Fashion series. I miss these ladies!
Dear Lifetime Channel, please reinstate the Crimes of Fashion series. I miss these ladies!

Would you read another book by this author? Absolutely! I’ve been reading this series out of order, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

How would you sum up the book in three words? Hilarious, witty, suspenseful.

Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles

10328119I was flipping through my Romantic Times magazine and immediately honed in on a full-page ad displaying the colorful book covers for Anne Charles’ Deadwood mystery series. The purple cowgirl boots, the dilapidated haunted house, the rural South Dakota setting – it all looked pretty awesome to me! Lo and behold, I found it on my Nook for a darned good deal, and now I’m totally hooked in Violet Parker’s rip-roaring real estate adventures!

The mystery revolves around Violet, a single mom who’s struggling to keep her fledgling real estate gig afloat.  She’s desperate to make a sale, but her only prospect is a crumbling old house filled with wall-to-wall clown paraphernalia – yikes! And it doesn’t help that her only buyer, Doc, is constantly rejecting the historic homes. Why is he always sniffing around the rooms like a bloodhound? And what’s the deal with his mysterious day job? Of course, Violet’s only priority is to make a sale before her three week deadline is up, but she can’t help but to wonder about the enigmatic hottie. Not that it matters because her best friend is totally infatuated with Doc. Plus she’s dating Wolfgang, a wealthy jeweler who just inherited the creepy clown house, so the last thing she needs is another male distraction. Uh yeah, right!

Things get complicated when Violet discovers that little girls are vanishing from Deadwood. Fearing that her daughter might be the next face on the missing girls posters, Violet sets forth on a mission to find the kidnapper. Good thing she formed an accidental friendship with a gun-toting old codger named Harvey. He may be crusty on the outside, but underneath that grisly exterior, he’s a total softy. He’s kind of like a male version of the ubiquitous “zany grandma” characters that you see in Janet Evanovich books. But despite the cliché, the banter between Harvey and Violet is incredibly funny.  Between his inappropriate quips and her neuroticisms, they make an excellent team!

Speaking of fun secondary characters, Doc sure kept me guessing. Although he’s dating Violet’s best friend, he spends a lot of time protecting her from potential stalkers. And when he’s not at his mysterious job, he’s in the library pouring through books about Deadwood’s historic sites. Clearly he and Violet have some serious fireworks brewing, but there’s too much at stake if they act on their desires.

There’s so many questions that need to be answered – and I’m already starting to miss old Harvey and his potty mouth humor!  Even though this book is heavily steeped in romance, the author does a fine job keeping the focus on the mystery. I enjoyed watching Violet and her trusty sidekick confront possible suspects and piece together clues in creepy old houses. Plus there’s a scene toward the very end that gave me the willies.  Don’t be fooled by the light-hearted banter and silly antics, this book isn’t for the faint of heart!

I still have so many questions about Violet’s backstory – and what the heck is haunting the woods surrounding Harvey’s house. But, alas, I must knock off a couple more books on my to-read list before downloading another e-book. So many books, so little time!

Short & Sweet Sundays: Foal Play by Kathryn O’Sullivan

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too wordy.

16049609From the publisher: Colleen McCabe is enjoying an uneventful summer in North Carolina’s Outer Banks supervising her firefighters, making rounds with her Border collie, Sparky, and keeping an eye on the wild horses escaped from the local sanctuary. But when a dead body washes up on shore, she knows trouble has arrived in Corolla.

Colleen is ready to start work on the investigation, but much to her irritation, her best friend, Sheriff Bill Dorman, makes it clear he doesn’t want her butting her nose in or poking around. The stubborn Colleen, however, is not so easily deterred. When a man with a gun is spotted lurking around the lighthouse and her former school teacher’s house explodes, she adds arson and a second suspicious death to her informal investigation.  Colleen soon finds herself juggling her job, amorous advances from the town’s developer, and intrusions from the local press, all while keeping information from Bill. Her secret sleuthing quickly comes to an end, however, when a bigger threat enters the picture.

The biggest selling point: It’s a tossup between an eclectic cast of loveable characters and the gorgeous coastal setting. If I had to choose, I’d say the characters really stole the show.  Colleen embodies everything I love in a female protagonist. She’s fearless, strong-willed, witty – and an animal lover to boot. Plus she’s a firehouse chief, which is quite impressive all in itself! Her colorful sidekicks were all very amusing, especially the flirtatious real estate developer, Pinky Salvatore, who habitually summoned her to his bachelor pad with smoke signals.  But most of all – I enjoyed Colleen’s horse-herding border collie, Sparky.

What irked me: I can’t go into details because I’d give the whole thing away, so I’ll just say that a major component of the story requires a suspension of disbelief. To be honest, it didn’t really bother me because I was too busy zipping through the pages to find out whodunit!

This book is best paired with: A tequila sunrise and the Endless Summer soundtrack.

Overall assessment:  If you love animals, charming small-town settings and entertaining characters, this book’s for you. The mystery unfolds at a steady pace, and even the most seasoned mystery buffs are likely to be surprised by the ending.  All in all, this is one heck of a debut, and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment. Want to know more about this talented new author? Check out her Q&A on Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and More.

Hostile Makeover Book & Lifetime Movie Review

Washington DC has its share of problems – corrupt politicians, astronomical living expenses, congested roadways to name a few. On top of all that, it’s the town fashion forgot. It’s a place where helmet-haired women in boxy power suits run rampant. Men in noose-tight neckties and high-water trousers roam the streets. Heck – the whole town is a What Not to Wear Fest!

Thankfully, Lacey Smithsonian, a crime reporter-turned fashion columnist, is on the beat. Okay now don’t roll your eyes just yet! This isn’t your typical trash-talking E Entertainment commentator. As a matter of fact, she’s not even into labels (ick!) and couture fashion. Heck, she doesn’t even want to write a fashion column, but it was the only reporting gig she could get after moving from Colorado to DC. With a nose for hard news, she manages to find her way on the front page. You see, the fashion industry is cutthroat – literally!

In the third  installment of Ellen Byerrum’s fun and frothy Crime of Fashion series, Lacey must solve the murder of Amanda Manville, a former “ugly duckling” turned supermodel beauty. Thanks to a highly disturbing makeover TV show, she got the full works in plastic surgery, hair extensions and cosmetic dentistry.

Now a stark-raving diva from hell (picture Shannon Doherty meets Janice Dickenson), she’s got more enemies than Naomi Campbell. Since she kicked her sweet, homely boyfriend to the curb and jumped in bed with her hotshot plastic surgeon, she’s been scratched off of a lot of Christmas card lists. Plus she’s taking credit for her sister’s Snazzy Jane fashion designs, so not cool! Soon enough, she starts receiving notes about her impending death from a crazed fan. Sure, death threats seem to come with the territory of celebrity stardom, but these foreboding notes seem to have a personal touch.

Aware of Lacey’s reputation for solving crimes with fashion clues, Amanda demands her to ferret out the murderous fiend before it’s too late. Lacey begrudgingly looks into the case and finds a slew of possible suspects. Could it be the jealous sister, who’s having some trouble adjusting to Amanda’s stardom and her own fading looks? Or is it the stalker who’s determined to defame the girl who broke his best friend’s heart? What the heck happened to the ex-boyfriend anyway? Was Amanda involved in his disappearance? You’ll have to read the book to find out! You could also watch the movie, but there’s way too many holes in the mystery, so I recommend reading the book first.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Lifetime movie adaptations of the Crime of Fashion books. Yes, a lot of loose ends are left untied, and a bunch of quirky characters are left out of the mix. But I must say, Lifetime did a fine job with the cast. Here’s my little rundown of where Lifetime went right, and where they missed the mark.

The Cast

I don’t think they could’ve picked a better actress to play Lacey Smithsonian. Maggie Lawson fits the profile: Smart, sassy, guarded and ambitious.  She plays a believable investigative reporter, and her chemistry with Vic is great.

Speaking of Vic – wow! This actor really hit the mark. He’s the textbook definition of a tall, dark and handsome love interest. Plus he’s got some decent acting chops to boot!

The actress who plays Lacey’s mom is also a winner. She’s funny, sassy and little more stylish than her book counterpart. Despite its short length, the movie does a good job capturing her disapproval of Lacey’s DC lifestyle and fanatical obsession with feng shui. Her incessant nagging frustrates Lacey to no end, yet they still have some sweet mother-daughter moments.

As for the sister, I was picturing a blonde cheerleader type, not a gangly brunette. I’m not sure why they had to change up the sister in the series, but overall the actress does a good job portraying a sheltered ditz.

Tony Trujillo, Eye Street crime reporter and Lacey’s friendly rival, is way different in the TV series. I pictured more of an urban cowboy type, but Lifetime turned him into more of a metrosexual pretty boy. But you know what – I kind of like what they did with this smart ass character. He’s super cute and his quips are hilarious. Wouldn’t it be fun if his flirtations  with Lacey blossomed into something more?!?

Another TV character I really enjoy is Felicity Pickles, Eye Street Observer food editor, resident cookie baker, and copy-editing bitch from hell. In the book she’s a mousey, stringy haired frump. But in the series, she’s much more fashion forward with her Marilyn Monroe hairdo and red-hot stilettos. I wish they included her nerdy love interest, Harlan Weidmeyer. Known as the office jinx, he seems to be the cause of fluke accidents. It would have been fun to see how things developed between the accident-prone reporter and the office witch on the small screen.

The Besties

Here’s where the movie went right! I love how Lacey and her two best gal pals are one big happy family. In the books, however, Brooke (a pragmatic lawyer)  and Stella (a leather-clad hairstylist) aren’t fans of each other, so Lacey typically hangs out with them separately. But in the movies, I really enjoy their Ya Ya Sisterhood moments, like when they come to Lacey’s rescue after an attack, or when they just hang out and do silly girly girl stuff.

The Fashions

Lacey loves all things vintage. She drives a classic Z, wears 1940s frocks and loves old movies. On TV, she seems to wear more of a mix of vintage and contemporary styles. I’m not sure why they didn’t go all out with World War II era ensembles, but she looked cute nonetheless. What’s really missing is Aunt Mimi’s trunk! It’s really a shame they didn’t include this integral piece of the story. Filled with sewing patterns, old dresses and memorabilia, the trunk gives Lacey a sense of peace and calm during times of crisis. I’m hoping that at some point, Aunt Mimi will join Lacey as a ghostly sidekick!

OK Lifetime fans, what do you think? Did the movies do the books justice? Post a comment and share your thoughts! For more about the author, who just so happens to be a fashionable DC journalist, check out her Q&A.

Short & Sweet Sundays: Trouble in Mudbug by Jana Deleon

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist (from the publisher): Scientist Maryse Robicheaux thought that a lot of her problems had gone away with her mother-in-law’s death. The woman was rude, pushy, manipulative and used her considerable wealth to run herd over the entire town of Mudbug, Louisiana.

Unfortunately, death doesn’t slow down Helena one bit.

DEA Agent Luc LeJeune is wondering what his undercover assignment investigating the sexy scientist has gotten him into – especially as it seems someone wants her dead. Keeping his secrets while protecting Maryse proves to be easier than fighting his attraction for the brainy beauty.

Why I picked this book up: I love cozy mysteries, especially if they’re set in the South. Throw in a ghost, a psychic best friend and a smoking-hot mysterious man, and I’m sold! Plus the hot pink pickup truck on the cover really caught my eye.

What I liked: The quirky main character and her wise-cracking ghostly sidekick really stole the show. Maryse has a deep connection to her friends, her town and the Louisiana bayou. She’s also a science wiz and a hermit, which really sets her apart from most chick lit protagonists. What I really love about Maryse is her selfless passion for finding a cure for cancer. Sometimes I read books involving self-centered protagonists who are a little too wrapped up in their own melodrama. If the leading protagonist rubs me the wrong way, the book is going straight to the used bookstore bin. After the last dud I attempted to read, which I won’t even bother reviewing, this book was a breath of fresh air.

What irked me: The mystery is just a tad bit on the light side. It doesn’t take a Miss Marple to figure out whodunit early on in the story. But the well-developed characters, laugh-out-loud quips and smoking-hot sex scenes offset the soft mystery plot. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read, pick this one up.

The romance: Luc LeJeune is H-O-T! And wowza, I’ve got to hand it to the author, she sure knows how to write a scorching baby-making scene. Holy smokes – I was not expecting such a cute little cozy mystery to make me blush.  

Will I read another book by this author? Heck yes! She really left me hanging in the last chapter. I need to find out how Maryse’s psychic best friend, Sabine LaVeche, is going to overcome her medical crisis. She needs to find a blood relative – and fast! I’m also looking forward to more zany antics by Maryse’s ghostly mother-in-law. That prissy little old lady really cracks me up!  

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy titles by: Carolyn Haines, Carolyn Hart, Casey Daniels and Victoria Laurie.

Listen Up! Ellen Byerumm on Writing Strong Women Blog Talk Radio

Any mystery-loving fashionista worth her salt should know Ellen Byerrum’s Crimes of Fashion mysteries are just as exciting as a Kate Spade sample sale! Her crime-solving protagonist, Lacey Smithsonian, always finds herself entangled in a murder mystery while chasing down leads for stories about toe cleavage and the return of legwarmers. Even though she abhors pink (my signature color!), this girl has a knack for fashion and never hesitates to chase down murderous fiends – even in four-inch Jimmy Choos!

Want to know more about this fabulous vintage couture-clad protagonist? Well tune in to Sylvia Dickey Smith’s Writing Strong Women Blog Talk Radio Show this Monday at 1 p.m.  Who’s your favorite strong female character?

Historical Mystery Series Giveaway!

Love cozy mysteries set in Victorian England? Well look no further than Paula Paul’s new Dr. Alexandra Gladstone Series! Being the cozy mystery fanatic that I am, I happily jumped on the blog tour, hosted Amanda over at Chick Lit = The New Black. Check out these snippits about the first three books in the series!

Symptoms of Death (Book 1)

You can’t cure murder…

When the old country doctor of Newton-Upon-Sea passed away, he left his only daughter, Alexandra, with the secrets of his trade. Now, the village depends on its lady-doctor Gladstone for its births, deaths, and all the inconveniences in between.

Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is visiting the Lord of Dunsford, when he’s found murdered in his bed. Joined by Nancy, her maid, the London barrister, Nicholas Forsythe, and her faithful dog, Zack, she soon discovers that other nobles in Lord Dunsford’s circle of acquaintances have very good reasons to see him dead. The symptoms of death begin to multiply as they uncover a dangerous plot of revenge, hatred, and blackmail. And unfortunately for Alexandra, this rage could get her killed…

An Improper Death (Book 2)

Always Dress Well for Murder…

The small town of Newton-Upon-Sea is stunned by the death of a retired admiral of her Majesty’s Navy, and even more shocked at the state in which he is found. Everyone is ready to assume that he took a drunken fall from a cliff, except for Dr. Alexandra Gladstone. Along with Nancy, her maid, the London barrister, Nicholas Forsythe, and her faithful dog, Zack, she will battle local authorities, morticians, and the gossip of the town in order to learn the truth. And when she does, she just might find that the truth is worse than she could ever have imagined…


Half a Mind to Murder (Book 3)

Always Dress Well For Murder…

Murder is in the air in the small town of Newton-Upon-Sea. A mysterious illness is claiming the lives of men of a certain age, and where the illness fails, a sharp knife does not. Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is at a loss to determine what is causing the sickness, and the only survivor of the illness is soon found with his heart surgically removed. The panic-stricken townsfolk do not know who to trust, and Constable Snow is at a loss to find the killer, or protect innocents from the frightened, unruly mob.

Dr. Gladstone is sent to London by Snow to discover some answers that might help them catch the madman who is committing the murders. When she realizes the truth, she knows that she may already be too late to save those that she loves the most…

About the Author: Paula Paul has published 25 novels for both children and adults. Her popular historical mystery series featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is being re-released in both print and electronic format by Cool Well Press. New books in the series will be forthcoming, beginning with The Queen’s Crime, scheduled for release in January 2013.

Paula has written contemporary mysteries as well as historical and contemporary romance novels and literary novels. Her favorites are her historical and literary novels. She has won awards from Women Writing the West, New Mexico Book Association, the Zia Award, National Press Women Award for Fiction, Texas Institute of Letters Award, and a Texas Bluebonnet Award.

Growing up in Texas on a cotton farm and ranch that was 30 miles from the nearest town, she had plenty of time to develop a very severe reading addiction that eventually translated into crafting her own stories and books.

A former journalist, she is the recipient of several state and national awards for reporting and feature writing. She lives in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband. She has two grown children and six grandchildren who keep her life full and interesting. She also has an adorable if annoying Schnoodle (Poodle and Schnauzer mix) who makes certain she takes a break from writing and gets her three-mile walk everyday.

Enter the Giveaway!

Paula is giving away the first three books in the series! U.S. residents can pick from eBook or paperback copies but international winners will only receive eBooks.

To enter, post your answer to this question in a comment below: Who is your favorite amateur sleuth?  The winner’s name will be drawn at random.  Good Luck!

In My Mailbox

The weekend is here and I can’t decide which book to read first!!! Which one looks most enticing to you?

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme, hosted by the Story Siren, that allows book bloggers to show off all their newly acquired books!


Under Suspicion by Hannah Jayne

Synopsis: She’s the new head of the Underworld Detection Agency’s strangest division. What a nightmare…

Being a human immune to magic helped Sophie Lawson get promoted. It’s also made her a major, very reluctant player in a game that stretches beyond even the Underworld. Having handsome buttoned-down Englishman Will as her new guardian is one tempting blessing, especially since sexy fallen angel Alex is mysteriously MIA lately. But as a frightening number of demons start disappearing around the city, Sophie suspects that an Armageddon-level prophecy is about to become everyone’s nightmare. And her investigation is testing her bravery — and Will’s unexpected vulnerability — in ways neither could predict. Now Sophie and Will are fast running out of time as an unstoppable evil prepares to lay waste to demons and humans alike…

Idol Hands by Cynthia Hill

Synopsis: Tara can pinpoint the moment when everything in her life changed: it was when she fell in love with Aidan Forrest – who just happened to be a part of the biggest boy band in the world, Idol Hands. She spent two years as his “secret girlfriend,” hiding from the media to protect his career, until he broke up with her, breaking her heart, and leaving behind a secret that Tara has never shared. Fourteen years after their breakup, she’s in a bad marriage, and a dead-end job. When she sees a television documentary in which Aidan confesses that he still loves her, she makes a life-changing decision: she leaves her husband to go and find Aidan. With no real plan of attack it’s not going to be easy, but Tara knows that she can’t give up.


Vanity, Vengeance and a Weekend in Vegas by Kyra Davis

Synopsis: Sophie Katz, bestselling mystery writer and amateur sleuth, has just discovered that Anatoly, her sexy Russian P.I boyfriend of six years is actually married to the daughter of a Russian mafia boss. Devastated by his betrayal, Sophie banishes him from their beautiful San Francisco Victorian home.

Desperate to distract their friend and pull her out of her depression, Dena and Marcus spirit Sophie away to Vegas for a “fun filled weekend” at a Sex Toy Trade Show. But bigger trouble awaits in Vegas. Anatoly is there; his beautiful Russian wife is there; and so is a dead body stuffed into a closet. And to make matters worse someone has gone out of their way to implicate Sophie in the murder. Sophie’s completely over her head and when a mysterious man offers her help she’s tempted to take it. But who is he and whose side is he on? It’s also clear that whoever the bad guy is he would have no problem killing Anatoly, and although she may want to kill him herself, no one else is going to hurt Sophie’s man.

Trashy Chic by Cathy Lubenski

There’s no doubt investigative reporters make the best detectives. They’re nosey, they’re ballsy, and they’ll stop at nothing to chase down a lead. But sadly, in this digital age, the Woodwards and Bernsteins are falling to the wayside as more and more readers are turning to short online blurbs for their daily news.

Cathy Lubenski, a veteran reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, is all too familiar with the sad state of journalism. Her main character, Bertie Mallowan also happens to be a journalist for a Southern California daily, and is struggling to stay afloat in a rapidly shrinking industry.

Much like Lacey Smithsonian (the crackerjack fashion reporter in the Crimes of Fashions mysteries), Bertie has a passion for hard news, but she’s stuck writing fluff. But just when she couldn’t bear to write one more piece about overpriced home décor, she stumbles upon a mystery that could put her back on the front page.

It all begins when Bertie interviews Robert Bellingham, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar luxury items empire,  just days before his murder.  With inside information about Bellingham’s twisted family, she’s thrust into the middle of a big story.

Things get complicated when Bertie encounters a slew suspects with ample motives to knock off the king of unnecessary high-end crap. Who stood the most to gain from Bellingham’s death? Let’s take a look at some of our suspects:

Robert “R2” Bellingham II: A pudgy little man with serious anxiety and resentment issues. Did he knock off his own father to take control of the empire? Why was he hauling a big bag filled with hair into his father’s corporate office?

Gardener: Living up to his name, this suspicious character tends the Bellingham mansion’s gardens. With his smoldering good looks, he can have any woman he wants, even Bellingham Jr.’s trophy wife. What’s the story behind his anger management problem? And why were his shoes splattered with blood at the scene of the crime?

Lester Lomax: Gardener’s lawyer. After a scary encounter at a bar, Bertie finds out the hard way that this sleazeball is more than capable of cold-blooded murder. Did he help his client orchestrate the perfect crime? And is he the dark shadow lurking outside Bertie’s window at night?

Delia Bellingham: R2’s philandering trophy wife. This little tart has a twisted agenda for sleeping around with the mansion’s gardener. Did she railroad her boy-toy to get her hands on the family fortune?

Bella Bellingham: The black sheep of the Bellingham family. Shunned from the family mansion, she spends her days locked up in her shabby apartment cooking weird luxury-item concoctions. She seems obsessed with her inventions…perhaps a little too obsessed.  

Gigi Bellingham: Bellingham’s wife. Obsessed with money, Botox and social status, she’s used to living the good life. It’s no secret her husband would rather hop into bed with a bimbo du jour than have sex with his own wife.  But did his womanizing ways finally set her off on a murderous rampage?

The tightly-plotted mystery is great, but what I really love most about this book is the humor. There were some scenes that had me laughing out loud, like when Bertie hid a cricket in her editor’s office just to mess with her. I also enjoyed the part when her boss reprimanded her for making rude faces. To make him go away, she told him that the grimacing was a result of a chronic flatulence disorder – LOL! 

Overall, this is one fine mystery laced with humor, romance and fabulous characters. I instantly liked Bertie, probably because she’s obsessed with chocolate moon pies, hates her alarm clock, and makes terrible mistakes in the love department. I’m also a big fan of Bertie’s best friend, a former zookeeper who runs a high-class dog obedience school and kennel. Much like my own best friend, she won’t hesitate to come to Bertie’s rescue – even if it means putting herself in mortal danger.

This talented new author can really tell a story that gets you to know and love the characters. I will be watching and waiting for the next installment in this fabulous new series! Keep ‘em coming Cathy!