Murder with Clotted Cream

Murder with Clotted Cream
New Release from Karen Rose Smith

Dodge City

Dodge City
Dodge City by Tom Clavin

Friday, May 22, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Jane Steele by Lynday Faye - Feature and Review


Reader, I murdered him.

A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre.

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?



Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye is a 2016 G. P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

There are only a few times in my life when I’ve honestly felt as though an author sat down and penned a book just for me. This is one of those times…

While marketed as a ‘retelling’ of Jane Eyre, in truth, our protagonist, Jane Steele, sees a dark parallel between her life and that of Jane Eyre, and is inspired to write her own memoir, so technically it’s not really a ‘retelling’ in the way we commonly refer to it.

But, as a huge fan of classic Gothic stories, Jane Eyre, in particular, this book literally rocked my world!!

Right away I recognized the writing style. The languorous phrases and the slow, tantalizing pace, the deliciously dark characterizations, all of which drew me right into the familiar, well loved, adored, and cherished atmosphere of the Gothic novel.

Jane Steele is vulnerable, but also has criminal, murderous tendencies. However, she never does anything out of pure malice. She loves and cares for people deeply, but literally has no qualms about taking matters into her own hands, vigilante style, not once, but multiple times.

“Though I no longer presumed to have a conscience, I have never once lacked feelings.”

Jane Steele often compares her own circumstances to those of Jane Eyre, but points out various ways Eyre lacked the chops to do what needed doing and 'wasn’t all that great of a detective'.

Moments and insights like that had me looking at the classic novel in a whole new light, all while falling hopelessly in love with this darker version of events. It was almost as if Steele was trying to right some of the Eyre’s wrongs in her parallel universe, strengthening her weaknesses, and giving her a distorted boost of girl power.

The second half of the book is where things really get interesting, as Steele quite expertly works undercover, while trying to figure out all the burning mysteries of Highgate House. I loved all the overwrought drama as an obvious ode to Gothic hysteria, written with a wry, satirical tone that expressed a deep affection for the classic genre, despite the obvious exaggerations.

But, as always, once the suspense has been built, all the secrets are unveiled, and the mysteries solved, all of which are revealed with great flourish and embellishment, at the end of the day, it’s the love story that leaves me enthralled. Will Jane get her man? Will Charles still love her once he knows her dark history?

This book is a rousing tribute to Gothic classics, cleverly constructed, exposing the dark underbelly of Victorian days, chalk full of satire and dark humor. Jane Steele walked away with my heart in her pocket. This is one of those books that, as I regretfully turned the last page, I was tempted to start it all over again from the beginning. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this book!! It’s one of those stories that makes me want to hug the book hold it close to my heart, because it's stories like this one that reminds me of how I feel in love with reading and why.

“I hope that the epitaph of the human race when the world ends will be: here perished a species which loved to tell stories.”

This book now holds a treasured spot on my ‘favorite books of all time’ list. Five big fat stars!!



Lyndsay Faye moved to Manhattan in 2005 to audition for theatre work; she found her days more open when the powers that be elected to knock her day-job restaurant down with bulldozers. Her first novel Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson is a tribute to the aloof genius and his good-hearted friend whose exploits she has loved since childhood. Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret, and The Fatal Flame follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape. The first book of the trilogy was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel and has been published in 14 languages. Her lasting affection for Jane Eyre led her to re-imagine the heroine as a gutsy, heroic serial killer in Jane Steele.

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Lyndsay worked as a professional actress throughout the Bay Area for several years, nearly always in a corset, and if not a corset then at the very least heels and lined stockings. As her roles ranged from Scrooge's lost fiancée in A Christmas Carol to Lavinia DuPlessy in Andrew Lippa's world premiere of A Little Princess, whalebone prevented her from drawing a natural breath for a number of years. She is a soprano with a high pop belt, if it interests you. Her performances were generally reviewed well, with adjectives ranging from "soaring" and "delightful" to "sausage-curled." 

Lyndsay and her husband, artist Gabriel Lehner, live in Queens with their cats, Grendel and Prufrock. During the few hours a day Lyndsay isn't writing or editing, she is most often cooking, or sampling new kinds of microbrew, or thinking of ways to creatively mismatch her clothing. She is a very proud member of AEA, MWA, ASH, GWN, and BSI (Actor's Equity Association, Mystery Writers of America, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, Girls Write Now, and the Baker Street Irregulars, respectively).

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin- Feature and Review


Dodge City, Kansas, is a place of legend. The town that started as a small military site exploded with the coming of the railroad, cattle drives, eager miners, settlers, and various entrepreneurs passing through to populate the expanding West. Before long, Dodge City’s streets were lined with saloons and brothels and its populace was thick with gunmen, horse thieves, and desperadoes of every sort. By the 1870s, Dodge City was known as the most violent and turbulent town in the West.

Enter Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Young and largely self-trained men, the lawmen led the effort that established frontier justice and the rule of law in the American West, and did it in the wickedest place in the United States. When they moved on, Wyatt to Tombstone and Bat to Colorado, a tamed Dodge was left in the hands of Jim Masterson. But before long Wyatt and Bat, each having had a lawman brother killed, returned to that threatened western Kansas town to team up to restore order again in what became known as the Dodge City War before riding off into the sunset.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Clavin's Dodge City tells the true story of their friendship, romances, gunfights, and adventures, along with the remarkable cast of characters they encountered along the way (including Wild Bill Hickock, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, and Theodore Roosevelt) that has gone largely untold—lost in the haze of Hollywood films and western fiction, until now.



Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American WestDodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dodge City: Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin is a 2018 St. Martin’s Griffin publication.

This is an extremely interesting history of the time Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson spent in Dodge City, Kansas.

The landscape and atmosphere of the city, is very vividly drawn, and might be a bit different from the preconceived notions we have, based on westerns we’ve watched on television. The information provided here might also come as a surprise for many. Books, movies, and television have exaggerated and embellished the facts to the point where it is has become hard to separate fact from fiction.

Clavin did a great job of explaining how the legends were born, how these fantastical stories originated, then proceeded to break down the real, true story of Dodge City, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp. I found the reality to be just as fascinating as the overblown legends.

While I love history and historical fiction, excepting a handful of western historical romance novels, I occasionally indulge in, I have never been especially interested in reading a pure Western.

However, years ago, I lost a coin toss with my husband and had to watch ‘Tombstone’, the movie starring Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. While initially, I sat on the sofa sulking, because westerns were my least favorite kind of movie of all time, before long, I was completely caught up in the comedy and drama, as well as the incredible acting performances.

                                                                   WYATT EARP

A small seed was planted back then, which made me want to learn more about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. But I never acted on that curiosity because I just wasn’t quite ready to consider reading American Western history- fact or fiction, just yet.

However, that movie did help me better understand who many of the players were in this book and is also why the true story behind these infamous characters was so surprising to me. While I was somewhat familiar with Wyatt Earp’s background, I knew next to nothing about Bat Masterson, which made the portions of the book pertaining to him of greater interest.

                                                               BAT MASTERSON

The lives of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp did intersect on several occasions, and this book shows the true nature of their dealings with one another. I enjoyed reading about Dodge City as well. In recent years, the city of Tombstone, thanks in part, to the above- mentioned motion picture, has overshadowed Dodge City. However, the city was certainly… lively! The moral compass was not exactly pure to say the least, perhaps even shocking in some ways.

While history buffs may be well versed in this period in American history, even the most knowledgeable will discover some new information about the two men featured in this book, or about Dodge City and some of its inhabitants.

For someone like me, who has avoided anything that might be even remotely defined as a traditional or pure western for years, this book was very enlightening!!

Overall, this is a well organized book, quite interesting, and a much welcomed change of pace for me.



On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, nine men clashed in what would be known as the most famous shootout in American frontier history. Thirty bullets were exchanged in thirty seconds, killing three men and wounding three others.

The fight sprang forth from a tense, hot summer. Cattle rustlers had been terrorizing the back country of Mexico and selling the livestock they stole to corrupt ranchers. The Mexican government built forts along the border to try to thwart American outlaws, while Arizona citizens became increasingly agitated. Rustlers, who became known as the cow-boys, began to kill each other as well as innocent citizens. That October, tensions boiled over with Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne confronting the Tombstone marshal, Virgil Earp, and the suddenly deputized Wyatt and Morgan Earp and shotgun-toting Doc Holliday.



Tom Clavin is the author/coauthor of eleven books. His most recent is That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas.
His articles have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader's Digest, and others.
He was a contributing reporter for the New York Times for fifteen years.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Last Woman in The Forest by Diane Les Becquets - Feature and Review


From the national bestselling author of Breaking Wild, here is a riveting and powerful thriller about a woman whose greatest threat could be the man she loves.…

Marian Engström has found her true calling: working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. Her first assignment takes her to northern Alberta, where she falls in love with her mentor, the daring and brilliant Tate. After they’re separated from each other on another assignment, Marian is shattered to learn of Tate’s tragic death. Worse still is the aftermath in which Marian discovers disturbing inconsistencies about Tate’s life, and begins to wonder if the man she loved could have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women.

Hoping to clear Tate’s name, Marian reaches out to a retired forensic profiler who’s haunted by the open cases. But as Marian relives her relationship with Tate and circles ever closer to the truth, evil stalks her every move.…



The Last Woman in the ForestThe Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Woman in the Forest Diane Les Becquets is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A beautifully written, purely intellectual, psychological thriller!

Marian Engström works with rescue dogs to help protect endangered species. Stationed in Alberta, she falls in love with Tate, her mentor. However, her happiness is short-lived when Tate dies tragically.

Her grief soon turns to fear, as evidence surfaces that suggests Tate could be a serial killer. Torn between needing to know the truth and needing to believe Tate is the man she thought him to be, she seeks advice from retired Forensic Profiler, Nick Shepard.

Is it possible the man she loved was a murderer? Was Tate guilty?

 I found the book to be very suspenseful, just not in the traditional way most thrillers are designed. In many ways this plot device reminded me of ‘The Pilot’s Wife’, where after a significant other becomes a possible suspect, scenes from the past suddenly develop new connotations. Memories surface in which the clues one should have picked up on, are either explained away, ignored, or passed by unnoticed. It’s an effective approach, if done with careful planning and in moderation.

Marian is looking back over her relationship with Tate, seeing things through a different lens, that of hindsight. No, this is not an action- packed nail biter, with loads of plot twists. It’s more subtle, cerebral, and psychological. Marian and Nick are both analyzing Tate- but from different angles. Nick is experienced, clinical, and is not as emotionally invested in the findings the way Marian is.

Marian, however, is relying on her personal experiences with Tate, looking at possible alternate suspects, while questioning her own judgment.

Adding to the story is the atmosphere that the landscape and vivid scenery provide. It’s invigorating, but very dangerous, and makes the perfect backdrop for this story. I was able to put myself in this environment, which helped me experience things the ways Marian did.

It was quite unnerving, to be honest. I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes, thinking I had been close to such a cunning, cold blooded murderer, and might have narrowly escaped the same fate as Tate's alledged victims. I’d also want to find some evidence that my suspicions were wrong, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

As Nick’s insights penetrate, so do questions about Nick, his health, his past, and his ability to read Tate. His findings are interesting, and as Marian's awakening slowly mounts, so does the suspense.

While I was busy thinking and rethinking all the angles, a huge turn of events in the last few chapters of the book took me completely off guard!!!

Once I finished the book and my pulse returned to normal, I had one more surprise in store, via the author’s note at the end. Be sure to read that note because it explains some things in the book, once again causing one to reflect on things in hindsight.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a different approach for a crime novel. . It is a very well-written book, and although the pace is a little slower than most thrillers, the payoff is worth your patience



Diane Les Becquets is the author of the national bestselling novel BREAKING WILD, published by Berkley/Penguin Random House, which was the winner of the Colorado Book Award in general fiction and the New Hampshire Outstanding Fiction Award. The novel was also shortlisted for the Reading the West Book Award in fiction and was an Indie Next Pick. For more information, visit

Friday, May 15, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio- Feature and Review


Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villainsexplores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.



  If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play.

Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first time in a decade. How did he end up behind bars?

That’s something Detective Colbourne would also like to know. He may have put Oliver in prison, but he knows there is more to the story than he's been told.

He can’t rest until he coaxes the entire story out of Oliver once and for all. With Colbourne retired, and with nothing else to lose, Oliver grants Colbourne his wish.

‘But that I am forbid/ To tell the secrets of my prison -house,/ I could a tale unfold whose lightest word/ Would horrow up thy soul.’

The story then flashes back ten years as Oliver walks us through the events that left him holding the bag for crimes he may or may not have been solely responsible for.

When one of the seven elite actors’ dies, the remaining six thespians are the very picture of innocence. It was an accident after all… wasn’t it? But, Detective Colbourne’s senses they know more than they are telling. Are they as innocent as they appear or are they harboring a dark secret- one that is eating away at them more and more with each passing day?

I tend to gravitate towards these types of stories, which are too few and far between, but I suppose that only makes me appreciate them even more when I stumble across one.

The Shakespearean allegory is well done, as the stage is set for the ultimate tragedy. Our little acting coalition is as thick as thieves, too close, too driven, too immersed within their own little thespian world to cope with reality as most of us know it, which leads to grave consequences, when they begin to become the roles they often play on stage. Jealousy, competition, unrequited love, anger and resentment stir the bubbling pot until ‘exuent omnes’.

I was so engrossed in Oliver’s tale, so mortified, so mesmerized and tantalized, and despite knowing most of the details of the crime in question, and that Oliver has obviously paid his debt, the suspense is still nearly unbearable, because I still didn't know WHY- or HOW things turned out this way. I was filled with such dread, I almost felt like I was back in Vermont at Hamden College listening to Richard Papen unfold a similarly horrifying tale of obsession.

But, as morally questionable as those standing center stage may be, as superficial and self-absorbed, or in some cases, as honorable, or heroic- the classic “Villains VS Heroes”, if you will, the story is haunting and left a painful ache in my heart.

“But that is how a tragedy like ours or King Lear breaks your heart- by making you believe that the ending might still be happy, until the very last minute.”

The author did an amazing job with presentation and ‘staging’, as such, and created a vivid atmosphere, perfect for settling in for a modern Shakespearean tragedy. If you are a fan of the Bard, you will really appreciate the way the dialogue mirrors the events as they unfold and of course the bittersweet irony.

This is not just a psychological thriller, it’s a literary novel filled with obsessions and angst, with beauty and horror, and a near pitch perfect delivery!

This is a debut novel, incredibly, and I for one am pretty much blown away!

Pulling out the stars for this one!



M. L. Rio is an author, but before she was an author she was an actor, and before she was an actor she was just a word nerd whose best friends were books. She holds a master's degree in Shakespeare Studies from King's College London and Shakespeare's Globe. When she's not reading, writing, or explaining why the Authorship Question is actually just a conspiracy theory, she fills her time with friends and family, wine and whiskey, and music made twenty years before she was born.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Queen's Secret by Karen Harper- Feature and Review


If you love Jennifer Robson or The Crown you will love New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper’s novel about Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.



The Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's World War II QueenThe Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's World War II Queen by Karen Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen by Karen Harper is a 2020 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

Interesting piece of historical fiction, examining various rumors and theories about the private life of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother….

This book piqued my curiosity because it was about the Queen Mother, a member of the royal family I don’t know much about.

I loved ‘The King’s Speech’, but Elizabeth’s personal life is not the focus of that story. I also enjoy ‘The Crown’ on Netflix, but once again, the Queen Mother’s personal life is not the primary focus of that series, either. I’m also not really a ‘royal watcher’, despite my recent interest in the history of the monarchy.

So, despite the oversaturation of world war II novels, which I’ve been avoiding for a long while now, I decided to give this book a try.

Although the book got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, the more I read, the more invested I became in the story. I found myself ‘Googling’ certain topics about Elizabeth I had never heard before, and was surprised to see some of these rumors have been floating around for ages.

As it turns out the queen is holding onto a couple of bombshell secrets, in this novel, secrets that have shaped her life, her marriage, and role as a mother and as a queen.

The story also highlights Elizabeth’s relationship with Churchill, her admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt, and her utter distaste for Wallis Simpson and the continual scandal she and the king’s brother wrought down upon them.

The book is fully narrated by Elizabeth so that the reader is privy to her private fears, her thoughts about the war, and how heavily her secrets weighed upon her as she lived in constant fear of having them exposed.

This is an interesting, and enlightening portrait of the queen mother and I did gain some insights into what she might have been like on a personal level. However, I must remind everyone that this is a work of fiction. Some of the scenarios explored in this book have never been proven. They are only rumors and so this book is highly speculative, in my opinion.

That said, it was an interesting take on the life of the queen and was not at all what I had been expecting.

If you enjoy historical fiction, are a fan of the royals, or like reading world war II fiction, this book might be of interest to you.

*RIP Karen Harper



Karen Harper is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense and historical novels. A native Ohioan, Karen is a former high school English teacher and English-and-writing instructor at the Ohio State University. (Go Bucks!) The Harpers are avid Ohio State football fans, but they have a serious side too. They were on the 10-year committee which revamped the main library on campus. The Ohio State Library houses her author collection in Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Who Speaks for the Damned by C. S. Harris- Feature and Review


Sebastian St. Cyr investigates the mysterious life and death of a nobleman accused of murder in this enthralling new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....

It's June 1814, and the royal families of Austria, Russia, and the German states have gathered in London at the Prince Regent's invitation to celebrate the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of monarchical control throughout Europe. But the festive atmosphere is marred one warm summer evening by the brutal murder of a disgraced British nobleman long thought dead.

Eighteen years before, Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaford, was accused of killing a beautiful young French émigré and transported to Botany Bay for life. Even before his conviction, Hayes had been disowned by his father. Few in London were surprised when they heard the ne'er-do-well had died in New South Wales in 1799. But those reports were obviously wrong. Recently Hayes returned to London with a mysterious young boy in tow--a child who vanishes shortly after Nicholas's body is discovered.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is drawn into the investigation by his valet, Jules Calhoun. With Calhoun's help, Sebastian begins to piece together the shattered life of the late Earl's ill-fated youngest son. Why did Nicholas risk his life and freedom by returning to England? And why did he bring the now-missing young boy with him? Several nervous Londoners had reason to fear that Nicholas Hayes had returned to kill them. One of them might have decided to kill him first.



Who Speaks for the Damned (Sebastian St. Cyr, #15)Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris is a 2020 Berkley publication.

I can’t get enough of this series!

Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the Earl of Seaford was presumed dead after being convicted of murder and sent to Botany Bay. But, apparently, rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

He returns to London, from China, with a young child in tow. Whatever his mission might have been, it must have been very important for him to have taken such a high risk. However, his enemies, who have had much to fear from Nicholas, may have snuffed out his life before he had a chance to exact his revenge.

A scandal, and the threat of long buried secrets coming to light is the last thing anyone wants as the royal families of Russia, Austria and Germany arrives in London to celebrate the defeat of Napolean.

Yet, Sabastian finds himself searching for Nicholas’s murderer, and for the missing child who accompanied him, thanks to his Valet, Jules Calhoun, who was a friend of the victim.

Sebastian’s involvement in criminal cases often puts him in danger, but his time, his beloved wife, Hero, winds up in the crossfire, infuriating Sebastian, making him more determined than ever to unearth the truth and find the vulnerable child Nicholas brought with him from China.

Oh man, this was a good book!! A long -ago scandal that had been hushed up, lovers torn apart by power and greed, a child left alone to survive on the mean streets of London, and a riveting whodunit, is enough to make this story compelling.

However, the stunning revelations, and the social and historical lessons, round out this incredible multi-layered story. Not only that, the personal connotations for Sebastian, who can’t help but notice certain similarities between his life and that of Nicholas'- a sort of ‘there, but for the grace of God’ situation, adds yet another layer of depth to the story. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book!

Is this the best book in the series so far? I probably say that after every installment, but yes, this is one the best, if not THE best!!

If you like historical mysteries, this is a series you will want to invest in. If you are a fan of the series, you want to grab a copy of this one ASAP! You won’t be disappointed!



An Air Force brat who grew up exploring castles in Spain and fishing in the mountains of Oregon and Idaho, Candy later worked as an archaeologist and earned a PhD in European history. She now writes the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series as C.S. Harris and historicals under her own name, Candice Proctor. Married to retired Army Colonel Steve Harris, she lives in New Orleans. Visit her website at

Friday, May 8, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY-The Last Days of Night- by Graham Moore- Feature and Review


A thrilling novel based on actual events, about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America—from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and New York Times bestselling author of The Sherlockian

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.



The Last Days of NightThe Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore is a 2016 Random House publication.

I have been on a wait list for this book, I kid you not, for FOUR MONTHS!!

So, the big question is-

Was it worth the wait? YES! WOW! Who knew light bulbs were so fascinating?

This is a fictional account of the ‘war’ between Thomas Edison / General Electric and George Westinghouse over patent rights, inventions, and the law. It’s also a novel about genius, competitiveness, obsession and madness.

All the major characters in the book were actual people, and most of the events described really took place, only maybe not in the same particular sequence, which made the story even more fascinating and authentic.

The quotes used at the beginning of each chapter are amazing, and the author was especially clever in choosing quotes from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who were also fierce competitors.

Paul Cravath is hired by George Westinghouse to plead his patent dispute over who invented the light bulb pitting him against Thomas Edison, who got the patent first. Paul is inexperienced, idealistic, still has a strong moral code, and is of course way out of his depth.


Paul also finds himself falling in love with a famous singer, Agnes Huntington, who will become his inspiration for all he does and is instrumental in helping Nikola Telsa during a dark and confusing time.
Nikola Telsa envelops every corner of the story, and his presence is haunting and poignant. Despite his character playing more of a secondary part, he is still larger than life.


The ‘politics’ of patent law, the drive to win at all costs, the toll it takes on one’s conscience, ideals, and innocence, teaches Paul some valuable life lessons. The challenges inventors and innovators face, the cut throat competition, the public perceptions, and even the sacrifice of convictions, all made for money, for power,or for the sake of winning, is an eye-opening journey.

I was endlessly impressed with the sharp minds of Edison and Westinghouse, the machinations of J.P. Morgan and of course the genius of Telsa, even if I didn’t really like the way they did things and questioned their motives and moral fiber on many occasions.

The twists come fast and furious, and the emotions run high as the suspense builds in this high-stakes drama.

Paul learns a lot about himself in the end, as much as he learns about life, and I was pleased that he used this experience as lesson, a teaching moment, and did not allow it to poison his heart, but instead led him to seek out loftier goals.


This book is informative, very interesting, and completely absorbing. The only problem was that it had to end, and it ended all too soon.

The writing is exceptional, the history is amazingly detailed and very well researched and constructed, especially since there was were so many major events packed into a much shorter span of time than they actually unfolded in real life. I intend to add the books the author suggested to my reading list to get a more detailed non-fictional accounting of these events as well.


After reading this book, I realize how spectacular the light bulb is. Other than when I'm trying to choose an energy efficienct bulb, I never give them much thought, much less ponder on how it all works in the first place.
I don't think I will flippantly flick on light switch again!



Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The film, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. 

Graham's first novel, THE SHERLOCKIAN (2010), was published in 16 countries and translated into 13 languages. It was called "sublime" and "clever" and "delightful" by the New York Times, "savvy" and "entertaining" by the Los Angeles Times, and lots of other nice things as well. Graham's second novel, THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHT will be published in fall 2016 by Random House.

Graham lives in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher- Feature and Review


A life in snapshots…

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

A woman in living color…

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.
Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks--her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.



The Girl in White GlovesThe Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher is a 2020 Berkley publication

A must read for fans of the incomparable Grace Kelly!

In my mind, Grace Kelly has always been an actress first, a princess second. I have had to remind myself that she married the Prince of Monaco, giving her the official title of ‘Princess Grace’ but, effectively ending her promising career. I’m probably in the minority on that. While I do have a small interest in royal watching- it’s not the glamour so much as it is the history that fuels my curiosity.

Having watched all her movies, multiple times, I might add, I believe Grace lived up to her name, which couldn’t have been more fitting. She was so pretty, graceful, and elegant, she already seemed like American royalty- so, I suppose it was also fitting that she ended up married to a prince. It all seemed so romantic and like a fairytale come true- but alas, perhaps it wasn’t the happily ever she had hoped for…

This book is a fictionalized account of Grace’s life, examining her complicated family dynamics, her rise to fame, her various friendships and romantic relationships, and an imagined glimpse inside her marriage to the Prince of Monaco.

The author did a magnificent job in bringing Grace’s life into sharp focus. Although this is a work of fiction, I did get a sense of what kind of person she was behind her iconic roles, her public persona, and behind the title of ‘Princess Grace of Monaco’. Her mystique and poise made her a fan favorite for both men and women alike, but her life wasn’t as charmed it appeared from the outside looking in.

Unfortunately, the men her life, especially her father and husband, often sucked the joy out of her achievements, or robbed her of reaching her full potential. So, although Americans loved the idea of Grace Kelly and the image she projected, the reality behind the fairy tale reveals a complex, conflicted woman behind the grand myth, one who longed for personal fulfillment, but suffered her disappointments silently.

The book is well -researched and organized. It is triumphant, fascinating, poignant, bittersweet, and redemptive. This is a very absorbing saga, and I learned things about Grace I did not know and wish she had been respected and honored as much in her private life as she was in her public one.

Highly recommend for fans of Grace Kelly, for royal enthusiast, and biographical historical fiction!


Kerri  lives outside of Boston, MA, with her daughter and labradoodle.

She isthe author of THE KENNEDY DEBUTANTE and THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES and is currently working on a novel called THE PARIS BOOKSELLER, about Sylvia Beach's bookstore Shakespeare & Company, which was *the* Paris bookshop and meeting spot for the American Lost Generation. Beach was also the first to publish James Joyce's ULYSSES, after it and been banned in New York in 1921.

She is also the author of THIS IS NOT A WRITING MANUAL, under the name Kerri Majors -  an advice-y memoir for young people who might want to be writers, or live a creative life and is full of commiseration and practical tips.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare- Feature and Review


In this propulsive, twist-filled, and haunting psychological suspense debut perfect for fans of Sharp Objects and Room, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played on the night her life changed forever.

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town--brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he's hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne--something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can't remember the night in question.

The fragments of Kate's shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he'll help her fill in the blanks--but his story isn't adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she'd been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she's responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything.

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.



Call Me EvieCall Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare is a 2019 G.P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

Inventive approach to the domestic/psychological thriller!

This book is a real page turner! Kate is living in New Zealand with her Uncle Jim. She has been led to believe she must change her name to ‘Evie’ and leave her home and everything she holds dear behind for her own protection, because, evidently, she’s done something truly terrible.

Soon she realizes that the entire community thinks she has psychological problems, and with each passing day, Jim becomes more controlling, keeping her locked in her room, and away from computers and the internet. But Kate/Evie is determined to discover the nature of her crime, as she examines the bits and pieces of her past which provide possible clues as to how her life suddenly spiraled out of control.

Did she really commit a heinous crime or is there something more sinister going on?

This novel is very cleverly constructed, keeping the reader absolutely in the dark, wondering who can be trusted, if anyone. Kate’s voice leaves no doubt that she is in sheer terror, unable to figure out if she is guilty or not, and afraid of Jim, who is constantly removing any possible escape route Kate might have worked out for herself.

Kate’s background tells us that her mother has died, leaving Kate in the care of her very over- protective father. But, eventually, Kate reaches the age where she's interested in dating, but has her ease her father into that idea. But it's her best friend who has decided to interfere, leading to a showdown in which something apparently went horribly awry. Could Kate has caused someone’s death? Was it an accident or is she a murderer?

Once I started reading this book, I was totally invested in it. The suspense is taut from beginning to end and left me with tingle running down my spine!!

This is a dark and edgy story I found impossible to put down. There are so many thrilling twists and secrets, I could never let my guard down! If you like psychological thrillers, this one has your name on it! Very impressive debut!!


J. P. Pomare was raised on a horse farm in rural New Zealand where he lived until he was eighteen before deciding to travel. After years abroad, including a twelve months living in North America, he settled in Melbourne, Australia and has lived there since.

His debut novel Call Me Evie was released to critical acclaim and won the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. In The Clearing is his second novel.

J.P. is also the host of the podcast On Writing.