Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

The Notting Hill Mystery

The Notting Hill Mystery
The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams

Friday, January 22, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Secret She Keeps by Michael Robotham- Feature and Review


In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of the secrets some women hold close and a shocking act that cannot be undone, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.



The Secrets She KeepsThe Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham is a 2017 Scribner publication.

Whew! Now that was intense!!

Agatha, a store clerk, and Meghan, a stay at home mom/blogger with a seemingly idyllic life, two women who are vastly different in class and style, find a common ground when their lives casually intersect.

Meghan meets Agatha in the market she shops in, striking up a conversation over their pregnancies. However, what you see on the surface of their lives is not always the same as what lies beneath- and that’s putting it mildly!!

When this book first started getting a little buzz, I knew I wanted to check it out for myself. I also saw that it was compared to Ruth Ware’s novel and to…. Yep- one of “The Girl” books. So, I tried to tamp down on my enthusiasm just a bit, worried I would be disappointed.

Well, I wasn’t at all disappointed. This is a well constructed thriller, that not only kept the suspense level at a maximum peak, but was an intelligent, clever, and distinct novel. I admit, it did make me squirm a little at times, though. I had a terrible feeling of foreboding right off, and as I went deeper into the story, that feeling of dread became almost unbearable.

The characters are spectacularly flawed, morally questionable on several levels, and so you may or may not feel sympathy towards them, but there are innocent victims at stake, so I was very concerned for the welfare of some of these people.

"We need the darkness to appreciate the light, and the bumps along the road to stop us from falling asleep at the wheel.”

While there is the clear sense of danger coming, there are multi-layers of suspense. Both Meghan and Agatha have backed themselves into a corner which adds another rich layer of stress to the story, giving it an unrelentingly tense atmosphere!

The final showdown is absolutely breathtaking, and the ending is utterly chilling!

This book definitely lived up to the hype!! The writing is superb, with well drawn characters, and perfect pacing.

If you enjoy domestic and psychological thrillers, you do not want to miss this one!!





Michael Robotham is a former investigative journalist whose psychological thrillers have been translated into 23 languages. in 2015 he won the prestigious UK Gold Dagger for his novel LIFE OR DEATH, which was also shortlisted for the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. Michael has twice won a Ned Kelly Award for Australia's best crime novel for LOST in 2015 and SHATTER in 2008. He has also twice been shortlisted for the CWA UK Steel Dagger in 2007 for THE NIGHT FERRY and 2008 with SHATTER. 

Michael lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.
His website is: www.michaelrobotham.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams- Feature and Review


 The Notting Hill Mystery has been widely described as the first detective novel. The story is told by the insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who is building a case against the sinister Baron R___, suspected of murdering his wife in order to claim her life insurance. Henderson descends into a maze of intrigue, including a diabolical mesmerist, kidnapping by gypsies, slow-poisoners, a rich uncle's will and three murders.Presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses and a crime scene map, the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s. This novel launched the British Library Crime Classics series in 2012, and is now reissued with a striking new cover design.



The Notting Hill MysteryThe Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams is a 2015 British Crime Library publication. (Originally published in 1862)

Groundbreaking British Mystery!

Ralph Henderson is an insurance investigator who carefully lays out a solid case of insurance fraud and murder. Much like a police detective would, he uses good old -fashioned shoe leather to conduct interviews and gather evidence. Then, he presents his case in writing, almost like a lawyer would do to convince a jury-who, in this case, happens to be you- the reader!

The details are fascinating, if a bit melodramatic. The Baron R is the prime suspect and poisoning appears to be his modus operandi… that and his talents as Mesmerist. There are a few surprising twists before all is said and done, keeping things interesting- if a bit far-fetched.

The modern reader would probably pan this book today. Some un-PC threads, (a kidnapping by a band of ‘Gypsies’), and implausible plot devices, although popular at the time the book was written, might turn some readers off today.

Other than that, what makes this book stand out, like the synopsis states, is that it is believed to be the first full length detective novel. The book could also technically pass as an inverted mystery, as it is clear right from the get-go who the murderer is. The reader remains interested because they want to see how the murderers were committed. I think this book does set a standard for the future of mystery novels and for that reason, I think mystery lovers might find this book of interest.

It is also Henderson’s presentation of the facts that kept me invested in the story. It would have been nice to see him return in subsequent installments, to see his character fleshed out a bit, because he is quite good at his job. I found myself wondering about his looks, his private life, etc.

This one is worth checking out for its historical value and contribution to crime fiction. The British Crime Library has a nice selection of these classic mysteries available in digital format. I’m looking forward to exploring more of them this year!
3.5 stars

*Just to be clear, the publishing date is for the release in digital format. The book was not written in present day, but set in the 1800s. This is NOT historical fiction as I have seen some categorize it as such.



Charles Warren Adams (1833-1903) was an English lawyer, publisher and anti-vivisectionist, now known from documentary evidence to have been the author of The Notting Hill Mystery. This is usually taken to be the first full-length detective novel in English.

Born in 1833, he was the son of children's author Charlotte Adams, and the younger half-brother of clergymen and authors William Adams and Henry Cadwallader Adams. As a lawyer, Adams was involved in the bailout of the publishing firm Saunders, Otley & Co., which published his crime novel Velvet Lawn (1864) and detective novel The Notting Hill Mystery (1865) under the pseudonym Charles Felix. He died in 1903.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous- Feature and Review


 The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel--about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she's truly part of the family...until they ask her to help them with a harmless game--and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It's strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she'll be staying at, she figures she's got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she'd imagined--even with damage from a fire decades before--but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there's something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone...including her.



The Perfect GuestsThe Perfect Guests by Emma Rous
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous is a 2021 Berkley publication.

Just go with it!

I loved the Au Pair, so naturally, I was very curious to see what Emma Rous would present us with next.

1988- Raven Hall

Fourteen-year-old Beth, an orphan, is brought, by her aunt, to live with the Averell’s and their daughter, Nina, who is the same age, but is never allowed to leave home. Beth desperately wants to please her new foster parents, which means getting along with Nina, which is easier said than done, sometimes. As time passes, in a slow dawning horror, Beth realizes she has been brought to Raven Hall for another reason altogether…

Fast forward to 2019-

Sadie is an actress who has been offered a part in a Murder Mystery weekend at Raven Hall. It’s a plumb opportunity and she desperately needs the money. Things get off to an interesting start, but things rapidly go awry as shocking secrets rise to the surface, turning this into a party Sadie will never forget…

This is a well-plotted, supremely addictive psychological thriller. The downside, for some, might be the necessity to suspend belief at times, and the slightly uneven pacing. The dual timeline does require some deeper focus, but I thought the story had imagination, and a bit of originality, too. The atmosphere crackles with tension and challenges the reader with a complex puzzle that piece by piece weaves a tale of secrets and sinister machinations.

Overall, while her sophomore effort isn’t quite at strong as her debut- it’s pretty darned close! Definitely an author I’m exited about!!



Emma grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, then worked as a small animal veterinary surgeon for eighteen years before starting to write fiction. Emma lives near Cambridge in England with her husband and three sons, and her rescue dog and cat.

The Au Pair was her first novel, published in eleven countries in ten languages. The Perfect Guests is her second novel, out in January 2021.

Website: emmarous.com
Facebook: EmmaRousAuthor
Instagram: emmarousauthor

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman- Feature and Review


Film historian and acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer Scott Eyman has written the definitive biography of Hollywood legend Cary Grant, one of the most accomplished—and beloved—actors of his generation, who remains as popular as ever today.

Born Archibald Leach in 1904, he came to America as a teenaged acrobat to find fame and fortune, but he was always haunted by his past. His father was a feckless alcoholic, and his mother was committed to an asylum when Archie was eleven years old. He believed her to be dead until, when he was thirty-one years old, he was informed she was alive. Because of this experience Grant would have difficulty forming close attachments throughout his life. He married five times and had numerous affairs.

Despite a remarkable degree of success, Grant remained deeply conflicted about his past, his present, his basic identity, and even the public that worshiped him in movies such as Gunga DinNotorious, and North by Northwest.

Drawing on Grant’s own papers, extensive archival research, and interviews with family and friends, this is the definitive portrait of a movie immortal.




Cary Grant: A Brilliant DisguiseCary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman is a 2020 Simon & Schuster publication.

A perfect model for biography standards

Recently, headlines erupted about a popular celebrity accused of being someone entirely different off camera than their public persona would have us believe. The only thing that surprised me about the allegations was that people were surprised by the allegations.

Celebrities, musicians, actors, and yes, even authors have a face they present to the public- on stage, on screen, or online. Actors, in particular, have a way of convincing us that the character we love or hate on screen is synonymous with the person they are in real life. The ‘good girl’ actress you love could be a difficult diva once the cameras stop rolling… and probably is.

The reason I’m mentioning all this is because Cary Grant is one of my favorite actors from his generation of Hollywood leading men. I think most people, if asked, would say they like Cary Grant... his on screen persona, that is.

Therefore, if you want to maintain that image of Cary, be prepared to see a different side of the charming, sophisticated, suave actor- the lovable, physical comedian, the romantic heartthrob. Behind the scenes, the actor was not always so endearing.

Archie Leach, born in Britain, came to America and eventually morphed into Cary Grant- the famous movie star. Archie and Cary housed in the same shell, would fight for dominance until Cary’s twilight years when the two sides of himself would finally make peace.

This book explores all the various pieces of the man we know as Cary Grant, but also the Archie Leach side of him. We learn about his business dealings, his friendships, his numerous marriages and affairs, and his annoying propensity for being ‘frugal’.

Personally, I found this to be a fascinating biography. I didn’t know that much about Cary’s personal life, other than he had been married multiple times. Therefore, all the information here was news to me. Grant was complicated, moody, not particularly approachable, and his attitude towards women could rankle on occasion. He was a self-absorbed egomaniac but was also described by some as the nicest person they knew. So, there you go.

This is an interesting, well- researched, and thorough biography, made more pleasant by the author’s neutrality. All biographies should be approached in this manner. I hate glossed over, gushing fan-biopics, tell-all biographies, or bios rooted in tittle-tattle, cheap, hastily tossed together cash grabs, or those focused solely on the professional end of the subject’s life.

Eyman is an experienced biographer, and it shows. I feel one interested in reading about the life of Cary Grant couldn’t ask for a better organized, well rounded portrait of the man.

One of my favorite memories of Cary is his role in Arsenic & Old Lace- He was hysterical in that movie. I also loved all his Hitchcock films, and The Philadelphia Story ranks as one my very favorites of Grant’s movies. I have not seen all his films and would like to look some of them up someday. This book also has me in the mood to re-watch some of my favorites.

So, even though this book reveals some less than flattering information about Cary, there was nothing here that would taint my enjoyment of his films or my appreciation of his talent. He was no worse than many other stars or celebrities of his era. Compared to what takes place today, Cary’s behavior and attitudes are almost child’s play.

For those wondering if the most burning question people want to know about Cary’s personal life is revealed- you will have to read the book to find out.

Overall, this is an impressive biography of one of Hollywood's most enduring actors- one of the few still remembered with much fondness today.

I have another book by Eyman in my TBR list- think I'll have to bump it up!

* The book has black and white photos included-however, I found the audio version on Scribd and listened to large portions of the book on audio. The narrator did a good job and has a pleasant reading voice.



Scott Eyman has written fifteen books, three of them New York Times bestsellers, including John Wayne: The Life and Legend. His most recent book is Hank and Jim. He has been awarded the William K. Everson Award for Film History by the National Board of Review. He teaches film history at the University of Miami and lives in West Palm Beach with his wife, Lynn.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Lives of Edie Pritchard- by Larry Watson- Feature and Review


From acclaimed novelist Larry Watson, a multigenerational story of the West told through the history of one woman trying to navigate life on her own terms.
Edie—smart, self‑assured, beautiful—always worked hard. She worked as a teller at a bank, she worked to save her first marriage, and later, she worked to raise her daughter even as her second marriage came apart. Really, Edie just wanted a good life, but everywhere she turned, her looks defined her. Two brothers fought over her. Her second husband became unreasonably possessive and jealous. Her daughter resented her. And now, as a grandmother, Edie finds herself harassed by a younger man. It’s been a lifetime of proving that she is allowed to exist in her own sphere. The Lives of Edie Pritchard tells the story of one woman just trying to be herself, even as multiple men attempt to categorize and own her.

Triumphant, engaging, and perceptive, Watson’s novel examines a woman both aware of her physical power and constrained by it, and how perceptions of someone in a small town can shape her life through the decades.



The Lives of Edie PritchardThe Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson is a 2020 Algonquin Books publication.

Magnificent character study- great writing!

Montana- 1967

Edie is a beautiful woman, married, but feeling unfulfilled. Her husband is bland, and jealous, but his twin brother, Ray is standing by, hoping for a chance with Edie, himself. Life takes an unusual turn, which gives Edie a nudge, and the perfect opportunity to take her leave.

From there we catch up with Edie at various turning points in her life. In each segment, Edie must make decisions to save herself from the machinations or obsessions of the men in her life- her attractiveness working against her as she struggles to be seen as a person, not an object to owned.

This is a fascinating character study. Edie is a sympathetic character, overall, although she is not perfect. One can feel her palpable feelings of suffocation, and her burning need to live life on her own terms.

She does rise to the occasion, despite the hurdles blocking her path, when necessary, although she is usually forced to unravel a bad situation before any real progress can be made.

The story covers three generations- skipping over decades of Edie’s life at a time, only checking in with her when she faces a hurdle large enough to prompt a complete do-over. In my opinion, there were people who may have been collateral damage in Edie’s pursuit of independence, tragically so, and at other times, Edie was forced to cut her losses.

What stands out, is the sparse prose and the moody atmosphere, which is quite effective. I was riveted to the pages, deeply involved in Edie’s world.

I can’t say this is the type of novel I’m normally drawn to, or that I got from it everything the author intended. The last portion of the book is slightly melancholy, and maybe a little contrived, too. Yet, it is Edie’s strength and resilience that makes the story a triumph.

Because I am still pondering Edie’s choices, and the events that spurred them, I would say the novel did what it set out to do. This is, to my knowledge, my first book by this author. I'm very keen to read more of his work.

4 stars



Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was educated in its public schools. Larry married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967. He received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 2004) and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Friday, January 8, 2021

FLASBACK FRIDAY- The Wife by Alafair Burke- Feature and Review

His scandal. Her secret.

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.



The WifeThe Wife by Alafair Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wife by Alafair Burke is a 2018 Harper publication.

How well do you know your husband?

It’s that all too familiar, and oft dreaded question posed by law enforcement when it appears ones husband may have been leading a double life. Angela, just like many other loyal wives, swears her husband isn’t capable of murder, and even gives him a rock-solid alibi. But, deep down, Angela’s insecurities, traumatic past, and the mounting evidence against her husband, Jason, has forced her to take a good hard look at the man she married.

This book is just the kind of thriller I love and never seem to tire of. I openly admit, I’m a big fan of this author. However, despite my bias, I truly believe this book would have been highly successful no matter what. But, I must admit, the precision perfect timing of its release gave the story an added boost of power and a ripped from the headlines type of atmosphere, it might not have benefited from otherwise.

For authors these days, it’s more of a challenge than ever before to put a fresh spin on familiar plots or to keep their material fresh and original. Jaded readers, like myself, can often see a twist coming a mile off, which might be why some authors are trying to keep readers off balance by throwing in a multitude of over the top shocking twist and turns. But, that gets old in a hurry, and is more about shock value than true writing ability. So, it takes a very skilled author to weave a complex, clever tale around a timely storyline that will keep readers engaged, add in a nice balance of well -timed twist and turns, and top it off with a stunning conclusion they never saw coming. But, that is exactly what Alafair Burke has done with this story.

Usually I enjoy analyzing the plot and characters in more detail, maybe build up a little enticing curiosity about the book, but, in this case, it’s best not to say too much. But, I want to stress that this is not just another story about a woman standing by her husband after he’s been accused of misconduct. Trust me, there’s a lot more to this twisted tale than meets the eye!

This is a very clever, well thought out, skillfully constructed thriller I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s early in the year to start making a ‘best of 2018’ list, but I think it’s safe to say this one will definitely make the cut.





Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling, Edgar-nominated author of eleven previous novels, including "two power house series" (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Her most recent novel, THE EX, was nominated for the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She also co-authors the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. Her forthcoming novel, THE WIFE, will be released in January 2018 and is available for pre-order in all formats.

Alafair's novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, O Magazine, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. Harlan Coben has said she is "a major talent," and Dennis Lehane called her "one of the finest young crime writers working today" back when she was young. 

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former prosecutor, Alafair is now a professor at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure. She lives in New York City with her husband and two beloved dogs.

Learn more about Alafair at www.alafairburke.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram if you're prepared for a healthy dose of dog photos along with your book news.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book,
but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.



The Book Charmer (Dove Pond, #1)The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins is a 2019 Gallery Books publication.

Offbeat and Amusing! This fanciful romance is a lovely gift for book lovers!

Dove Pond librarian, Sarah Dove, has a special knack for picking out just the right book for her patrons. When Grace Wheeler moves to Dove Pond, it is only on a temporary basis. Sarah, though, is convinced Grace is the person who will save Dove Pond from financial ruin. Sarah is determined to make a Grace a permanent resident.

Grace proves to be a little more stubborn than Sarah bargained for, though...

I’ve read a few of Karen Hawkins’ delightful historical romance novels over the years, but I must say, I think Hawkins has one-upped herself with this one!

This is an adorable small -town romance, occasionally poignant and bittersweet, with just a splash of magic realism. The special books in Sarah's library are characters themselves and this element will especially enchant book lovers!

Overall, wonderful feel-good kind of story anyone can enjoy!!



New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Hawkins writes novels that have been praised as touching, witty, charming, and heartwarming. A native Southerner who grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee where storytelling is a way of life, Karen recently moved to frosty New England with her beloved husband and multiple foster dogs. Her highly acclaimed Dove Pond series is a nod to the thousands of books that opened doors to more adventures, places, and discoveries than she ever imagined possible.

To find out more about Karen, check in with her at Facebook.com/KarenHawkinsWriter, @KarenHawkinsAuthor on Instagram, and at her website, KarenHawkins.com.

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Friday, January 1, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman- Feature and Review


Bestselling, beloved author of The Charm Bracelet spins a tale about a lost young woman and the family recipe box that changes her life.

Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha "Sam" Mullins felt trapped on her family's orchard and in their pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star's New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.

When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family's orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life--including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family's history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.

As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.



 The Recipe BoxThe Recipe Box by Viola Shipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman is a 2018 Thomas Dunne Books publication.

Sweet, tender and heartwarming-

This book just has that summertime feel to it. Sam Mullins always had an urge to break free from her family’s traditions. She wanted to fly far away from Michigan and the orchard and pie shop her parents and grandparents owned and operate. She finally escapes to New York, determined to be a premier baking chef. But, just as she lands a premium job opportunity, she quits and heads home to regroup. Her family is bewildered by her sudden appearance and she tries to keep the truth from them. Each day Sam struggles and fights with all her might against the urge to stay and continue her family’s legacy. Will she discover her real passion has been right under her nose all along or will she return to the rat race, never truly settling down long enough to achieve her goals?

"Someone once told me on my thirteenth birthday that a recipe box is the story of a family's life, of who we are, where we came from, how we got here, and where we are now"

I will warn those who are dedicated and monogamous to all things dark and twisty, or to those who can only take heartwarming stories in small doses, that this book is beyond sugary sweet. In fact, I may need a dentist to check for cavities after reading this book and drooling over all those recipes for cookies, pastries, and pies!!

Sam is a familiar type of character, one that sees things in either black or white, and carries around a hefty amount of snobbery, thinking she is just too good of a chef to lower herself to baking homemade recipes from an old recipe box passed down through the generations. She’s even a pretty big snob when it comes to romance, as well. But, her potential love interest may not have been college educated, but he is pretty darned savvy and is quite the visionary- and very, very romantic! Naturally, Sam gets put in her place a time or two, and learns many valuable lessons about life along the way- including the secret to having success and happiness all at once.

"Expectations are just preconceived resentments. You set yourself up to fail even when you don't do anything wrong"

This is just the type of book I am drawn to during the long days of summer, when the sun shines bright and relaxing days at the beach or at poolside replace strict schedules, pressure and stress. These feel good stories are so regenerative at times. I don’t want to over indulge with too many sweets, but adding a rich dessert into your diet once in a while balances things out, and often lifts and refreshes my spirit. This is a wonderful story, very light and gentle, warm and fuzzy, and sweetly sentimental.





VIOLA SHIPMAN is a pen name for WADE ROUSE, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother's name to honor the women and elders in his life, who inspire his fiction. To date, THE CHARM BRACELET and THE HOPE CHEST have been translated into over a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. THE CHARM BRACELET was named a 2017 Michigan Notable Book. 

Wade's work has been selected multiple times as a Must-Read by NBC’s Today Show, featured on E! and been chosen three times by the nation's independent booksellers as an Indie Next Pick. His writing and essays have appeared in People, Good Housekeeping, Time, Forbes, Salon, Publisher’s Weekly and Writer’s Digest, among others. 

Wade earned his bachelor of arts in communications, with honors, from Drury University and his master of science in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors.