A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, December 28, 2020

Murder with Oolong Tea by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review


In bestselling author Karen Rose Smith's sixth delightfully devious Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery, Pennsylvania Amish country's favorite tea house proprietor, Daisy Swanson, finds herself going back to school expecting to serve tea--only to get a crash course in criminal justice!

The faculty of Willow Creek High School are having a get-together after the spring concert with refreshments provided, courtesy of Daisy's Tea Garden. Oolong tea and chocolate biscuits are just what the staff needs to help them unwind from Althea Higgins' demanding curriculum. Her lessons on such controversial subjects as school uniforms and under qualified substitute teachers are earning her an F from her colleagues.

But a failing grade was preferable to Althea falling victim to foul play. Daisy was there when her body was discovered in the school swimming pool, murdered by strangulation. Althea was certainly a strict, opinionated taskmaster, unliked by both teachers and students, but would any of them actually want to kill her? As Daisy starts asking questions, she gets a real education in Althea's history, discovering more than enough enemies with more than enough motives to cancel her classes permanently...




Murder with Oolong Tea (A Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery #6)Murder with Oolong Tea by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder with Oolong Tea by Karen Rose Smith is a 2020 Kensington publication.

Marvelous Characters and a Challenging Mystery!

Daisy is asked to provide the refreshments for a school faculty gathering, when Althea, an unpopular teacher with both her students, and her colleagues, is found dead.

The emotional toll of sleuthing weighs heavily on Daisy, and she is determined not to get involved in another murder, but, by now, she has gained a bit of a reputation as a natural crime solver.

As Daisy begins to gently explore areas of Althea’s life, she discovers some shocking information, few knew about. These revelations, widens the suspect list, making it much harder to pin down whodunit.

Meanwhile, Daisy has her hands full with the tea shop, and her family life is busier than ever. Jazzy has asked if her new friend, who is mostly unsupervised by the adults in her life, can stay with them for a while, plus, Daisy is worried she may have pushed Jonas away for good.

This is one of the best culinary cozy mystery series going right now. The mystery is interesting, well-plotted, and suspenseful, and as always, the characterizations are lovely, and the delicious foods and teas, create the welcoming atmosphere that keeps me coming back for more!

Rose does a great job balancing the mystery with the trials faced by the recurring characters!! Can’t wait to touch base with Daisy and her lovely family again!!

*Recipes included!





Karen Rose Smith is writing mysteries as well as romances now! Her plots, whether in mystery or romance, are all about relationships.

Along with enjoying time with her husband, Karen enjoys cooking, watercolor painting, gardening, shopping, listening to music and keeping her seven rescued cats company or vice versa.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz- Feature and Review



The New York Times bestselling Orphan X returns—facing his own uncertain future and undertaking one last mission.

Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. After breaking with the Program, he reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in shadows who helps the truly desperate. But the government didn’t let go of him easily, sending their best to hunt him down and eliminate him. All of them failed. With his deadliest enemies behind him, Evan is facing a new challenge—what is he going to do now that no one is after him?

Max Merriweather is at the end of his rope. Separated from the woman he loves and barely scraping by, Max is a disappointment to everyone in his life. Then his very successful cousin Grant is brutally murdered. Two months before, Grant left Max an envelope with instructions to take it to a reporter if anything happened to him. Now the reporter is missing and Max’s apartment is ransacked. A man at the end of his rope, he calls The Nowhere Man.

With mixed feelings, Evan takes on this mission, easily finding the men who are after Max and executing a plan to keep him safe. But it isn’t as obvious as it seems—and Evan finds himself enmeshed in one of the most challenging missions of his life, one that he can’t survive on his own. With the help of Joey Morales, a genius-level hacker and the last Orphan recruited into the Program, and the brilliant, off-the-books gunsmith, Tommy Stojack, Orphan X once more heads…Into the Fire.



Into the Fire (Orphan X, #5)Into the Fire by Gregg Andrew Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Into the Fire by Gregg Horwitz is a 2020 Minotaur publication.

Supercharged, "Smoaking" hot, action and adventure!

Evan Smoak- aka- Orphan X- aka- The Nowhere Man, has come to a crossroads of sorts. He’s ready to explore life on his own terms now. But will his enemies and those who need his specialized help allow him to retire?

In this fifth installment of the series, Evan is summoned to help Max Merriweather, who is on the run from the ruthless assassins who just murdered his cousin.

Hoping this is the last time he answers the 1-800-NOWHERE hotline, Evan discovers this case is going to be one of his most difficult to contain.

I love this series more with each installment. Evan is a machine- tough, smart, unstoppable! But, beneath that exterior is a lonely man, one who was robbed of normalcy, who pines for a break from all the danger and violence.

Readers root for him on both fronts. We cheer for him as he fights the bad guys, but also sympathize with his sensitive side too- wishing he didn’t have to necessarily choose between the two.

The addition of Joey to the series is simply perfect, and the banter between she and Evan is often hysterically funny.

This chapter has a finality to it that is bittersweet- until…

The conclusion is a breathtaking stunner… promising more exciting adventures for our hero in the future.


GREGG HURWITZ is the New York Times #1 internationally bestselling author of twenty thrillers including OUT OF THE DARK (January 2019). His novels have won numerous literary awards and have been published in thirty languages. Additionally, he's written screenplays and television scripts for many of the major studios and networks. Gregg lives with his two Rhodesian ridgebacks in Los Angeles, where he continues to play soccer, frequently injuring himself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren- Feature and Review


One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.



In a HolidazeIn a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren is a 2020 Gallery Books publication.

Cute, whimsical holiday romance!

We have all done things we immediately regret- things we wish we could take back. Unfortunately, we have no other choice but to live with the consequences of our actions.

This holiday season, though, Maelyn Jones gets a second chance miracle...

Or two….

Or three…

If she can right her wrongs, Mae could face a brighter and more promising future. She also has an opportunity to tell her long-time family friend, Andrew, how she really feels about him.

This story takes a familiar setup-Ala-Groundhog Day and gives it a fun, fantastical, holiday spin.

This is a playful, romantic, and occasionally hysterical story, but the family dynamics, the great memories, and the touching conclusion give the story just the right touch of warmth and holiday cheer!

Overall, despite the less than original set-up, and the glutted Rom-Com market, this turned out to be only the second book of the season that feels festive enough to lift my holiday spirits. 



Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 30+ languages.
You can find them online at ChristinaLaurenBooks.com or at @seeCwrite (Christina), @LolaShoes (Lauren), or @ChristinaLauren on Twitter.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Meet Me in London by Georgia Toffolo- Feature and Review


What do you do when your fake engagement starts to feel too real…

Aspiring clothes designer Victoria Scott spends her days working in a bar in Chelsea, and her evenings designing vintage clothes, dreaming of one day opening her own boutique. But these aspirations are under threat from the new department store opening at the end of her road. She needs a Christmas miracle, but one is not forthcoming.

Oliver Russell’s Christmas is not looking very festive right now. His family’s new London department store opening is behind schedule, and on top of that his interfering, if well meaning, mother is pressing him to introduce his girlfriend to her. A girlfriend who does not exist. He needs a diversion. Something to keep his mother from interfering while he focuses on the business.

When Oliver meets Victoria, he offers a proposition: pretend to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store and he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon becomes something more tempting, as the fake relationship starts to feel very real. But when secrets in Victoria’s past are exposed will Oliver walk away, or will they both follow their hearts and find what neither knew they were looking for…



Meet Me In LondonMeet Me In London by Georgia Toffolo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meet me in London by Georgia Toffolo is a 2020 Mills & Boon publication.


Victoria Scott works as a bartender in Chelsea, but aspires to have a career in fashion design, hoping to one day open her own boutique.

Life has thrown Victoria a couple of tough curves, plus, she’s recently gone through a painful breakup. Now her professional life could be at risk, too, due to the arrival of a new department store opening right at the end of her road.

Oliver is a workaholic under extreme pressure from his mother to get married. He doesn’t have time for romance, and so to get his mother off his back, he’s led her to believe he's seeing someone, but the problem is, his relentless mother is pressuring him to introduce this nonexistent girl to the family.

When Victoria and Oliver literally run into each other the encounter leads to a formal agreement between them- if Victoria will 'pretend' to be his 'temporary' girlfriend, he will help get her designs noticed.

Naturally, the arrangement hits a few snags- for starters, the couple really do have an undeniable chemistry which tempts them to remove the word ‘pretend’ from their arrangement. But, the ‘temporary’ part will arrive all too soon, and the last thing Victoria needs is another broken heart.

Yes, this is a very light contemporary romance, and the premise is not exactly original, but the characters and their poignant backstories give it just the right touch of warmth, emotion, and depth. The cover suggests a holiday theme, but it’s slight and runs in the background.

There is a very full cast of characters in this book- more than I am normally comfortable with, but the author balanced things quite well, and I’m thinking this book could be an anchor for subsequent installments, since Victoria has a few old friends who deserve a story of their own someday.

Overall, this a cute, sweet romance, easy to read, and yet another perfect, protective cocoon of distraction against all the distressing turmoil out there.



Here’s what Georgia has to say about the series: “I’m so excited to be working with Mills & Boon on my new series of romance books. As a lifelong romance reader, it was a dream come true to bring these stories to life, and I can’t wait for readers to fall in love with Meet Me in London for themselves. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Lilac Bouquet by Carolyn Brown- Feature and Review



Come hell or high water, Emmy Jo Massey will have a wedding. After three generations of Massey women with children out of wedlock, she wants the whole town of Hickory, Texas, to witness the legitimacy of her union with Logan Grady. But dream weddings aren’t cheap. So she accepts a highly lucrative stint as a home health assistant to retired realtor, and town recluse, Seth Thomas—a decision her great-grandmother Tandy is dead-set against.

Seth isn’t happy about it, either. The eighty-two-year-old doesn’t want a “babysitter”—much less a Massey—something he makes clear when Emmy arrives at his house, an empty mansion built for the woman who broke his heart. But as Emmy stays and the two eventually open up to each other, she learns the reason behind a feud between Seth, Tandy, and Logan’s grandfather Jesse Grady that goes back six decades. She also uncovers a secret that forever changes how she sees her past and her future…



The Lilac BouquetThe Lilac Bouquet by Carolyn Brown

The Lilac Bouquet by Carolyn Brown is a 2017 Montlake publication.

A sixty-year old feud threatens to come between a young couple in love.

Tandy, Jesse and Seth haven’t spoken to one another in decades, but the reason for their falling out is a huge secret in Hickory, Texas.

Now, Tandy’s great-granddaughter, Emmy Jo, is about to marry Jesse’s grandson, Logan- a situation she is determined to undermine. The friction between their families, sets Emmy Jo on a mission to discover what is behind the feud.

She gets her chance when she accepts a job working as Seth’s assistant to raise money for her wedding. Seth is in his eighties, a recluse, and just a wee bit cantankerous. Despite that, Emmy Jo chips away at his hard, protective veneer little by little, allowing Seth the time and space to tell his story, his way. The tale he weaves certainly puts things in a whole new perspective, but for Emmy Jo and Logan to get the whole story, Tandy and Jesse will have to reveal their part in the feud and neither one them will budge.

If you like uncovering family mysteries, secrets and scandals this book is for you. The small-town setting is charming, and the characters are certainly interesting. The young lovers are wiser and more mature than the older folks in the story, but the big mystery behind the feud is heartbreaking and bittersweet, but I loved the way the author slowly unveiled the historical drama that still affects those in present day.

This is story is a tiny bit old-fashioned, but overall, it's light, gentle, and sweet. A wonderful, heartwarming escape!



New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best selling author, Carolyn Brown has published more than 100 books and presently writes both women's fiction and cowboy romance. She has also written historical single title, historical series, contemporary single title and contemporary series. She lives in southern Oklahoma with her husband, a former English teacher, who is not allowed to read her books until they are published. They have three children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. For a complete listing of her books (series in order) check out her website at www.carolynbrownbooks.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel - Feature and Review


For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes. And Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home.



Darling Rose GoldDarling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel is a 2020 Berkley publication.

Crazy, unhinged mind trip!!

Rose Gold Watts' testimony against her mother, Patty, for keeping her sick for the duration of her childhood, due to Munchausen Syndrome, helped send Patty to prison.

Rose, has a sheltered, and skewed view of things after all she's gone through. She's not only damaged physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well.

Rose is now a parent herself, to a little boy named Adam. She purchases the home her mother grew up in, and now that Patty is out of prison, Rose insists she come stay with her.

Thus, begins an incredible, insane, tightly wound, cat and mouse game between mother and daughter as they attempt to stay one foot in front of the other with their own diabolical plans.

This story is a non-stop roller coaster of suspense. It’s an edge of your seat psychological thriller, with a constant feeling of dread, that toys with one’s mind and emotions at the same time. The dual narration is splendidly done and paints a vivid portrait of Rose Gold and Patty Watts.

There are nuanced undercurrents that examine the mother and daughter bonds, "Nature vs. Nurture', and challenges the reader to determine who to believe, trust, or feel empathy towards.
These connotations require the reader to look beyond the suspense elements, at something deeper and more complex than what appears on the surface.

The novel is well executed, effective, and left me feeling conflicted and unsettled.

This might be one of my favorite novels of suspense for 2020- plus, it gets an extra star for being a debut novel!

*Note: I listened to parts of this book on audio- and the narration is very well done- especially Patty’s role.



Stephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago, but has been living in the UK for last four years with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. Darling Rose Gold is her first novel. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A California Christmas by Brenda Novak- Feature and Review



Up-and-coming TV anchor Emery Bliss can’t imagine anything more humiliating than the sex tape her ex revenge-posted online. That is, until it causes her to lose her job on top of her self-esteem. Seeking solace—and anonymity—in Silver Springs, Emery isn’t looking to get involved with another man anytime soon. But when she’s thrown back into contact with Dallas Turner, she sees something that his many detractors have missed.

Being home for the holidays and his adoptive mother’s wedding isn’t where mountain climber Dallas feels most comfortable. Thanks to his troubled childhood, he’d rather be on a rock face alone than trying to connect with people. Emery, however, makes him want to overcome his past…somehow.

Both Emery and Dallas had been planning on a quiet, solitary Christmas, but the sparks between them are lighting a fire strong enough to last—possibly forever.



A California Christmas (Silver Springs, #7)A California Christmas by Brenda Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A California Christmas by Brenda Novak is a 2020 MIRA publication.

An engaging romance!

Emery, a news anchor in Los Angeles, and her colleague, Ethan, embark on a relationship, defying the contract they signed, stating co-workers are not allowed to date.

When Emery decides to break things off, Ethan, obsessed and angry, uploads a sex tape online, one Emery had no idea even existed.

Due to her public persona, his 'revenge porn' quickly goes viral. Both she and Ethan are fired for breaking the dating rules. While Ethan lands of his feet, Emery is hiding out in Silver Springs with Aiyana, the woman who runs Horizon’s Ranch, too mortified to be seen in public.

When Aiyana’s family begins to trickle in for Christmas and Aiyana's wedding, Emery gets reacquainted with Dallas, one of Aiyana's adopted sons.

Dallas is a rock climber, haunted by his tragic past. Although the pair were classmates, they never got to know each other- but now, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them.

Obviously, neither of them is in a place to even think about relationships. That doesn’t mean they can’t help one another through some difficult times, though, right?

Southern California at Christmas – okay, not the cold, snowy climate, we often expect in holiday themed novels, but the Christmas spirit is just as strong, and important no matter where you live or what the weather is like. In fact, I thought the idea of setting a holiday story in sunny California was a great idea!

The characters each have heavy issues to face. Emery is almost paralyzed by her predicament, her ex is making her life miserable, and her parents are going through a contentious divorce. Dallas is coping with a guilt so consuming he can’t live life to its fullest, much less entertain the idea of falling in love and being happy with Emery.

I enjoyed watching the two face their fears, accept the path their lives have taken, seeing them give themselves permission to open their hearts to hope and love.

While the book does take place during the holidays, and Christmas is mentioned periodically, as with other Christmas books I’ve read this year, it is definitely not a prominent theme.

As I’ve said before, the bright side of that is the book can be read anytime of the year, but I’m still on the hunt for that emotional, warm, fuzzy, heartwarming tale fully centered on the holiday featured in the title and on the cover. I think I may have to hunt down some older books to find what I’m craving.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the story and liked the premise, location, and the characters, and of course the touching love story. For those who noticed this is a part of a series, I have not read the previous installments and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book at all- but did make me want to catch up with series someday.

Overall, another lovely effort by Ms. Novak!

4 stars



Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually raising funds for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). So far, Brenda has raised $2.6 million!

Friday, December 11, 2020

FLAHSBACK FRIDAY- Slay Bell Ring by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially now that Caprice De Luca has wrapped up her holiday-themed staging gig at a stunning historic home in downtown Kismit, Pennsylvania. Behind all the red ribbon and glowing string lights, homeowners Chris and Sara Merriweather have it all. But Chris, a Vietnam vet who plays Santa every year at the community park, has been displaying strange behavior after a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

The joy of the season vanishes entirely when Chris is found murdered on Santa Lane, leaving behind his loyal malamute and lots of unfinished business. As Caprice uncovers hidden secrets in Santa's workshop, the pressure is on to catch the candy cane-wielding culprit--before she's next on a killer's deadly wish list 



Slay Bells Ring (Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery #7)Slay Bells Ring by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slay Bells Ring by Karen Rose Smith is a 2017 Kensington publication.

Cryptic and mysterious holiday whodunit-

Caprice and her large Italian family are back to solve one of her most complex and emotional cases to date.

Caprice is commissioned to stage a beautiful historic home, but the owners are split on the idea of selling the home. Chris, a toy maker, and the resident Santa Claus, is determined to sell the property, while his wife, Sara, is more reluctant, because the house holds so many memories for her.

But, after exhibiting some rather odd behavior, Chris is found murdered. Why would anyone want to murder Chris? Well, it would seem he has more enemies than anyone thought possible, and he’s been holding back a few big secrets- I mean giant whoppers- and a few of them came tumbling out of the closet after his death, the consequences of which cast suspicion on several people almost immediately.

With Caprice’s naturally detecting skills, she begins asking around in hopes of getting answers for a family in shock and mourning.

It’s been a while since I picked up a cozy mystery, and with the cool temperatures and the holidays right around the corner, I was in the mood to curl up with a nice, clean, whodunit. Naturally, I went straight for this book, since it is the latest installment of one of my 'go-to' cozy mystery series, plus this story has a few holiday elements included, as an added bonus.

Not only that, I just finished a few dark and tense books and needed to wrap myself in the comfort of old book friends and the warmth of love and family this series always inspires.

This story is a little emotional though, touching on the pain of war and its after effects, which can haunt people for decades. I also felt sympathy for the family, who suffered a great loss, but is realizing a new kind of hurt when they discover things about their loved ones that were kept hidden from them.

Caprice works with the police a bit on this case, while doing a little matchmaking for her sister, in the process, so I’m hoping to see her skills get a little professional recognition one day. As always, I love touching base with Caprice and Grant, her close -knit family and all her wonderful pets. Caprice is fun, free spirited, sweet, dedicated and loyal, and I like her moral standards, and her love of animals, which is why this is one of my favorite cozy mystery series.

Overall, this is another terrific installment in the Caprice De Luca series!! If you love cozy mysteries, pets, strong family elements, with a dash of romance, you will love this series.





Karen Rose Smith is writing mysteries as well as romances now! Her plots, whether in mystery or romance, are all about relationships.

She began writing in her early teens when she listened to music and created stories to accompany the songs. After expressing feelings in poetry, earning a degree in English and French, completing short stories that became too long to find a market, she turned to her fascination with relationships to writing romances and now mysteries. This award-winning best-selling author (USA Today List, Borders Bestseller List, Amazon Romance Bestseller lists, Barnes and Noble Bestseller list) will see her 97th novel released in 2017. She has published with Silhouette, Harlequin, Kensington and Meteor/Kismet. Her awards include two Golden Leaf awards in short contemporary romance, the Golden Quill in traditional romance, two cataromance.com's awards for Best Special Editions and Romance Review's Today's Best series romance award. Jane Bowers of Romance Reviews Today states: "Karen Rose Smith's storyworlds are complete and realistic and lovely places to visit and revisit. She excels at stories that feature couples brought together by infants and children, and she handles her plots and characters with sublime sensitivity."

Karen is well-known for writing emotion-packed novels. An only child, she spent a lot of time in her imagination and with books--Nancy Drew, Zane Gray, The Black Stallion and Anne of Green Gables. She dreamt of brothers and sisters and a big family like her mother and father came from--seven children in her mom's family and ten in her dad's. On weekends she was often surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. This is the root of her plotlines that include small communities and family relationships as integral to everyday living. She believes universal emotions unite us all and that is the reason she employs them to propel her plots.

It is no secret that Karen married her college sweetheart and they have been married for 45 years. She believes in the power of commitment and the hope that goes along with the promise of everlasting love. Along with enjoying time with her husband, Karen enjoys cooking, watercolor painting, gardening, shopping, listening to music and keeping her four rescued cats company or vice versa.

She has been busy indie publishing her SEARCH FOR LOVE series. In addition, she is writing her Caprice De Luca mystery series as well as her Daisy's Tea Garden series for Kensington along with romances for Harlequin Special Edition. Readers can follow her on Facebook (Search--Karen Rose Smith) or on Twitter @karenrosesmith. Contact her through her website www.karenrosesmith.com or KarenRoseSmithMysteries.com if you'd like to belong to her street team or her readers group on Facebook. She welcomes interaction with her readers on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to chat about plotlines, titles, emotions, heroes, heroines, music, books, gardening, cooking, or anything else readers deem noteworthy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY- American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica


Shocked by a five-month arson spree that left rural Virginia reeling, Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse drove down to Accomack County to cover the trial of Charlie Smith, who pled guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But Charlie wasn't lighting fires alone: he had an accomplice, his girlfriend Tonya Bundick. Through her depiction of the dangerous shift that happened in their passionate relationship, Hesse brilliantly brings to life the once-thriving coastal community and its distressed inhabitants, who had already been decimated by a punishing economy before they were terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. Incorporating this drama into the long-overlooked history of arson in the United States, American Fire re-creates the anguished nights that this quiet county spent lit up in flames, mesmerizingly evoking a microcosm of rural America - a land half gutted before the fires even began.




American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing LandAmerican Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse is a 2017 Liveright publication.

This is an incredible piece of true crime journalism that explores the people and events that transpired in Accomack County. Virginia in 2012/13.

Within a short five- month time frame, an astonishing number of arson fires were set, mainly in abandoned buildings and houses. This was not your typical case of pyromania- this turned out to be a 'rampage' crime- committed by a couple who claimed love was at the core of their actions.

This book takes readers through the beginning of the relationship between Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick, when the fires started, the escalation of the crimes and the investigation which led to Charlie’s arrest.

The book’s construction is very much like reading a long form piece in a magazine or newspaper-but so stylishly executed, that despite knowing who the Firestarter is, the reader is compelled to turn pages until they see the culprits are caught and their motives fully examined.

The author’s emotional involvement in the story is very evident. The combination of an economic decline, the once passionate- ( but chaste), relationship between Charlie and Tonya that turns toxic and unhealthy, and the power plays that pits one against the other makes for a riveting read.

The book is not long, but it packs a real punch. The psychology behind arson is puzzling in the first place- not counting insurance fraud- but this case really is one for the books.

I sensed the author had compassion for all concerned, even Charlie and Tonya- but I couldn’t quite muster the same level of charity for the doers. I sensed both Charlie and Tonya got a real premeditated thrill from it, and I have wondered just how far they may have gone if left unimpeded.

However, there is one thing that really stands out in all this mayhem- The volunteer firefighters who logged in a whopping number of hours trying to control these fires. Amazing! For them, and the entire community affected by the spree, I gained the utmost respect.

Overall, a fascinating and deeply absorbing, and thought- provoking true crime piece!



Monica Hesse is the national bestselling author of the true crime love story American Fire and the Edgar Award-winning young adult historical mystery novel Girl in the Blue Coat, which has been translated into a dozen languages and was shortlisted for the American Booksellers Association's Indies Choice Award. She is a feature writer for the Washington Post, where she has covered royal weddings, dog shows, political campaigns, Academy Awards ceremonies, White House state dinners, and some events that felt like a mixture of all of the above. She has talked about these stories, and other things, on NBC, MSNBC, CNN, CSPAN, FOX and NPR. She has been a winner of the Society for Feature Journalism's Narrative Storytelling award, and a finalist for a Livingston Award and a James Beard Award. Monica lives in Maryland. with her husband and a brainiac dog.