Staff Picks Archive

Alexandra Nicolajsen: Director of Digital Sales & Marketing

After watching readers continue to rave about The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes, I knew her latest book The Queen of the Valley was a must-read. The author draws on true history and the stunning vistas of South America to artfully create an incomparable backdrop for this story that is part family saga, part mystery, and all expertly researched historical fiction. This book sweeps readers back to the 1920s and opens with a deadly earthquake in Cali, Colombia—the real event that inspired the story. The book is packed with emotional, mysterious storylines exploring love, family connections, and long-held secrets. Past meets present as the three central characters—a nun, a photographer, and a woman in disguise—search for the missing owner of a hacienda who shares a deep connection to each of them, and the mystery deepens as more of each of their pasts is revealed. The Queen of the Valley is a moving story that is anchored by the expertly crafted imagery creating time and place at the story’s heart. It is the perfect book to curl up with as the weather cools and you are ready to enjoy a cup of steaming coffee and a delicious bar of dark chocolate.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

Minerva Spencer’s Regency-set romances often feature unusual characters living in non-traditional circumstances. The heroine of THE DUELING DUCHESS, the second book in the Wicked Women of Whitechapel series, Frenchwoman Cecile Tremblay, came to England as a child, virtually alone in the world.  Her father, a renowned gunsmith, had taught her all about guns, including how to build and assemble them and how to shoot, and she became a markswoman of unparalleled accuracy.  She now owns Farnham’s Fantastical Female Fayre, a circus in which the performers are women, and where Cecile entertains audiences with her marksmanship, including her signature feat: donning a blindfold and shooting the tall hat sitting on the head of her male assistant, releasing a shower of colorful confetti. Guy Darlington, who became a duke, then promptly lost the title to a cousin who arrived from abroad to claim it, is now working in Cecile’s circus, mostly just to be near her.  When he had his title, he needed to marry a very wealthy heiress to rescue his floundering duchy, so instead of marrying Cecile, whom he loved, he became betrothed to another and made Cecile an indecent proposal for which she has never forgiven him.  His standing in society gone, his moneyed fiancée jilted him unceremoniously, and he has vowed to redeem himself in the eyes of the woman he really loves and has always wanted.

But nothing is as it seems, and everyone has secrets, some of which are terribly painful.  Cecile has never shared all the details of her past, but Guy is intent on uncovering what she is hiding and helping her overcome it so they can be together.

A strong heroine, a devoted hero and a group of quirky supporting characters (including a charming street urchin, a female knife thrower and a thieving raven) round out a delightful supporting cast in this deeply touching and thoroughly satisfying historical romance.

 

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Alexandra Nicolajsen: Director of Digital Sales & Marketing

Everyone processes grief in their own way, and it is not something with a timeline or a blueprint—and it is not limited to one person alone, but to everyone that was touched by the life of the person they cared for. Someone Else’s Bucket List sets out to tell the story of one sister’s grief, but the story spreads its wings and in many ways it shadows the frenetic grief process itself, making the reader cry, laugh, and filled with hope and joy chapter by chapter. I could not wait to get my ARC of this book, having heard wonderful things from the moment we received the manuscript—and then seeing the vibrant, beautiful cover that just made me think of escaping with an immersive story. This is a book that explores not only one sister’s anguish after losing her beloved sibling, but also how its tendrils reached out and touched everyone in their family, their friends—and the millions of followers of the influencer sister who passed. The book touches on so many timely topics from losing a loved one in the age of social media to the crippling medical debt so many people in the U.S. face—and the lengths to which someone will go to save their family from the weight of that debt. Someone Else’s Bucket List is at once a deep exploration of finding yourself and your happiness through sorrow and an uplifting love story you can take to the beach while you bury your toes in the sand. Wherever you find yourself reading this summer, make sure this book is nearby—along with a box of tissues as you shed sad…and ultimately happy tears.

 

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Review by Lauren Jernigan: Assistant Director of Social Media

After watching readers continue to rave about The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes, I knew her latest book The Queen of the Valley was a must-read. The author draws on true history and the stunning vistas of South America to artfully create an incomparable backdrop for this story that is part family saga, part mystery, and all expertly researched historical fiction. This book sweeps readers back to the 1920s and opens with a deadly earthquake in Cali, Colombia—the real event that inspired the story. The book is packed with emotional, mysterious storylines exploring love, family connections, and long-held secrets. Past meets present as the three central characters—a nun, a photographer, and a woman in disguise—search for the missing owner of a hacienda who shares a deep connection to each of them, and the mystery deepens as more of each of their pasts is revealed. The Queen of the Valley is a moving story that is anchored by the expertly crafted imagery creating time and place at the story’s heart. It is the perfect book to curl up with as the weather cools and you are ready to enjoy a cup of steaming coffee and a delicious bar of dark chocolate.

 

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Alexandra Nicolajsen: Director of Digital Sales & Marketing

For Her Consideration is the book readers need right now if they’re looking for something fun, transportive, and totally entertaining. That it is an LGBTQ+ story with a plus size heroine is just the icing on top. Author Amy Spalding takes readers inside the chosen family of Nina Rice, an aspiring Los Angeles writer freelancing as the email face of her agent-boss’s celebrity client roster…and still reeling from a traumatizing relationship that ended years prior. When she meets up-and-coming actress Ari Fox, the sparks fly—and Nina’s trauma starts to heal, allowing her not only to begin a new relationship, but also return to the chosen family of friends she had lost touch with after her heartbreak. But when things start getting serious, that past pain and self-doubt starts to re-surface, and Nina might not be as ready to move on as she thought she was. But will Ari give up on their love without a fight? For Her Consideration is a story of all the most important relationships people can have—with significant others, close friends, and family who loves you no matter what. This story is as uplifting as it is binge-worthy—and like taking a trip to LA without ever leaving your most comfy reading spot.

 

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Review by Ann Pryor: Senior Communications Manager

In 1952, world-famous Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams was called up to active duty in the Korean War. Baseball’s biggest name was already an ace pilot, as skilled in the cockpit as he was on the field. John Glenn was an experienced fighter pilot during World War II, who commissioned with The Marine Corps and had gone through months of training when he petitioned for active duty in Korea. He was a superstar among the officers and pilots who knew him as a superior instructor and remarkable man.

To the hard-working pilot Glenn, Williams was mysterious, famous but taciturn, a fearless risk-taker. Glenn requested Williams to fly on his wing. The reluctant, fatalistic, pugnacious Reservist and the eager, optimistic, unflappable active-duty regular Marine would go on to serve together, forging a friendship in battle that would last a lifetime and take them up into the stratosphere, literally and figuratively - from Earth orbit and a long political career for Glenn, to world records and global fame as one of baseball’s greatest hitters for Williams.

THE WINGMEN: The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship between John Glenn and Ted Williams looks at the lifetime connection forged between the hitter and future astronaut under deadly conditions that would radiate out from their mutual respect. They shared a keen understanding of their respective gifts, a fierce dedication to the success of the team (whether The Red Sox, the Mercury program, or a military unit), and their rabid pursuit of excellence. They wanted to contribute without any special treatment or fanfare. They understood that their gifts and drive came with a price – fame – and each would handle it differently. Each of them would earn a permanent place in the pantheon of American heroes and become titans in their own right. Author Adam Lazarus leads the reader through their complex friendship set against the backdrop of history.

THE WINGMEN is of friendship that endures through time, the perfect blend of American history, military history, NASA, baseball, and brotherhood.

 

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Alexandra Nicolajsen: Director of Digital Sales & Marketing

In the Time of Our History is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve had the privilege of working on. Rich with emotion and fraught family dynamics, this book offers an insight into Iranian culture that is not often explored in contemporary fiction. This haunting story transports readers to a bleak East Coast winter, where it is the one year anniversary of the sudden deaths of Mitra Jahani’s younger sister, niece, and nephew. Mitra and her family continue to struggle to come to terms with this incomparable loss against the backdrop of Mitra’s past—which has left her as an outcast in the family, disowned by her traditional father. Mitra sets out to find not only her way after trauma, but also to uncover the secrets of her sister’s past. What she finds may tear her family even further apart. Exploring gender roles, self-worth, family dynamics, and the many ways that love binds us, this brilliant story weaves together scores of disparate threads to create a book that is at once vital and unforgettable.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Nearly twenty years ago, Kensington launched the career of horror master Jonathan Maberry with the publication of his bestselling Pine Deep trilogy, which won many awards including the Bram Stoker, as well as rave reviews and reader ratings. GHOST ROAD BLUES, DEAD MAN’S SONG, and BAD MOON RISING continue to win fans with their page-turning tales of vampires, werewolves, and other dark entities that invade a picturesque town on the Delaware River. Now horror fans can return to Pine Deep in LONG PAST MIDNIGHT, a collection of stories (and one poem) that are sure to bring spine-tingling thrills just in time for the Halloween season. Among the haunted houses, tangled cemeteries, lonely roads, and threatening shadows, chilling tales of revenge and madness play out in gripping detail. Fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Neil Gaiman will feel right at home.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

If you’re a fan of forensic thrillers, like the ones written by Patricia Cornwell and Tess Gerritsen, you’ll want to check out Lisa Black’s novels.  Lisa is a certified crime scene analyst, currently living and working on the Gulf Coast of Florida after honing her skills in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her expertise in forensic science makes her books crackle with authenticity. In her new Locard Institute thriller series, her two dynamic heroines solve crimes that have baffled other experts.  In WHAT HARMS YOU, a series of murders at a forensic training program raises the chilling question: What happens when a serial killer goes to CSI school? Join Ellie Carr and Rachael Davies as they examine the clues – and confront a suspect whose skills rival their own.

 

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Review by Megan Zimlich: Associate Manager, Digital Content and Sales

I came for the ghost story but stayed for the flower language woven throughout this novel. If you love creepy, atmospheric books that toe the line of horror but don’t actually crossover and get too scary this is a great choice. The story is led by Francine Thwaite, a woman who can see ghosts and who has lived in her family’s crumbling Elizabethan manor in England’s Lake District her whole life, a place that, unsurprisingly, has its fair share of spirits. Francine has never hid this ability and has thus been mocked her whole life by the people in her small town and has developed a tough outer shell and does not suffer fools gladly, Francine is a refreshing change of pace for a female lead, she does what she wants and says what she wants! And mainly what she wants to do is hang out with her ghost friends and tend to her garden. The meanings of the different plants and their uses is something that runs through the entire book and I definitely need more stories from this author with content like that because it turned out to be my favorite part. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I will say that Francine’s younger, flighty sister arrives and tells Francine some information that completely upends both of their lives, and that’s when everything Francine thought she knew starts to fall apart… This is definitely the read for you if you like a story that is creepy but not too scary, a tough as nails heroine, and if you’re interested in plant lore.

 

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Review by Shannon Plackis: Assistant Editor

In Where Ivy Dares to Grow, Saoirse Read joins her fiancé Jack on a visit to his family’s ancestral home, Langdon Hall, to be with his ailing mother in her final days. Saoirse finds herself isolated and unwanted by Jack and his cruel family, and during her walks along the estate to occupy her time, she stumbles in and out of the past—and into the arms of her fiancé’s handsome and kind 19th century ancestor—Theo Page.

When I first read Where Ivy Dares to Grow, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Marielle Thompson paints a rich setting, so atmospheric and immersive, that you can’t help but feel like you’ve been trawling the halls of Langdon yourself. You feel its dark oppressive walls in the present, just like Saoirse, and are relieved by its light and splendor in the past.

And then you meet Theo. In Theo lies the perfect romantic hero, he’s mysterious but loving, and a total gentleman…until he can’t help himself. The bond Saoirse and Theo form is captivating and their complicated love story engulfed me from the moment it began.

One of the most magnetic aspects of this novel is following Saoirse’s struggle with her mind. Our heroine suffers from depersonalization-derealization disorder and her journey reckoning with her mental health is at the heart of this story. This theme is lovingly crafted throughout and I found myself rooting for Saoirse to take control of her own narrative—to find peace in her mind and acceptance in her heart.

In the end, Where Ivy Dares to Grow reminds us to trust in ourselves, even when our minds make it difficult, and that we are deserving of love because of who we are, not in spite of it.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

True crime fans, you don’t want to miss this one. James Renner, the popular podcaster and acclaimed author of True Crime Addict, will take you on a deep dive into a baffling and mesmerizing unsolved murder case that took place in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1990.  Sixteen-year-old Lisa Pruett was on her way to a midnight meet-up with her boyfriend but was stabbed to death just feet from his door. The boyfriend was questioned and released. Another classmate was identified as a suspect, arrested, and brought to trial – but found not guilty.  To this day no one has been held accountable.  James Renner devoted years of research and interviews to bring new light to the case.  His findings will shock and fascinate you in this page-turning true story.

 

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Review by Steven Zacharius : President & CEO

Second Shot, by Cindy Dees, is non-stop action, from the beginning to the end.  The main character, Helen Warwick, is a 55 year old retired CIA assassin; at least she was supposed to be retired.  Her family who never had any knowledge of what she did for a living, are under attack, and it requires her to get back into the game.  Not having any idea who is trying to kill her and her family is only the first problem.  Staying alive long enough to try and figure this all out is her greatest obstacle.  The story deals with corruption in our government, as well as Russian spies, the Russian mob and a gruesome serial killer.

Having real life credentials for writing this type of thriller don’t come easy.   The author is an Air Force veteran, Dees enlisted after earning a degree in Russian and East European Studies, becoming the youngest female pilot in the history of the Air Force. She’s flown all kinds of military aircraft and has also worked in intelligence, traveling to forty-two countries on five continents. She was detained by the KGB and East German secret police, got shot at, flew in the first Gulf War, and amassed a lifetime’s experiences to fuel her stories of life on the edge of danger.

Once you start this book, you will not put it down.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

June is the perfect time for cozy mystery fans to return to historic Mackinac Island to join fudge-maker/sleuth Allie McMurphy in solving a puzzling murder. Allie was hoping to win top honors at the county fair’s fudge contest. But a trip through the fair’s haunted house brings her to a body that is all too real. After a second unexplained death occurs much too close to home, Allie knows she has to figure out whodunnit. Readers can look forward to mouth-watering recipes, cute pets, quirky neighbors, an alluring setting, and a page-turning plot in this delightful Candy-Coated mystery.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BALLROOM is the second book in the “Designing Debutantes” trilogy featuring the Harper sisters, whose parents were embroiled in a marital scandal, damaging their daughters’ prospects and seeing the young women treated dreadfully by the ton.   To support themselves, the sisters run Elegant Occasions, a party planning business that also assists well-bred young ladies for whom entry into society and securing an advantageous marriage are somewhat challenging.

I adored the first book in this trilogy, A DUKE FOR DIANA, and I eagerly awaited this book, in which widowed Eliza finds true love as she and her sisters help young Jocelin March enter society.  Jocelin, whose father was a military officer, was practically raised on the battlefield, and she has found herself widowed and raising a young child.  Her guardian, Nathaniel Stanton, the Earl of Foxstead, hires Elegant Occasions to coach Jocelin, introduce her to the right people and help her find a suitable husband.

Nathaniel was friends with Eliza’s late husband Samuel Pierce, who was by all accounts a scoundrel.  Nathaniel had admired Eliza from afar, as Samuel took great pains to isolate his wife from his friends.  Now, as Nathaniel gets to know Eliza, he finds her charming, smart and (of course!) beautiful.  And when he hears her sing at a party, he is completely mesmerized.  But Nathaniel is hiding some very big secrets that can devastate Eliza and destroy both Jocelin’s prospects and his own position and standing in society.

As Nathaniel and Eliza learn to trust each other, understanding and mutual respect blossom.  Add intense attraction and we watch Nathaniel and Eliza fall madly in love.  I loved this couple, who overcome so much to find their happily ever after.  I can’t wait for the final book in this trilogy, which will see Verity, the third Harper sister, finding true love.

 

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Review by Larissa Ackerman: Senior Communications Manager

I’ve read all the books in the Irish Village Mystery series by Carlene O’Connor, but Murder at an Irish Bakery might just be my favorite installment so far! I was so excited to find that the book has already received starred reviews from Library Journal (“fans of competitive baking shows or Amy Patricia Meade’s cozy mysteries will enjoy it”) and Publishers Weekly (“Excellent… O’Connor reinforces her place among the top rank of cozy writers”). Murder at an Irish Bakery very much deserves these high honors!

Murder at an Irish Bakery is Great British Bake Off gone bad, but in a good way—instead of friendly bakers that get along, you’ve got vicious competitors who are willing to stab each other in the back. Instead of hugs all around for the baker going home, you’ve got attitude and angry tears. And instead of a smooth-running reality TV baking competition, you’ve got a messy production…starting with the murder of a sugar protestor.

The baking competition is set in a bakery that is located in an old, non-operational flour mill called Pie Pie Love, outside of the village of Kilbane, County Cork, in Ireland. Pie Pie Love has the best baked goods in the area, and Garda Siobhan O’Sullivan is there to eye them all—oh, and to make sure nothing goes wrong. But when a protestor outside the bakery gets his nose powdered by the “Queen Baker of Ireland” Aoife McBride, and soon after dies from it, the atmosphere goes from jovial to eerie. When more creepy things start taking place, Siobhan is positive that something sinister is afoot. The storyline is less cozy than her past books and with several contestants, two hosts, and the bakery owner all having something to hide, it’s an extremely puzzling mystery for readers to solve. There’s a lot of heightened emotions, nasty behavior, and possibly deadly secrets. I hope you enjoy Murder at an Irish Bakery and the rest of Carlene O’Connor’s Irish Village Mystery series as much as I do. Even if you aren’t a fan of mysteries, the small village setting, charming and humorous characters, and gorgeously described rolling hills will have you yearning to book the next flight out to Ireland!

 

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Review by Ann Pryor: Senior Communications Manager

I have watched the film The Sting countless times because it’s a complex story of a sophisticated heist. Professional con artists with everything to lose execute a high-risk scheme to defraud a crook and a murderer out of his millions. The scheme, known as a Big Con – as opposed to a grift or an outright robbery - is elaborate.  It takes time to plan, organize, and pull off. The mechanics are complicated and even the language they use is unusual. The best part is that the mark – the one being conned – doesn’t even know it’s a con.

Thus I was excited to learn about GANGBUSTER, about Denver’s 1920s District Attorney Philip Van Cise, who revealed how cons work and how he blew them apart. His covert work investigating the art of the Big Con, including its rarefied lingo, became the basis of The Sting and was crucial to busting racketeers, profiteers and swindlers. Van Cise went on to defy Denver’s resurgent Ku Klux Klan using the same tactics he used to bust up the city’s big confidence rackets.

GANGBUSTER is a potent cocktail of true crime, history, and a bootful of Wild West lawnessness.  Denver emerged after World War II as a hotbed of criminals, crooks, and underworld figures who slowly engineered a takeover of law enforcement, from the cops to lawmakers to the state’s highest office. Everyone was on the take, and no one was being collared. Cocky, restless, and ambitious, a decorated veteran of The Great War, Van Cise declared war on the corruption within Colorado’s power structure. Within a year of taking office, he had cleared out a complex criminal element entrenched in the highest levels of government, using espionage techniques that were decades ahead of their time.  Using new methods of policing, Van Cise conducted secret, often perilous investigations involving electronic surveillance, undercover operatives, stakeouts, communication intercepts, and counterintelligence measures.  He sent undercover agents to infiltrate KKK meetings and launched a grand jury probe of the group’s well-cloaked leadership and political connections.

This thrilling book is about the nefarious ways criminals organize, and how one man with integrity and character methodically took them all down.  That’s the Denver way!

 

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Review by Elizabeth May: Associate Editor

March is Women’s History Month, and as a feminist and a history buff, I’ve always had huge interest in learning about women’s contributions that have been overlooked or forgotten. That is why The Confidante by Christopher Gorham is such an illumination. It’s the first biography of Anna Rosenberg, a woman who started life as a Jewish Hungarian immigrant, without a high school diploma, and rose to become critical to FDR’s New Deal, and WWII efforts.

Just some of Anna’s numerous accomplishments include being the first recipient of the Medal of Freedom, for her role as special envoy in WWII, and becoming the Assistant Secretary of Defense in Truman’s administration. Yet everyone who I’ve talked to about this book, comes away with the same question. “How have I not heard of Anna Rosenberg?”

Brandy Schillace said it best in her review of The Confidante for the Wall Street Journal,

“I found myself engrossed and amazed by the “sparrow of a woman” and her endless energy. “The Confidante” covers four decades and some of the most future-shaping legislation ever passed by the U.S. government. Through it all, we can see Rosenberg’s fingerprints across the nation’s major events. As a result, Mr. Gorham’s biography is also a mystery. How could we have forgotten such a woman? . . . .. What “The Confidante” provides, with cinematic color and encyclopedic clarity, is a resurrection of that history.”

Christopher Gorham’s writing is powerful and immediate, a history teacher by profession, he has a talent for proverbially grabbing your hand and making you feel like you’re walking along side some of the most famous figures and moments of the twentieth century. From FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech, to the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, to Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” seeing them with fresh eyes, and standing beside Anna Rosenberg, an incredible woman who’s contributions have been overlooked. Until now.

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Like the final episode of “Game of Thrones,” but more relevant to our world . . . like the final episode of “Yellowstone,” but more thought-provoking . . . in WHITE SMOKE, John Gilstrap concludes his stunning Victoria Emerson trilogy with a page-turning thriller that will stay in readers’ minds, long after they’ve closed the book. In CRIMSON PHOENIX and BLUE FIRE, fans have watched as Victoria, a former Congressional representative from West Virginia, leads the survivors of an unthinkable nuclear Armageddon to rebuild society. Receiving a summons to the bunker where the remnants of America’s leadership are under siege from forces of brutal anarchy, she risks everything to defend democracy. Full of action, vivid characters, and unforgettable scenes, WHITE SMOKE is not to be missed.

 

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Review by Jackie Dinas: Associate Publisher

GEORGIE, ALL ALONG is one of those books that speaks to so many pieces of life. There is something for every reader to be found in these pages. If you are looking for a swoon-worthy romance of two misfits helping each other find their way, this book is for you. If you love a heroine who is so unapologetically herself, this book is for you. If you want a story of how female friendships can shape and determine our lives, this book is for you!

At its core, GEORGIE is a story of discovering your self and your worth, even if that discovery looks a little different than conventional wisdom might say it should look. The characters in this novel are so developed and deeply human it reads as if you could be having a late-night conversation with a friend who is trying to find the balance between who she thought she would become and who, in fact, she is now, and the role love can play in the deepest pieces of self-discovery.

I can’t recommend this book more highly, if you’ve never read Kate Clayborn before, now is the time!

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Many of my friends say the first thing they read in the newspaper each morning is the obituary page.  It’s not because they’re morbidly curious.  They love to read obits because of their excellent writing. Each obituary is a small masterpiece of storytelling, a mini-biography full of vivid details and memorable anecdotes.  But why should the best obits be limited to the rich and famous?  James R. Hagerty, who writes obituaries for the Wall Street Journal, shares tips and skills that can enable us all to leave behind an account that is truly unique and full of personality.  He encourages us to write at greater length through letters, journals, diaries, and memoirs – if not for our friends and family, for our own sake.  Writing about our lives helps us focus on what’s really important, so we can spend our time on the real priorities.  This book, written by a master, combines instruction and inspiration for readers of all ages.

 

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Review by Larissa Ackerman: Senior Communications Manager

I love Carlene O’Connor’s Irish Village Mysteries, featuring amateur sleuth-turned-guarda Siobhan O’Sullivan and set in a small fictional town in County Cork, Ireland. So when I discovered that O’Connor was penning a second mystery series with Kensington, of course I had to read it as soon as I could get my hands on the manuscript!

NO STRANGERS HERE, the first in O’Connor’s County Kerry mysteries, is definitively NOT cozy—it’s an atmospheric, dark book, set in the coastal town of Dingle, Ireland, and switches between two points of view: Dimpna Wilde’s, a veterinarian whose father—also a veterinarian—is suspected for the murder of wealthy racehorse owner Jimmy O’Reilly; and Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien, an outsider to the residents of Dingle who has to work hard to get any of the townspeople to open up to him, including Dingle’s own gardai.

There’s certainly some cozy aspects—a small town, with a murder that happens off the page, and Dimpna is a veterinarian with a pack of dogs that travel with her wherever she goes—but (other than being set in Ireland) that’s where any similarities to O’Connor’s Irish Village Mysteries end. The rest of the book is a chilly, spooky search for a killer and veers off into murky territory. You won’t be able to put this book down as Dimpna must reckon with her past—which is traumatic for several reasons that I won’t divulge here in an attempt not to spoil anything—while trying to prove her father’s innocence for the death of Jimmy O’Reilly.

NO STRANGERS HERE is a complicated whodunit and must read—if you love Tana French’s Irish thrillers, you’ll want to add O’Connor’s new series to your bookshelf.

 

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Review by Shannon Gray-Winter: Senior Marketing Copy/ARC Manager

In acclaimed author T. Greenwood’s vividly lyrical drama, a former child star is forced to confront the darkest secrets of her youth when a controversial photo taken of her as a preteen ignites a media firestorm. It is a deeply moving story that touches on today’s headlines while exploring the often complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, the precarious lines between girl and woman, art and obscenity.

Alternating between a tranquil town in Vermont in the 90s to the seedy grit of New York City in the late 70s, Greenwood’s contrasting settings perfectly complement the dichotomy of protagonist Ryan Flannigan’s experience. Living a quiet life with her daughter in Vermont, the woman Ryan is today couldn’t be more different from the child star she became in the late 70s. But it all comes flashing back when a harrowing call comes from her oldest friend Gilly—a compromising photo of her as a preteen has resurfaced, taken during the darkest night of Ryan’s life, the ’77 blackout in New York City. To make matters worse, her estranged mother Fiona is wanted by the FBI amid accusations her connection to the photo could land her in prison. Then her dear friend who took the photo meets an equally dark end, forcing Ryan back to the city to face the past she desperately tried to leave behind. Returning to her artsy childhood apartment building in the West Village stirs up a lot of suppressed emotions for Ryan and she must now break down the walls she’s built around herself to make peace with her childhood. As she unpacks her buried trauma, Ryan will finally address the questions she’s avoided for decades: Can she forgive her fame-hungry stage mom after all the exploits, especially after her connection to the photo? And what about the other adults in her life as a preteen, what roles did they play in a time that forced girls to grow up too fast?

From chapter one, you’ll be invested in Ryan’s journey, the mystery around the photo, and how it all will play out. Greenwood has crafted a novel you’ll want to share with friends or book clubs, it was tailor-made for discussions. Like the best art, be it a striking song, painting, or riveting read, this novel will have you transfixed, thinking about it long after the last page has turned. I was so inspired by brave little Ryan, I made a companion playlist of evergreen songs from the 70s to revisit her world; I hope it transports you too: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5HGRrlDUYCoGQ5NY140YEF

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Black ops veteran Leo J. Maloney again takes thriller readers into the world of international intrigue with his action-driven new novel, BLAST WAVE.  Protagonist Alex Morgan, the daughter of legendary agent Dan Morgan, proves herself just as tough and resourceful as her dad in her latest caper, which catapults her from the clandestine corridors of power in London to Tokyo’s vibrant street racing scene – and into the heart of danger. Leo J. Maloney’s thrillers, like the James Bond novels and films, feature fast cars and motorcycles, cutting-edge technology, breathtaking action scenes, down-to-the-minute timing, and vibrant, exotic locales. I love this feisty, strong, smart, fast-on-her-feet heroine.  If you’re looking for a thriller that runs on pure adrenaline, BLAST WAVE will blow you away.

 

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Review by Kait Johnson: Assistant Social Media Manager

I don’t usually read holiday books until it’s closer to November, but as soon as I heard about this book in a meeting, I knew I’d be reading it as soon as possible. Thank goodness for ARCs!

A tabloid catastrophe sends Los Angeles event planner, Morgan Ross, back home to her small town in the rugged mountains of California…but that’s the last place she’d like to return. Still, an email about a last-minute fundraiser there could be the perfect way for her to fix her reputation. It turns out that the email was from a meddling friend (Ben) who was trying to lure her back home. One of the reasons Morgan has avoided Fern Falls? Rachel Reed, her one-time best friend turned crush. And that’s just the beginning of this unforgettable second-chance rom-com with a steamy sapphic spin.

Truly, if you love Hallmark movies but are looking for something with a little more heat, then this is the book for you. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to start all over again and return to Courtney Kae’s world of Fern Falls. I’ll be rereading this one, but closer to December and with a nice cup of hot chocolate! I also cannot wait for Ben’s story, coming in August 2023!

 

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Review by Lauren Jernigan: Assistant Director of Social Media

With social media being such a big part of my life OF COURSE I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder by Valerie Burns! This was such a fantastically fun and refreshing kick off for a brand new series centered all around Maddy Montgomery. Maddy is a social media star who finds herself taking over her great-aunt’s bakery (and discovering a dead body along the way). I absolutely loved how Valerie wove in Maddy’s disastrous skills in the kitchen (#relatable) with her desire to make a change and do something with her life. The mystery was fun and had me guessing at the clues every step of the way while rooting for Maddy and her pawsitively perfect pup-sidekick, Baby, to whip up the truth. 11/10 must recommend to anyone who loves a fun and modernly snarky character with a penchant for burning baked goods.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

V.S. Alexander’s WWII story is set largely in Warsaw, beginning at around the time the Nazis marched into Poland and continuing through the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto, its liquidation, and the uprising staged by a group of resisters who refused to go quietly to the Nazi death camps. The book features three brave women: Stefa Majewski, who lives with her family in the Ghetto, but when her family manages to escape the Ghetto, she stays with the man she loves and pursues a higher purpose; Stefa’s sister Hanna, who left Warsaw before the war, rejecting her family’s traditional ways in favor of living in England, but who returns to Warsaw as a spy for the British, using her connections and skills for her own objectives; and Janka, a Polish Catholic woman who, defying her hateful drunkard of a husband, helps Jews escape the Nazi persecution she finds abhorrent.

As with all of Alexander’s books, THE WAR GIRLS is populated with strong female characters who make things happen.  Stefa, who spends her time in the Ghetto helping the poor and hungry, takes a stand against her father, choosing her own husband instead of having an arranged marriage as was the custom.  When given the opportunity to escape the Ghetto and Poland itself with her parents and brother, she instead makes the brave decision to join her husband and a band of intrepid resistance fighters in standing up to the Nazis.  Hanna is in Poland working for the British with instructions not to contact her family, as such contact could compromise her mission, but she defies that order and takes tremendous risks to save them.  And Janka does what she knows in her heart is right, facing terrible danger to help the Majewski family and others by passing along strategic information she hears from her husband and his Nazi friends.

Meticulously researched and wonderfully dramatic, THE WAR GIRLS is a book I’ll long remember!

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

What do you think of when you see the name Tesla? A stylish electric car? An inventor who enabled us to enjoy all the benefits of electricity today? A scientific genius whose portrait hangs on Sheldon’s wall in “The Big Bang Theory” – and appeared on the cover of Time magazine? Nikola Tesla’s impact on the modern age has been vast. But few people realize that world leaders competed to acquire his inventions for use as devastating weapons. Tesla’s plans to build a particle beam weapon, often called the death ray, set off an international frenzy.  Marc Seifer, author of the definitive Tesla biography WIZARD and star of “The Tesla Files” on the History Channel, delves deep into original sources to present a compelling narrative of a scientific genius in the vortex of global conflict.

 

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Review by Kait Johnson: Assistant Social Media Manager

I wish there was a way to rewind and read Twice a Quinceañera for the first time again.

Nadia has finally taken a stand against her terrible fiancé and calls off their wedding a month beforehand. It’s also a month before her thirtieth birthday. All she has to do now is tell her family who are flying in and figure out a way to use the venue she’s already booked. When she reads about having a second  quinceañera, Nadia decides to switch gears from throwing a wedding to throwing herself a quinceañera (times two) for her thirtieth birthday. But figuring out the venue leads Nadia to reconnecting with her college fling who might have been more than just a fling.

My favorite genre when it comes to movies or books has always been romcoms. I’ve watched all of the classics repeatedly, so I couldn’t wait to read  Twice a Quinceañera by Yamile Saied Méndez once it was available. In romcoms, I love the meet cutes and the romance. Most of all, though, I love the journey that the characters go on as they not only find love but discover more about themselves. Throughout the story, Nadia is discovering her own confidence and I promise, readers, you’ll definitely be cheering her on from start to finish while also falling for Marcos…

 

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Review by Jackie Dinas: Associate Publisher

THE SCANDALOUS HAMILTONS delves into the backstory of the impoverished Eva and the scion of the Hamilton family, Ray and how their lives intersected and resulted in a scandal that was so famous in its time you can’t believe you’ve never read about it before! This book gives meaning to the phrase "fact is stranger than fiction". The story has so much packed into it: scandal, wealth, baby farms, prostitution, attempted murder! It’s a fascinating look into the past and the ways we have developed (or not!) as a society.

The author does a stellar job of utilizing primary sources to tap into the sensationalism of this infamous 19th century trial and case while also analyzing how this kind of journalism drove and affected culture. Both main characters were products of their time and circumstances and while Eva was quite villainous, I think the author does a good job of showing how she may have arrived to such dire decisions.

I would recommend to any historical true crime fans or readers interested in the Gilded Age, Journalism, or the Hamilton family.

 

Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

As you may imagine, I was pretty excited when my last name became the title of a bestselling book and then a mega-hit Broadway show. Even though, to my knowledge, my family has no direct link to the illustrious Alexander, I can’t help noticing that, on a ten-dollar bill, his nose looks a lot like mine.  So I did a double-take when author Bill Shaffer contacted me to pitch his book about yet another Hamilton – again, no relation to me, but still interesting.  Little did I realize how interesting!  Robert Ray Hamilton, the great-grandson of the Founding Father, was a Gilded Age superstar who fell into the clutches of a wily, ambitious social climber named Evangeline Steele.  As the saying goes, he loved her; she loved his money – and she set out to take it.  A drunken argument and a flashing knife led to a scandalous trial that splashed the Hamilton name on newspapers from coast to coast.  With a historian’s love of detail and a storyteller’s passion for narrative, Bill Shaffer takes readers into a world of celebrity worship that rivals that of the Kardashians.  Step into these pages and you’ll be transported to another time – but one that is strikingly like our own in many intriguing ways.

 

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Review by Ann Pryor: Senior Communications Manager

Almost three decades ago, Scott Lenga sat down with his father, Harry, and they talked about Harry’s life: how he and his three brothers had grown up in a Polish community, how the family was moved to a Jewish ghetto, then the three brothers shuttled together from one slave labor camp and concentration camp after the other during World War II.  They survived them all, including Auschwitz.

Mr. Lenga then transcribed the recordings and spent seven years turning them into a chronological monologue of his father’s own words, relating the Lenga family’s journey from Poland through the War to their liberation in 1945, and then onto St. Louis. The result is The Watchmakers, an extraordinary story of resilience, tenacity, faith, and the unique horological skills of his father and uncles that carried them through the War.

How did they survive? First, they made a vow never to be parted, in life or in death. Second, they were craftsmen bound together by the art, science, and mastery of watchmaking. This skill gave them a hand they could play to influence their fate. Plundered watches were pilfered, coveted and traded by German overseers in the black-market economy of the camps. The vast majority of watchmakers in Poland were Jews. Many of them would have been older men, or killed, or without the tools or personality traits to function in the oppressive labyrinth of the camp economy. Harry Lenga and his brothers were young men with skills, tools, and an entrepreneurial spark that would prove to bind them together and save their lives through the horrors of The Holocaust.

The power of Harry’s vow to survive was so powerful, so astonishing and steadfast, that it is rippling out through time, passing from to his son to this book, through me and onto you, the reader. Harry still has the power to instill hope and resilience. There’s a moment in THE WATCHMAKERS where Harry has everything to lose, and in an extraordinary moment, he casts his fate to the wind. I promise that when you come to this moment, you’ll hold your breath like I did.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

Amanda Skenandore writes well-researched historical novels with compelling characters facing tough challenges.  In THE NURSE’S SECRET, grifter and petty thief Una Kelly is barely scraping by as she picks pockets and steals trinkets that she can quickly sell for cash.  When she arrives in a dark alley to meet a potential fence for some the items she has stolen, she instead witnesses his murder and finds herself the prime suspect.  Una needs to lay low and avoid all the places the police might look for her, but she also must find a place to live and a way to survive.

When Una learns that Bellevue Hospital is training young ladies to be professional nurses, the program is the perfect answer to her dilemma.  All she needs to do is pass the interview and convince the program’s administrators that she is an educated, well-bred young lady; here, her grifter background stands her in good stead, and her interviewers believe that she is exactly who she claims to be.  Una is accepted into the program, and she finds that she enjoys the experience and is quite good at the practical aspects of caring for patients.

When Una notices that the deaths of several people at Bellevue (one of whom she knows from her grifter days) and the murder of the fence in the alley have some disturbing similarities, she investigates the circumstances of these deaths.  This scrutiny causes her former life and current life to collide, placing her in great danger and jeopardizing both her future in nursing and the romantic relationship she has been building with one of Bellevue’s doctors.

The indomitable Una is a fascinating character, and her story is engaging and powerful.  I’ve loved Amanda Skenandore’s previous books, and THE NURSE’S SECRET is another winner!

 

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Review by Kait Johnson: Assistant Social Media Manager

When Abigail inherits a treasure map and piece of gold from her grandfather, she finds herself pulled into an exciting but dangerous adventure. Because someone else is after the map. With the help of Gage Logan (a handsome professional treasure Hunter) she plans to uncover the treasure her grandfather was searching for before he died.

 

I was sold the minute I saw the treasure hunting aspect. Plus, the romance. Gage and Abigail are an exciting and passionate duo from the get-go, and I immediately couldn’t wait to uncover the story with them. If you love anything to do with maps, hidden treasures, and adventure this is one to check out.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Thriller fans, this one’s for you.  Hostage rescue specialist Jonathan Grave is back in John Gilstrap’s newest release, LETHAL GAME.  Fans of the series know they can expect a high level of excitement from any Gilstrap novel.  For anyone new to the series, feel free to jump in, as every Jonathan Grave thriller can be read as a stand-alone.  As the story opens, Jonathan and his longtime friend Boxers are on a hunting trip in Montana when they come into a sniper’s crosshairs.  Their vehicle has been stolen. They’re cut off from all communication.  It’s getting dark, and the temperatures are sub-freezing.  But their adversaries have seriously underestimated this battle-hardened duo.  The ensuing action pits Grave and Boxers against high-level corruption and an international criminal conspiracy. Spoiler alert – the good guys win – and readers are in for a roller-coaster ride.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

“Hours into London’s most poorly attended ball, not a single gentleman had asked Lady Diana Harper to dance.”

When I read that first sentence of A DUKE FOR DIANA by Sabrina Jeffries, the first book in the new “Designing Debutantes” trilogy, I knew I was going to adore this book.  I wanted to get to know Diana.  I wondered why she was at a ball that very few others had attended, and why, even with such a sparse crowd, nobody had bothered to ask her to dance.  And as I devoured this book, I learned what a delightful lady Diana is, how unfairly she and her sisters have been treated by the ton because of things their parents did, and how the indomitable Harper sisters have forged their own path and are supporting themselves (and making significant contributions to several charities) by running Elegant Occasions, a successful party planning business.

Diana and her sisters Eliza and Verity, who are selective about the clients they take on, are both intrigued and confused by Geoffrey Brookhouse, who has recently and unexpectedly inherited from a distant relative the dukedom of Grenwood.  Geoffrey hires Elegant Occasions to plan his sister Rosabel’s debut and help her find a suitable husband.  Geoffrey is hiding a dark family secret, and he wants to ensure that “Rosy” will be protected and cared for by a respectable husband of means.

Diana handles matters of fashion for Elegant Occasions, and in addition to steering Rosy to styles and colors that accentuate her positive attributes, she encourages Geoffrey to abandon his country attire and begin dressing like a duke.  Diana is also the business mind of the enterprise, handling negotiations and dealing with their clients.  While Geoffrey is intrigued by Diana’s excellent instincts and inner strength and bewitched by her beauty, he believes that he cannot marry or even have a relationship until he solves the possibly disastrous problem posed by the ominous secret he has been afraid to share with anyone.

Innocent Diana isn’t sure she wants to marry, even if she can attract someone who will overlook her family’s unseemly past, but she is curious about the passion men and women can experience in a marital relationship.  Can Geoffrey help with her research?  As Diana and Geoffrey are increasingly drawn to each other, they must figure out what’s most important to them and learn to trust each other with their deepest secrets and most fervent hopes.

As I expected, I just loved this book!  I can’t wait for the next installment of the trilogy, which will see Diana’s sister Eliza finding love!

 

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Review by Larissa Ackerman: Senior Communications Manager, Cozy Mysteries, Historical Mysteries, Suspense, Crime Fiction

I don’t think that I can describe Amanda Flower’s latest Amish Matchmaker Mystery, Marriage Can Be Mischief, any better than this new review from Mystery Scene Magazine: “Flower has that special sparkle that some writers possess—that magical quality that makes the plot, characters, and setting fly through your reading fingers as fast as you can turn the pages. She makes her situations and characters truly come to life with a depth of emotion behind her characters that make them memorable.” If you’re a fan of her Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, then you’ll really love Millie and Co. from the Amish Matchmaker Mysteries—both series take place in Harvest, Ohio, the fictional town that Flower created. You’ll love amateur sleuth Millie, her best friend Lois, and—because it’s not truly an Amanda Flower cozy mystery without an adorable animal sidekick—Millie’s two rambunctious Boer goats, Phillip and Peter!

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

Two widows are drawn together by happenstance and circumstance in this moving novel set in New Orleans in 1900.  Constance Halstead has set out to uncover her husband’s secrets, especially the reasons for his repeated demands for more and more of her money, which the Napoleonic Code prevents him from accessing without her consent.  And Alice Butterworth, who grew up in a prairie family, then moved to Chicago to make her way in the world, finds herself in New Orleans, alone, pregnant, and searching for the husband who has disappeared, seemingly abandoning her.

Alice, a very talented seamstress and designer, is teaching sewing skills to girls in a local orphanage when she is asked to design a Mardi Gras gown for Constance.  The collaboration between Alice and Constance fosters a deep friendship as they share their ideas for the gown and watch as it is created by Alice’s talented hands.  And as they, along with Constance’s housekeeper Analee, love and nurture Constance’s daughters and await the arrival of Alice’s child, a sisterhood is formed, and an unusual, wonderful family is created.

The story twists and turns as secrets are uncovered, and as Constance and Alice lean on each other, they find the inner strength that will sustain them as they move forward in a sometimes-dangerous city and a rapidly changing world.

 

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Review by Steven Zacharius : President & CEO

Cold Snap is the 4th  book in the fast-paced  Arliss Cutter series, featuring Deputy US Marshal Arliss Cutter and Lola Teariki, battling the brutal forces of nature in the Alaskan wilderness at the same time as trying to solve a murder and dealing with rugged maniacal felons.

The story begins when body parts start washing up on the Alaskan Coast and the police realize that they have a serial killer that is picking up the pace of his killings.  Most of the action takes place when Arliss is assigned to a routine transport assignment of four dangerous prisoners in a small prop plane that runs into trouble in treacherous weather in remote Alaska.  He has to try and survive while guarding the prisoners, until they can be rescued, because one of the prisoners has torched the plane.  With no way of making it to civilization, and no supplies left, coupled with conditions that are uninhabitable without food and shelter; it becomes a tale of man versus nature.

If you’re a fan of C J Box’s thrillers that take place in the outdoors in Wyoming, you’ll absolutely tear through Marc’s stories of the treacherous countryside and beauty of Alaska.  As a former US Marshall in Alaska, Cameron is uniquely equipped to write these stories, that are thrillers, but give you a real in-depth look at what it takes to be able to survive in the frigid weather of Alaska.

All of the Arliss Cutter books are standalone novels.  #1 New York Times bestselling author, Mark Greaney, says “Cameron’s books are riveting page-turners”, and I couldn’t agree more.

 

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Review by Kristin McLaughlin: Assistant Digital Marketing Manager

THE SECRETS WE SHARE tells a complicated and interwoven story of two sisters and a disastrous night long ago that follows them for twenty years. Even though their childhood may have appeared normal, nothing is quite what it and seems, and when young Glenn and Natalie’s father is discovered dead in the woods behind their home, this fateful night changes the course of their lives forever.  Just what happened that tragic evening and why? A shared secret will shock you.

Edwin Hill writes a complex and powerful book about what it means to be family and the lengths people will go to ensure that secrets remain hidden. I enjoyed every second of this book and guessed the ending wrong about one million times. If you enjoy a twisty suspense novel full of developed characters and great pacing, this is your next read!

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

What could be a worse nightmare than the experience of an innocent person who is wrongly convicted of a crime and imprisoned? Innocence litigator Valena Beety takes readers into the heart of one of today’s top issues in her new book, Manifesting Justice: Wrongly Convicted Women Reclaim Their Rights. Drawing on her years of experience as a litigator, founder of the West Virginia Innocence Project, and board member of the national Innocence Network, Beety shows readers how and why things go wrong – and what we must do to protect the rights of the accused.  Mixing personal stories of actual cases with thoughtful analysis, Manifesting Justice offers solutions and inspiration. With helpful discussion questions at the end, this is a book that is sure to spark conversation.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

Honey Creek, Texas is a charming small town inhabited by people who are kind and caring … and sometimes lonely.

McCoy Mason arrives in Honey Creek jobless, abandoned by his fiancée, and recovering from an injury.  He stays with his curmudgeonly grandfather and spends his time making repairs to the badly neglected house.  He also helps his grandfather fight off developers who have their eye on his land. McCoy has never been successful in relationships, but when the town veterinarian catches his eye, he wonders whether his luck might be changing.

Jessica “Jam” Mackenzie runs a lovely and successful café in town.  While she serves romantic dinners to the town’s couples, she has been unlucky in love herself, and she thinks she will never find a special someone to fill the empty spaces in her heart.  But when Sergeant Tucson Smith saves a young woman who has fallen into the river and he and Jam try to identify her and help her recover, they are drawn to each other in ways neither of them expected.

Senior citizen Charles Winston lives a very orderly and predictable life.  He has a regular lunch date at Jam’s café with three local ladies.  When he decides to try for something more with one of the ladies, the very proper Lilly Lambert, he might upend his cherished routine, or he might find something much better.

The vividly drawn town and its kind but quirky residents are entertaining and heartwarming.  I’m looking forward to the next book in this delightful series, and I can’t wait to revisit Honey Creek!

 

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Review by Ann Pryor: Senior Communications Manager

What’s all the buzz about bees?  There are viral videos of people wearing beards made of bees; sticking their bare hands in hives; ASMR videos of drizzling honey; and delicious slow-motion shots of bumblebees in flight. All that bee love is warranted. Scientists have been cautioning humans to protect and save the bees, from banning neonicotinoids, planting pollinator gardens and trees, setting out bee baths, to serving as educators, and becoming beekeepers themselves.

Timed to Earth Day 2022, BEE PEOPLE AND THE BUGS THEY LOVE is a valentine to the beautiful honey bee, and the seemingly quirky people who serve as their stewards. This perfectly constructed, funny, thoughtful, and insightful book takes you on Frank Mortimer’s journey from hobbyist to Master Beekeeper.  “Frank the Bee Man” bumbles and stumbles as he learns to cultivate bees, attending to and growing their colonies, and aiding them in honey production. As he gains confidence and experience, he finds that bee people are a unique community, not bound by any defining trait except their love and passion for bees. At first glance, they seem positively wacky, but they should be as prized and revered as the bees themselves. Bee people are everywhere!

The book swarms warms with buzzy facts about beekeeping and beekeepers.  Bees require commitment, practice, attention, and following the advice of more experienced beekeepers – which many “new-bees” fail to do.  As Mortimer takes his obsession to the next level on his way to becoming a certified Bee Person, his world quickly expands.  His affinity for bees naturally extends to planting native bee blooms in his backyard, understanding how bees communicate (pro tip: watch their waggling bee butts), and following the unbreakable rules of beekeeping, gleaned over millennia.

If you’re curious about the honey at your grocery store or farmer’s market; the hives in your neighbor’s yard, local farm, rooftop, or botanical garden; if you want to plant a pollinator garden this spring or learn the relationship between flowers, trees, bees, honey, and the food on your table; if you know a bee person or want to be (bee!) one…. BEE PEOPLE will inspire you.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

There are many pleasures to be had in Nancy Coco’s cozy mysteries. Of course, like all cozies, they provide certain basic comforts – a cute and compelling heroine (in this case, Wren Johnson) with an intriguing profession (proprietor of a shop devoted to honey products), adorable pets (Havanese brown cats!), a quaint setting (a resort town in coastal Oregon), and yummy recipes (be sure to try the Apple Honey Cake!). A MATTER OF HIVE AND DEATH offers something extra that I found really special. It takes readers into the lives of beekeepers and their precious swarms, which are so crucial to the health of our planet and every living creature on it. From hive maintenance to bee behavior, honey production to harvesting, Nancy Coco skillfully weaves fascinating details into the storyline so that as you enjoy the mystery, you are also learning. I hope you’ll enjoy A MATTER OF HIVE AND DEATH as much as I did.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: General Counsel

In A LIGHT BEYOND THE TRENCHES, Alan Hlad has crafted an interesting, intelligent, and inspiring story.  Anna is a nurse who’s caring for Germany’s WWI wounded soldiers.  Although she is far from talented at the medical aspects of nursing, she’s very empathetic and nurturing, and it’s these qualities that see her being tapped to work at a new facility where dogs are being trained as service animals for blinded soldiers who are returning from the front.  At first, Anna is just caring for the shepherd dogs, but it soon becomes apparent that she’s very gifted when it comes to working directly with the veterans, helping them bond with their dogs and teaching the soldiers and dogs how to work together.  This is how Anna meets Max, a blinded soldier who was a talented pianist and composer before the war.  Because the facility had a difficult time finding lodging for Max (he is Jewish and nobody wanted to house him), he is living with Anna and her clockmaker father, Norbie, in their modest apartment above Norbie’s workshop.  The three develop a wonderful camaraderie as they navigate wartime hardships.

Anna’s chemist fiancé Bruno is in the German army, and unbeknownst to Anna, Bruno has been recruited to work on deploying chemical weapons, which cause gruesome, painful deaths.  Bruno struggles with his conscience, as well as with the knowledge that his family business, which in peacetime manufactures inks and dyes, is currently making a fortune from the production of the chemicals being used in these weapons.  He also grapples with whether to tell Anna exactly what he has been doing for the German army; while he doesn’t want to keep secrets from her, he is certain she will not understand or accept the terrible truth.

Although Max’s hearing was damaged in the war, Anna helps him return to playing the piano and composing music, giving him new purpose and bringing him joy.  Together, they produce a beautiful piece of music, with Max playing the notes and Anna writing the notes on musical staff paper.  And during the day, Anna works at the school with Max and his devoted service dog, Nia, whom Anna had helped recover from wounds sustained during her time as an ambulance dog at the front.

When Anna learns what Bruno’s military service entailed, she is horrified.  And when Max’s fiancée Wilhelmina gets a tiny taste of what her future would be like with a permanently disabled Max, she decides not to stick around.  We’ve seen how wonderful Anna and Max are together, how they bring out the very best of each other, and we root for them to wind up together.

Anna and Max’s story is uplifting and beautiful.  The details of chemical warfare and the training of service dogs are meticulously researched.  A LIGHT BEYOND THE TRENCHES is a wonderful and moving book and I recommend it to historical fiction lovers, and to anyone who loves a vividly emotional wartime story.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

What if the world as we know it came to a fiery end, and only a few survivors were left to make new lives in the devastated landscape that is left? That is the intriguing premise of John Gilstrap’s new Victoria Emerson thriller series. The launch novel, Crimson Phoenix, drew rave reviews for its dramatic story of a former congresswoman and her family, as they strive against the odds to create a viable society in a small West Virginia town.  Now comes the second book in the series, Blue Fire, which takes its characters deeper into the challenges of survival.  Amid battling warlords, desperate foragers, and other deadly threats, Victoria’s natural leadership abilities put her at the forefront of a fight to rekindle American democracy.  Thriller fans will not want to miss this nail-biting what-if novel.

 

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Review by Ann Pryor: Senior Communications Manager

When society becomes increasingly conformist and authoritarian, the most dangerous thing you can do is adhere to your own beliefs. This theme drives the terrifying tension in the new period thriller BLACKOUT, set during the lead-up to World War II, where Hitler is laying the groundwork for his Nazi state. British bestselling author Simon Scarrow’s portrayal of the pervasive dread and fear of that time – with a murder mystery layered on top - made my palms sweat.

As winter approaches, Berlin has been plunged into a deep freeze. Temperatures have plummeted, coal is scarce, and the cold is deadly. But there’s another, more dangerous freeze – panic and paranoia have spread like a virus as blackouts are rigidly enforced.  The Germans have crushed Poland, and the Nazis grip the public into compliance with a combination of propaganda, constant surveillance, and fear darker than any blackout. Every night the city becomes a cloaked and dangerous place where violence could strike from any hidden corner.

Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke of Berlin’s Kriminalpolizei has been tasked with solving the murder of a film star who has connections to the highest ranks of the Nazi party. His experience is invaluable to the force, but his views of The Fuhrer and The Third Reich are continually at odds with the growing power of the Nazis. Having refused to apply for the SS, Schenke is isolated in his moral clarity, his political beliefs, and his authority.

Schenke’s enemy isn’t simply the killer roaming under cover of night, but the investigation itself, which takes him deeper into the regime’s darkest corridors, and into a deadly struggle between duty and the Nazis’ growing decree for total obedience. He’s precariously on the right side of the law – for now. Then another body turns up. Now he has to navigate between finding the murderer and protecting himself from the same fate.

Meticulously researched and utterly terrifying, BLACKOUT sets a new gold standard for period thrillers, with the Scarrow’s signature research and foreboding atmosphere. Read this one with the lights on!

 

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Review by Kait Johnson: Assistant Social Media Manager

Donna Everhart’s newest historical novel takes readers into the pine forests of Georgia and explores the lives of three individuals working in a turpentine camp called Swallow Hill. Each character has their own troubles, but throughout the novel they begin to form deep friendships and find hope. For Rae Lynn Cobb, Swallow Hill is her only hope when she flees her home after a terrible incident. She disguises herself as a man and plans to hide out in the turpentine camp. But Swallow Hill proves to be a harsh environment.

Donna truly draws readers into this world with vivid details and explores the beautiful relationships between Rae Lynn, Del Reese, and Cornelia Riddle. Personally, I had not heard about turpentine camps before reading THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL, and this was an engaging read that showed me a slice of American history during the Great Depression.

 

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Review by Justine Willis: National Accounts Sales Director

OMG!!! I read this last night and I think this is her best book yet. Loved, loved, loved it. Readers are sure in for a treat!

This is a book and series that deserves to be on readers' “keeper” shelves and re-read often.

I can’t wait till Rebecca turns in book 2.

 

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Review by Michaela Hamilton: Executive Editor

Pet lovers, rejoice! Kristin von Kreisler is back with another of her wonderful novels about the power of dogs to improve and transform our lives.  Hope, a yellow lab, is a courthouse dog. Her job is to comfort and reassure people under stress—survivors and witnesses of terrible crimes who must testify about their traumatic experiences.   For bookmobile librarian Tessa Jordan, Hope’s warm presence brings the reassurance she needs—as well as a friendship, and perhaps more, with an unexpected ally. Fans of An Unexpected Grace and Earnest will again be caught up in Kristin von Kreisler’s incomparable storytelling skills as she portrays the deep connections between humans and canines.

 

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Review by Barbara Bennett: Kensington general counsel

Donna Everhart’s vivid southern novels always feature iron-willed female characters with strong, eloquent voices. THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL is no exception. In this mesmerizing book set during the Great Depression, Rae Lynn Cobb, who grew up in an orphanage and married a much older man, is faced with an impossible choice after her husband’s foolish choices, stubbornness, and desperation to end his suffering ultimately bring about his tragic death. To escape her past and take control of her future, Rae Lynn cuts her hair short, dons men’s clothing and work boots, and secures a job at Swallow Hill, a turpentine harvesting operation. This is difficult, physically challenging work, and her intrinsically mean and abusive supervisor makes things even worse. When a cruel punishment results in a medical crisis and Rae Lynn’s true gender being revealed, Cornelia Riddle, a kind and compassionate local woman who is living her own difficult life with an odious husband, takes Rae Lynn in and nurses her back to health.

The story also features Delwood Reese, who learned turpentining from his father and grandfather and who hires on at Swallow Hill. Del challenges the status quo there, making some enemies along the way, but also inspiring the loyalty and respect of many of his co-workers as well as the manager of the entire operation.

Rae Lynn builds a deep friendship with Cornelia, and the two women decide to leave Swallow Hill to try to make their way in the world, hoping to find less harsh and unforgiving conditions. Del also decides that it’s time to return to his family farm, where his sister Sudie May, her husband Amos, and their children are certain to welcome him with open arms. Del is increasingly drawn to Rae Lynn and intrigued by the mystery that surrounds her, and he brings her and Cornelia to the family farm, where his family embraces them. Rae Lynn and Cornelia become part of the family, helping Sudie May run the house and care for the children, and working in the vegetable garden, while Del and Amos harvest turpentine from the now-mature pine trees cultivated by Del and Sudie May’s father and grandfather.

For Rae Lynn, life with Del’s family is secure and she feels safe, but she must come to terms with her painful past before embracing a future where everything she has ever wanted is possible.

This book is powerful, the characters are compelling, and the storytelling is thoroughly engrossing. And the details of turpentine harvesting are fascinating; I always assumed turpentine was produced chemically in a factory, not extracted from pine trees!

THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL is Donna Everhart at her absolute best!

 

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Review by Kristin McLaughlin: Assistant Digital Marketing Manager

A thriller based in Colorado featuring a handsome rancher and a beautiful private investigator? Sign me up, please! THE LAST GOODNIGHT has everything I look for in a good suspense read. Dynamic characters, an interesting storyline, and red herrings galore.

Kade Logan has lived with questions about his estranged wife’s disappearance for eight long years and when her car is discovered at the bottom of a lake, he sets out to finally get some answers. Enter whip-smart Eleanor Bowman. Although she isn’t necessarily what Kade had in mind when he hired a private investigator, he soon learns she’s exactly what he needed. Together they retrace the last days of his ex-wife’s life and are led straight into the eye of the storm; thankfully they have each other to rely on.

I couldn’t put this book down from the moment I picked it up! I love books that keep me guessing the entire time and Kat Martin is a suspense genius! I can’t wait for her next book.

 

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Review by Barbara

ONCE A LAIRD is the story of Kai Ramsay, grandson of the laird of Thorsay, a group of remote Scottish islands.  Kai was raised by his grandparents after the deaths of his parents.  As an adult, he has traveled the world exploring the ruins of ancient civilizations and collecting priceless treasures.  He has also worked for the British government performing delicate missions in exotic, faraway lands.  And during the Napoleonic War, he was captured and held as a spy, but he managed to escape the execution that was doubtlessly awaiting him.  Now, with his grandfather ailing and near death, Kai has been called back to Thorsay to take his rightful place as laird.

When he returns home, Kai meets Signy, the younger sister of his first love, Gisela, who had died several years before.  When last Kai saw Signy, she was very young, but she has become an indomitable young woman who has been an invaluable help to his grandfather during the past few years.  Signy is smart, strong, talented and beautiful.  She has spent her whole life in Thorsay and she wants to see the world, but when Kai’s grandfather dies, she helps Kai transition to his role as laird, introducing him to the people of Thorsay, explaining the myriad issues he will be facing, and helping him navigate his new and daunting responsibilities.

Signy has a curious mind and artistic talents, so when she and Kai find some ancient ruins on the laird’s property, she immerses herself in drawing what they’ve found.  She also hopes to travel to London to study with a well-known artist, which presents some conflicts for the couple, who are increasingly drawn to each other.

When a nefarious and financially ambitious cousin threatens to take from Kai everything but his title as laird, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Kai enlists the help of a childhood friend, who brings more help than Kai ever could have expected and paves the way for both Kai and Signy to get everything they have ever wanted.

I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it!

 

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Review by Michaela

Greetings to my fellow cozy mystery fans!  You’ll be glad to hear that the fourth book in the Black Sheep & Company mystery series is now available. This series is a treat for anyone who’s into knitting and crafting, lovable animals, quaint New England villages, and the undeniable fact that when a group of dynamic women friends put their wits and needles together, there’s no end to what they can accomplish – including solving a murder mystery. Author Anne Canadeo Anne Canadeo has won widespread praise for her skills at crafting warm and inviting characters that make you want to sit down and stitch awhile with them. Treat yourself to a few hours with Strangers on a Skein. You deserve it!

 

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Review by Barbara

I’m a fan of Regency-set historical romances; I love the historical details, the fashions and the clever dialogue.  But this book gave me so much more.  The heroine, Celia Trent, was a legendary beauty in her youth, but she was also what we’d call a “mean girl,” even a bully.  Now, however, as she approaches 30, which is well past a lady’s prime, she is working for a living as a paid companion to a wealthy old lady and hiding a very big secret.  When we read the descriptions of how she treated people when she was younger, we feel as though she deserves to have been brought low, but more importantly, Celia believes it too; she realizes that she was an odious person, and she recognizes that her behavior just masked her personal and financial insecurities.  (Her once-wealthy father was a gambler, and with Celia’s mother having died, the money disappears, and Celia must fend for herself with little assistance or support.)  The hero, Richard Redvers, is an intelligent, handsome (of course!) aristocrat, who doesn’t believe in love and spends his time studying beetles and writing scholarly treatises.  He had admired her when they were young, and now she is right in front of him again.  What is a Regency hero to do?  Throw in a despicable bad guy; a couple whose tense marriage is the result of Celia’s youthful scheming; our hero’s mother, father and siblings, who understand more than anyone thinks they do; and some wonderful servants and friends, and you’ve got a truly engaging and sexy story, and a hero and heroine you can’t help but adore.

 

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Review by Ann

Reading a Verity Kent mystery is a chance to go back in time, to a unique moment in British history following The Great War.  In award-winning author Anna Lee Huber’s new book, Murder Most Fair, it’s been just a year since Armistice, but the war still feels painfully close, its vestiges and traumas still fresh in the mind and spirit.  Huber captures the nuances of these feelings – sorrow, loss, fear, and murder.

Huber is skilled at sourcing historical touchstones and events to ground her narratives.  Verity’s character is a member of what was a real-life intelligence gathering unit La Dame Blanche, which used women and even children to observe and report enemy movements and developments during World War I. Verity employs her intelligence skills, contacts, and powers of observation to brilliant use in solving complex mysteries. But that part of her life must remain in secret; because of British law, she cannot disclose the important work she has done for her country. Only her war hero husband knows the truth.

In Murder Most Fair, the story highlights the lingering effects of anti-German sentiment. Verity’s beloved Great-Aunt Ilse – a German - has spent years in her war-ravaged home country, and has returned to England to repair her fragile health along with a new young maid, Fraulein Bauer. (Her longtime maid has succumbed to The Spanish Flu.)

Even deep in the bucolic Yorkshire Dales, where she joins Verity’s family for the holidays, Ilse continues to encounter difficulties. Someone has been sending her anonymous threats, and Verity’s Secret Service contacts from her time with La Dame Blanche can only provide unsettling answers. Their arrival is met with a frosty reception. Normally peaceful neighbors are now openly hostile, seeking someone to blame for the devastating losses to their families and their country. When young Fraulein Bauer is found dead, Verity must uncover whether this is anti-German hatred taken to murderous lengths, or whether there is a more personal motive at work. When German-speaking people are spotted on the property, the picture suddenly changes.

Huber expertly pulls you into a murder mystery committed in the dark shadows of war’s end.  At Kensington we hope the good folks at Netflix will catch onto Huber’s books for a series!

 

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Review by Steven Zacharius

The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe is a beautifully told historical fiction story featuring the lives of young teenager Madeleine Force and her romance, and then marriage, to the richest man in the world, John Jacob Astor, 29 years older than her.  Madeleine, who was part of an upper-class family, although not nearly in the same league as Jack Astor, captured his eye after his scandalous divorce to his first wife.

The story takes you through what becomes of her life in dealing with the paparazzi while they were just dating.  The country and media became consumed with anything they could learn about the unusual romance that developed between them.  Madeleine had to learn how to deal with the intrusiveness that was thrust upon her, even before her marriage to the wealthy businessman.

The constant pressure of this new lifestyle became too difficult for her to handle and she needed to escape the constant media that shadowed her for their extended honeymoon.  The loving couple left their Fifth Avenue mansion to head on a trip to the middle east, where she could relax, find peace, and enjoy her new pregnancy. Unfortunately, the couple decided to cap off the trip with a return voyage on the Titanic.

This beautifully written love story about an unusual couple is a compelling read and will give you a glimpse into the life of the elite in the early 1900s.

 

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Review by Michaela

At a time when immigration issues dominate the news cycle, acclaimed novelist Suzanne Chazin takes us behind the headlines to explore the hearts and souls of those who bring their dreams to America.  Through the eyes of Bronx-born police detective Jimmy Vega, she uses the classic elements of mystery fiction to help us understand and empathize with the single mother who fled gangs in Guatemala, the teenager in threadbare clothing working in a Mexican restaurant while attending school, the undocumented janitor who works long hours to support his family – both those with him in New York and those back home in Central America. In THE FRAGILE EDGE, a sniper attack on a judicial official propels Detective Vega to hunt down a violent criminal who preys on the immigrant community. The Jimmy Vega mystery series has won top reviews for its compassion, insight, and powerful storytelling. If you love a good mystery that packs a powerful punch, check out THE FRAGILE EDGE.

 

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Thrillers are the genre that I devour, generally two per week but I’ve been reading more and more historical fiction lately and I can’t get over the history that I either didn’t know or have forgotten since studying history in high school (admittedly, it was a long time ago). I had the good fortune to pick up The Second Life of Mirielle West and I was astounded by the storytelling and the history behind it.

This story is about the wife of a glamorous movie star in the 1920s whose life is shattered when she hears from her physician she’s come down with leprosy. Mirielle West is forcibly sent off to Carville in Louisiana, the only leper colony in the country. Before reading this book, I was unaware a leper colony existed at one time in our history.

It is shocking someone of social stature contracts the disease and when she arrives, she of course thinks she is above everyone else quarantined there, but slowly she realizes she is no different from anyone else. Mirielle transforms from socialite to just another ordinary person who may or may not ever be able to leave the leper colony. Treatment for leprosy was experimental, and Mirielle’s personality is transformed as she becomes just another unfortunate victim of the wretched disease. Her attitude also changes as she transforms into a caring member of the colony.

This book is another wonderful addition to the historical fiction we’ve been publishing. The rich history learned from these beautifully told stories is similar in style to our historical fiction by Ellen Marie Wiseman and Donna Everhart. If you’re a fan of Kristin Hannah’s storytelling, you’ll also enjoy this book.

 

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Review by Esi

I have been recommending The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter to everyone I encounter. Not only is it informative about this process that so often gets waved away as no more than a phase, but it revealed aspects of our history that I’d never heard before. Placing the biological process of menopause within the societal structures that have shaped our world today is eye-opening, in more ways than one. If you’re curious about menopause, about medical history and misinformation, about how even the words we use shape the experiences we have—then this is the book for you.

 

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Review by Michaela

When two teens go missing while on a school trip, security specialist Jonathan Grave and his team head south of the border–and right into a trap.  They’re up against a familiar enemy that’s full of new and relentless plans to bring America to her knees. In the thirteenth installment of John Gilstrap’s award-winning thriller series, the pace is fast, the action is nonstop, and the characters draw you into their winner-takes-all mission. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

 

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Review by Michaela

People often ask me how I can handle the emotional impact of working on true-crime books.  They seem to think such violent dramas may scar my psyche.  In fact, the opposite is true; I find that the best true-crime books illuminate both the good and the evil in human nature – as well as the many shades of gray within us all.  Such is the case with DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD, the new true-crime book by New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother, which takes readers into the twists and turns surrounding two shocking deaths in the exclusive Coronado district of San Diego.  The case has all the elements of a media circus.   But it’s the people who will draw you into the story:  lovely Rebecca Zahau, whose body was found hanging from the balcony of her room in a historic mansion; her millionaire boyfriend, Shaknai, who was already reeling from his toddler son’s catastrophic fall in the home; the families, friends, law enforcement, forensic experts, and others who were caught up in the tragedy.  Caitlin Rother takes you behind the headlines and into the heart of an unforgettable true drama.

 

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aReview by Kait

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce follows two storylines—one about Honoree, an ambitious chorus girl in the 1920s, and another about Sawyer, a young man desperate to finish his film thesis in 2015. He believes Honoree holds the key he needs to finally finishing, but as they dive into her past Sawyer will also have to face his own grief and guilt about his sister’s death.

Denny weaves back and forth between the two times, effortlessly taking readers back to the jazz age in Chicago and then emerging back into current times as secrets come to light. And as the novel moves along, she brings together a beautiful story about love, family secrets, history, and the ways people work through grief.

From the moment, I stepped back in time with Honoree, I was hooked and think any reader who loves historical fiction will be too.

 

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Review by Jane

Four words: Feminist Regency Robin Hoods. If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what can! The Maidens of Mayhem are a secret society of women dedicated to fighting and advocating for the downtrodden and oppressed in Regency-era London. They seek to rectify social ills and bring justice to those who abuse their power. So what could be better than one of these maidens teaming up with a Duke to search for a missing woman – all the while bringing him down a peg and teaching him to use his privilege for good. Cross-class romance is one of my favorite tropes too so like-minded readers won’t be disappointed on the sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine!

 

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Review by Ann

Famous Hollywood friendships… before Ben and Matt, Kristin and Maya, and Sophie and Maisie, there was Elizabeth and Monty.

For classic film fans, ELIZABETH AND MONTY pulls off a spectacular feat – it’s both a meaty dual biography and a perfect beach read. This behind-the-scenes look at the famous friendship between Elizabeth Taylor and her frequent film co-star Montgomery Clift is a supremely juicy tell-all by Hollywood biographer Charles Casillo.  The book tracks the trajectories of these icons as they go from stars to legends, and how their deep friendship impacted their careers and the lives.

Taylor was a childhood star, appearing in films like National Velvet and Jane Eyre, before transitioning to grown-up roles including the poignant comedy Father of the Bride.  Montgomery Clift, considerably older, was a seasoned stage actor before making his Hollywood debut at 25.  He had already been nominated for an Academy Award when he was cast alongside Taylor in A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.  His character, poor, struggling, and already involved in a complicated relationship, falls madly in love with Taylor’s more wealthy character, to tragic ends. The passage in the book where the two newly cast actors meet for the first time is unforgettable – like you’re in the room listening to their conversation!

ELIZABETH AND MONTY does a wonderful job of contrasting the public and often scandalous love life of Taylor, and the private life of Clift.  Her torrid romances and multiple marriages splashed across the gossip pages, whereas Clift’s love life had to be kept in the shadows; his homosexuality was actively concealed by the studio machine. They were both tortured by the deeply private pangs of love and emotional pain, while both receiving widespread public and professional accolades. All the while, they made films that were instant classics; “the show must go on.” The book makes you think about what it takes to make it in show business, the elements and powerful people that work their magic behind the scenes, and the dark side of fame and creativity.

Their friendship survived failed marriages, box offices successes and failures, and the horrendous accident that changed their lives forever. ELIZABETH AND MONTY is an unforgettable tale, and a must-read for every film fan.

 

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Review by Larissa

Emmeline Duncan does a lot right with her debut cozy mystery FRESH BREWED MURDER, but nothing compares to her decadent descriptions of coffee. Every time there’s a scene with coffee (of which there are many, since it IS a coffee-themed mystery) you will be thinking about the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans.

One line, for example: “I poured a few ounces and took a sip, tasting the medium roast with notes of dark berries and spiced dates. Dark roast is my jam, but I could almost switch to this daily. Maybe it was the mix of Bourbon and Caturra beans from a Fair Trade co-op in Guatemala. Or it’s because Harley’s a genius when it comes to roasting coffee beans.” Excuse me while I get up to brew a cup…

Coffee aside, Emmeline Duncan has written an edgier cozy mystery than most. It’s not set in a quaint small town, but in the hip city of Portland, Oregon. The story also doesn’t shy away from the discussion of gentrification and homelessness. It also has a very real look of the highs and lows of starting a business venture. Duncan manages to balance all of these issues simultaneously with the story’s main mystery plot without ever overwhelming the reader.

Most importantly, however, Duncan has created a strong female sleuth and relatable protagonist in Sage Caplin. Readers will love Duncan’s breezy writing, Sage and her adorable coffee cart business “Ground Rules,” her fun business partner Harley, and the quirky characters that get involved in Sage’s life. Of course, it wouldn’t be a cozy mystery without murder, and cozy fans will find themselves with a fast-paced mystery that they won’t be able to put down until the very last page. The mixture of real-world issues, entertaining characters, a cool city setting, and a puzzling murder makes FRESH BREWED MURDER just as complex as one of Sage’s cups of coffee.

 

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Review by Michaela

Do you like to sip a nice cup of English tea – or even indulge in a bit of bubbly -- while you enjoy a clever mystery? If you like your cozies with a British accent, you’ll go bonkers for the Daisy Thorne mystery series by Louise R. Innes.  Daisy’s a hairdresser, you see, so she’s got the inside line on everything that happens in her village in leafy Surrey, England.  Daisy made her debut in Death at a Country Mansion, which quickly rose to become a bestseller. Now she’s got to solve the murder of a customer found dead as a mullet, right on her doorstep.  She’ll comb through the clues and do-or-dye her best to get to the roots of the case!

 

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Review by Barbara

I love this book so much!  After I read Kate Clayborn’s first rom com, LOVE LETTERING, I absolutely couldn’t wait for her next book, and LOVE AT FIRST did not disappoint!  The writing is engaging and beautiful, almost rhythmic; the story draws the reader in immediately; and her characters are vibrant, delightful and quirky.  In the prologue, we learn that Will, the nearsighted hero, fell for the heroine, Nora, from a distance when they were teenagers, when he couldn’t see her and all he knew of her was the sound of her voice and her bubbly, joyous laugh.  Now, years later, they actually meet, and while there is definite attraction and chemistry, circumstances complicate their relationship.  They both had self-involved parents who didn’t nurture them as children or teach them how to build a loving relationship, and as adults, Will and Nora are uncertain and emotionally unprepared to take the next step together. They must evaluate their priorities, let go of old resentments, and figure out what’s really important to them.  Ultimately, the eccentric secondary characters help Will and Nora reconcile their differences and find their way; sometimes the charming supporting cast does this with intention and calculated purpose, and other times what they say and do as they navigate their own tumultuous lives serves as an example to our hero and heroine.  Unsurprisingly, Kate Clayborn has delivered again, and now I find myself waiting impatiently for her next delicious treat!

 

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Review by Elizabeth

Over the Holidays, like seventy million or so other households, I binge- watched Bridgerton. It’s a bit surreal and exciting to see the genre we romance afficionados have known about for years reach millions of fresh eyes across the world.

But while there was a lot I loved about the series, including the progressive casting, creative sets and costumes, and strong female characters. I was definitely reminded of some of the tropes that have pulled me away from Regency Romance in the last few years: namely the glorification of toxic relationships.

Leaving behind the trope of fetishizing a ‘bad romance’ has been something the genre has struggled with for a long time. And it’s something that was in the forefront of my mind when I edited The Wallflowers of West Lane series by A.S. Fenichel.

This series focuses on four best friends. They call themselves The Wallflowers of West Lane, reclaiming a misogynistic pejorative as their calling card. And they will let no man get in their way. When one in their group finds herself in an abusive marriage, at a time when women’s rights were at a historical low point, the other three vow never to let the same fate befall another one of their clan. Thankfully, Aurora, the character in the toxic marriage is conveniently widowed. (And to know more about that, you’ll just have to read the series J)

But that doesn’t stop The Wallflowers from looking out for each other, like reverse wing women, when one of them gets a suitor, the others do their due diligence to make sure he is really the worthy husband their friend deserves. And if that due diligence sometimes means espionage, kidnapping, and blackmail, well so be it.

One thing I love about this series is the emphasis it puts on female friendships and women supporting each other, without competition, frenemies, or the catty competition tropes longtime readers of the genre are familiar with.

So, while the world searches for something to tide them over until Bridgerton 2.0, let me recommend The Wallflowers of West Lane series. And, if you still aren’t convinced that this series is a Regency Romance that will turn the stale tropes on their head…Capturing the Earl has a Regency heroine who plays the guitar.

 

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Review by Michaela

Hello, my fellow thriller fans! Did you hear about the new series that John Gilstrap is launching this year?  Don’t worry, he will continue writing his fabulous Jonathan Grave series, now in its fourteenth book and counting. But he’s also writing a second series with different characters, fresh plot elements, and all the excitement you’d expect in a John Gilstrap book. The first book in the new series, CRIMSON PHOENIX, is being released as a hardcover in March to an avalanche of rave reviews and reader comments. The protagonist is Victoria Emerson, a Congressional representative from West Virginia who, with her teenage sons, is among the lucky survivors of a nuclear war. In its aftermath, Victoria must lead her family, her community – and ultimately, her country – into a new future. CRIMSON PHOENIX comes out this month and includes a fascinating, highly personal Author’s Note in which Gilstrap explains the nonfiction background that inspired his new fiction series.  No spoilers but you may find yourself brushing up on your survival skills.

 

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Review by Kait

At the heart of this story is friendship and I enjoyed seeing how Gina Wilkinson wove the stories and experiences of three very different women together and explored their relationships. The three women each have their secrets, and I loved seeing how the secrets of the past and the present merged to help the women connect and reconnect. Each story shines thanks to Wilkinson’s ability to delve into and explore the array of emotions each woman experiences.

Descriptive and engaging, When the Apricots Bloom instantly pulled into the story’s world and had me hooked. From the first chapter, danger and tension are simmering as Huda is forced to make a dangerous choice to keep her family safe that will end up rippling out to pull in the two other women.

 

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Review by Kristin

Paradise Peak is a book that draws you in from the very first chapter. Travis Alden was reckless as a young man and one big mistake took years from his life while he served his time in prison. As a character Travis is kind and thoughtful but racked with guilt from the car accident he caused while under the influence, resulting in a death. After his release he heads back to Paradise Peak to do his best to make amends with the community, and family, left devastated by the wreck. Nobody realizes who Travis is when he returns to town and he’s welcomed with open arms. While helping to rehabilitate a ranch, he earns the love and trust of people who he must eventually be honest with, including the victim’s mother. He knows he’s obligated to reveal his identity and apologize for his past, but he also knows the truth will very likely ruin all the relationships he’s built since his return.

I will read absolutely anything Janet Dailey writes, but this book may be one of her best. Everyone can relate to the guilt Travis is experiencing and the desperation to apologize and atone for mistakes. The characters that Travis builds a bond with are lovable and I was rooting for him the entire time. There’s some romance and action mixed into this story, but at the core this is a beautiful book about growth and redemption.

 

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Review by Michaela

February is the release month for the trade paperback edition of 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Jewish Transport to Auschwitz.  First published in hardcover in March 2020 and licensed in over two dozen countries, 999 was recognized as an important work of nonfiction by reviewers and awards committees. Recently it was named to the long list for the prestigious 2021 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. Perhaps most meaningfully, it has been hailed by the descendants of Holocaust survivors as an important book of great emotional significance and impact. Truly the world should never forget the horrors of the Final Solution and the Nazi death camps.  Through this new edition, 999 continues to share the stories of nearly one thousand remarkable young women, most in their teens, who faced unspeakable evil with grace and courage.  This new edition includes a Reading Group Guide that will facilitate discussions among students and book clubs.

 

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Review by Ann

The pandemic has thrown us curveballs everywhere we turn. Our daily routines abruptly ended, and we are collectively grieving over the loss of the lives we once knew while adapting to an uncertain and fearful one.  We’re enduring physical and financial peril, homeschooling strain, and job loss. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store or the gas station can feel hazardous. Throw in a heavy dash of contentious politics, separated families, isolation, monotony, and ceaseless anxiety, and you’ve got all the ingredients for chronic stress.

In addition to the psychological impact, many more are feeling the physical effects of chronic stress – including everything from grinding teeth, sleepless nights, fatigue, fevers, headaches and unexplained pains.

The authors of WHEN CRISIS STRIKES – a psychiatrist and neuropsychologist who have treated thousands of patients going through wrenching life traumas and losses - reveal that on-going, chronic stress impacts both your mind and body. Normally, in a sudden moment of stress – for example, happening upon a bear that wants to have you for lunch - your body and brain’s hard-wired crisis system goes into Code Red, like NORAD during a national emergency. Your body has an amazing series of chemical triggers to give your brain, heart, lungs, and muscles the power to fight or flee. Your body behaves differently in response to evolved, complex, 21st century stressors like a pandemic, job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, chronic illness, or foreclosure.  These are stressful situations that don’t quickly resolve after a few hours.  Your Code Red system never shuts off, and eventually it will tax your ability to function.

Luckily, there’s a way to handle the strain.  The first step is understanding that holistic Code Red response. The second step is examining the multiple causes of stress, making a full assessment, and breaking it all down.  What can you control, starting now? What psychological shifts can you try to make?  Who can help you – and who can’t? What in your life can you embrace and be grateful for, and what should you toss out?  In a time when everything feels momentous and overwhelming, their advice is to start with the smallest possible steps, and be kind to yourself.

Stress triggers are going to be and feel different for all of us, but these seasoned pros offer a lifeline out of crisis, with the hope that you’ll become more resilient in the process.  Their book is a reminder that we are in this together, and will get through it together, too.

 

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Review by Michaela

True crime fans will be happy to learn that New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps has a new book coming out in January.  Phelps, who is also the creator and host of the #1 podcast Paper Ghosts, is a masterful investigative journalist and a mesmerizing storyteller. In WE THOUGHT WE KNEW YOU, he takes readers into a small, seemingly peaceful community in upstate New York. A beloved healer, mother, and wife named Mary Yoder was killed by someone so close to her, no one suspected – until surprising evidence unmasked the unlikeliest murderer. Perhaps because his own life was touched by the murder of a loved one, Phelps portrays the family dynamics of the case as fully as he shows the law-enforcement expertise that solved it. WE THOUGHT WE KNEW YOU is a page-turning story that is fascinating, disturbing, and 100% true.

 

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Review by Esi

That was quite the year, huh? I think we could all use a little sparkle, a little something to brighten our days. Luckily, Saranna DeWylde has launched the perfect series to bring a smile to your face. A little magic, a lot of romance, and a ton of laughs, FAIRY GODMOTHERS INC. is a perfect escape. The three resident godmothers of Ever After, Missouri—Petunia, Bluebonnet, and Jonquil—just want to bring a little love back to the world. And if that means convincing two people to get over their embarrassing breakup and fake an engagement, then that’s what they’re going to do. Add a charming town (complete with prince), an evil queen (with a heart of…well, maybe not gold, exactly), a fairytale castle, and some very vocal animal friends, and you’ve got the ideal treat.

 

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Review by Michaela

Hello, my fellow thriller fans! Did you hear about the new series that John Gilstrap launched this year?  Don’t worry, he will continue writing his fabulous Jonathan Grave series, now in its fourteenth book and counting. But he’s also writing a second series with different characters, fresh plot elements, and all the excitement you’d expect in a John Gilstrap book. The first book in the new series, CRIMSON PHOENIX, was released as a hardcover in March to an avalanche of rave review and reader comments. The protagonist is Victoria Emerson, a Congressional representative from West Virginia who, with her teenage sons, is among the lucky survivors of a nuclear war. In its aftermath, Victoria must lead her family, her community – and ultimately, her country – into a new future. CRIMSON PHOENIX comes out this month in paperback and includes a sample excerpt of the next Victoria Emerson thriller.

 

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Review by Liz

Fans of cozy mysteries are probably familiar with Kate Collins’s Flower Shop Mysteries. The long running series was a New York Times bestseller for many years and was recently adapted into a series of films for The Hallmark Channel, starring 80s icon Brooke Shields.

But with this new series, the author has really reinvented and out done herself. The Goddess of Greene Street series is set in Michigan and follows Athena Spencer a single mom, and daughter of Greek American immigrants who moves back home with her big, loud, loving family, and stumbles across a few mysteries along the way.

When I started reading this book I was instantly reminded of the classic, cult-status film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which nearly twenty years later, is still the highest grossing romantic comedy in history. There is so much humor and heart in this book. Some of my favorite moments were with Athena’s little sister, Delphi, who may or may not have a bit of the psychic gift. Or her mother, who was trying to cook Greek food for everyone, even the prison guards. And with Athena’s ‘pet’ raccoon.

And of course, I really loved the adorable romance with Athena’s neighbor and sleuthing partner, Case. The couple have an adorable flirtation, and a ‘will they, won’t they?’ momentum that will keep any romance fan reading. But the romance never takes anything away from the mystery, and the novel unfolds with humor and twisty suspense.

I invite everyone to grab a warm drink and spend part of this upcoming cold weather season with this big, fat, delightful mystery. You won’t regret it.

Happy Reading!

Liz

 

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Review by Ann

Anna Lee Huber’s fantastically visualized A Pretty Deceit, the latest of her Verity Kent Mysteries, is set against the backdrop of Post-World War I England. The Great War has ended, but it lingers everywhere, including the haunted memories of the protagonist.

What I love about Verity is how the author has loaded her character with juxtapositions.  Verity is only 23 years old, fresh and forward-thinking, but much of her spirit still lingers in the War that has ended. She’s deeply in love with her husband, who she was told had died in battle, and hasn’t quite emotionally adjusted to his surprising return, and how this turn of events has influenced their relationship. She’s sensitive, but has had to stay strong in the face of hardship, loss, and the suffering of those around her.

Then there’s the mystery. Her nemesis, Lord Ardmore (who has been compared to a Moriarty-like character for his shadowy powers) again appears.  His influence, money, and connections create a complex foe for Verity, who falls back on her strengths as a former spy and clever detective to outwit him as his own nefarious schemes.

Finally, there’s the whole of England. The reader is taken from London to East Anglia to The Isle of Wight. The narrative weaves in Britain’s complex history, back to when it was a Roman province.  Buried throughout Britain’s landscape are the remnants of its past, and it only takes a bit of digging to reveal hidden mysteries lurking just below the surface.

Huber’s latest book is darker, more delicious, and the intrepid, spirited Verity even more on her game. We’re still waiting on this series to be developed by the BBC!

 

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Review by Kait

As someone who is always up for a good Hallmark holiday movie, I really enjoyed The Brightest Star by Fern Michaels and the themes centered around family and giving. Biography author Lauren moves back home after her father is diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis to help her parents with their Christmas decoration store while her mother cares for her father. What she finds is a store on its last leg because her father refuses to step into the age of technology and create a website for the store—or even at least have Wi-Fi in the store.

Then, Lauren’s world takes another turn when she’s offered the chance to write a biography for John Gerard Giampalo—a tech giant and one of the richest people in the world. This opportunity comes with a large paycheck and offers Lauren the chance to really lean into her giving nature. And, possibly the chance to convince her father to step into the 21st century.

So, grab your coziest sweater and a cup of something warm before settling in to read The Brightest Star. Her newest book will put you in the mood for the Christmas spirit. And will have you wishing you could visit the idyllic town of Fallen Springs and check out Razzle Dazzle Décor. Plus, who doesn’t love a pinch of romance mixed into their holiday read?

 

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Review by Larissa

What more can you want for Christmas than a page-turning, criminally delicious holiday-themed Hannah Swensen Mystery from Joanne Fluke? The Queen of Culinary Mystery herself takes us to Lake Eden, Minnesota in CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER, where Hannah must speed through a lengthy holiday checklist while dealing with family drama. But then the holiday mood gets even more dampened when a John Doe is found near death in an abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah’s bakery, The Cookie Jar—and he can’t recall a thing about himself. Hannah must juggle frosting Christmas sweets while following the clues to the man’s identity.

CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER has everything you want in a Christmas book—a lighthearted mystery, a cozy small-town setting, all your favorite Lake Eden characters, vivid images of yummy baked goods, and of course plenty of holiday-themed cupcake and dessert recipes for readers to try. I personally recommend trying out the delectable White Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes—a special exclusive bonus recipe from My Food and Family by Kraft Heinz—and the Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing.

Even though it’s not yet just the holiday season, you’ll find yourself craving all things Christmas after reading CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER!

 

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Review by Michaela

There’s nothing like a cozy mystery to take us away from life’s stresses for a few hours. Here’s one that will do all that – while also getting you into the holiday spirit – and inspiring you to cook some tasty seasonal dishes worthy of the finest Armenian-American restaurant. MISTLETOE, MOUSSAKA, AND MURDER is the fifth book in Tina Kashian’s intriguing and popular Kebab Kitchen mystery series, set at the New Jersey Shore.  Tina’s family members are former restaurant owners, and she is drawing on her own history and cultural heritage in crafting these books. You can feel the love on every page. You can also feel the drama and suspense as our intrepid protagonist, Lucy Berberian, solves the murder of a participant in the town’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. Be sure to save time to try the recipes for Azad’s Moussaka, Angela’s Perfect Pilaf, Susan Cutie’s Lemon Meringue Pie, and Niari’s Holiday Pretzel Treats. Don’t be shy about coming back for seconds!

 

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Fans of forensic thrillers should not miss Lisa Black’s savvy, suspenseful Gardiner & Renner series, which features forensic expert Maggie Gardiner and her tangled relationship with Jack Renner, who’s a police detective, vigilante, brooding loner, bad, mad, and dangerous to know, and – okay, I’ll just say it – a serial killer.  But a good guy, like Dexter. (Isn’t Dexter a good guy?).  It’s hard for me to describe EVERY KIND OF WICKED without giving away the kind of spoilers that could turn even the nicest reader into a serial killer, too.  Lisa Black always delivers twists and turns and surprises, but this book really knocked me off my chair.  Lisa is a forensic expert herself, and her insider’s look at cops and criminals and crime-solving is always spot-on.  I urge you to get out your blood-spatter evidence kit, your Luminol, your fingerprint dusting powder – and your reading glasses – and enjoy EVERY KIND OF WICKED.  It really lives up to its title.

 

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Review by Susanna

I have been a fan of Charlie Donlea’s since his debut Summit Lake and I know it’s cliché, but I think he just keeps getting better and better with every book! As a fan, I was even more ecstatic when I learned that Donlea would be doing his first sequel to continue following the cases of deeply interesting forensic reconstructionist Rory More and her psychologist partner Lane Phillips (first seen in his recent novel Some Choose Darkness). As a fan of both retro suspense story lines and Scandinavian-style thrill rs, I was excited to see that THE SUICIDE HOUSE would be following the mysterious and twisted killings at a prestigious and secluded private school.

 

On the wooded campus of Westmont Preparatory School one year ago, two students were slaughtered in an abandoned boarding house as part of a secret club ritual. Now, while the killings were supposedly solved and a teacher was convicted, the mysterious events have become the subject of a very popular podcast. Lane, a prominent psychologist and profiler who specializes in serial killers, was asked by the reporter running the podcast to come and offer his opinion. Rory, his anti-social partner and an expert in reconstructing cold cases, becomes equally intrigued – feeling something is amiss with the details of the case. She begins recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. The more she learns, the more she believes something sinister is still happening at Westmont Prep.

 

If you’re a suspense reader like me, this is the perfect book for some dark, twisty, escapist reading and is ideal for fans of Riley Sager. While I don’t think you need to read Some Choose Darkness first to understand and appreciate THE SUICIDE HOUSE, they’re both so good – why wouldn’t you?!

 

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Review by Esi

I’ve wanted to work with Vanessa Riley for years, so this has really been a publishing dream come true for me. A DUKE, THE LADY, AND A BABY, the first of the Rogues and Remarkable Women series, has everything I love in a historical romance: great research, immediately engaging characters, and sharp wit. The bravery of Patience as she comes up with new and creative ways to protect her son and their livelihoods; the (reluctant, lol) openness of the Duke of Repington to incorporating an infant into his soldier’s life; The Widow’s Grace—women helping women at a time when they had very few rights. And of course, as Vanessa always does, a story that highlights the complexities and complications of race aren’t a brand-new invention. If you like well-written, adventurous, historically accurate romance, then this is the book for you!

 

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Review by Michaela

When you pick up a thriller by John Gilstrap, you can be sure you’ll get certain things. A fast plot, high-stakes action, authentic details, and compelling characters are a given in many thrillers. But with John Gilstrap, you also get a personal, visceral connection to the story that is rare in any genre. Gilstrap’s hero, Jonathan Grave, has a personal stake in every mission he takes on. When two boys are kidnapped on their way to Resurrection House – a sanctuary Grave founded for the children of incarcerated parents – it’s as though members of his family have been abducted. Grave sets out to get the kids back, and he’s not taking “no” for an answer. HELLFIRE, the twelfth Jonathan Grave thriller, starts out in high gear and quickly goes ballistic. I recommend it for all thriller fans.

 

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Review by Kristin

GHOSTING: A Love Story has everything that I adore about New York City all wrapped up into one adorable Rom-Com. Both Miles and Zoey are characters that I can relate to, as different as they are from each other. They’ve both been hurt in the past and are nervous about making new connections…so they help others find love instead! In a comedy of errors, they both fall into the position of being ghost writers for competing companies focused on writing dating profiles. Unbeknownst to them, their clients match and the ghost writing turns into actual feelings. But will Miles ever realize the person he’s really falling for is Zoey? And vice versa?!

The ups and downs in this book had me flipping pages faster than I can catch a cab in Times Square! I couldn’t get enough of how fun this book was. I rooted for Miles and Zoey to realize they were perfect for each other the entire time. The story paired with the fantastic background of NYC made this such an incredible read.

Review by Susanna

Tash Skilton’s debut rom-com Ghosting is an adorable, quirky, layered story in the vein of a modern-day NYC Sophie Kinsella with a touch of You’ve Got Mail for good measure.

30-year-old Miles and Zoey are both living in NYC, working as online Cyranos for dating companies: they are both available to be hired to help you online date – anything from reworking your dating profile, to even chatting online as you! Miles is in a bit of a dark place: his fiancée just left him for another man and he has been relegated to couch surfing for the past few weeks as he tries to land on his feet. Zoey has just moved to New York from LA in an attempt to force herself to work on her screenplay, but is instead just dealing with an incredible amount of anxiety.

One early morning, at the local café, Zoey and Miles reach for the same day-old free biscotti – and chaos ensues. The two instantly become frenemies, exchanging sharp banter and witticisms every day while vying for the best seat at the café and for the last of the free day-old baked goods. As their real-life friendship slowly starts to form, the two don’t realize that they have also been exchanging messages online – as other people through their day jobs. Before they know it, Miles and Zoey have both fallen for each other without even realizing it.

This layered, quippy story is a real gem. It manages to have laugh-out-loud moments and fantastic banter while still having a lot of emotional depth. If you’re missing the fun of rom-coms in theaters, are intrigued by the antics of online dating, or even want to experience a bit of NYC from the comfort of your couch, this one is for you.

 

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Review by Kait

A fake romance? Check. A dream destination? Check. A hunky firefighter? Check! And a romance that will have you fanning yourself? Double check!

Set in the beautiful Key West, Island Affair by Priscilla will have you believing that you’re really there and the location becomes as big of a character in the book as Sara Vance and Luis Navarro. Halfway through reading, I decided to add Key West to my list of future vacation trips!

What added an extra layer to this rom-com was the healing that happened between Sara and her family, and Luis and his brother. I loved the dive into the different family relationships, and how Priscilla showed that things are not always what we think. And that everyone is going through something, even when it might not seem like it.

Island Affair has everything you need in a good summer read! From the get-go, the tension building between Luis Navarro and Sara Vance is off the charts. But, their relationship is more than flirtatious quips and steamy kisses. Throughout their charade, the couple really push each other to open-up and trust each other. Which, had me swooning even more about the couple!

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9781420149975

Review by Wendy

What would you do if, out of the blue, you inherited a fortune from a stranger?

This is exactly the situation that Minerva Hepplewhite faces in HEIRESS FOR HIRE, the debut of a dazzling new historical romance series from the legendary New York Times bestselling Madeline Hunter.

An elderly duke has died under mysterious circumstances.  For reasons no one can fathom, he has left his vast wealth not to his family, but to three unrelated women no one’s ever heard of.

Minerva can’t fathom the reason for her good fortune either...but she now has the means to open “Hepplewhite’s Office of Discreet Inquiries”—basically, a regency version of a private detective agency!  And her first case is going to be to figure out how the old duke even knew of her existence, and also whether or not the duke was murdered.  She has a feeling that the outraged family—especially the duke’s very attractive nephew Chase Radnor, would be only too happy to pin the murder on *her*.

But when the simmering chemistry between Minerva and Chase ignites into passion, now the fun has really begun.  Can they trust each other? Does their unexpected romance have any shot at a happy ending?  How did the duke really die?  And why did he choose Minerva, of all people, as one of his heirs?

HEIRESS FOR HIRE is just brimming with riveting story elements and plot twists. Madeline Hunter has long been one of today’s most distinctive and beloved historical romance authors.  She is an author who has actually inspired other authors to begin writing—I know this for a fact  😊

Any new Madeline Hunter book is cause for celebration, but this one is extra special because it’s the launch of a new series.  If you’ve never read Madeline before, this would be a great place to start!

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Review by Ann

For mystery lovers, armchair travelers, and those longing to immerse themselves in a place other than the familiarity of their own homes, STONE CROSS by bestselling author Marc Cameron ticks off all the boxes. A tense thriller set in the Alaskan bush, this newest installment in the Arliss Cutter series is a deft follow-up to the series debut – but if you haven’t read the first book, definitely dive into this one.

Like the book’s author, Cutter is a U.S. Marshal with long experience tracking fugitives and murders. Settling in Anchorage as part of their Fugitive Apprehension Team, he and his deputy – Lola Teariki, a polished professional of Maori origin – have been assigned security detail to a federal judge who must arbitrate a local case in the bush. The judge has been living under threat of harm and reluctantly accepts their help. Before the Marshals even arrive for duty, there is trouble: the disappearance of a couple overseeing the local lodge’s premises for the winter, and the murder of the lodge’s handyman.

Triply tasked with security detail, a murder investigation, and as caretaker for his widowed sister-in-law, the remoteness of Stone Cross adds even more tension and difficulty to Cutter’s already full plate. In the isolated community, transportation, communication, and a regular food supply are all unpredictable. The locals rely on hunting caribou and moose to fill their coffers during the unforgiving and dark winter months. The weather and the wilderness can also be volatile. A dense and looming fog is as oppressive as the sense of panic in the Inuit community, and a looming storm all thrillingly, dangerously combine, with Arliss in the eye of the storm.

With a realistic view of the remote communities in the Alaskan wilderness, along with a complex protagonist who is highly skilled, flawed, and layered, plus a spate of female characters who are tough as nails, STONE CROSS is transportive as it is gripping.

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Review by Michaela

Few authors have touched the lives of others to the extent that Dr. Elaine Aron has. Her ground-breaking research in the 1990s led her to identify the personal trait of high sensitivity, which she described in her classic international bestseller, THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON.  Highly sensitive people feel things more deeply than others, may feel overwhelmed by excessive noise or activity, and need to balance time with others with time alone.  Their high sensitivity enables them to quickly empathize with the feelings of others and live a rich emotional life. As parents, they can use their special trait to advantage in dealing with their children, with other parents, and with teachers – if they know how.  Dr. Aron’s newest book, THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PARENT, fills the need with thoughtful suggestions based on research and case histories.

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The Bachelor

Review by Jackie

If you are a fan of historical romance, then Sabrina Jeffries needs no introduction. She is the reigning queen of the genre and she keeps getting better and better. If you aren’t a fan of historical romance or have never tried it, Sabrina’s Duke Dynasty series would be a fabulous place to start. It has everything: family drama, mystery, gorgeous period details, witty dialogue, and of course, plenty of romance. The series follows the children of an often widowed aristocrat in Regency England who are all searching for information about their fathers while learning to be a blended family in adulthood after having spent their childhoods apart. It has family drama of every stripe for every reader and it adds a lot of depth to the larger romances that we see in each book.

In The Bachelor, we get the story of Gwyn, a twin, and the daughter of the family. Hiding a secret, she has long been sheltered away at the family’s estate left longing for a season in London. When she is finally ready to make her debut in society, some past drama (you’ll have to read it to find out what!) causes fear that she won’t be safe in London, so the family’s groundskeeper, Joshua, a returning veteran of the Napoleonic Wars with demons of his own, is hired to protect Lady Gwyn in London. They already have some history and this bodyguard role soon turns to something more. But before they can find a happily ever after there are mysteries to be solved! Scandals to avoid! Demons to conquer! All this and more with Sabrina’s trademark wit and heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Review by Elizabeth

Who doesn’t love a good bodyguard romance—not to mention one set in Regency England amid glamorous balls and charming scenery? Sabrina Jeffries’ latest in her Duke Dynasty series brings us smoldering hot tension between Lady Gwyn Drake and her protector, Major Joshua Wolfe. When a former suitor of Lady Gwyn’s threatens to go public with their scandalous affair from years ago, independent Gwyn knows she must take matters into her own hands to save her reputation and that of her family. The trouble is: how to pay off the rogue without her family knowing, and in the midst of the tumult of her London debut, no less? Not to mention, she’ll have to find a reason to dodge Major Joshua Wolfe, assigned by Gwyn’s duke brother to protect her from the very scoundrel Gwyn is determined to handle on her own. A conundrum indeed, especially as it becomes clear that the more time Gwyn and Joshua spend together, the harder it is to deny the attraction between them.

I loved Gwyn and Joshua’s repartee and the way that their delight in tormenting one another slowly reveals itself as real emotion and longing. Jeffries employs her many talents to create a sparkling heroine and a ruggedly captivating hero who are each also struggling to overcome their own personal demons. The intrigue of Gwyn’s malevolent former suitor brings a further thrilling element that will keep you turning the pages. Add in a sensual archery lesson and evocative love scenes, and I dare you to resist The Bachelor.

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How to love your elf

Review by Lauren

Elves, magic, and mysteriously charming thieves…this book has EVERYTHING I love! How to Love Your Elf was an action–packed fast read that had me flipping the pages almost faster than my eyes could read the words. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but only a little one. This book is perfect for readers who want to get wrapped up in a fantastical world full of magic, and a big dash of romance that will take your breath away. Sorcha is a capable, stubborn, and strong Princess with a healthy dose of warrior attitude that makes her leap off the page. I’m always a sucker for a stubborn heroine who meets her match in a maybe not all–too–trustworthy scoundrel that can’t decide if he’s infuriated or infatuated by her antics. If you’re looking for something that will have you entertained from start to finish, this is absolutely the book for you.

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9781496721419

Review by Norma

Author Christin Brecher made my cozy editor dreams come true with her debut novel Murder’s No Votive Confidence, the first in the Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery series.Norma Perez-Hernandez February 2020 Staff Pick Photo

I’d wanted to read a cozy mystery series set in a candle shop for the longest time, and Christin’s delightful (pun-intended) take on the genre surprised me in the best possible way with its humor, heart, and handy candle making tips. Her follow-up Murder Makes Scents is no exception, as candle maker and Wick & Flame store owner Stella Wright uncovers a murder mystery centered on a missing vial of perfume. I hope cozy fans have as much fun reading Stella’s adventures as I did editing them!

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9781420148732

Review by Kristin

Reading Hart’s Hollow Farm feels like opening a book and closing the world around you (no small feat on a New York City subway). As soon I stepped into the pages of Kristen’s world, I was immediately transfixed with how connected I felt to her character. A mom who couldn’t save her only child, a woman who hasn’t let her heart feel again since, Kristen’s journey to healing goes as deep as the soil of Hart’s Hollow Farm.

As soon as she meets 73-year-old firecracker Emmy I knew neither women would be the same. Both of their losses run deep and they know the pain they carry will never heal completely, but they also understand life is meant to be lived. Enter Mitch, Emmy’s hunky yet sensitive son and my favorite part of this book. Kristen and Mitch are undeniably drawn to each other and the slow burn of their relationship had me hooked from the start. This book is a beautiful ode to the strength of community and the love a family can have for each other, whether that family is held together by blood or choice.

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9781496725172

Review by Esi

Have you ever read a book so realistic and all-consuming that you start to forget it’s not your actual life?

That’s how I felt when I read Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. I wanted to hang out with Meg Mackworth and friends, watching movies and sharing secrets. (I would also love to hire Meg to make me a planner that would finally organize my life). Watching Meg’s relationships—romantic and non—unfold over the course of the book felt like visiting with a great friend, the kind who you can go months without talking to, but then you get together and it’s as if no time had passed at all.

Of course, the care and detail taken with the location and descriptions just build on the realism. New York City springs off the page, so be careful if you’re the kind to make impulsive travel plans (or especially if you’re hungry, because there is a falafel description that makes my mouth water even now).

The story of Meg Mackworth, handletterer extraordinaire, and the decision she makes that upends not just her life, but that of buttoned-up, reserved, deeply thoughtful (and extremely handsome) Reid Sutherland, will make you laugh and cry, yes. But it will also make you think, make you dream, make you grateful for the people around you. Visiting the little world Clayborn has created makes it clear how wonderful all of our own little worlds are.

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9781496720337

Review by Larissa

You don’t need to be fans of Victoria Laurie’s Psychic Eye or Ghost Hunter Mystery series to enjoy her the first book in her new spin off series starring two fan favorites, Cat Cooper and her best friend Gilley Gillespie!

In COACHED TO DEATH, Cat Cooper finds herself gouged from an unexpected and nasty divorce and decides to settle in the Hamptons for her new career as a business-savvy life coach. But her mean girl neighbor, Heather Holland, is trying to bully Cat out of town. But Cat is the wrong person to try to intimidate, and after a series of petty actions on Heather’s part, the two women have a showdown at Heather’s invite-only luncheon. But when Heather’s dead body turns up next to Cat’s shattered punchbowl, Cat gets pinned as the murderer.  With Gilley at her side, Cat must scour chic Hampton boutiques and oceanfront mansions in search of the criminal who framed her.

COACHED TO DEATH is deliciously witty and fun, Cat and Gilley are the two perfect friends to spend time with. Readers will be counting down the days until their next Hamptons adventure.

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Review by Esi

Nothing will get you into the holiday spirit like this collection, based around my absolute favorite story concept—being snowed in!

Fern Michaels, our resident holiday expert, delights with her tale of a a radio host who is supposed to be an expert on love, but finds herself feeling more and more lonely. But an adventure in speed dating and an unexpected snow storm may be just what she needs, in “Starry Night”. Tara Sheets brings us the story of Layla Gentry, a woman who has it all, and her nemesis, Sebastian. If there’s one thing I love as much as couples being snowed in, it’s a classic enemy to lovers story, and Tara delivers, in “Mistletoe and Mimosas”. Finally, in Kate Clayborn’s “Missing Christmas” longtime friends and business partners Kristen and Jasper make a trip to New England to finalize a vital deal for their company. But a freak blizzard may be all it takes to show them what they’ve really been missing.

These smart, funny, heartwarming tales are perfect to read while cozied under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa—picture perfect for the holiday season!

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9781496713193

Review by Ann

Attention, fans of Downtown Abbey, The Bletchley Circle, Home Fires – and books like The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris – meet Verity Kent!

Verity is an amazing woman, far ahead of her time. A British wife who ends up working for La Dame Blanche, a real-life intelligence gathering organization in The Great War, Verity may participate in the societal conventions of her time, but she is also an independent thinker, an intrepid spy, and a modern woman by 21st century standards.  Her husband, Sidney – whom she thought dead – turns up quite alive, and the two of them sort through these successive shocks in addition to recovering from the psychic ravages and demands of the war.

What’s entertaining and educational about Anna Lee Huber’s Verity Kent mysteries is that they’re anchored by historical fact. In PENNY FOR YOUR SECRETS, the mystery centers on the wreck of the Zebrina, a British cargo ship whose crew mysteriously vanished, and which remains one of The Great War’s still unsolved mysteries.

Huber also drew inspiration from the life of The Duchess of Marlborough, the stunningly beautiful Gladys Spencer-Churchill, who once notoriously brought a pistol to dinner during one of her parties and flippantly threatening to shoot her husband with it.  In the book, Lady Rockham is a newlywed who is confused by her marriage’s rules and decorum. The first blushes of romance are gone.  The Lady shocks her guests by bringing a pistol to dinner and ponders whether she’s going to fire off one at her husband, Lord Rockham. Then Rockham turns up dead.

Verity finds herself wandering deeper into a thicket of political intrigue: Lord Rockham’s death may be connected to his shipping business. He had lost considerable cargo due to German U-boats in the English Channel and The Atlantic. Why would someone seek revenge over the sinking of a ship if the Germans were to blame? Unless they weren’t?  Verity and Sidney are both drawn into the investigation, their strengths and backgrounds and marriage all coming into play as they get dangerously closer to discovering the murderer and the motive.

I love Verity, and you will, too. Until the BBC opts to make a series about her, we have Anna Lee’s books to bring her to life.

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