Sunday, August 24, 2014

MURDER AT MULLINGS by Dorothy Cannell: A Review

 
MURDER AT MULLINGS
A Florence Norris Mystery
 
by
 
Dorothy Cannell
 
Severn House Publishers; May 1, 2014
Hardcover, 256 pages
Historical fiction, mystery, cozy, England
 
About the book
In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until, that is, Edward Stodmarsh makes an ill-advised second marriage to the scheming Regina Stapleton, who insists on bringing her family's 'ornamental hermit' to live on the estate. Suddenly everyone wants to visit Mullings to glimpse this mysterious figure. Strange but harmless, thinks Florence Norris, the family's longstanding housekeeper. But events take a sinister turn with the arrival of sudden, violent death - and suddenly the hermit doesn't seem so harmless after all.
 
My review
 
Turn of the century England -- When fourteen-year-old Florence Norris first arrived at Mullings to work as a kitchen maid, she was to discover that, despite the  serene splendor of velvet lawns, formal gardens, expansive waterfalls and productive home farm, the house of Dovecote Hatch wasn't a world populated by heroes and heroines. A voracious reader of adventurous fantasies, Florrie's vivid imagination had been immediately transported, by the grandeur of that countryside estate, in one of those books of fiction she avidly consumed till the wee hours of the night, but the neighboring gentry's gossips soon woke her up to a much different reality: the Stodmarsh, owners for generations of that idyllic estate, were hereditarily a dull lot of people.
 
No scandals of unfaithful wives, or tales of forbidden loves had ever happened within the walls of Dovecote Hatch. No legends of insane relatives locked in its turrets, or duels fought in the first lights of down. Lacking the kind of charm and wit common among those sons and heirs who sowed wild oats before settling down in perfectly arranged marriages, the Stodmarsh had never done anything to bring dishonor on their name. That is until the 1930s, when a thirty five year old and widowed Florence returned to the estate as a housekeeper.
 
The mysterious death of Lady Stodmarsh and Lord Edward's decision to  have a second go at marital bliss with Regina Stapleton will irrevocably change that peaceful estate. Lady Stapleton's arrival in the village, along with her eccentric family hermit, stirs a series of ripples that thrust centuries of Stodmarsh shallow waters into dangerous sea changes.
 
The temptation to have a taste of "Downton Abbey-ish" glamour right at my fingertips (the period drama will resume only in January here in the US) was too strong to resist. Although not familiar at all with the author Dorothy Cannell and her previous work, I sank my teeth in her mystery novel without hesitation: my expectations in terms of Edwardian England historical setting,  cozy mystery flair, vivid account of upstairs/downstairs social dynamics, language authenticity, and atmospheric descriptions were not disappointed.
 
However, I believe the novel is afflicted by all the picadillos typical of prequels: as Ms. Cannell clearly intended Murder At Mullings to be the first installment of a mystery series featuring housekeeper sleuth Florence Norris, a  streamlined narrative is not the strength of the book. In the attempt to lay the ground work for a continuation of the series, the author introduces a hoard of characters, each with its own colorful peculiarities, overcrowding the narration with background information, supporting cast that pops in and out, interactions and dialogues that do not really work towards the main scheme of things.
 
The flow of events was too bumpy and uneven to keep me focused on the plot and this is what had me scratch a couple of stars from the my final rating. What prevented me from losing my interest entirely was the rich texture  of some of the passages, the historical authenticity of  language and scene setting, the elegant descriptions of the estate, the delicate romance between Florence and kind widower George Bird. Overall, I didn't find in the narrative enough appeal to sustain my interest in future installments. 
 
My rating
3.5 out of 5 stars
 
******
 
Historical facts about ornamental hermits

"Tracing its distant origins to the villa of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, the eccentric phenomenon of the ornamental hermit enjoyed its heyday in the England of the eighteenth century It was at this time that it became highly fashionable for owners of country estates to commission architectural follies for their landscape gardens. These follies often included hermitages, many of which still survive, often in a ruined state.

Landowners peopled their hermitages either with imaginary hermits or with real hermits - in some cases the landowner even became his own hermit. Those who took employment as garden hermits were typically required to refrain from cutting their hair or washing, and some were dressed as druids. Unlike the hermits of the Middle Ages, these were wholly secular hermits, products of the eighteenth century fondness for 'pleasing melancholy'.

Although the fashion for them had fizzled out by the end of the eighteenth century, they had left their indelible mark on both the literature as well as the gardens of the period. And, as Gordon Campbell shows, they live on in the art, literature, and drama of our own day - as well as in the figure of the modern-day garden gnome."
(From Hermit in the Garden by Gordon Campbell)

 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

THE CHINESE MISTRESS AND OTHER WOMEN by Mina DeCaro

An old idea of mine is finally taking shape and I would love to have your feedback on one of the creative steps of this writing project. Which cover artwork strikes your fancy the most? The ethereal woman or the delicate chinoiserie? Please, leave your comment in the section below. Thank you!!!
 
Title
THE CHINESE MISTRESS AND OTHER WOMEN
 
Author
MINA DeCARO
 
Genre
FICTION, CHICK LIT, WOMEN'S FICTION, NOVELETTE
 
Release Date
TBD
 
Teaser
"You won't die soon", she said looking into those big green eyes she used to love. For the first time in twelve years, she saw through him for what he really was. "You won't die anytime soon. Neither heavens or hell are ready for you. They're not big enough for your ego." 
 
Cover #1
 
 
 
 
Cover #2
 
 
 


Friday, August 15, 2014

GRAHAM SAGA by Anna Belfrage: BOOK BLAST & GIVEAWAY

Join Anna Belfrage as her beloved time-slip series, The Graham Saga, is featured around the blogosphere from July 28-August 15 with HF Virtual Book Tours and enter to win your own set of Books 1-6!
 

About The Graham Saga

The Graham Saga Series

This is the story of Alex and Matthew, two people who should never have met - not when she was born three hundred years after him. It all began the day Alex Lind got caught in a thunderstorm. Not your ordinary storm, no this was the mother of all storms, causing a most unusual rift in the fabric of time. Alex was dragged three centuries backwards in time, landing more or less at the feet of a very surprised Matthew Graham. In a series of books we follow the life and adventures of the expanding Graham family, both in Scotland and in the New World - and let me tell you it is quite an exciting life, at times excessively so in Alex' opinion. Sometimes people ask me why Alex had to be born in the twentieth century, why not make her a woman born and bred in the seventeenth century where the story is set? The answer to that is I have no idea. Alex Lind is an insistent, vibrant character that sprung into my head one morning and simply wouldn't let go. Seductively she whispered about terrible thunderstorms, about a gorgeous man with magic, hazel eyes, about loss and sorrow, about love - always this love, for her man and her children, for the people she lives with. With a throaty chuckle she shared insights into a life very far removed from mine, now and then stopping to shake her head and tell me that it probably hadn't been easy for Matthew, to have such an outspoken, strange and independent woman at his side. At this point Matthew groaned into life. Nay, he sighed, this woman of his was at times far too obstinate, with no notion of how a wife should be, meek and dutiful. But, he added with a laugh, he wouldn't want her any different, for all that she was half heathen and a right hand-full. No, he said, stretching to his full length, if truth be told not a day went by without him offering fervent thanks for his marvelous wife, a gift from God no less, how else to explain the propitious circumstances that had her landing at his feet that long gone August day? Still, dear reader, it isn't always easy. At times Alex thinks he's an overbearing bastard, at others he's sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and ... She is his woman, he is her man. That's how it is, that's how it always will be.

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind Book Three: The Prodigal Son Book Four: A Newfound Land Book Five: Serpents in the Garden Book Six: Revenge & Retribution Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest (November 2014) Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

About the Author

Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she's multilingual and most of her reading is Anna Belfragehistorical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive… For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she's still there. For additional information regarding Anna, her characters, extra scenes, and teasers for her next books, have a look at Anna's website at: www.annabelfrage.com. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, July 28 Broken Teepee Kincavel Korner bookworm2bookworm's Blog Tuesday, July 29 So Many Books, So Little Time Wednesday, July 30 A Bibliotaph's Reviews Thursday, July 31 Book Drunkard Friday, August 1 The Lit Bitch Saturday, August 2 Book Nerd Sunday, August 3 Literary Chanteuse Just One More Chapter Monday, August 4 A Bookish Girl Historical Tapestry To Read, Or Not to Read Tuesday, August 5 CelticLady's Reviews Wednesday, August 6 The True Book Addict Thursday, August 7 Impressions in Ink Friday, August 8 A Bookish Affair The Mad Reviewer Saturday, August 9 Historical Fiction Connection Monday, August 11 Gobs and Gobs of Books Tuesday, August 12 Pages of Comfort Wednesday, August 13 History Undressed Thursday, August 14 Passages to the Past Friday, August 15 Mina's Bookshelf

Giveaway

To win a set of Anna Belfrage's Graham Saga (Books 1-6) please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Two winners will be chosen. Giveaway is open internationally!
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 16th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 photo b8161478-475b-4635-8f63-e34129b181a2.png

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE DOLPHIN WAY "A Parent's Guide To Raising Healthy, Happy, And Motivated Kids" by Shimi Kang MD: A Review

THE DOLPHIN WAY "A Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids"
Author: Shimi Kang, M.D.
Published by Tarcher on May 1, 2014
Hardcover, 352 pages
Non-fiction, parenting, guide, psychology, self-help
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
 
Review
An illuminating read on the challenges of parenting in the twenty-first century, the limits of the "tiger" model (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Model by Amy Chua), and the opportunities offered by a parenting style inspired to one of the most wonderfully adaptable, self-reliant and socially connected creatures on earth: dolphins.
 
In her memoir, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mom (Penguin Press, 2011), Yale professor Amy Chua, recorded her personal experience as a mother and the challenges she had to face raising her two daughters. Coming from a strict Chinese family, Chua received a very tough education ('no good grades in school, no toys, no playdates, no boyfriends' kind of upbringing): according to the law professor, her parents' demanding and restrictive strategy was the best gift anybody ever gave to her and she admittedly tried to raise her kids in the same way (without apparent success with one of her daughters, tough). The authoritarian brand of parenting made famous by Chua's provocative memoir proudly excludes playing, choices, even bathroom breaks during piano practice. Her book stirred quite a controversy among critics and readers. Although not intended as a parenting guide, she strongly asserted her point of view about education in this country:  "I do believe that we in America can ask more of children than we typically do, and they will not only respond to the challenge, but thrive."
 
The cultural divide between Western and traditional Chinese parents is as wide as the geographical distance separating them: while we try to respect our children's individuality encouraging them to pursue their own passions and providing a nurturing environment, in many eastern cultures parents believe that the best way  to protect their children is preparing them for the future with strict rules and strong work habits. I am a strong supporter of the idea that virtue lies in the middle, not in the extremes.
 
As a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, researcher, and co-founder of the Youth Culture and Mental Health Fund for the BC Mental Health Foundation, Shimi Kang, M.D. has worked with thousands of people dealing with stress, family conflicts, work-life balance, depression, anxiety, addictions, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts: drawing from her range of expertise and experience, and in response to Chua's brutally honest story of extreme parenting, her guide, The Dolphin Way, argues that motivation as an external imposition doesn't bring lasting results. Chua's "tiger" parenting style (yelling, bribing, punishing)  kills self-motivation:
 
"Pushing, hovering, demanding, and cajoling may get results when tasks are simple, but when tasks become complex, involve creativity, and require critical thinking, these external motivators work poorly. Carrots and sticks can't replace autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the foundation of self-motivation, pleasure, and joy."
 
And so does the opposite:
 
"When we motivate via toys, money, or too much praise, we also take away the chance for internal rewards - that amazing dose of dopamine that keeps us feeling happy."
 
At best, the "tiger" parenting focuses on mastery alone and it works only when the child finds the activity imposed by her/his parents to be important enough for her/him to master it. And even when children of "tiger" parents bolt out of the gates, so to speak, they do it only because of external pressure and will be often passed over by those who experienced  a more relaxed approach to academics and extracurricular activities. The "tiger" kids will underperform in the real world; they will more likely develop addictions, self-harm habits, and suicidal tendencies. Action based on external motivation will last only as long as the external pressure, reward, punishing are in place. On the other end of the parenting spectrum, the permissive style (the "jellyfish") will breed irresponsible and impulsive kids, poor relation skills, no respect for authority, poor school/work performance, and risky behaviors.  The risks of parenting with an excess of control and micro-managing, or complete lack of guidance, are enormous. Both models destroy curiosity, the very roots of self-motivation.
 
"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity", Eleanor Roosevelt used to say. I couldn't agree more with her. Curiosity is linked to our brain's dopamine reward system and fuels our self-motivation for learning: when we look at the world with curiosity, we stop judging and simply engage our thinking brain to observe and interact.
 
The dolphin-way appears to be the perfect balance between the authoritarian parenting model (the "tiger"), and the permissive style (the "jellyfish"). Dolphins, with all their attributes and qualities, are a powerful metaphor for a successful parenting: they display qualities of intelligence, creativity, learning, communication, and social connection, all traits necessary to fare with success in the shift age. They are social creatures, living and traveling in pods. They teach their young through role modeling, play, and guidance. They're the most altruistic and collaborative animal species, with a brain size second only to humans. The dolphin parenting model is about guiding rather instructing, teaching by example, emphasizing the importance of play, exploration, social bonds, and community values, rather than competition and isolation. All these positive traits are natural to human parenting, but we have lost connection with them because of our imbalanced, over-competing, over-achieving lifestyle.
 
With a  parenting style modeled on the dolphins' behavior, discipline is assertive and positive, not restrictive; supportive, not punishing or dismissing. "Dolphin" parents are clear authority figures (not friends, or personal assistants, helicopters, slaves, drivers) that establish clear rules and  guidelines while responding to the emotional needs of their children. Kang's book offers numerous and practical examples of "dolphin" inspired approaches and communication strategies.
 
Unlike many other parenting books, The Dolphin Way offers guidance, not instruction, in a perfect dolphin-parenting way: it doesn't add any more tasks to a parent's to-do list. It actually helps eliminate some, clearly illustrating the multiple benefits of such a model:
 
- being warm and responsive helps children form secure attachments and protects them from internalizing issues such as depression and anxiety
 
- enforcing limits decreases the chance children will engage in acting out self-destructive behaviors (aggression, interpersonal conflict, drug and alcohol abuse)
 
- communicating about thoughts and feelings strengthens children's empathy, emotional regulation, and relationship skills
 
- showing understanding for academic struggles helps children become better problem solvers and learners
 
- encouraging independence helps children develop self-reliance, a desire to help others, and better emotional health


To use Albert Einstein's words, "look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams: One-of-a-kind

 
As I am writing this post, I stare at my computer screen in disbelief. Discouragement, more precisely. Yesterday, actor, comedian, and producer Robin Williams was found dead in his Southern California home. Apparent suicide, according to the authorities. Unfortunately, there is no reason to attribute the cause of his death to accidental circumstances: the extraordinarily talented star of memorable feature films (Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet Society, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire) and iconic tv series (Happy Days, Mork and Mindy) had been battling some ruthless demons for quite a while. His addiction to cocaine and alcohol had brought him in and out of rehab clinics since the late '70s and although he had been successfully maintaining a long-term sobriety, severe depression was lately getting the best of him.

 
His death is a tragic reminder that appearances can be deceiving -- how could such a funny and creative character succumb to depression? According to an article published by Psychology Today, William's manic comedic style and improvising genius may have been a coping mechanism apt to mask and fight an underlying emotional struggle. "[...] even humor -- especially humor -- can be used as a mask that shields both the wearer and those around him from the pain underneath."

 
The premature passing (he was only 63) of the ingenious stand-up comedian and Academy winning actor (he won an Oscar for his Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting and was nominated three times for Best Actor) is a particularly heart-melting event: not only did we lose a deep well of talent and a uniquely gifted performer; we also lost a passionate advocate and philanthropist. 


Williams' enthusiastic activism matched his effervescent stage presence: his Windfall Foundation, founded with his former wife Marsha, raised money for several charities. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the USO (United Services Organization), the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, The Pediatric AIDS Association, Make-A-Wish Foundation,  and Comic Relief are among the many recipients, on an international and national scale, of his unbound generosity.



As a lifelong friend and former roommate of another unforgettable Hollywood icon (Christopher Reeve), Williams was involved also with the Christopher  & Dana Reeve Foundation, in support of research programs to treat and cure spinal cord injuries.



Using the gift of laughter, Robin Williams' legacy goes a long way: "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."


Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014)

Monday, August 11, 2014

THE DANCE OF THE SPIRITS by Catherine Aerie: Spotlight & Giveaway

THE DANCE OF THE SPIRITS
Author: Catherine Aerie
Publication Date: November 16, 2013
Released by Aurora
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
 
Add to GR Button
 
About the book
Spring 1951: it is the fiery zenith of the Korean War, a war that the youthful US Army lieutenant Wesley Palm and his men thought that they had won… until the Chinese swept across the Yalu River.
Traveling with the million-man army bent on driving back the march of “American imperialism” is Jasmine Young, a Chinese surgeon who has volunteered herself into the war for unspoken, grave reasons. Through a chronicle of merciless battles, freezing winters, and the brutality and hypocrisy of human nature, the two will find themselves weaving through the twists and turns of fate and destiny. Though their love is forbidden, their passion and pursuit of liberty cannot be quenched.

Praise for The Dance of the Spirits

“…On the surface, The Dance of the Spirits is a story of love and of war, but on a deeper level, it is a story of the misery that the communist ideology brought to millions of souls in the twentieth century. Whether that philosophy is related to nationalism, internationalism or faith, Catherine Aerie reminds readers that when a system that will entertain no contradiction in thought or deed comes to power, no one is safe — and no one is free. Aerie draws a vivid picture of war and its price, and a tender image of love…” – Readers’ Favorite (5 Stars)
“…a love that is stronger than all the horrors that war can throw at them… compelling…poignant… sensitive and beautiful…” – San Francisco Book Reviews (4.5/ Stars)
“Adversaries in the Korean War find love in Aerie’s debut novel. The story starts in the middle of a firefight… Out of the rubble, two characters emerge: an American officer… and a Chinese military doctor… Their paths cross again and again… In the intimacy of the war, these coincidences don’t feel forced, nor even particularly fated–it’s just the way things went… Readers will likely find Palm a decent, very human person, but Young has more complexity and vibrancy… As the war rages around them, Palm and Young fall in love… but their romance is ill-starred and open to tragedy. Aerie keeps readers on their toes with the twists…fleeting but intense…
An often engaging tale of a flickering moment of love during a forgotten war.” – Kirkus Reviews

Buy the Book

About the Author

Catherine Aerie, a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a master degree in finance, grew up in China as the daughter of a Shanghai architect. She was inspired to write The Dance of the Spirits while researching a family member’s role in the Korean War, deciding to revive an often neglected and overlooked setting in fiction and heighten the universality of resilient pursuit of love and liberty. Her debut novel was finished after about two years of research. She currently resides in southern California.
For more information please visit Catherine Aerie’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Dance of the Spirits Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 11
Spotlight at Mina’s Bookshelf
Interview at Library Educated
Tuesday, August 12
Wednesday, August 13
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, August 14
Friday, August 15
Review at JM Ledwell
Monday, August 18
Tuesday, August 19
Review at Book Babe
Wednesday, August 20
Review at Unshelfish
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli
Thursday, August 21
Review & Interview Back Porchervations
Friday, August 22
 
GIVEAWAY
To win a copy of The Dance of the Spirits please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US & UK residents only.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 23rd and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
 


Rafflecopter HTML: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Friday, August 8, 2014

MURDER AT THE BREAKERS (Gilded Newport Mysteries #1) by Alyssa Maxwell: A Review


MURDERS AT THE BREAKERS
(Gilded Newport Mysteries #1)
by
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington Books; March 25, 2014
Paperback, 304 pages
Cozy, Mystery, Suspense, Historical Fiction
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
 
 
My review
 
 
"I care not for riches, and do not miss them since only cleverness prevails in the end."
 
 
A delightful and harmonious concoction of vividly portrayed Gilded Age milieu and well thought-out murder mystery plot. Theme, voice, and pace flow  on a trail of red herrings with a balance that was as graceful as unexpectedly transfixing for a debut novel. Based on real historical figures and narrated through the outsider's perspective of Emma Cross, an acute observer treading the fine line that separates the upper crust of society from its barely tolerated bourgeois relatives, Murder At The Breakers evokes the sumptuous charm of that by-gone era with its wealth, its splendid mansions, and high society scandals hidden behind a veil of primness and apparent respectability.
 
Newport, Rhode Island, 1895
 
Vanderbilt blood runs through Emmaline Cross' veins, but she belongs to the less illustrious side of the family: the twenty-five year old spinster was born and raised a Newporter -- a salty and sturdy 'bluestocking'. Definitely not on the market for a tycoon husband. Emma won't compromise her independence to be the wife of a wealthy man and have her life mapped out in an endless series of balls and regattas. More similar to her bold and eccentric Aunt Sadie, she refuses to be part of the gilded prison that traps Aunt Alice, wife of business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. A reporter for the society column of the Newport Observer, and with her artistic parents expatriated on the other side of the Atlantic, Emma writes for a living and resides with a nanny and a maid at Gull Manor, a quaint house boldly perched on the ocean. On the night of her cousin Gertrude's coming-out ball at The Breakers, Uncle Cornelius' financial secretary is found dead in one of the rooms of the Vanderbilt summer mansion. All the evidence collected by the police on the murder scene points to Emma's half-brother Brady Gale, a good-natured young man who can hardly keep himself out of troubles. Although hailing from two of the most respectable families of the Island, Stuart Braden Gale IV has seen the inside of the Newport jail nearly as often as the worst scoundrel in town -- just the perfect scapegoat for a crime that may have been committed by some unsuspected and more titled members of the good society. With the help of the enigmatic fellow reporter Derrick Andrews, Emma will discover the true culprit, unveiling, at the same time, the shocking extravagancies and the surprising frailties of one of the most iconic and powerful American dynasties.
 
In the usual fashion of most cozy mystery novels, romance plays a part in the narrative -- a marginal one, actually. It's an intriguing plus that entices without crossing over into romantic suspense. Nonetheless, the chemistry between Emma and the mysterious Derrick adds  zest to the storyline and helps reveal the protagonist's inner world and motivations.  Alyssa Maxwell deftly strikes the romantic chord, creating, with its open-ended tone, a narrative bridge between this first episode and its sequel, due in October. Emma and Derrick have been thrust into a maelstrom of events too fierce not to spark a flame worthy of being reignited in future installments: I'll be looking forward to Murder At Marble House with great anticipation.


***Review copy graciously offered by the publisher in return for an unbiased and honest opinion