Heartwarming Holiday Stories

In Christmas from the Heart by Sheila Roberts, Livi Berg is stunned when her charity’s biggest sponsor sends a frosty email with the news that they’re not sending a donation to Christmas from the Heart. Guy Hightower, running a family business with his brothers, regrets the email, but not his lavish lifestyle. When his sports car breaks down outside Pine River, Washington, Livi gives him a ride to her friend’s auto repair shop. Guy gives a fake name and is absorbed into village life while his car is repaired, even helping to judge a fruitcake contest. Predictably, Guy falls for Livi and Pine River, but hesitates to reveal his true identity in this cozy, heartwarming romance.

In Christmas Cow Bells, the first in a new cozy mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan, Brynn MacAlister is settling into Shenandoah Springs, Virginia, along with her three cows. Brynn is a cheesemaker, getting ready for the farm market shop set to open soon in an old church. When her neighbor Nancy is critically injured in a fire at the old church, Brynn is as uneasy as her cow Petunia, and starts investigating, with help from Nancy’s teen grandsons and other local farmers. This is an appealing, very gentle mystery just right for holiday reading, especially as another cow, Buttercup, is rehearsing for a holiday pageant.

For more holiday reads, see my December book display of heartwarming holiday stories. Up next in my to be read pile is Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews, in which blacksmith Meg and her extended family get snowed in at a Virginia inn hosting an ornithology conference.

Happy holiday reading!
Brenda

The Sentence is Death

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In this very clever mystery, private investigator Daniel Hawthorne summons writer Tony Horowitz to a house on the edge of Hampstead Heath where a divorce lawyer has been killed with an expensive bottle of wine in the sequel to The Word is Murder. Horowitz is supposed to editing a tv script for Foyle’s War, but instead is playing Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes as he tries to solve the mystery before Hawthorne or the threatening Inspector Grunshaw. Three cavers, a single mom, an art gallery owner, and a successful poet are all connected to the victim, Richard Pryce. Horowitz, with a book contract to write about Hawthorne, is quickly in over his head, getting in trouble at a bookstore, persuaded to attend a book club where no one wants his opinion on the mystery being discussed, and stumped by false leads on why the number 182 is painted on the wall near Pryce. Suspenseful, intriguing, and occasionally funny, with an excellent audiobook narration by Rory Kinnear; I found this a very compelling read.

Brenda

The Spotted Dog

The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

This is a very welcome new Corinna Chapman mystery set in Melbourne, Australia, centered around a bakery and an apartment house. Corinna and her boyfriend Daniel, an Israeli private investigator, focus on finding Geordie, the dog kidnapped from retired soldier Alastair. Geordie can sniff out explosives, but only responds to commands in Gaelic. Meanwhile, Corinna bakes bread and muffins with apprentice Jason, naps with Horatio the cat, meets a young troupe of actors, and tries to discover why her neighbor, a biblical scholar, is attracting a burglar or two to their building. The appeal here is the quirky characters, the cozy Melbourne neighborhood, delicious food, Corinna and Daniel’s romance, and some mystery and adventure. While there is quite a bit of suspense finding the missing dog and helping a visiting young woman who’s gone mute, it’s not the focus of the book. Jennifer Vuletic has fun narrating the audiobook and I’m not giving away the plot to share that the story ends with a potluck dinner in the apartment building’s rooftop garden. Sadly, no recipes are included. Earthly Delights is the first book in the series by the author of the popular Phryne Fisher books.

Brenda

 

 

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman

After widowed Mary Archer is killed in London in the summer of 1899, Frances mentions that her late husband’s cousin Charles had been courting Mary, making him a suspect. Frances teams up with handsome neighbor George and young family friend Lottie to investigate Mary’s death in this lively sequel to A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. Frances, Lady Harleigh, is shocked to learn that Mary was a gossip columnist and possibly a blackmailer. The off season in London has rarely been so exciting. Suggested for Regency or Victorian romance readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, or fans of Elizabeth Peters or Deanna Raybourn. Witty and delightful, this is a charming Victorian mystery with some humor and a hint of romance.

Brenda

The Tale Teller

The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman

Set in the Navajo Nation in the scenic American southwest, this is Anne Hillerman’s best mystery so far; her fifth novel continuing the tradition of her father Tony. Fans of either Hillerman’s books, and readers of contemporary American mysteries with police protagonists, along with readers attracted by the Four Corners setting, will be sure to enjoy. Retired police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is asked to look into items missing from an anonymous museum donation, including a valuable artifact linked to the Navajo’s Long Walk. Joe continues to recover his fluency in spoken English after an injury, preferring to communicate by writing or in spoken Navajo. As his companion Louisa doesn’t speak Navajo, their relationship has some ups and downs. Navajo Police Sergeant Jim Chee investigates a string of burglaries and a shooting, while Officer Bernie Manuelito discovers a body on a running trail, thanks to a loyal dog. Family and clan connections are very important here, with a number of secrets to be uncovered. The main characters continue to develop, adding greatly to this mystery’s appeal; a very satisfying read. The first book featuring Bernie is Spider Woman’s Daughter.
Brenda

 

The Right Sort of Man

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

Despite the title, this appealing first novel is a historical mystery, not a romance. In 1946, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow, have combined their unique talents to open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in Mayfair, London. Iris can’t talk much about her work during the war, but she has all sorts of contacts and can pick locks. Wealthy Gwen has a young son and a gift for matchmaking. After their latest client, shop clerk Tillie La Salle, is found dead and her match, accountant Dickie Trower is charged with her murder, Iris and Gwen team up to save their business. They investigate Tillie’s connections to the black market and Gwen learns to travel around London by bus, visiting Dickie in prison, where he’s worried about his goldfish. The postwar London setting is richly detailed, the characters are likeable and believable, and the dialogue is witty. I’m already looking forward to Montclair’s next book, A Royal Affair, to be published next June.

Brenda

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

This entertaining Victorian mystery is perfect summer reading for fans of British mysteries or Georgette Heyer’s witty Regency romances. Set in 1899 in Surrey and London, American-born Frances Wynn, the elder Countess of Harleigh, is just finishing her year of mourning for her husband Reggie. Frances and her young daughter Rose are moving to London, over the protests of her brother and sister-in-law, who want Frances to fund repairs to their manor house.

Frances’ aunt and younger sister Lily arrive for the season, and Lily acquires three suitors. After a stolen bracelet is found in Frances’ bag, Frances and her neighbor George Hazelton are concerned that one of Lily’s suitors may be responsible for recent thefts at society balls. If that wasn’t enough, Inspector Delaney calls to ask Frances questions about Reggie’s death. Lighthearted and fast-paced, this first novel is a delight. I enjoyed the audiobook narration of Sarah Zimmerman, and look forward to reading A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, which is available now.

Brenda