Full Series Blog Tour, Book Review, and Giveaway: Bye Baby Bye by Kelly Marshall (Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles #19)

Seasons 1 & 2 by
The Underground Authors
Scroll down for a giveaway!

Each stand-alone book in this multi-author crime novel series is set in the fictitious, beautiful little Texas Hill Country town of Magnolia Bluff. Each author writes in their preferred sub-genre to allow readers to experience humor, dark dilemmas, suspense, romance, thrills, and spills — told through good storytelling that will keep readers awake past their bedtime, trying to find out whodunit.

Season three of The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles begins in January 2024. Stay tuned.

Click Here to Purchase

Texas law enforcement officer Madison Jackson awakes to discover her infant kidnapped from her crib. Was it revenge for someone Madison had arrested or something far more sinister? Madison’s estranged husband is incarcerated in Supermax. As the second in command of a deadly Mexican cartel, did he issue the order to abduct their daughter? Madison escaped the clutches of the treacherous crime organization once before. Will she now have to travel back to perilous cartel country to save her daughter’s life?

I recently reviewed Death in the Absence of Rain by Caleb Pirtle III. Today I’m talking about Bye Baby Bye by Kelly Marshall, the nineteenth in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles and the second from the perspective of law enforcement officer Madison Jackson.

Madison Jackson was kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel, forced to marry one of the higher-ranking cartel members. She was rescued from her captivity and is now back home in Magnolia Bluff, along with the only good thing to come from her horrific experience: her young daughter, Anna. When Madison wakes one night and finds Anna gone from her crib, she knows her estranged husband is behind it. Never mind that he’s currently in the Supermax prison in Colorado, thanks in no small part to Madison’s testimony. He is the only one who could be responsible for Anna’s disappearance, and Madison will stop at nothing to find Anna and bring her home.

This is a nail-biter of a story! The book opens with Anna’s disappearance, and it is off and running. Federal law enforcement is less than enthusiastic about taking up the cause, which makes a lot more sense when it’s revealed that the feds have brokered a deal to send Madison’s husband back to Mexico in a prisoner exchange. But Madison is not without help. Her father is a former Texas Ranger, so the Rangers are in, and Texas governor Dixon Tucker brings the considerable resources of the state into the rescue effort as well.

I don’t know what kind of research Marshall did on cartels and all the law enforcement pieces of the picture at play, but she writes a damn fine story! Madison is a strong woman, but my heart just ached for her. As a mother, I can imagine the sickening feeling of realizing someone has been in your house and taken your precious child. I wanted to cry along with Madison when she allowed herself the luxury of tears.

I was fascinated by how the local priest in Magnolia Bluff was able to serve as a connection point with a priest deep in cartel territory in Mexico in their efforts to get information on Anna’s whereabouts. Madison was very concerned about taking this route, not wanting the Mexican priest to be in harm’s way. I’d never thought of it before, but I would imagine priests serving in high crime areas are indeed at great risk, whether they’re part of an undercover international rescue mission or not.

Marshall works in just a bit of romance with the attraction between Madison and Dixon. Understandably, Madison isn’t making that attraction her focus while her child is absent, but it’s fun to watch the sparks fly between the two of them. Their budding relationship makes the Texas governor less of a political figure and more of a real person, too.

And once again, Magnolia Bluff rallies around its own. Whether it’s praying at a vigil for Anna or making sure Madison takes care of herself, family and friends support her. That’s the kind of town I’d like to be a part of, and to me, that’s one of the best parts of the series. We hear about so much bad in the world today, it’s good to read about circumstances where people pull together and look out for each other.

I don’t normally lower my rating for typos. I work with words. I know there are mistakes that escape even the keenest editorial eyes, and I expect them in advance copies. This was not an advance copy, yet I found enough errors in punctuation, spelling, and syntax that it threw me out of the flow of the story more than once. It was sufficiently distracting that I felt it necessary to drop my rating to four stars. With another good round of editing and/or proofreading, this would be a five-star read without question.

Action, suspense, strong emotion, all combined to keep me turning pages well past my bedtime. My visits to Magnolia Bluff so far have me hankering to read all the books currently out in the series, and all the ones yet to come!

Keep on scrolling to enter the giveaway!

I always wanted to write, but I went to broadcasting school instead of college. I spent years spinning records and doing love song dedications. Congress passed a law changing the radio business forever. Behemoth broadcasting corporations ate up radio stations like locusts in a wheat field. Radio announcers like me were axed on bloody Fridays with surgical precision. I left radio and followed my dream to write.

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1st: $25 Amazon gift card
2nd & 3rd: eBook bundles of first 18 books in the series
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/8/23)
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: Murder on the Cornish Cliffs by Verity Bright

Book: Murder on the Cornish Cliffs
Author: Verity Bright
Pub Day: December 1, 2023

Buy on Amazon

Book Description:

A festive invitation from an old family friend, the promise of gingerbread at the village inn, snowy walks on the Cornish coast with Gladstone the bulldog… But wait, is that a body on the beach?

Winter, 1923. It’s nearly Christmas and Lady Eleanor Swift has received a rather strange letter from an old friend of her uncle. Mr Godfrey Cunliffe has asked her to stay in Cornwall for the holidays – but only because he believes his gardener is trying to poison him! With not a moment to waste Eleanor hurries down to his picturesque manor house with her butler Clifford and handsome beau Detective Hugh Seldon. But they arrive too late to stop the crime…

Lying dead at the bottom of the steep cliffs, however, is not Mr Cunliffe, but the gardener himself. And his plans for restoring the gardens to their former glory are missing. Jerome St Clair has gone from suspect to victim. This certainly puts a twist in the tinsel!

As snow begins to fall, Eleanor quizzes the family. Mr Cunliffe’s alibi is as fragile as the glass baubles hanging from his towering Christmas tree. Eleanor quickly realises everyone from the handyman to the housekeeper is keeping secrets, and she’s convinced that Mr Cunliffe is still scared for his life.

When Gladstone the bulldog pulls a charred corner of the missing garden plans from a fireplace festooned with a gold-ribboned garland, Eleanor thinks the clue she needs is hiding out in the grounds. But when someone tries to run her over with the huge lawnmower, she knows she must wrap up the mystery fast before her Christmas is cancelled for good…

Murder on the Cornish Cliffs is a fun, twisty and absolutely gripping historical English cozy mystery, perfect for fans of T.E. Kinsey, Catherine Coles and Agatha Christie.

I was so excited to get my hands on another of the adventures of Lady Eleanor Swift! Y’all know how much I enjoy these books. Murder on the Cornish Cliffs, the sixteenth in the series, carries on in fine fashion.

December 1923. Ellie is getting ready to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the dearest people in her life: her fiancé, Detective Hugh Seldon; her butler, Clifford; and the lively ladies on her staff. But all that is turned on its ear when a letter arrives from a Mr. Godfrey Cunliffe, an old friend of Ellie’s Uncle Byron. He suspects his life is in danger, and he’s asking for assistance.

So Ellie and Clifford, along with the bulldog Gladstone and the ginger cat Tompkins, pack up the Rolls and head off to Cornwall, to Mr. Cunliffe’s ancestral home of Gwel an Mor. They arrive to find police cars in the drive and fear that they’re too late. But Mr. Cunliffe is unexpectedly alive and well. His gardener, Jerome St. Clair, has met an untimely end, and now Mr. Cunliffe fears St. Clair’s killer mistook the gardener for him. So he still fears for his life, but he’s less than pleased about having to resort to help from a woman. He isn’t much happier about help from a male servant, and sometimes it seems like he’d rather have no help at all.

There is so much to enjoy in this story! Gwel an Mor is a truly Gothic pile, complete with a layabout nephew and two dotty old aunts (who may or may not be as dotty as they seem). And there’s no shortage of skullduggery on the grounds. The gardens that St. Claire was hired to bring back to their former glory are really a hot mess, and what have the under-gardeners got up to in the bits that haven’t yet been cleared off? What about Mr. and Mrs. Liddicoat, the servants who came with the house? Cornwall has a past rich in smuggling. Are any or all of them up to old tricks in modern times, perhaps?

The nearby village offers loads of Cornish color, and it was delightful! I loved the Christmas traditions that the villagers shared with Ellie and Clifford, and how they jump right in and take part. The descriptions of the food were a lot of fun for me, too. Some sounded like things I might try, some not so much.

And I also loved the way Bright worked Hugh into the story. He can’t investigate a crime outside his jurisdiction, so they find a way to get around that. No, I’m not telling you how – read the book!

The lighthouse was another integral and interesting part of the story. Its history gives some insight into Cunliffe’s family, and the lighthouse keeper (Woon – just Woon) is able to share some useful details with Ellie and Clifford.

There’s no shortage of tight spots, either. Some, like Ellie driving the lumbering Rolls on narrow Cornish cliffside roads (I could picture Clifford clinging firmly to the “oh sh!t” handle above the window – would a Rolls have one of those, do you think?), are more comical than others, when I was truly concerned for our dynamic duo. But, as you probably figured, none of the tight spots are inescapable.

The murderer was not who I expected, and many things were not what they first appeared. Bright brings all the threads together in a most satisfactory conclusion, and now I’m left waiting eagerly for the next book in the series.

A Christmas setting, a house that’s a character in and of itself, witty banter between Eleanor and Clifford, twists and turns and fascinating characters – once again, Verity Bright has given us a charmer of a book! Eleanor Swift remains solidly on my list of favorite amateur sleuths.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery. They are the authors of the fabulous Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery series, set in the 1920s.

Find them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BrightVerity.

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Bookouture, Christmas, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction, Holiday | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review and Blog Tour: Death on the Scotland Express by Fliss Chester

Book: Death on the Scotland Express
Author: Fliss Chester
Pub Day: November 27, 2023 
Buy Link: Amazon: https://geni.us/B0CF2FHC6Rsocial

Book Description:

Someone on board has a deadly destination in mind… can Cressida stop them before it’s too late?

After an eventful trip to the Scottish Highlands, Cressida Fawcett is looking forward to being back among her society friends in London. Enjoying an ice-cold martini in the lounge car of the express train, loyal pug Ruby on her lap, she’s ready to blow off some steam!

But Cressida’s hopes for a relaxing journey are dashed when a gunshot resounds through the carriages. Industrial tycoon Lewis Warriner has been shot dead in his cabin. And as this train has been racing through the countryside, the culprit must be among Cressy’s fellow passengers…

Teaming up with Detective Andrews of Scotland Yard, also on his way back to London, they work their way through the suspects. Did Warriner’s mistress, a famous dancer, see his death as her ticket on to the silver screen? Or was it the mysterious man who can’t take his eyes off Lewis’s close companion?

When the murder weapon is found in the compartment Mr Warriner’s wife occupies alone, she becomes the chief suspect. Until there’s another gunshot. When Cressida finds out that Andrews is hit, panic sets in, but she must try to stay calm.

But with her friend and co-investigator out of action, can Cressida get the journey, and the investigation, back on track? And will she catch the murderer before they reach their final destination?

Fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss will absolutely love this addictive Golden Age cosy mystery.

If you’ve followed along with the blog, you know how much I enjoy Fliss Chester’s Cressida Fawcett mysteries. With Death on the Scotland Express, Chester gives us another delightful mystery to unravel!

Cressida, along with her best friend Dotty and Dotty’s brother Alfred, is on her way back to London, traveling on the Scotland Express. The trio’s trip to the Scottish Highlands was full of more excitement than anyone expected, and they’re all looking forward to a relaxing trip home. But things don’t stay quiet for long. Businessman Lewis Warriner, who had been confronted by his wife as he was traveling with another woman, is shot dead in his cabin shortly after the train departs.

Detective Andrews is also on the train and on the case. But he’s smart enough to know that Cressida has access to information that people might be reluctant to share with a policeman, so he accepts her help in investigating. Mrs. Warriner is soon tagged as the prime suspect when a gun is found in her train compartment. But when she and Detective Andrews are also shot, it’s up to Cressida to bring all the loose ends together before the train reaches its destination.

This was a fabulous read! It’s another locked-room mystery, as the murder takes place after the train has departed, and there’s no stopping until they return to London. The closed environment adds tension, because anyone on the train could be the killer, and could kill again. The tension is compounded by the time constraint on the investigation. If the killer isn’t identified before everyone leaves the train, they could very well walk free.

Ruby the pug is, as always, a charming part of the story. She is often part of Cressida’s methods of gaining information, and always a good conversation starter. I mean, who can resist an adorable pug?

And if you’ve kept up with the series, you know Cressy is very much not marriage-minded. She’s always enjoyed her independence. But here we see her wrestling with some unaccustomed feelings when Alfred makes it clear that he cares for her as more than just his sister’s best friend. We also get to see a little glimpse of maternal instinct when Cressy finds herself trying to comfort Monty, a young noble whose nanny has mysteriously disappeared (and she has to deal with the fact that boys’ fingers will find their noses from time to time!). It will be entertaining to see what direction the budding romance between Cressy and Alfred takes, and Monty’s antics had me positively chuckling. (Boy mom here. Noble or not, young boys are in many ways all alike!)

The mystery itself had plenty of twists and turns and red herrings to chase. There was no shortage of suspects, and when the big reveal came, it wasn’t one I was really expecting. I won’t say any more than that. I’ll let you get the book and read and have the joy of discovering it for yourself.

Fliss Chester has given us another excellent adventure on the Scotland Express. I can’t wait to see what Cressida and crew get up to next!

About the author:

Fliss Chester lives in Surrey with her husband and writes historical cozy crime. When she is not killing people off in her 1940s whodunnits, she helps her husband, who is a wine merchant, run their business. Never far from a decent glass of something, Fliss also loves cooking (and writing up her favourite recipes on her blog), enjoying the beautiful Surrey and West Sussex countryside and having a good natter.

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Blog Tour and Guest Post: Shadow of Doubt by P. A. DePaul

Today I’m sharing on the AME blog tour for Shadow of Doubt by P. A. DePaul! I’ve got a guest post from the author here. Check out the other blogs on tour for reviews, excerpts, author interviews, and more!

  • Title: Shadow of Doubt
  • Author: P. A. DePaul
  • Where to buy: Amazon 
  • Find on Goodreads
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense


Michelle Alger flees when her secretly recorded tryst winds up on the internet. She has no option but to hide. Her one-night stand—the son of a powerful US senator—was murdered. Learning she’s the prime suspect is traumatizing. Already a member of witness protection thanks to a Colombian drug lord kidnapping her in college, she now has to run from the senator and law enforcement. To make matters worse, the drug lord finally knows her location and is hot on her trail. There’s only one man she trusts. He saved her once, can he do it again six years later?

Captain Jeremy Malone no longer wears a Green Beret. He’s traded in his fatigues for a new life leading Delta Squad, a covert unit within SweetBriar Group. His latest orders from the senator: find the unknown woman and bring her to me. But Jeremy knows her identity. He once rescued her from a Colombian cartel, and has never forgotten her. He assigns his squad a new mission: find Michelle first and learn the real story.

Michelle and Jeremy can’t deny their explosive chemistry. But, with every new piece of evidence, Jeremy’s faith in Michelle’s innocence is questioned. Is her plea for help a ruse…or a trap set by a beautiful woman determined to expose Jeremy’s own secrets…

This is the second book in the SweetBriar Group (SBG) series and can be read as a standalone.

Guest Post:

A Key Element of Romantic Suspense That Keeps the Pages Turning

I absolutely love it when a book has me sitting on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding and pages turning so fast, I risk a papercut or dead battery. As a reader, I get to enjoy the ride, as an author it’s my job to transport someone else into that adrenaline space. Oh, excuse me, I should introduce myself. My name is P.A. DePaul and I write Romantic Suspense. I’ve had books traditionally published with Penguin and Harlequin, and I’ve indie published a romantic suspense series.

Writing Romantic Suspense is a lot of fun, but like any genre it has rules. Since no one wants me to go on forever, I’ll talk about one of my favorite components with examples from my latest release, Shadow of Doubt.  

Golden Rule: Increase suspense through the use of High Action. This is the fun stuff. The heart-pounding, pulse-racing, page-turning situations the hero and heroine have to accomplish/escape/evade/stop/hurdle before something really bad happens. But, as the story progresses the stakes must rise or the story falls flat.  

In Shadow of Doubt, the heroine finds out someone filmed her drunken escapade with a senator’s son and posted it on YouTube. Normally that’d be embarrassing but nothing noteworthy. But when you pair that film with the next day’s headlines that the son was found dead in his hotel room, now you’ve got an attention getting opening. Now, I need to raise the stakes. So, add in her being wanted by the FBI, getting kicked out of Witness Protection which puts her back into a drug cartel’s sights, and I’ve raised the stakes. But we can’t stop there. We need the hero involved and he can’t just be a boy scout. Let’s make him wonder if she truly did murder the senator’s son and what he has to do about it in his investigation. Hopefully the readers’ heartbeats are thumping as they are turning the pages.

In each High Action sequence, (think washed out smuggled plane rides, daring escapes, and cat-and-mouse with a villain just to name a few) I consistently increase the suspense. The risk-level of the outcomes affect the group if the hero/heroine fails. Putting more and more at stake in each action sequence keeps readers hooked until the very end. 

Are you hooked? I’m hoping you’re at least curious. You can pick up a digital or paperback copy of Shadow of Doubt, at your favorite retailer.

About the author:

P. A. DePaul is a Publishers Weekly Bestselling and award-winning author. Her books are full of action, suspense, and romance.

As a hybrid author, she has books traditionally and independently published. Her traditional publishers include Berkley, a Penguin Random House imprint, and Harlequin Books.

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Posted in AME Blog Tours, Blog Tours, Romance, Spotlight, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Color of Sky and Stone by Sara Davison

The Color of Sky and Stone JustRead Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Color of Sky and Stone by Sara Davison, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

The Color of Sky and Stone

Title: The Color of Sky and Stone
Series: In the Shadows #1
Author: Sara Davison
Publisher: Independently Published (through The Mosaic Collection)
Release Date: November 22, 2023
Genre: Romantic Suspense (Christian)

She is the only one who truly sees him.
Which makes her his greatest threat.

Black ops undercover agent Tane Temauri—code name Vapor—has made it his life’s mission to stay out of sight. Given the dangers inherent in his job, the last thing he can afford is to step into the open and become a target. Again.

Then a letter from a mysterious stranger changes everything. Although the letter was not meant for him, somehow, on a greater, cosmic scale, it feels as though it is.

But answering it will make Tane vulnerable.

Can he emerge from the shadows and risk everything for a woman he has never met?

If he does, more than his heart could be on the line. So could his life.

And hers.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Lia stays out of the public eye as much as possible due to her career. When she has a short but meaningful encounter with a man in a restaurant, she feels compelled to reach out to him through a note slipped into his pocket.

Tane is an agent working deep undercover. When his partner his killed in action, he struggles. He once had faith in God, but life has intervened, and he finds it difficult now to believe God cares. He finds a handwritten note to his partner, and the words move him so much, he has to respond. But doing so puts both him – and the mysterious woman on the other end of the correspondence – at risk.

This book, y’all! Sara Davison gives us a banger of a suspense novel. It takes a minute before we learn why Lia wants to avoid the public eye, but with Tane, the action kicks off right away and it’s clear why he’s trying to keep a low profile.

I love how Lia and Tane get to know each other through letters. My husband and I met online, and we did a whole lot of communicating by email before we ever talked or met for the first time. It felt like we got to know each other a lot better than we would have had we been making awkward conversation face to face. This proves to be true here, as Tane and Lia open up to each other and share things you don’t normally talk about early in a relationship.

Faith is an integral part of the story. Lia’s faith is strong, and she doesn’t hesitate to share it with Tane through their letters. Tane has lived through some tough times, and he’s at a place where he isn’t sure God hears him, or cares, or does anything if He does. But as he finds himself drawing closer to Lia, before they even meet, he finds himself turning back to God as well.

Thanks to JustRead Publicity Tours and the author for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Keep scrolling to enter the giveaway!

About the Author

Sara Davison

Sara Davison has a passion for writing stories that keep readers on the edge of their seats—and maybe swooning a little. Beyond that, she longs for readers to discover, as her characters do, that whatever they are going through they are never alone. God is always with them. A finalist for more than a dozen national writing awards, Davison is a Cascade, Word, and two-time Carol Award winner for romantic suspense. Like every good Canadian, she loves coffee, hockey, poutine, and apologizing for no particular reason.

Connect with Sara by visiting saradavison.org to follow her on social media and sign up for email updates.

Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will win a paperback copy of The Color of Sky and Stone, a $25 Amazon card, and a Romans 8:39-39 wall hanging

(1) winner will win a paperback copy of The Color of Sky and Stone

The Color of Sky and Stone JustRead Blog Tour Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight November 27, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on December 4, 2023. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US/CAN only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

Enter Giveaway

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, JustRead Blog Tours, Romance, Suspense | 10 Comments

Full Series Blog Tour, Book Review, and Giveaway: Death in the Absence of Rain (Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles #15)

Seasons 1 & 2 by
The Underground Authors
Scroll down for a giveaway!

Each stand-alone book in this multi-author crime novel series is set in the fictitious, beautiful little Texas Hill Country town of Magnolia Bluff. Each author writes in their preferred sub-genre to allow readers to experience humor, dark dilemmas, suspense, romance, thrills, and spills — told through good storytelling that will keep readers awake past their bedtime, trying to find out whodunit.

Season three of The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles begins in January 2024. Stay tuned.
In Texas, it has been a long, hot summer.Blistering temperatures.

Scorched earth.

An empty sky.

No rain at all.

Trapped in the midst of a generational drought, the water level of Magnolia Bluff’s Burnet Reservoir begins to drop, and the ghost town of Crystalline Flats slowly comes back from the dead.

When the river was dammed to create the reservoir, the flood had overwhelmed the dying old town and left it buried underwater.

Now the ruins are rising like skeletons of stone and wood from their watery grave.And the secrets of Crystalline Flats are secret no longer.

They tell a dreadful tale of murder.

And who lives and who will kill again to make sure the mysteries from the past remain hidden and silenced forever?

Some believed their past sins were washed away.

Now those sins are back to haunt the guilty.

The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles is a fascinating series! Each book in the series gives you a different slice of life in the small Texas town of Magnolia Bluff, events seen through the eyes of different residents of the town. Today I’m reviewing Death in the Absence of Rain by Caleb Pirtle III, the fifteenth book in the series.

It’s a brutally hot summer in Magnolia Bluff, Texas. So hot that Burnet Reservoir is drying up. As it recedes, the abandoned town of Crystalline Flats reemerges from the dwindling depths. What secrets may hide in its now-visible shadows?

There’s a gray mossback man wandering the streets of Magnolia Bluff. Magnolia Nadine has seen him outside her window. Newspaper editor Graham Huston has seen him, too. Is he connected with the reappearance of Crystalline Flats? Why is he there? Huston aims to find out.

Caleb Pirtle gives us a story that builds, layer upon layer. His spare, direct writing style fits the personality of Graham Huston perfectly. Huston is a man who’s there in Magnolia Bluff because he’s got nowhere else to be. He’s got his routine, and he largely keeps to himself. When Sheriff Buck Blanton’s father is the first to turn up dead, it’s a story. But when another person dies, Huston knows he needs to get to the bottom of the mystery.

But just because Pirtle doesn’t use flowery turns of phrase, that doesn’t mean the story is boring. Far from is. His words are carefully chosen to effectively convey the setting and the people in it. The searing heat of the summer is palpable and makes you want to fan yourself while you read. The paranormal aspect of the mossback man is spine-tingling. And the mystery of his presence and what secrets are to be unearthed in Crystalline Flats is as intriguing a mystery as ever I’ve read.

Death in the Absence of Rain has me itching to start at the beginning and read the entire series. If you love a good mystery and a small-town setting populated with interesting folks, you need to make the acquaintance of Magnolia Bluff.

Keep scrolling to enter the giveaway!

Caleb Pirtle III was the author of more than eighty books. Pirtle was a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first steep oudent at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as the travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years. Pirtle passed away in August, 2023.

1st: $25 Amazon gift card
2nd & 3rd: eBook bundles of first 18 books in the series
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/8/23)
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Mystery | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Gateway to Hope by E. C. Jackson

  • Title: A Gateway to Hope
  • Author: E. C. Jackson
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
  • Would I recommend: Excellent for readers who enjoy a clean romance with a strong focus on faith!


Twenty-one-year-old Neka is a bit of an introvert, she also happens to be stunningly beautiful.

When she discovers her friend James is about to be dumped, she sees the perfect opportunity to escape from her quiet life. Can she summon the courage to leave it all behind?

James Copley comes from a ruthless family. It’s rubbed off.

Years ago, he disengaged from his brother’s smear campaign, but now his father has offered him an ultimatum, “Get married or lose your seat at the table.”

Plotting to stamp his design on the family business, he proposes to a woman, even though he doesn’t love her.

But his carefully laid plans start to unravel when she leaves him on the day she’s due to meet his family.

Could years of planning his comeback vanish with her departure?

A possible solution comes in an unexpected form: Neka. She’s not only a friend, but the daughter of his benefactor. And she’s right there, offering to support him.

But will her support stretch to marriage?

He attempts to win her over to his plan but collides with her powerful father who wants to leverage the situation for his own gain.

In their fight for survival and love, they are forced to face some uncomfortable truths.

Can they overcome thwarted dreams and missed chances to find true love, or does forcing destiny’s hand only lead to misery?

A Gateway to Hope is E. C. Jackson’s debut novel. I found it refreshing in its focus on the importance of holding fast to one’s convictions and the way Jackson played up the fact that a strong relationship doesn’t just happen, but takes effort.

James’s father has issued an ultimatum: find a wife or lose your place in the family business. When Neka, a young woman of strong Christian convictions and James’s friend for a number of years, learns that the woman James is engaged to is breaking things off just as James prepares to meet with his father, she jumps headlong into the gap. Neka meets James at the airport, and he sees convincing her to marry him as his only course of action. Given that Neka has loved James for some time, it doesn’t take much convincing for her to say yes.

And then the real work begins.

Neka is a sheltered, introverted, slightly naive young woman, but her faith in God is strong. She is outspoken about her convictions, and sometimes that pushes people away from her (because no one likes to have it pointed out when they’re wrong). James professes faith, too, but he comes from a different lifestyle, a different mindset. His family’s unkind and often unfair treatment of him over the years has left a bitter taste in his mouth, and he’s used to relying on himself and his skills and talents to make decisions. When Neka says yes to his proposal, she soon realizes that they’ll have to work to overcome their differences and build a solid foundation of trust if they hope to have a strong marriage.

Jackson gives us what I imagine is a pretty accurate portrayal of how both families would react to a sudden proposal. James’s parents want to know what happened with the other fiancée, and Neka’s parents question what made her leave so suddenly, without consulting them or letting them know what was going on. Siblings on both sides are a little stand-offish at first, too.

The story didn’t always flow smoothly. At times it felt like an issue popped up that would have to be worked through, and then in the next couple of paragraphs it was resolved, without any real detail as to how that happened. The dialogue felt a little stiff occasionally. But I can see where that could really happen in a situation where you’re marrying into a family much different from yours, where you aren’t sure at the outset whether your fiancé actually loves you.

The relationship Neka has with her family may seem strange to some readers. Even though she is of legal age, it feels like her family expects her to abide by their direction for her, and James’s concerns that she may choose her family over him appear to be legitimate. But she is able to seek her family’s counsel without having them dictate her path as she and James move forward together.

My favorite aspects of the story were Neka’s unwavering faith and the strength of her convictions and the growth we see in James. So many stories play up the physical aspect of a relationship and go from zero to sixty in terms of attraction and acting on that attraction. It was nice here to see Neka standing firm that there would be no sex before marriage, and to see James respecting that. I think that contributed to the characters learning more about each other and not basing their connection first on the chemistry between them.

Not a perfect read, but a very good one! I recommend it for readers who like stories with strong family dynamics, character growth, clean romance, and a focus on Christian faith.

About the author:

E. C. Jackson began her writing career with the full-length play Pajama Party. Thirty-one years later, she adapted the play into Pajama Party: The Story, a companion book to the second book in the five-book standalone Hope series.

Jackson’s favorite pastime is reading fiction. She enjoys taking the journey along with the characters in the books. That also led to her unorthodox approach to story writing. Her vision for each book she writes is to immerse readers into the storyline so they become connected with each character.

“The Write Way: A Real Slice of Life” is the slogan on her website and Facebook author page. She feels that if every person reading her books feels connected to the characters, her job is done.

Find E.C. Jackson on: Facebook | Twitter

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, JustRead Blog Tours, Romance | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review and Blog Tour: Murder in a Country Village

Book: Murder in a Country Village
Author: F. L. Everett
Pub Day: November 23, 2023 
Buy Link: 

About the book:

England, 1941. With World War Two shaking the nation, rookie reporter Edie York wants to write the front-page news. But she ends up as the headlines when she stumbles over a body on the moors…

Eager to follow Churchill’s order to keep calm and carry on, Edie York has left the bombed-out streets of Manchester behind for a stroll in the countryside. But her rationed picnic lunch turns to ashes in her mouth when she discovers Joyce Reid, a well-known anti-war activist, lifeless at the bottom of a cliff.

Despite infuriatingly handsome DCI Louis Brennan’s less-thanamused warnings ringing in her ears, Edie is unable to leave the conscripted local bobby to do his work. Heading off to investigate, she immediately uncovers potential suspects galore. From alleged black-marketeers to the local land girl, a shell-shocked artist to Joyce’s on-off lover, Edie is sure the murderer is right under her nose.

Then Edie makes another gruesome discovery, and realises she needs long-suffering Louis on the scene to officially investigate. Can they uncover the killer hiding in plain sight, before it’s too late? Or will Edie’s own obituary end up featured on the front pages she’s coveted for so long…?

A fantastically gripping historical cozy mystery perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Agatha Christie. This is the second book in the Edie York Mystery series.

My review:

This is the second in F. L. Everett’s Edie York mystery series. I haven’t read the first, but that didn’t stop me enjoying this one.

Edie is an obituarist for a newspaper, with dreams of becoming a crime writer. When she and a friend go for a walk in the countryside, they come across a corpse. The deceased is one Joyce Reid, artist and very outspoken pacifist. The Athena House art commune had its base in her home, and she often shared her anti-war views with the village, in spite of their open and vocal disagreement with those views. There is no shortage of suspects, both villagers and Joyce’s fellow artists. But local law enforcement seems inclined to go on hearsay that Joyce took an unfortunate tumble. DCI Lou Brennan warns her off, but Edie can’t help but investigate.

Everett gives us a varied cast of characters. Edie is a charming, determined, independent young woman, someone who might easily be described as “plucky.” DCI Lou Brennan is no-nonsense, sometimes even abrupt, and dedicated to his work. Both have reasons for not seeking romance, but you get glimmers of attraction between the two of them that might smolder and eventually burst into flame. When Edie throws herself headlong into sticky situations (as she sometimes does), Brennan’s concern for her well-being shines through, before he tucks it back behind a professional veneer. I’m interested to see where Everett takes them in future books.

The artists who Joyce essentially took under her wing are also an interesting lot, and as the story unfolds, we see that each of them has some hidden resentment with the situation at Athena House. Could one of them have snapped and killed Joyce? Athena House is a hot mess of bed-hopping free love, and you have to wonder if someone didn’t like sharing. I sometimes thought the villagers frowned on Athena House’s moral compass as much as they did Joyce Reid’s pacifist (and, to the villagers, unpatriotic and even communist) leanings.

The murder isn’t tagged as an actual murder until a good way into the book, and Everett gives us other story arcs to unravel, too. There’s the side quest of who sent Edie’s co-worker Ethel lilies and why; Edie’s lost friendship with Suki and whether there is hope for reconciliation; and teenagers who go missing from Joyce’s village at about the same time she dies. Each story unfolds in good time, and Everett gives us some characters we may meet again.

The setting is almost like a character unto itself. Everett gives us a real feel for what wartime Britain was like – the shortages, the sacrifices, the injured soldiers returning home for care. And Edie may be working, but she hasn’t yet been given the opportunity to achieve the career goal she’s really hoping for. The wartime effort didn’t mean women were immediately considered equal to men in terms of employment, just that women were who was available to get the work done while so many of the men were off fighting.

This was a thoroughly charming book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes cozy mysteries with a bit of history to them and light on the romance.

Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Flic Everett is a Mancunian writer who now lives in a cottage in the beautiful West Highlands with her patient husband and two deranged cocker spaniels. She still misses Manchester, and returns like a homing pigeon every month to see family and friends. She spends a lot of time writing on trains.

Flic has owned an award-winning vintage shop, guest-presented Woman’s Hour and was once a part-time tarot reader. She has a grown up son who makes her laugh more than anyone on earth, and she likes reading, painting, cooking, clothes, animals, Art Deco and rummaging in charity shops for bargains. Her greatest fear is being stranded without a book. She has spent many years as a freelance journalist and editor for national newspapers and magazines and can’t believe she’s finally allowed to make up stories from the comfort of her own home.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Bookouture, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of y’all who stop by my blog to read and comment, to my bookish friends, to the authors who write the books I love, thank you! I’m thankful for y’all today. Without you, I’d be running my mouth about books all by myself.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Why I’m Thankful for Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog and go here to see what others have on their Top Ten Tuesday lists!

Today we’re talking about reasons why we’re thankful for books!

  1. Books let me visit all kinds of places without ever packing a bag!
  2. Books challenge my thinking.
  3. Books expand my vocabulary.
  4. Books are like a Tardis – they can take me anywhere in time AND space.
  5. Bookish friends – bloggers, authors, fellow readers, librarians, anyone in publishing – are the best!
  6. Books on shelves make my house feel cozy.
  7. With a book in my hand, I am never bored.
  8. Curling up on the couch with a book and a cat is a great way to spend an afternoon.
  9. I’ve been able to pass my love of reading on to one of my kids. (The other is resistant. He does read manga, though, so he’s not a complete non-reader.)
  10. I will never run out of gift suggestions as long as my TBR remains.

What are your reasons for loving books? Feel free to share in a comment!

Posted in Book Memes, Top Ten Tuesday | Tagged , | 10 Comments