Book Review and Blog Tour: Murder at St. Saviour’s by Merryn Allingham

Book: Murder at St. Saviour’s
Author: Merryn Allingham
Pub Day: November 21, 2022 
Buy Link: Amazon:

Book Description:

Bookshop owner and amateur detective Flora Steele teams up with handsome crime writer Jack Carrington to unravel a curious murder in the village of Abbeymead!

Sussex, 1956: When Flora and her partner-in-crime-solving, Jack, arrive at the charming church of St Saviour’s the last thing they’re expecting to find is the curate, Lyle Beaumont, lifeless on the flagstone floor beneath the belltower, with a mysterious note in his hand.

Flora is dismayed to find the poor curate dead. But she can’t help being intrigued by the eclectic mix of bell ringers present at the old church – Mr Preece, the local butcher, Dilys Fuller, the busybody postmistress, and Stephen Henshall, a newcomer to the close-knit community. Any one of them could be the culprit – and Flora needs to act fast before someone gets away with murder…

When Flora and Jack begin their sleuthing, they quickly realise all is not what it seems with the victim, and the certainty of the dead man’s identity becomes the first twist in the investigation.

Just as they’re getting closer to the answer, the death of one of the suspects changes everything. As a series of unexplained accidents unfolds across the village, it seems no-one who was present at the church on the night of the curate’s demise is safe.

Has the bell tolled on Flora and Jack’s detective days? And will they work out the truth in time to save themselves?

A completely addictive cozy crime novel set in the fictional Sussex village of Abbeymead. Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis!

My review:

The story opens with new curate Lyle Beaumont falling to his death from the bell tower at St. Saviour’s. The bell ringers were on their way there for rehearsal. Another man, Stephen Henshall, a stranger to Abbeymead, was also on the scene. At first, this appears to be a tragic accident. But it soon turns out that the curate is not who he purported to be, and in fact, was not a curate at all. A note clenched in his hand suggests that perhaps his death was not accidental after all. What secrets did “Lyle Beaumont” hide that someone is now willing to kill to keep secret?

I simply love visiting Abbeymead! Merryn Allingham gives us a charming village filled with interesting characters, and a good mystery to boot.

Flora and Jack are in the thick of the investigation, and I love seeing them working together to solve the mystery. Their relationship is progressing, and while they may not be ready to commit for a lifetime, neither of them seems to be fighting their feelings any longer. That makes me happy, because I think they’re just adorable together. I also liked seeing more of Investigator Ridley on the case, and I liked that he brought our amateur sleuths into the loop as much as he could.

There was no shortage of potential suspects. Turns out quite a few folks had reason not to like Mr. Beaumont-that-wasn’t, and they were open about the fact that his death didn’t grieve them too deeply. But which of them had the dead man offended enough that they were willing to kill over it? And kill more than once, as the primary suspect was found murdered, and Flora and Jack found themselves in harm’s way due to their digging.

The nasty winter weather was almost a character in itself. Roads were treacherous, the chill was brutal, and it made me want to wrap myself up in a warm blanket while reading, even though the weather is much nicer here!

Merryn Allingham has another winner here. Her historical detail is impeccable, her characters are likeable, hateable, or somewhere in between, and Abbeymead is a delight. Highly recommended for reading while curled up with a blanket, a cat, and a hot cup of cocoa.

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

About the author:

Merryn taught university literature for many years, and it took a while to pluck up the courage to begin writing herself. Bringing the past to life is a passion and her historical fiction includes Regency romances, wartime sagas and timeslip novels, all of which have a mystery at their heart. As the books have grown darker, it was only a matter of time before she plunged into crime with a cosy crime series set in rural Sussex against the fascinating backdrop of the 1950s.

Merryn lives in a beautiful old town in Sussex with her husband and one last cat, Bluebell. When she’s not writing, she tries to keep fit with adult ballet classes and plenty of walking.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: The Innocent Wife (Detective Josie Quinn #16) by Lisa Regan

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: The Innocent Wife

Series: Detective Josie Quinn, Book 16

Author: Lisa Regan

Genre: Detective Fiction, Thriller, Suspense

Publication Date: December 12, 2022

Publisher: Bookouture


Candles are lit and their rich vanilla scent twists its way through the cabin. The table is set for a romantic anniversary dinner with fresh roses dropping crimson petals on crisp white linen. But the woman seated at the table is cold to the touch, and there’s blood trickling down her neck…

When Denton’s most loved TV presenter returns home to find his wife dead at the dining table, it shatters the close-knit community. Beautiful and absolutely besotted with each other, Beau and Claudia Collins were idolized for being the perfect couple. But the devastating scene Detective Josie Quinn finds in their remote hideaway has her asking what dark secrets lurk beneath the surface of this seemingly flawless marriage?

Beau is grief-stricken by the loss of his kind-hearted wife who gave so much to others as a therapist, but Josie needs to know the significance of the small wooden puzzle box found clutched in Claudia’s hand. A prop in a popular game Beau played with his viewers to test the strength of their relationships, is it a twisted calling card, or a challenge from the killer?

The broken body of one of Beau and Claudia’s assistants is found the next day, a matching little box left in the dirt beside her. It’s clear that if Beau doesn’t start telling the truth about the flaws in his marriage, those dearest to him will die.

Caught in a cat and mouse chase with disturbing revelations and a mounting body count at every turn, Josie and her team work night and day to keep Beau’s loved ones safe. What kind of calculating monster would do this? A faded newspaper article about a tragic accident is the break Josie desperately needs. But she may already be too late, an innocent child is in danger…

An absolutely gripping rollercoaster of a crime thriller from an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Guaranteed to have you sleeping with the lights on and shouting from the rooftops about the twists, it’s perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine.

My thoughts:

Y’all know I love Lisa Regan’s books (see reviews for Detective Josie Quinn #11, #12, #13, #14, #15). And now we’ve got Detective Josie Quinn’s sixteenth adventure on the way! I don’t know how she does it, but Lisa Regan makes each book in the series more of a nail-biter than the one before it. As long as she keeps writing, I will keep reading. The Innocent Wife will be out December 12. Merry early Christmas to meeeeeeeee!

What are you waiting for? If you start the series now, you might be caught up by December 12!

Posted in Book Memes, Bookouture, Can't-Wait Wednesday, Detective Fiction, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors Whose Books I’m Glad to Know

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!

Thanksgiving is upon us! This week, the top ten doesn’t have a theme as such. It’s a Thankful Freebie! So this week, I’m borrowing a theme idea from Taylor Fenner and sharing ten authors I’m thankful I was introduced to. These are the authors whose books I’ll read, no questions asked. The books shown aren’t necessarily their first books, but the first ones by them that I picked up.

S. Usher Evans

Ah, Razia, my bitchy space pirate. My husband bought the first three books in S. Usher Evans’ Razia series for me at Geekonomicon in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was hooked.

Heather Webber

Heather Webber’s books are magical. Small towns, characters you cheer for, the importance of family. So good.

Anita Dickason

Anita Dickason writes what she knows, and does a magnificent job of it! Whether she’s writing a law enforcement thriller or a good mystery, I’ll read it.

Ellery Adams

This book. This series. Ellery Adams is on my must-read list for always.

Susan May Warren

I love Susan May Warren’s books. Action, suspense, clean romance, and always a joy to read.

Lisa Regan

Lisa Regan writes some of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. Start at the beginning of this series and read them all.

Cleo Coyle

I adore the Coffeehouse Mysteries! This was the first I picked up, and I’ll keep on reading. And these also introduced me to Pen and Jack in the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries!

Katherine Macdonald

Katherine Macdonald takes myth and fairy tale and retells it in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Simply marvelous.

Kate Danley

This is the book that got me hooked. The Woodcutter is what the TV show Once Upon a Time wishes it could have been. All of Danley’s books are well worth the read.

Genevieve Cogman

This series is so good, it needs to be a TV show. I can’t even explain it properly. Just read it.

Those are just a handful of authors whose work I’m thankful to have been introduced to. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What authors are you glad to know?

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides by Seema Desai

A Kid’s Guide to Navigating Their Emotions
Illustrated by James Ballance
Children’s Book / Self-Help / Mindfulness / Parenting
Publisher: The Jai Jais
Page Count: 56 pages
Publication Date: February 3, 2022
Scroll down for a giveaway!
Connected is all about teaching kids and their families how to navigate their emotions. It is a practical guide to understanding powerful concepts that alleviate the stress and challenge in tough situations.
The book also includes tools and tips to help children become advocates for their mental and emotional well-being in productive ways, as well as thought-provoking questions to encourage young readers to think about how these tools would be uniquely relatable to them. Written to inspire children to become empathetic leaders and creative solution-seekers, Connected is a book that helps them not only understand themselves better, but also those around them.


Dr. Seema Desai is a proud wife and mom of two young children. She is also Certified Professional Coach, speaker, and author of the newly-released children’s book, Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides. She currently serves as Co-President of the Austin chapter of Pratham USA, a non-profit organization aimed at creating learning equality for underserved children in India and globally. Though no longer seeing patients, Seema is also a general dentist who dedicated her years in medicine to serving the geriatric population in Austin and surrounding areas.
Along with yoga and traveling, connected parenting is a passion for Seema. She believes that helping a parent and child connect to their inner wisdom is a powerful way to create the next generation of peace-leaders and solution-seekers. She is firmly committed to being a part of a kindness revolution, where we raise children in a way that heals and inspires resilience and greatness.
Things that bring Seema joy are good cups of coffee, jazz music, tropical beaches, meditating, family time…and large slices of chocolate cake.
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 11/23/22)

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Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop – November 18, 2022

Book Beginnings on Fridays is hosted each week by Rose City Reader. It’s a chance to share the first sentence or so of the book you are reading this week. You can check out others’ book beginnings here. I’m also going to link up with Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower for First Line Friday.

This week’s book beginning:


An organization that has operated in secret for centuries… a mystery that threatens to burn it all to the ground… and she’s the only agent who can stop it…

To the residents and tourists of Galveston Island, Claire Abelard is the friendly young woman who works at the local candy store by day and leads ghost tours of the island’s haunted locations by night. They don’t realize this persona is a cover for Claire’s real job as an agent of the Bureau for Historical Preservation, a clandestine organization that monitors and assists energy projections, or the entities more commonly known as “ghosts.”

When projections begin disappearing from around the island, Claire worries that history may be repeating itself. She launches a dangerous investigation and uncovers a sinister, arcane organization whose agenda threatens not only Galveston’s ghosts, but everything she has worked her whole life to protect.

The truth behind the disappearances rocks Claire’s world to its core and shows her that ghosts aren’t the only things that can come back to haunt you.

Ghost Agents is a genre-defying, cozy paranormal mystery, with a little sci-fi, romance, and Texas history thrown into the mix!

“I believe in ghosts. I have to. It’s in my job description.”

Are you in? Does that sentence grab you and keep you reading? (If you keep reading, it is SO worth it!)

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer. It starts each Friday and runs through the following Thursday. Each week, there’s a new prompt featuring a book-related question. It’s designed to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, make new blogging friends, and gain followers. See what others have to say on this topic and link up your own post here.

Do you like writing short or long reviews?
(submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer)

I’ve seen some folks doing mini reviews – about one paragraph of thoughts on a book. I would love to do those! But it seems like I get started and my mouth just keeps running and my fingers just keep typing. LOL So I would say I prefer writing long reviews.

Other bloggers, what do y’all do? Long or short reviews? If you write short reviews, tell me your secret!

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Honor Bound (Love and Honor #1) by Hallee Bridgeman

Scroll down for a giveaway!
September 2022, 384 pages
You can’t override the heart
It may seem odd to seek peace by moving to a war-torn African country, but for medical missionary Dr. Cynthia Myers, it provided a way to escape a shallow life of unearned wealth, a philandering fiancé, and a father now square in the public eye as vice president of the United States. At least here she knows her work and life have meaning. But all that is thrown into chaos when she fails to save the life of a local warlord’s mortally wounded son.
As part of the Army Special Forces A-Team on a mission to capture and subdue the warlord, Captain Rick Norton is compelled to use deadly force to save Cynthia’s life. Enraged at the violence she witnessed and riddled with guilt that men died because of her, Cynthia doesn’t want to like anything about Rick and his team–but an unexpected attraction is taking hold.
With two members of his team badly injured and rebels in hot pursuit, Rick will have to draw upon all his strength and cunning to get her out alive . . . because he’s beginning to think that, despite their differences, they just may be able to make a life together.

October 2022, 384 pages

You can’t outrun the past

FBI Special Agent Lynda Culter is investigating an ecoterrorist organization in the Alaskan wilderness when she and her partner are taken captive and he’s murdered before her very eyes. The only person who can identify the key players, Lynda gets assigned to take part in a joint operation in Istanbul to take the organization down.
As a woman in a Muslim country, she’ll find it much easier to move around undetected with a fake husband. Unfortunately for her, the one assigned to play the role is none other than Army weapons specialist Bill Sanders–the man who crushed her heart in college.
With a cargo bay’s worth of hurt and baggage between them, these two consummate professionals must play their parts perfectly if they hope to stop those responsible for bombing oil pipelines, which has killed innocent civilians and threatened to destabilize the oil markets. Protecting Lynda becomes Bill’s primary focus–but love long buried has a way of resurfacing at the most inopportune times.
November 2022, 352 pages

You can’t give up on love

When she was just five years old, Melissa Braxton watched her father take her mother’s life and suffered the pain of separation from her sister, Lola. Melissa grew up with a strong desire to help those stuck in abusive relationships. It’s why she became a therapist and opened a domestic abuse shelter.
After losing a leg to a gunshot wound in the line of duty, Phil Osbourne has felt like a man without a purpose–until he hears Melissa’s story and decides to use his Special Forces contacts to track down her missing sister, the wife of a Colombian cartel teniente. He knows what he discovers will break Melissa’s heart. What he doesn’t realize is that helping the women reunite will bring the cartel down on them like the category 5 hurricane striking Miami..
Bruised yet not quite broken, Melissa and Phil battle the storm and the cartel, calling on strength they didn’t know they had to escape death, save the innocent, and–just maybe–find healing in each other’s arms.

Doctor Cynthia Myers has found new passion and purpose serving on mission in a war-torn African country, providing medical care to villagers who would otherwise go without. Her hard-won peace is shattered when she is unable to save a local warlord’s mortally wounded son, and her life and the lives of those she has workd with and served are now in danger.

Captain Rick Norton and his team seek out Doctor Myers when one of the team is seriously injured. They are able to permanently neutralize the threat the warlord’s men pose. Thus begins the slow burn between pacifist doctor and committed soldier. Cynthia is very much opposed to guns and violence, and she isn’t shy about telling Rick what she thinks of his career choice. He doesn’t think much of her opposition and tells her so. But they both soon realize that they have feelings that go beyond dislike, or even just friendship. How can they – or can they – reconcile their opposing viewpoints?

I do love a good suspense novel, and Hallee Bridgeman delivers! The action is pretty intense in places. There are some nail-biting moments when Cynthia has to provide emergency medical care, finding a way to address injuries that are beyond the scope of her experience. Hostile forces are trying to keep our heroes from getting out of the jungle, and the team has to fight fire with fire. Their maneuvers to get to the landing zone for extraction are hair-raising! And getting back to civilization is no guarantee of safety, as the warlord and his men come after Cynthia and her father, now the Vice President of the United States, at a state dinner in Africa.

Cynthia and Rick are both strong characters with deeply held convictions. Bridgeman does a good job showing their thought processes as each works through their feelings for the other. I appreciated that both of the characters had a strong Christian faith, and that faith played a prominent role in their decisions and actions. Rick faces danger with courage – actual, weapon-wielding, potentially life-threatening danger. But Cynthia shows courage, too, in breaking free of what’s expected of her to walk into God’s plan for her life.

The soldiers on Rick’s team are fascinating characters in their own right. Two of those soldiers, Bill “Drumstick” Sanders and Phil “Oz” Osbourne, get their own books in the series. I can’t wait to see how their stories unfold!

An enemies to lovers clean romance, action aplenty, and characters that are easy to root for make this a five-star read for me. Highly recommended for people who enjoy a good Chris>tian fiction story that doesn’t skimp on the suspense and that gives you that happily ever after.

Hallee Bridgeman is the USA Today bestselling author of several action-packed romantic suspense books and series. An Army brat turned Floridian, Hallee and her husband finally settled in central Kentucky, where they have raised their three children. When she’s not writing, Hallee pursues her passion for cooking, coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. An accomplished speaker and active member of several writing organizations, Hallee can be found online at:

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Paper Cuts (Secret, Book & Scone Society #6) by Ellery Adams

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: Paper Cuts

Author: Ellery Adams

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

Publisher: Kensington


Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is famed for its healing springs. But bookstore owner Nora Pennington has a tendency to land in a different kind of hot water. Though she loves to practice bibliotherapy by finding the perfect books for her customers while listening to their secrets, she also likes to bury her nose in the occasional local crime . . .

Nora escaped her past a decade ago. So it feels like a visit from another world when Kelly Walsh—the woman her ex-husband left her for—walks through the door of Miracle Books along with her son, a sweet, serious boy with a talent for origami. Kelly hasn’t come to gloat, though. As it turns out, she’s been dumped too. She’s also terribly ill, and all she wants from Nora is forgiveness.

Shockingly, however, this woman who’s been the victim of so much misfortune is about to become a murder victim. Who would do such a thing? Certainly not Nora, but that doesn’t stop the gossip and suspicion—especially after Kelly’s brother claims that he saw the two women arguing.

In seeking justice for Kelly, The Secret, Book, and Scone Society joins forces with the sheriff’s department, but they’ve barely begun their probe when life throws another wrench. After serving a twenty-year sentence, Estella’s father returns to Miracle Springs. And when his past comes back to haunt him, it might be more than the four friends can handle.

My thoughts:

Oh, how I love the Secret, Book & Scone Society! I am so excited that Ellery Adams is continuing the series. I can’t wait to go hang out with Nora, Hester, June, and Estella. This one sounds like the past will rear its head in a big way, and I am there for it. The book releases in April, and I’ll be reading and sharing my thoughts. I can’t wait!

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Book Review: The Killing God (The Great God’s War #3) by Stephen R. Donaldson

  • Title: The Killing God (The Great God’s War #3)
  • Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Would I recommend: If you’re a fan of high fantasy, this is a good one.


Two kingdoms, ancient enemies, must stand alone against an implacable invader in the masterful conclusion of the Great God’s War epic from the New York Times bestselling author of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

They are coming.

The kingdoms of Belleger and Amika had been fighting for generations. But then they learned of a terrible threat moving through them to destroy the Last Repository, an immense hidden library. To face this greater enemy, King Bifalt of Belleger and Queen Estie of Amika allied their lands and prepared for war.

They are at the door.

Now the time of preparation is over. Black ships and sorcery test the cannon that defend the Bay of Lights. Treachery and betrayal threaten the kingdoms. The priests of the Great God Rile sow dissent. And Estie rides for the Last Repository, desperate to enlist the help of their Magisters–and to understand the nature of her own magical gift.

They are here.

Bifalt hates sorcery as much as he loves Estie, and the discovery that she could become a Magister shatters him. But he must rally and fight. Belleger and Amika are all that stand between the Great God’s forces and his ultimate goal: the destruction of the Last Repository and its treasure of knowledge.

My review:

I was a fan of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series back in the day. So when I got the chance to read The Killing God, I jumped at it. (No, I hadn’t read the first two in the trilogy. Y’all know how I am sometimes.)

Here we see two countries, Belleger and Amika, historical enemies united by the marriage of Bifalt and Estie, preparing for war against the Great God Rile. Rile and his forces are coming for the Last Repository and all the knowledge it holds. While Bifalt prepares for war, Estie rides for the Last Repository, hoping to learn more about the power she holds and how she might use it to defend her people.

The relationship between Bifalt and Estie is strained. They parted on less than loving terms. Bifalt hates magic and it pains him to know that his wife could become a Magister. Estie longs to reconcile with her husband, but is driven to know more about this power of hers. What power is it? What can it do? What price will it exact from her?

We’ve got some good fantasy elements here: good versus evil, a conflicted hero (and heroine), a seemingly insurmountable quest. Donaldson uses them to good advantage and writes a story that, once it sucks you in, is hard to put down.

The Magisters’ powers were fascinating, and the price that each seemed to require the wielder to pay wasn’t always what you’d expect. Rile’s forces were also not the standard slash-and-burn soldiers. It was never a given that the good guys would win this one!

There wasn’t a lot of character development on the side of evil – they were just the Big Bad and had to be stopped. But the Magisters, Bifalt’s soldiers, Bifalt and Estie themselves, were all nicely written and made me care about what happened to them. Okay, some more than others. Some of the Magisters were just jerks and not terribly likeable, but I suppose wielding great power (and in some instances, carrying a very heavy burden for others) could make you that way.

The story does take a while to get rolling, and Rile’s motivation for wanting to wipe out the Last Repository wasn’t terribly clear to me. But that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I will go back and read the first two in the series, to see if Rile’s actions make more sense to me after reading the story as a whole.

Four stars, and I recommend The Killing God and The Great God’s War series to anyone who’s a fan of high fantasy, with main characters that make you care about how things turn out for them. Stephen R. Donaldson doesn’t give us a quick read, but he does give us a damn fine story here.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Berkley and Netgalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Mystery at Southwood School (Eve Mallow #9) by Clare Chase

Title: Mystery at Southwood School

Series: Eve Mallow #9

Author: Clare Chase

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: November 10, 2022

Buy Link:



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About the book:

Eve Mallow’s going back to school! But when a former student is murdered, Eve must discover who taught her a deadly lesson…

Eve Mallow is delighted when she’s asked to cater Founders’ Day at Southwood School. It’s the best – and most secretive – school for miles around, and Eve can’t wait to see what it’s really like. But when she arrives, the atmosphere is far from scholarly. Natalie Somerson, ex-pupil and professional gossip, is the guest of honour, but nobody seems to want her there… especially when her speech stirs up an old scandal about a secret love affair. So why was she invited?

The next morning, Natalie is found dead in a locked attic room. To make matters worse, Eve’s boyfriend Robin becomes the police’s prime suspect. Determined to prove his innocence, Eve starts to investigate everyone with a stake in the school. Is it the prudish principal, worried about Natalie’s influence? Her former teacher, whose life Natalie made miserable? Or the head girl, who seemed to hate Natalie one day and adore her the next?

When strange letters arrive at the school and Eve finds a bottle of Natalie’s perfume in the most unexpected place, she senses time is running out to save Robin’s good name. Eve had better study her suspects and unmask the real killer… before they give her a fatal mark!

An utterly delightful and page-turning English cozy mystery, perfect for fans of Frances Evesham, J.R. Ellis and Agatha Christie.

My review:

I do love a good English cozy! Clare Chase delivers with Mystery at Southwood School. Here we find Eve and her friend Viv hired to assist with catering for Founders Day at the prestigious Southwood School. Eve can’t wait to see the school for herself, as it has quite the reputation. But she finds that all isn’t pomp and circumstance in the halls of academia. Former student Natalie Somerson is also there for Founders Day, and while she may be well-known, she is definitely not well-liked. In fact, she seems to delight in stirring up trouble.

When Natalie is found dead, suspicion falls on Robin, Eve’s clandestine love and a former police detective in deep cover to avoid men who would do him harm. He was seen with Natalie, and as a fill-in gardener at the school, he’s a convenient scapegoat for the (rather inept) detective in charge. Eve knows that she has to figure out the truth before Robin’s cover is blown.

I really enjoy this series! Eve is a wonderful character. As an obituary writer, she has the opportunity to interview potential suspects legitimately, and she can often unearth details that people might not mention to the police. This usually leads to her coming up with some idea to find out more by putting herself into precarious situations, which leads to some tense moments and a whole lot of mystery fun.

We learn a bit more about Robin here, and the potential threat to his identity and possibly his life (and Eve’s!) is an interesting story arc. I really like Eve and Robin, and I was holding my breath to see how this thread would play out.

Chase kept me guessing as to who the guilty party really was. There were several people cast as the potential killer – the headmaster’s wife, possibly jealous of Natalie’s interest in her husband; the head girl, whose feelings for Natalie seemed to run hot and cold; Natalie’s current husband, who may or may not have accused her of an affair. But each time I thought I’d figured it out, the story shifted, and the murderer was not who I expected it would be!

Murder at Southwood School is a lot of fun to read. It does what a good cozy should – it entertains, it lets you step outside your normal life for a bit, and it keeps you guessing until the end. I look forward to reading more in this series, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a British cozy.

Author bio:

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.You can find Clare’s website and blog at

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Book Review: Cleopatra’s Vendetta (Stryker #1) by Avanti Centrae

  • Title: Cleopatra’s Vendetta
  • Author: Avanti Centrae
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Would I recommend: Only if you like a compelling story that’s hard to put down!


Royal secrets. Epic lies. This “dangerous” and controversial standalone thriller from international bestselling VanOps author Avanti Centrae is a fast-paced bombshell of a story about truth and courage.

Born a goddess, Cleopatra died a prisoner. But the cobra’s deadly kiss was just the beginning…

Bari, Italy, present day. Think tank Special Ops leader Timothy Stryker and his wife Angie, a self-made CEO, haven’t exactly been seeing eye-to-eye. They take a much-needed Italian holiday, but it comes to a shocking end when Angie and their daughter are kidnapped.

Still raw from the death of their infant son, Stryker is desperate to rescue Angie and reconcile their differences. As he works to locate the captors’ lair, he discovers the kidnappers are behind a string of recent assassinations and attempting another high-profile hit in only seven days. But when he learns their plans for his only remaining child, the scab on his heart tears open and blood begins to spill.

Working from inside her brutal captors’ high-security compound, Angie realizes the cabal is hiding an ancient secret using modern propaganda techniques. And as Stryker races hitmen across India, Egypt, and Greece to thwart the next assassination and save his family, he has to connect a series of deadly dots tracing all the way back to the time of Cleopatra. Ultimately, the estranged pair must shake the deeply buried pillars of western civilization to save their four-year-old daughter from an unspeakable fate.

Fascinating, provocative, original, and timely, Cleopatra’s Vendetta is a sizzling novel that paints a disturbing picture of some of the most intricate issues that have plagued humanity’s past…challenges that color our days and provide the blueprint for our future.

My review:

Trigger warning: This book depicts women held captive by sex traffickers. While there are no graphic sex scenes, there is some physical mistreatment of the women.

Holy heck, what a book! Avanti Centrae has a fascinating premise – that Cleopatra, knowing her death was imminent, took control of the time she had left and engineered her demise rather than waiting on Octavian to do her in. She didn’t really die by the bite of an asp, and she left behind hidden information in a secret location, hidden information that would be vital in taking down an ancient group with a long-held grudge against women.

Jump forward to modern day. Timothy and Angie Stryker lost their infant son, and it’s taken a toll on their marriage. Angie has been trying to keep her pain at bay with alcohol. Stryker hopes they can restore their strained relationship with a family vacation to Italy. But before that happens, Angie and their four-year-old daughter, Harper, are kidnapped by a group eventually identified as the Sons of Adam.

Stryker, a Special Ops commander, is able to get help from his team to start the search. They soon realize that the kidnapping may have some connection to the assassin (or assassins) taking out world leaders that they’ve been trying to get a line on. It may also be connected to Cleopatra and her missing journal.

This book took off right out of the gate and didn’t let up. Avanti Centrae lays the foundation with a look at Cleopatra’s last hours, and then really ramps up with Stryker and the team chasing assassins and Angie and Harper being taken. There were no slow moments. I know you hear books described as “unputdownable,” but this one really was. I was up way later than I should have been on a work night reading.

What I know of Cleopatra is limited to the generally accepted view of her as a seductress and as having died by suicide by snake. But she was also a powerful ruler in her own right, and Centrae creates a believable possibility of how things really went down for the dethroned queen. I enjoyed the historical tidbits woven in and the centuries-long battle of good versus evil.

The characters were all well written, to my reading. Even the relatively minor characters had back story. Zola, the cook on the island where Angie, Harper, and the other captives were held, was one of my favorites. Though it seemed that she had no power, no way to impact her situation, in the end she played a vital role and was an absolute badass.

Sam, Angie’s sister and one of Stryker’s teammates, was another fantastic character. Her interest in and knowledge of Cleopatra was vital to the team as they tried to track down the lost journal, and she was as tough as any of the men on the team.

Fast-paced, gripping, and worth staying up late to read. Five big stars for Cleopatra’s Vendetta, and I can’t wait to read more from Avanti Centrae!

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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