Nominated for Award

Happily Ever After – 2016

 

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Summer is almost here, when there is lots of talk about weddings and romantic getaways.

 

June is the biggest month for weddings in the United States – or so all the bride magazines would have you believe. In fact, while June may be the most popular month to tie the knot, it’s only by a small margin. 10.8% of yearly weddings are performed then, followed closely by August, at 10.2%. But, that’s still over six thousand weddings a day, explaining why wedding venues must be booked months in advance.

 

For those of us not getting married or traveling to a romantic destination anytime soon, we can get lost in a ‘Happily Ever After’ book and be transported via heart and mind.

 

Below is a list of titles suggested by readers that enjoy more sweet romance in their stories than the murder mysteries usually reviewed or listed here at NBR. These books got raves from the readers that made the suggestions.  😀

 

No dead bodies to be found among the pages – or so I’ve been told – just romance in many forms. Think Hallmark Channel on Saturday and Sunday nights during June.

 

If you’ve read any of the titles from the authors in this genre, let us know in the comments below.

 

Click on the author names for the links to their websites.

 

Rachael Anderson:  “Not Always Happenstance”

 

Tamie Dearen:  “A Rose in Bloom”

 

Shannon Guymon:  “Free Fallin’ ”

 

Liwen Ho:  “Drawn to You”

 

Melanie Jacobson:  “Always Will”

 

Stacy Juba:  “Fooling Around with Cinderella”

 

Sophie Kinsella:  “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan”

 

Jane Lebak:  “Honest and For True”

 

Debbie Macomber:  “Love Letters”

 

Catherine Maiorisi:  “Matters of the Heart”

 

Jill Mansell:  “The Unpredictable Consequences of Love”

 

Jules Nelson:  “Shadows”

 

Jenny Proctor:  “Love at First Note”

 

Ann Roberts:  “Complete Package”

 

Curtis Sittenfeld:  “Eligible”

 

Heather Sutherlin:  “Loose Ends”

 

Debbie White:  “Finding Mrs. Right”

 

Susan Wiggs:  “Summer by the Sea”

 

Sherryl Woods:  Chesapeake Shores series

 

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Is there a swoon worthy title in the list?  Happily Ever After reading!   🙂

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

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Texas Fiction – 2016 List

 

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Every once in a while, it’s fun to focus on regional fiction. It’s a chance for readers to concentrate on stories that take place in their favorite part of the world or an area that has aroused their curiosity. Sometimes, fans like to search for books written by authors that live in that region.

 

The Texas list of 36 authors is a mix of:

 

  • Authors who live there, but write books set elsewhere
  • Authors that have written novels set in Texas, but live elsewhere.
  • Authors who live in and write about Texas.

 

Click on the names to take you to the author sites.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams: “Prodigal Gun”

Susan Wittig Albert: “Blood Orange”

 

Linda Bingham: “Skyscraper Caper”

Parris Afton Bonds:  “Blue Bayou” box set

James Lee Burke: “House of the Rising Sun”

 

Valerie P Chandler: ‘Rota Fortunae’ in “Murder on Wheels”

Caroline Clemmons: “Angeline”

Catherine Coulter: “Nemesis”

Bill Crider: “Between the Living and the Dead”

 

Stephanie Jaye Evans:  "Safe from Harm"

Ann Everett: “Say You’ll Never Love Me”

 

Kay Finch: “The Black Cat Knocks on Wood”

Kinky Friedman – series about a Texan living in NYC

 

Meg Gardiner: “Phantom Instinct”  (reviewed here)

Kaye George: Imogene Duckworthy series, “Broke”

 

Linda Kozar: “Weighty Matters”

Billy Kring:  “Tonton”

 

Liz Lipperman:  “Chicken Caccia-Killer”

 

Nancy Martin: “Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything”

Larry McMurtry: “Lonesome Dove”

James Michener: “Texas”

 

Golden Keyes Parsons: “His Steadfast Love”

Mark Pryor: “Hollow Man”    

 

James Reasoner: “The Last War Chief”

Catie Rhodes:  “Rest Stop” 

Rick Riordan: “Rebel Island”

 

Terry Shames: “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake”

Leann Sweeney: Yellow Rose Mystery Series

 

Livia Washburn: “Peach of a Murder”

Nancy G. West:  "Smart, but Dead"

George Wier: “Cold Rains”

Lori Wilde:  “Love of the Game”

Lynn Chandler Willis: “Wink of an Eye”  (reviewed here)

Manning Wolfe:  "Dollar Signs"

Reavis Z. Wortham:  “Dark Places”

 

Celia Yeary:  “Annalisa”

 

 

Have fun choosing from this great list of Texas fiction.  🙂

 

 

 

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“Wink of an Eye” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover - Wink of an Eye

“Wink of an Eye,” written by Lynn Chandler Willis, introduces us to a hunky P.I. named Gypsy Moran. Think Gerard Butler, with a Texas drawl (IMO). Gypsy’s colorful past is catching up with him and he returns home to Wink, Texas to hide out for a while. Wink is a small town where everybody knows your name, what you did with whom and how long it took.

 

The last thing he wants to do is take on a case while laying low, but he is staying with his sister and she can push his buttons as only sisters know how to do. A former student of hers needs help proving that his dad, a deputy in the sheriff’s department, did not commit suicide. And, by the way, his death may be related to an investigation into some missing teens.

 

“Just hear him out,” sis says. Wow, do people get in trouble when they relent and get persuaded after that plea. When the boy, Tatum McCallen, keeps nagging at Gypsy to help, Gypsy’s first reaction is to say that nothing can be done. But, seriously, how can anyone refuse a 12 year old that is so persistent, or a case that reeks of cover up and injustice and maybe even human trafficking, laced with corruption in the police department?

 

Of course, we know that Gypsy will take on the case, and the way “Wink of an Eye” unfolds, Willis keeps us guessing and laughing and thoroughly engrossed all the way through.

 

Gypsy runs into old flame, Claire, who can ring his chimes and make him lose all his brains and common sense, just as she could back in high school. They have history and at first, Gypsy has selective memory for only the good parts. He meets a sexy reporter while looking into the overlapping cases and life gets more complicated.

 

Gypsy can’t catch a break with his love life, but as a P.I., he’s a phenom. He does the work, has a great brain, can stay one step ahead of his enemies – well, mostly. Snake bites, hospital stays, and a need for frozen peas slow him down a bit.

 

There are multiple story lines in “Wink of an Eye” – what happened to the missing teens, what actually happened between Gypsy and Claire back in high school, how and why did Ryce McCallen really die, why is Gypsy hiding out in his sister’s house, and more. Willis has given Michael ‘Gypsy’ Moran a complex back-story, interwoven throughout the book in bits and pieces. We are brought into his thoughts as if they were our own. We experience his ‘aha’ moments as the facts surface and clarity is revealed.

 

I lived in Texas for more than a dozen years, and Willis (a native North Carolinian) has truly captured the clothes-sticking-to-you August-in-Texas heat. The dust covers your shoes on the dry days and people will walk for a couple of blocks just to park the car in the shade. I laughed out loud when one of Gypsy’s romantic fantasies was cut short by the reality of sweat.

 

The supporting cast is an absorbing mix of innocents, nasty sorts, loyal relatives, savvy contacts, and anxious illegals. Gypsy, himself, is such a well-written character that he could easily carry a successful series for years to come.

 

“Wink of an Eye” was the winner of the Best First Private Eye Novel Competition in 2013, deservedly so. Willis was the first woman in a decade to win that award. Wahoo!

 

Interesting trivia information for fans: Which Country & Western singers does Willis listen to while she is writing?  George Strait and Garth Brooks.  🙂

 

For information about Lynn Chandler Willis, her other books, as well as the next Gypsy Moran book, please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com  

Award update:  "Wink of an Eye" has been nominated for the Shamus Award, an award that focuses on Private Investigators in the mystery field. The winner will be revealed at the international Bouchercon Convention in Raleigh, NC on October 9th.  🙂 Congratulations to Lynn for the nomination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bluffing is Murder” by Tace Baker

 

Book Cover - Bluffing is Murder

"Bluffing Is Murder," is the latest Lauren Rousseau novel by Tace Baker. Linguistics professor Rousseau, has recently earned tenure at her college and for the first time in years, has the summer off from teaching. Her boyfriend is visiting family in Haiti and she is on her own, ready to relax, recover from the events surrounding the murder of a former student, and enjoy her recently purchased condo with Wulu, her dog.

 

But, her insurance agent winds up dead and she’s suspected of his murder after a very public argument. Certainly makes a case for never complaining about anything in front of a crowd, especially when tempers are high. While attempting to prove her own innocence, Rousseau uncovers a nasty embezzling plot and realizes more than her freedom may be at stake. She may be on a hit list as well.

 

There are multiple murders, and multiple suspects in this entertaining read that also deals with how schools are financed, missing relatives, and the lies that people tell.

 

Baker supplies Rousseau with intelligent companions and quirky acquaintances. The characters in "Bluffing Is Murder," (even the nasty ones) have depth and realism and inhabit the kind of world that an athletic, intelligent college professor would enjoy.

 

Rousseau’s wandering eye gets her into trouble when self-defense classes bring her into close contact with her tall, dark, and dangerous karate instructor. He seems to want to do more than practice lunges with her, but is that handsome face all that she needs in her life?

 

Her ambivalent attitude toward absentee boyfriend, Zac, is an intriguing subplot to this second book in the series, a carryover theme from the first book. Rousseau wants something more, but what? He can cook, they enjoy each other’s company, but he wants a commitment she can’t give. Does she think that being with one guy will limit her options in life? Interesting comment on modern day relationships, in that she is the indecisive one, not the man in the duo. Laura Rousseau does quite well on her own, except for the occasional assault and those bodies popping up. In writing Rousseau, Baker strikes a special balance of independence and knocking knees in the right situations. Nicely done.

 

Rousseau is a Quaker and we see how her faith directs her interaction even with difficult people, how it helps to keep her calm in terrifying situations. While not a religious book, it does give a revealing insight into the world of Friends.

 

“Bluffing is Murder” is a satisfying second installment to this literate series from Tace Baker and has lots to keep us interested in reading several more. The first book in the series, "Speaking of Murder," is reviewed here.

Tace Baker is a pseudonym for Edith Maxwell. Ms. Maxwell also writes the Local Foods Mysteries.  For more information about all of her projects and Agatha nominated work, please visit www.edithmaxwell.com

 

 

 

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“Kneading to Die” by Liz Mugavero

 

Book Cover - Kneading To Die copy

‘Stan’ (short for Kristan) Connor leaves Hartford, Connecticut after being unfairly downsized from her high paying, high pressure PR job. It’s time to take a breather from the fast lane and move her life in a different direction. When she arrives at her newly purchased Victorian in Frog Ledge, a town so small that everybody knows your business before you say hello for the first time, she knows she is home.

 

Her boyfriend doesn’t agree, and pressures her to get another job ASAP before she regrets her decision. Plus, he’s not happy about the commute to see her. He keeps trying to arrange job interviews for her, despite her protests. Not needed, not wanted. She has two years severance pay, after all. This pair is definitely not on the same page.

 

Stan soon finds herself in a fix when she visits the obnoxious town vet with her Maine coon, Nutty. The vet is dead; kibble sprinkled over her body, and hardly anybody misses her. Stan is a suspect in the murder, just because she found the body. Well, small town people do have to blame the outsiders, don’t they?  😉

 

As Kristan seeks to clear herself in “Kneading to Die,” she finds it hard to know whom to trust. Even her childhood friend, an animal rescuer and now the owner of Pet’s Last Chance, Nikki Manning, comes under suspicion as the case unfolds. But, then Nikki delivers some inside info about the deceased and a possible motive for the vet’s death.

 

Colorful characters (and suspects) abound, including alpaca farmers/bed & breakfast owners, a sweetshop owner, dairy farmers, gossipy townspeople, long-lost relatives, a homeopathic vet, and more.

 

Kristan bakes healthy treats for pets, made from scratch like people cookies, but without the additives usually found in commercial cat and dog food. One of my mother’s cats suffered with clumps of hair falling out, traced back to his completely canned diet. As soon as mom put him on a diet of home cooked fish and other fresh goodies, the condition cleared up. Mugavero is definitely onto something with this aspect of “Kneading to Die,” and has generously included recipes for dog and kitty treats at end of the book.

 

The hunky potential love interest, Jake McGee, owns a seemingly untrainable, sloppy, big dog that loves Stan’s treats and shows up on her doorstep at odd hours, waiting to get fed. The dog keeps throwing Kristan and Jake together, at times embarrassing them both.

 

The underlying theme of this dog-and-cat-filled cozy is advocacy for animals. Mugavero weaves the nasty side of pet sales, abandoned animals, questionable veterinarian policies, badly prepared pet food, etc. into the murder plotline and raises awareness of the real-life issues involved. Fortunately, the unpleasant side of the pet industry is balanced with the warm, caring behavior of the assorted animal lovers in “Kneading to Die.”

 

P.S. If you’ve ever owned a cat or a dog, you’ll find the descriptions of the animals in “Kneading to Die” hilarious and spot-on. I was checking a detail at the beginning of the book and reread about Nutty’s tail delivering opinions – still sooo funny. Mugavero clearly knows her animals.

 

“Kneading to Die” is the first book in Pawsitively Organic series, and happily, Kristan Connor will be back in the next.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for information about this debut author.

 

 

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