Friday, June 22, 2018

No Grater Danger: A Vintage Kitchen Mystery

Good Day!  Buried in Books by Kate Carlisle will be out on June 26 along with Runaway Murder by Leigh Heron and Murder at the Mansion by Sheila ConnollyDeserts, Driving and Derelicts by Tonya Kappes also releases on June 26.  It is the second book in A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery series.  So many new books will be out in the next few weeks.  I wish I could spend more time reading!

No Grater Danger by Victoria Hamilton is the seventh story in A Vintage Kitchen Mystery series.  Jaymie Leighton Muller is enjoying her new life married to Jakob and taking care of her stepdaughter, Jocie.  Sybil Thorndike, Jocie’s school principal, asks Jaymie to assist in a new program that involves teaching through objects.  They want to use objects from the heritage house for an upcoming spice trade lesson.  Mrs. Stubbs suggests Jaymie talk with her cousin, Lois Perry who owns a large collection of nutmeg graters along with other historical objects.  Lois Perry is a reclusive woman who lives in the Nutmeg Palace and owns the waterfront property in town.  Fergus Baird, a developer, has been badgering Lois to sell off the property.  When Jaymie arrives for a meeting with Lois, she finds her at the bottom of the back stairs. Someone set it up for Lois to fall and this was not the first time an attempt has been made on her life.  Jaymie sets out to find the person behind these dastardly deeds because the next attempt on Lois’ life could be successful.

No Grater Danger contains good writing, a steady pace and smooth transitions.  There is a great cast of established characters and I like the addition of Lois Perry (feisty and intelligent woman).  I have liked watching Jaymie grow over the course of the series, and I am glad that she has found the right partner for her in Jakob Muller.  Queensville, Michigan is a lovely town with quaint shops and I appreciate how they want to preserve their history.  There are beautiful descriptions of vintage items in the book including the Savoy by Buccellati Sterling Silver set, various nutmeg graters, and Pyrex.  The mystery is well-crafted with a twist that will surprise you.  There are red herrings and multiple suspects.  Jaymie actively questions suspects and seeks clues to aid her investigation.  Armchair sleuths will be able to discern the guilty parties’ identity early in the story.  However, it did not hinder my enjoyment of the book.  I wanted to keep reading to discover the why and spend more time in Queensville.  There are many appealing cozy moments in the story with Jaymie and her new family (hubby and stepdaughter), time with friends, cooking and eating, shopping, and wonderful descriptions of vintage items.  I am giving No Grater Danger 4 out of 5 stars.   I could have done with less repetition of facts and speculation.  I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in A Vintage Kitchen Mystery series.  Victoria Hamilton also writes A Merry Muffin Mystery series.

The other novels in A Vintage Kitchen Mystery series are A Deadly Grind, Bowled Over, Freezer I'll Shoot, No Mallets Intended, White Colander Crime and Leave It To Cleaver. Thank you for reading my review.  May happy hour come around quickly for you (which means the work day is over)!  I will see you soon when I share my thoughts on a book that I have read recently.  Take care and Happy Reading!

Kris
The Avid Reader

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck and a Giveaway!

Good Day!  Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best selling author.  Rachel is a graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in journalism and is a devoted Ohio State football fan (Go Buckeyes!).  She now lives in central Florida with her husband and one ornery cat. Rachel Hauck is the author of The Wedding Shop, The Writing Desk, The Wedding Chapel, A Royal Christmas Wedding, and The Royal Wedding Series.

The Love Letter is the latest novel by Rachel Hauck.  Chloe Daschle is auditioning for a role that could change her career.  She has become stereotyped into roles where she dies, and it is time to change her fate.  She gets the role of Esther Longfellow in Bound by Love written by Jesse Gates.  The other thing Chloe longs for is her one true love.  After several disastrous romances, she wonders if the right man is out there for her.  Then Chloe meets screenwriter and actor, Jesse Gates at a friend’s wedding.  Based on a letter from an ancestor, Jesse wrote Bound by Love.  When Jesse meets Chloe, he wonders if she is the woman for him.  He is not sure that he deserves a happily ever after because of what happened eight years prior. 

Esther Longfellow has been in love with Hamilton Lightfoot for many years.  She has returned from two years in London with the hopes of marrying him.  However, war is breaking out and their families are on opposite sides.  Esther’s father, Sir Michael is a loyalist who will not allow his daughter to marry someone unworthy of her much less a patriot.  After a devastating death, Hamilton goes off to war and sees many horrors.  One night before a big battle, he pens a love letter to Esther.  Four people, two stories, one letter.

The Love Letter is a novel about finding someone who will love you, complement you, be there for you during the good times and the bad times.  Finding someone to love can be easy but finding your soul mate is a different matter.  I thought the story was nicely written and the author takes readers on a journey.  The Love Letter is a dual storyline novel that is told from four point-of-views.  I did find it jarring with the four POV’s in the beginning (trying to keep the characters and their stories straight).  It became easier as I progressed through the book.  I found Esther and Hamilton’s storylines more compelling.  The author did a wonderful job at capturing the time-period (starts in 1781) with the descriptions of the area, the clothing, the various Revolutionary War battles and attitudes.  It was clever how the author connects the four people together (I do not want to spoil it for you).  The Christian elements are light but present throughout.  Having faith is the main theme.  You need to have faith that God has the best plan for your life.  I appreciate that the author did not make the characters perfect.  She made them realistic with their own flaws and struggles.  My rating for The Love Letter is 4 out of 5 stars.  It is a lovely story, but I did find the pacing to be slow and the transitions were not smooth (as we switched from character to character).  The Love Letter is a satisfying romantic Christian story with an unpredictable, heartfelt ending. 

The Love Letter is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Google.   To celebrate her tour, Rachel is having a giveaway.  The Grand Prize is Kindle Fire 7.  The Semi-Grand Prize is a book basket.  Second through fourth place win a copy of The Love Letter.  You can enter here.  Thank you for stopping by today.  Please take the time to visit the other stops on The Love Letter Celebrate Lit Tour (list below). Good luck on the contest and Happy Reading!

Kris
The Avid Reader

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, June 21
The Avid Reader, June 21
Genesis 5020, June 21
ansel book blog, June 22
C Jane Read, June 24
By The Book, June 25
Carpe Diem, June 26
Mommynificent , June 27
Radiant Light, June 28
Novels corner, June 29
Bigreadersite, June 29
Pause for Tales, June 30
Splashes of Joy, June 30
Remembrancy, July 2
amandainpa, July 2

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Murder Made to Order: An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery and Giveaway!

Welcome to The Avid Reader! I am a stop on the Great Escapes Murder Made to Order Virtual Book Tour. Lena Gregory is the author of A Bay Island Psychic Mystery series and An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series.  Ms. Gregory lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and three children.  While growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons at the beach and in her yard where she would curl up with a book.  Lena still loves reading, but she now has the added pleasure of creating her own stories.  Readers can find Lena Gregory  on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Bookbub and Pinterest.

Murder Made to Order by Lena Gregory is the second book in An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series.  Gia Morelli has been settling into her new life in Boggy Creek, Florida when she receives a startling letter from Marcia Steers, the president of the city council.  It seems that the building for the café is zoned residential and Gia will have to close the café.  Before Gia can act, a nervous Marcia stops by and schedules a meeting with Gia for Monday.  Before their meeting can take place, Gia and Thor stumble over a dead Marcia half submerged in muck in the woods.  Captain Hayes and Detective Quinn Hunter quickly arrive, but after a disagreement, Captain Hayes tosses Quinn off the case.  Following the clues, Gia finds that the issue regarding her café started twenty years ago and can be related to the death of Savannah Mill’s mother.  But someone is not happy with Gia’s snooping and attempts to shut her down permanently.

Murder Made to Order can be read alone.  Everything a reader needs to know is included in this installment in the series.  Murder Made to Order is easy to read and has a steady pace throughout.  I thought Murder Made to Order was an improvement over Scone Cold Killer.  Gia is settling into life in Boggy Creek, but she has doubts when the future of her café is in jeopardy.  One of my favorite characters is Earl.  He was the café’s first customer and has been a loyal customer as well as friend ever since.  There are many cozy moments in Murder Made to Order.  Cooking, visiting with Savannah, spending time with Quinn, taking care of Thor (her large and adorable dog), kayaking, eating, hiking and chatting.  I am still having trouble warming up to Gia.  Her terror of things related to nature continues in this book.  Gia should have moved into the apartment over the café instead of finding a home surrounded by woods (which she walks in regularly).  She is afraid of bears, spiders, ticks, snakes (I can relate to this one), and tornadoes in Murder Made to Order.  Gia overreacts (panic attacks, hyperventilates) when confronted with things that scare her.  The author intends it to be humorous, but it loses its humor the more times it happens.  The mystery had some good aspects (multiple suspects, misdirection, good clues), but it was a cinch to pick out the guilty party.  It is nice how the townspeople rally around to help each other out in troubling times.  I like the small-town atmosphere of Boggy Creek.  My rating for Murder Made to Order is 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I am curious to see what happens to Gia next in An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series (let’s hope she does not encounter a panther).  A Cold Brew Killing is the next book in the series and it will be released on November 6.  Here is an excerpt of Murder Made to Order for your enjoyment:

Gia stepped over a large branch blocking the path through the woods, then patted her pocket—for the millionth time—to make sure her canister of bear spray was still there. Though she enjoyed their walks, which allowed her to spend time with Thor and provided both of them some much needed exercise, her nerves sometimes got the better of her. This morning was no exception.  Thor trotted happily alongside her, sometimes darting ahead, but always staying on the trail and within sight.
She didn’t have the heart to call him back, even though she wasn’t in the best mood this morning and her mind was a million miles away. Unfortunately, her hectic schedule at the café didn’t allow much time for hiking, or anything else for that matter. So she trudged on, despite wanting to go home and spend her morning curled up with a good book.
Savannah and Trevor had both insisted early morning hikes would clear her head and help her get used to living at the edge of the forest. Though they did help her focus better, they did nothing to help her embrace her new surroundings. If anything, they terrified her even more. Looking into the woods surrounding her property and not knowing what lurked just behind the tree line gave her the creeps, but hiking the local trails and actually seeing snakes, alligators, and other critters, some of which she couldn’t even identify, brought nightmares.
And yet, here she was… She’d been looking forward to hiking the new trail, but her mind was too cluttered with everything else to focus on enjoying the peaceful morning. She sucked in a shaky breath, the humidity making her chest heavy. “Don’t get too far ahead, Thor.”  The big, furry dog, who still hadn’t quite grown into his chunky paws, stopped at the sound of her voice, turned back to her, and tilted his head, then waited for her to catch up.

Murder Made to Order is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Kobo, and iBooks.  In honor of the tour, a $25 Amazon gift card is being given away.  You can enter below or click here.  Make sure to stop by the other stops on the tour (stops listed below).  May you have an engaging day.  Take care and Happy Reading.

Kris
The Avid Reader
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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

June 20 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

June 20 – Socrates' Book Reviews – REVIEW

June 20 – The Self-Rescue Princess – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 21 – The Montana Bookaholic – REVIEW

June 21 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

June 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

June 22 – Mallory Heart's Cozies – REVIEW

June 22 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

June 23 – Queen of All She Reads – REVIEW

June 23 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

June 24 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW

June 24 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST

June 25 – Varietats – REVIEW, GUEST POST

June 25 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

June 26 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW



June 27 – Readeropolis – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 27 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

June 28 – MJB Reviewers – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

June 28 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 29 – My Reading Journeys - REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

June 29 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW

June 30 - A Chick Who Reads – REVIEW

June 30 - StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

July 1 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW

July 1 – Laura's Interests - REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

July 2 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW

July 2 – A Blue Million Books -  AUTHOR INTERVIEW

July 3 – Melina's Book Blog – REVIEW

July 3 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Black Beans and Vice: A Supper Club Mystery


Black Beans and Vice by Ellery Adams is the sixth A Supper Club Mystery.  The members of the Supper Club are having trouble with sugar (eating too much of it) and Lindy Perez suggests they try hypnotherapy at the new Wellness Village.  They each meet with hypnotherapist, Harmony York and soon discover that it does work (if they follow her instructions).  James and Jane are surprised when their son, Eliot states he no longer wishes to eat meat after going to Fay Sunray’s show in Nashville with his grandparents (it seems she included a personal message at the end).  They support his decision and embrace the new meatless lifestyle for themselves.  The threesome attends the Fresh Food Festival at the Wellness Village and are enjoying the day despite the protestors at the entrance.  Then James discovers Councilman Ned Woodman dead in the handicapped stall of the restroom.  James and the members of the Supper Club are ready to sink their teeth into a new case (better than sugary snacks).  Before they can narrow down the suspect list, another individual is found murdered.  Can they root out the killer before he strikes again? 

Black Beans and Vice is an entertaining cozy mystery with delightful characters.  It is always pleasant to visit Quincy’s Gap and catch up with James Henry, Lindy, Bennett, Lucy, and Gillian along with Jackson Henry, Jane, Eliot, and Scott and Francis Fitzgerald.  I like the relationship between James and Jane.  I enjoy the scenes between James and his son, Eliot.  It is sweet watching them get acquainted.  The characters are well-developed, friendly, each with unique personalities and relatable.   I especially like Scott and Francis Fitzgerald (such clever guys). The new character, Fern Dickenson is a good addition to the series.  She is the perfect counterpart for another character in the book (I do not want to spoil it for you).  Black Beans and Vice is a well-written and plotted story.  There is quite a bit going on in this book.  Someone is leaving threatening notes and dead birds for Jane and James, Eliot wanting to become a vegetarian, animal rights protestors, needing to hire a new employee for the library to replace retiring Mrs. Waxman, Sullie is transferring to Quincy’s Gap (Lucy is thrilled), Murphy Alistair has returned to town with surprising news and so much more.  The mystery was appealing, and the method of murder was unique (which you know I love).  However, I was able to identify the killer long before the reveal.  While Black Beans and Vice is the sixth book in the series, it can be read alone.  The ending will leave readers with a smile on their face.  There are vegetarian recipes along with a couple of dessert recipes included at the end of the book.  The Avid Reader rating for Black Beans and Vice is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  I look forward to returning to Quincy’s Gap in future books in A Supper Club Mystery series.  The other book in A Supper Club Mystery series are Carbs & Cadavers, Fit to Die, Chili Con Corpses, Stiffs & Swine, and The Battered Body.

The next installment in A Supper Club Mystery series is Pasta Mortem.  I appreciate you visiting today.  If you find my reviews helpful, please consider following my blog (upper right). Tomorrow I will featuring Murder Made to Order by Lena Gregory.  Second book in An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series.  May you have a congenial day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

Kris
The Avid Reader 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Warlock's Enchanted Kiss: Witch Island Brides

Good Day!  No Grater Danger by Victoria Hamilton comes out on June 19.  It is the seventh A Vintage Kitchen MysteryAirships, Crypts and Chocolate Chips by Erin Johnson releases on June 23.  It is the sixth novel in Spells & Caramels series (paranormal mystery series).  

The Warlock’s Enchanted Kiss by Deanna Chase is the second novel in Witch Island Brides series.  Carrie Carmichael is the wedding coordinator on Witch Island.  For the last five years she has attracted to her best friend, Austin McKee.  They have gotten close to kissing a few times, but each time Austin pulls away.  After a particularly hot few moments with Carrie, Austin heads to Witchin’ Impossible for a drink.  Things turn sour when old girlfriend, Brinn Hughes spots him and her obsession begins anew.  What Austin has not told Carrie is courtesy of a powerful love spell, his kisses turn women into love obsessed stalkers.  Carrie gets Austin away from Brinn.  Little did they know that the incident at Witchin’ Impossible would be the high point.

The Warlock’s Enchanted Kiss contains good writing and has a quick pace which make it easy to read.  There are fun characters in the story.  Austin is a handsome man who will get your engines revving.  Carrie is a lovely girl and only has eyes for Austin.  Mystia, Penny McKee, Brinn, Darwin Cooper, and Quinton add to the madcap humor.  Then there is the witty and bawdy dialogue.  Deanna Chase has a way with words.  There are some steamy moments between Carrie and Austin (I’m surprised the scenes did not set my e-reader on fire).  Readers will be delighted with this romantic comedy.  Be prepared for many laugh out loud moments as you take a wild romp through the pages of The Warlock’s Enchanted Kiss.  Each book in the series can be read alone.

The Vampire's Last Dance is the first novel in Witch Island Brides series.  I will see you tomorrow when I return to discuss another book.  May you have a peaceful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

Kris
The Avid Reader 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mulberry Lane Babies: The Mulberry Lane Series

Happy Father's Day! Rosie Clarke is the author of The Mulberry Lane Series, Emma Trilogy, The Workshop Girls series, The Downstairs Maid, Jessie's Promise, and The Runaway Wife.  You can follow Ms. Clarke on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.  Rosie Clarke is married and lives in East Anglia.  When she is not writing, Rosie likes to read, watch good films, and enjoy holidays in sunny locales.

Mulberry Lane Babies by Rosie Clarke is the third novel in The Mulberry Lane Series.  It is December 1941 and the Americans are finally entering the war.  The residents of Mulberry Lane are working together to survive during these difficult and dangerous times.  Peggy Ashley, who runs the Pig & Whistle Pub, is pregnant along with the newly married Maureen Hart.  Maureen is trying to hide her condition, so she can continue working since nurses are sorely needed.  Anne Riley is dropping of a pair of shoes to be repaired and meets Sgt. Kirk Ross.  Anne is instantly smitten with the soldier.  Has Anne finally met the man of her dreams?  Tommy Barton takes over his father’s job at the grocer’s when he departs for boot camp and the ladies of Mulberry Lane make sure that Tommy has plenty to eat (they keep an eye on him).  However, there is a man lurking in the background with a mission and he is not going to let anyone get in his way.  Ellie Morris is eighteen and misses her new husband.  To liven up her life, she goes out to the pubs at night letting the soldiers buy her drinks.  But what happens when one man wants more than a smile in return?  Peggy gets a new tenant when Helen Barnes leaves her bully of a husband.  Life is never dull on Mulberry Lane.  Return to Mulberry Lane to see how the residents are faring during these tumultuous times.

Mulberry Lane Babies is well-written and has steady pacing.  I like the authors conversational writing style.  I was immediately drawn into the story and it held my attention throughout.  I do recommend reading the series in order.  Each book in The Mulberry Lane Series builds upon the previous one.  Rosie Clarke has crafted lovely characters for her series.  They are realistic and well-rounded.  There are characters to love and there are characters that you will dislike (intensely).  My favorite characters are Peggy, Maureen, Janet, Tommy and Anne.  They are warm, friendly, thoughtful people and I wish they were my neighbors.  Peggy is the mother figure and confidant for the residents of the lane.  I like that we get to know Anne more in Mulberry Lane Babies. Tommy continues to grow into a responsible, hardworking and caring man.  The East End was brought alive for me with the descriptions of the shops, home and area.  We are given a realistic picture of life for those at home during World War II.  Rationing is increasing and items are in scarce supply which we see in this book.  While America is just entering the war, England has been at war since 1938.  The author did an admirable job at handling some difficult subject matter (a woman being attacked).  The residents of Mulberry Lane have each other to rely on during these dark days.  The characters feeling/emotions come through the pages along with the grittiness of the war (one part of the story will have you in tears).  I like how the author balances the difficulties with the joy.  There may be a war going on, but they have their friendship, their families, weddings, and new babies. The Mulberry Lane Series would make a wonderful television program on PBS.  The Avid Reader rating for Mulberry Lane Babies is 5 out of 5 stars.  I cannot wait for my next to journey to Mulberry Lane. Mulberry Lane Babies can be purchases on Amazon, Barnes and NobleKobo, iBooks, and GooglePlay.

The other novels in The Mulberry Lane Series are The Girls of Mulberry Lane and A Wedding at Mulberry Lane (both books are a part of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited Program).  Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope you take the time to visit some of the other stops on the Mulberry Lane Babies Tour (see below).  I will be sharing my thoughts on The Warlock's Enchanted Kiss by Deanna Chase next time.  It is the second book in Witch Island Bride's series.  I hope you have a lovely day with the father figure in your life.  I am remembering my father with love today.  Take care and Happy Reading!


Kris
The Avid Reader


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer of Love: Standalone Sequel to The Summer House Party

Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels which are based on her experiences as a lawyer as well as well as The Summer House Party.  Caro is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser, and she lives in London.  Ms. Fraser is currently working on the next novel in the Caper Court series.  You can follow Caro Fraser on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

Summer of Love by Caro Fraser is a sequel to The Summer House Party.  It is August of 1949 when Meg, Dan, Sonia, Laura, Avril and Max gather at Harry Denholm’s home, Chalcombe in Kent.  Meg has spent the summer decorating the house for him.  They are out enjoying a picnic, when Avril tells ten-year-old Max a secret about his mother, Meg and stepfather, Dan.  This one events leads to a tragedy that will change their lives.  Laura, Avril and Max grow up in the 50s where decisions and actions made by their parents and relatives affect their lives.  Avril resents Laura and will do what it takes to achieve her goals.  The lovely and ingenuous Laura is looking for love and finds it with someone unexpected and unaccepted.  Max nurses his resentment and anger as he grows up.  Discover what happens to them in Summer of Love.

Summer of Love is a sequel to The Summer House Party, but it stands on its own.  The past is never really in the past.  The actions of others as well as our own continue to haunt a person throughout their life (especially in this digital age).  The story takes place from 1949 through 1963 in England.  I thought the Summer of Love was well-written and an engaging book.  The book has a steady pace and the transitions are smooth (as you switch between characters).  The author created complex characters whose lives are interwoven courtesy of their parents.  Avril is a resentful woman who dislikes the attention her mother pays to Laura.  Laura is raised as Avril’s sister, but her mother was their nanny.  Max is a happy kid until a cruel girl reveals a secret that forever changes his life.  The characters are not necessarily likeable (they are relatable), but I was drawn into their stories and wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next.  Summer of Love is a character driven novel.  We follow the characters in their life’s journey as they face love, heartbreak, happiness, grief, success and failure.  I like how the author worked in the happenings of the 50s and 60s into the story and into the characters lives.  Some of the issues/events mentioned are racism, drugs, homosexuality, birth control, changing fashions, and unwanted pregnancy. I also liked the inclusion of music from the era.  While many of the storylines are wrapped up in the book, the ending is left open.  I wonder if Caro Fraser will continue their stories in another novel or has she left their outcome up to our imagination.  Caro Fraser would like to know if you want her to continue the story with the next generation into the 70s and 80s (you can let her know on Facebook @carofraserauthor and Twitter @CaroFraser).  Summer of Love and The Summer House Party are available on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Program.

To tempt you, here is an extract from Summer of Love:

1949
The air was full of the fresh, damp scents of early spring as Meg and Dan Ranscombe turned off the road and walked up the narrow path that led to the back of Woodbourne House. They made a handsome couple – Meg, in her early thirties, was vividly pretty, with dark eyes and chestnut hair curling to her shoulders; Dan, a few years older, was by contrast fair-haired and blue-eyed, his clean-cut features marked by a faint arrogance, a remnant of youthful vanity. They walked in thoughtful silence. It was four years since they had last been to Woodbourne House, the home of Sonia Haddon, Meg’s aunt and Dan’s godmother.  ‘I’m glad we took the train instead of driving,’ said Dan, breaking the quiet. ‘I have fond memories of this walk.’ They paused by a big, whitewashed stone barn standing at the foot of a sloping apple orchard.  ‘Uncle Henry’s studio,’ murmured Meg. ‘I remember that summer, having to traipse down every morning with barley water and biscuits for him while he was painting.’

Sonia’s husband, Henry Haddon, had been an acclaimed artist in his day, and in pre-war times to have one’s portrait painted by him had had considerable cachet. In Britain’s post-war modernist world, his name had fallen out of fashion.
Dan stood gazing at the barn, lost in his own memories: that final day of the house party twelve years ago, when he had come down to the studio to say farewell to his host. Finding Henry Haddon, his trousers round his ankles, locked in an embrace with Madeleine, the nanny, against the wall of the studio had been absurd and shocking enough, but what had then transpired had been even worse. He could remember still the sound of the ladder crashing to the floor, and the sight of five-year-old Avril peeping over the edge of the hayloft. Presumably the shock of seeing his daughter had brought on Haddon’s heart attack. That, and unwonted sexual exertions. The moments afterwards were confused in his memory, although he recalled setting the ladder aright so that Avril could get down, then sending her running up to the house to get someone to fetch a doctor, while he uselessly attempted to revive Haddon. Madeleine, unsurprisingly, had made herself scarce. And the painting – he remembered that. A portrait of Madeleine in her yellow sundress, seated on a wicker chair, head half-turned as though listening to notes of unheard music, or the footfall of some awaited lover. Haddon had been working on it in the days running up to his death, and no doubt the intimacy forged between painter and sitter had led to that brief and ludicrously tragic affair. The falling ladder had knocked it from the easel, and he had picked it up and placed it with its face to the wall next to the other canvases. He didn’t to this day know why he had done that. Perhaps as a way of closing off and keeping secret what he had witnessed. To this day nobody but he knew about Haddon’s affair with Madeleine. Had the painting ever been discovered? No one had ever mentioned it. Perhaps it was there still, just as he had left it. Meg glanced at his face. ‘Penny for them.’  ‘Oh, nothing,’ said Dan. ‘Just thinking about that house party, when you and I first met.’

What a fateful chain of events had been set in motion in the summer of 1936. He had been a twenty-four-year-old penniless journalist, invited to spend several days at Woodbourne House with a handful of other guests. Meeting and falling in love with Meg had led to the clandestine affair they had conducted throughout the war years behind the back of her husband Paul. Its discovery had led to estrangement with much of the family. Paul, a bomber pilot, had been killed on the way back from a raid over Germany, and the possibility that his discovery of the affair might have contributed in some way, on some level, to his death, still haunted them both. They never spoke of it. Meg and Dan were married now, but the guilt of what they had done remained. Meg’s mother Helen had been trying for some time to persuade her sister, Sonia, to forgive Meg and Dan, and today’s invitation to Woodbourne House was a signal that she had at last relented.
They walked up through the orchard, and when they reached the flagged courtyard at the back of the house Meg said, ‘I’m going to the kitchen to say hello to Effie. I don’t think I can face Aunt Sonia quite yet. I’ll let you go first. Cowardly of me, I know, but I can’t help it.’ She gave him a quick smile and a kiss, and turned in the direction of the kitchen.

I hope the extract has wet your reading appetite.  Summer of Love is available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Waterstones and GooglePlay.  Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you will take the time to visit the other stops on Summer of Love tour (see below).  I will be sharing my thoughts on Mulberry Lane Babies by Rosie Clarke tomorrow (06/17).  It is third book in The Mulberry Lane Series.  May you have a heartwarming day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


Kris
The Avid Reader