Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Relentless



Author: Simon Kernick
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Type: ARC ebook via NetGalley
First Published: September 2012
First Line: "I only heard the phone because the back door was open."

SynopsisTom Mahon is living the typical suburban life. He's married with two young children, a nice house and a job that pays the bills. One day he receives a phone call from an old friend, Jack Calley, whom he hasn't spoken to in 4 years. During the brief and frantic phone call Jack begs for Tom's help.  Before Tom can figure out why Jack is so upset Tom hears what sounds like Jack being murdered on the other end of the phone. 

The last thing Tom hears his friend say is the beginning of Tom's home address. Fearing that his friend's murderers are on their way to harm him, Tom decides to take his children to safety.  Only moments after Tom and the kids leave the house a car arrives at Tom's house and two unknown men race into the house.

With no idea why these men are after him, Tom leaves the kids with a family member and races to the University where his wife works to make sure that she is safe.   Unfortunately soon after arriving at her workplace he learns that his wife is missing and he stumbles upon an unidentified body. 

When Tom is seen leaving the scene with blood on him Tom not only has to worry about the attacker lurking around the University but the police, namely National Crime Squad detective Mike Bolt, who now suspects Tom of killing the unknown victim at the university.  Now it's up to Tom to piece together why his life has suddenly been wrapped up in a seemingly unending conspiracy.

My Thoughts:  Relentless. There has never been a more aptly named book because the action and suspense never let up.  This pace helped me to totally get engrossed in this book right from the beginning.  The story is told from two viewpoints -- Mike Bolt from the National Crime Squad and Tom Mahon, the poor schmuck who has suddenly been thrown into this whirlwind of a conspiracy that has upended his entire life in a matter of hours.  

My favourite part of the book was definitely the pace.  I have the attention span of a lethargic gnat so I do not like lulls in a suspense book.  The pace has to be high with lots of twists to keep this reader interested.  "Relentless" is one of the fastest paced books that I've read in a long time and yet it was easy to keep up with the storyline.  There are a lot of shifting loyalties and many hidden secrets that come out as Tom delves deeper and deeper into the conspiracy and those twists kept the momentum high.

Now, while this is a high energy story don't expect this to be a character-driven read.  The main focus is on providing non-stop action/suspense/intrigue.  While the characters are interesting there isn't a lot of page time given to exploring the characters in any real depth and, in this instance, I'm ok with that.  I was happy to be on the edge of my seat and read a book that would just sweep me away.

While I did enjoy this very escapist-type read I will admit that you have to suspend reality to enjoy it.  All this craziness happens within a couple of days to poor unsuspecting Tom.  Possible?  God, I hope not.  Either I have to believe that poor Tom has some really bad mojo or I'll have to just go with it and enjoy the book for what it is.  A good escapist read that manages to keep the suspense and action at such a high level throughout the book that I ended up not minding if it was totally plausible.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

NOTE: My sincere thanks to Simon Kernick, Simon and Schuster Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary e-book copy for my honest review.

Monday, 22 October 2012

My Berfday Weekend


Well, I did it.  I turned 40 and now I'm one year more fabulous!!  Surprisingly, it wasn't that painful nor, sadly, was it overly exciting.  Even though it was my fete our crazy family schedule trucked along as normal.  Brad and the boys had a big all-sections Scouting camp planned months before so they headed out around supper time on Friday and wouldn't be home until Sunday afternoon.  Would I miss my menfolk?  Yes.  Was I a little miffed that they were leaving on my big birthday?  Perhaps a wee bit, if I'm being honest.  BUT, I was really looking forward to a very rare weekend alone with Missy Moo. 

The men weren't gone more than 15 minutes when us ladies jumped in the car and booted it to the food store to stock up on contraband treats.  Ya, I'm talking President's Choice  Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream (the contraband being the peanut since Boy 1 has a serious allergy.  All precautions were taken whilst eating said contraband to ensure that we didn't slather life-threatening peanuts all over our home) as well as the requisite chips and Helluva Good Dip. Mmmm.  I was blissfully picturing fat pants in my near future.  Let the weekend begin!

See, Missy Moo and I love to eat ... and craft ... and do all things girly.  Don't get me wrong.  I still wanted to make this a big "Hey! I just had my 40th birthday!" kind of weekend so I wanted to do something special.  Saturday morning, after Missy Moo and I had gone to her knitting class (for girls ages 8 to ... um, 40 apparently), we jumped in the car and headed out on a girly freedom ride to the huge metropolis of .... Stratford, Ontario.  OK, so it's not so much of a 'metropolis' as a small town known for its wicked-awesome theatre (we're talking the star power of Christopher Plummer, Hume Cronyn, Megan Follows, Eric McCormack, William Shatner and the fabulous Dame Maggie Smith have all performed numerous times there.  Oh ya, it's that good!).  Anyhoo, Missy Moo and I (while being big theatre buffs) weren't headed to Stratford for the the-a-tre.  We were following our stomachs because Momma wanted poutine on her berfday weekend!!  And not just any old poutine either! 

See, a few months ago Brad and I were watching "You Gotta Eat Here!" on the Food Network.  If you've seen "Drive-ins, Diners and Dives" with Guy Fieri this is the Canadian version.  On one episode, host John Catucci went to Stratford to check out Boomers Gourmet Fries.  The proprietor, Sue, showed him some of her famous poutine flavours.  After seeing her black bean chili fries, Italian poutine and ... wait for it .... Goat Cheese (with fresh Basil Oil) Poutine I knew that I had to add it to my gastronomical bucket list.


Well,  let me tell you that it was worth the drive.  You start with a rather large bowl of homemade, double cooked fries which are then topped with a big old dollop of creamy goaty goodness followed by homemade basil oil and Sue's famous 'from scratch' gravy.  Oh, m'gravy!  Soooo good!  Missy Moo, she of the timid tummy, opted for a cuppa plain fries.  I'll work on her gastronomical adventurous spirit later.  Mine rocked.  Totally and utterly.  My only problem?  My stomach wasn't big enough to try one of her burgers ... or another bowl of poutine (namely her Hickory Sticks Poutine or her Poutini Martini).  It's a pretty good day when your biggest problem is picking which poutine to eat.  You can check out Boomer's website HERE to peruse their menu. 

Boomer's is a very small hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  Boomer's ain't fancy and it's quite small -- it seats only 10-12 people at one large table. But, the service was stellar and very friendly, it's wonderfully casual and, well, the food is awesome.  

On a geeky side note -- I will admit to getting a little starstruck seeing Sue in person.  I mean, I had just saw her on TV and here I am in her restaurant munchin' on the food that I saw her making on the show!  I'm such a foodie geek. 

My point to all of this?  If you're in the Stratford area, give Boomer's Gourmet Fries a try. Your tummy will thank you.

Note: this rather unprofessional picture was taken on my iPhone from the car.  It had started raining (hence the rain speckles on my windshield).  I could have stepped out of the car but A) I'd look like a lame tourist, B) I'm made of sugar and the rain would make me melt and C) I'm lazy.

So after getting our fill of poutine and walking around the downtown for a bit I wanted to make one more stop.  I knew that I needed to return a sweater that I had received as a gift which didn't fit.  So off we went to the 'mall' (Stratford's version anyway).  I honestly intended to just return the sweater and get a replacement.  But ... it was my birthday and Missy Moo is quite convincing as a fashion guru.  She had me trying on all sorts of tops, pants and scarves.  So I went into the store to return something (ie. no money spent) and left spending $120.  But I saved $35 because so many things were on sale so really by shopping I was saving money.  Is it any wonder why I always had trouble with math word problems as a child?!?

In this store there was a beautiful cape-type sweater that I oogled but they didn't have my size.  Their other store which was on my way home had a few.  Call it happenstance, serendipitous or even fortuitous but this gal isn't one to pass up an opportunity for an awesome top!  So, Missy Moo and I stopped in at the other store ... and spent another $120.  I know what you're thinking, "Laurie has no will power!"  And you're right.  But, I looked really good in the sweater and armed with my ability to justify my purchases using my totally warped understanding of basic math, I left the store with even more clothing.  With new purchases and a bounce in my step, Missy Moo and I headed home for a night of girly movies and treats.   Ahhhh, bliss. 

Truly it was a fabulous weekend with my favourite girl.  A culinary day trip, unexpected shopping, knitting, snacking on forbidden munchies and lounging in fat pants.  Gotta love weekends like that!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A New Frontier

This is a big week.  First of all, Boy 1, my first born, will be welcomed into the hallowed (and sometimes feared) age of teendom.  Yes, as of tomorrow Brad and I will be parenting a teenager.  Seriously??  I feel like it was just yesterday that we brought our almost 10lb bundle of pudge home from the hospital!

Am I worried about living with a teen?  Not too much because I'm really banking on the fact that Karma will remember how I didn't give my parents much trouble at all.  I was pretty tame by teenage standards.  My claim to teenage rebellion??  At the age of 14, often sneaking from suburbia into downtown Toronto via bus/subway to shop at the Eaton's Centre with my girlfriends while my parents' thought we were hanging out at each other's houses.  Ooooo, right?  Ya, I was a bad ass.  Not!  Hear that Karma!?!?  I was totally tame.  Be gentle.

Not only does Boy 1 enter into a new age group but so do I.  Because a mere 2 days after I get smacked upside the head with the very idea that my BABY is a teenager ... I turn 40.  Ouch!  Apparently I didn't do the math 13 years ago.  Ya, that would be called the one-two punch in the emotional gutt. 

Now, I could just take to my bed with a big old carton of ice cream therapy and get all emotional at the thought of all these changes but I'm not gonna.  You know why?  Because I'm not a hormonal teenager, I don't particularly like ice cream and I've decided that 40 is the new 26.  Why 26?  Because 26 was one of my favourite adult ages.  Back when I was 26 I was still a size 4, I was at home enjoying new motherhood with Boy 1, I had only given birth to one child by then so my Grinch Belly didn't even exist, and ... just cuz.  26 was nice.

With age, comes wisdom.  Or at least that's what I'm assuming.  Are there things that I'd love to tell my younger self?  Things, being a little older and *hopefully* wiser, that I'd like to impart to my, say, teenage self?  Sure there are.   

Here's a list of wise tidbits for Teenage Laurie ...

1. Trust your gutt.  Your head and your heart can lead you wrong but your gutt will always lead you on the right path.  If it doesn't 'feel' right, it's probably wrong.  Whether it's deciding to finally say yes to a date with Brad in 1992, or getting the feeling that you should go up and introduce yourself to that girl during Frosh Week because you just had a feeling you'd hit it off (hey Ang!!!) or deciding on a whim to move back to your hometown to raise your kids in a small town.  Use the gutt, Luke!  Er, Laurie.  Use the gutt.

2. Do not bother with people who want to be negative all the time.  They are happiness vampires and you will meet at least a couple of these people.  You don't have time for their crazy crap.  Cut them loose and move on to people who build you up and make you feel good and visa versa.

3. Family is always where it's at.  Period.  The end.  Oh, where do I begin?  You have a ginormous family and while at times we seem exceedingly LOUD and, let's be honest, bat crap crazy it's our own special brand of crazy.  And it works for us.  We literally have family shirts.  {Seriously, we had matching shirts made.}  We fit together well and just 'get' each other.  Yes, you'll have some pretty big bumps in the familial road over the years but you'll weather them and come out stronger.  Humour is the salve that we use to heal our wounds.   Our family may not be the 'norm'.  We have a very odd, yet hi-larious, sense of humour that others may not get but we're all very close and I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

4. Teenage Laurie, I want to save you some time here.  Stop wasting your hopes and prayers that you'll move into a bigger bra size.  Ain't ... gonna ... happen, hon.  That ship sadly sailed away earlier than you were hoping with the stupid Boob Fairy at the helm.  The wench totally forgot about you!  But take *small* (pun intended) comfort in the fact that gravity really won't have much effect on you and your 12 year old boy chest.

5. Try not to worry about what others think.  You'll put too much stock in the opinions of others until you get into your late thirties and then you really don't care what (the majority) of people think.  Stand up for yourself and stop being so Canadian all the time!  It's OK to disagree!  But beware because occasionally voicing your opinions may lead to 'foot in mouth' disease.

6. Thank your parents profusely for getting you the cookbook that you wanted for your 13th birthday because that was the beginning of a lifelong love of cooking.

7. Hang on to your besties.  You (thankfully!) will have these women for a lifetime.  They will see you through very difficult times, and give you memories that you'll still be laughing over 20+ years later.  They're your 'peeps' who get you.  The real you, warts, drunken stupidity and all.   They'll laugh with you, cry with you and never let you live down the fact that you used to snack on baked potatoes while studying, totally ruined a spaghetti dinner while camping, danced on a bar during your Stagette or used to have a crush on a Beast. These are the women who you just pick up where you left off in your conversation that happened over a year ago.  That kind of relationship is awesome, comforting, liberating and, at times, soul bolstering.  It's the kind of relationships that I hope and pray that my kids find.

So here's to a new era for Boy 1 and I.  Forty is lookin' pretty good from where I'm standing.  Being a Mom to a teenager isn't looking too scary because I've got some awesome kids who will help ease me into the teenage years and a husband who will be right there with me.  I'll go willingly, yet cautiously, into this melee called teenage parenting. 

Boy 1, you may not like the fact that you have to push through all of my maternal concerns and lead the way for your siblings into the teenage years.  It'll be a hard road as I try to hold onto you for just a little bit longer.  But I promise to let you grow up because I cannot wait to see the kind of man you'll become.  Just try not to grow up too fast, okay?  I want to savour every moment I have with you.  After all, before you know it you'll be 40 and wondering how your first born can be a teenager already!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Unfurl


Author: Cidney Swanson
Genre: YA/Supernatural
Type: Kindle ebook
Series: 3rd book in the Ripple series
Series Order: Ripple, Chameleon, Unfurl
First Published: January 2012
First Line: "It was her shoulders I missed most."

Synopsis:  Samantha Ruiz has now escaped the evil grasp of Helmann twice.  In order to keep herself safe Samantha is sent back home to the US in the hopes that she'll be off Helmann's radar.  Accompanying Samantha is Chretien, Sir Walter's nephew, who has been given to task of being Samantha's bodyguard while she's home.  Unfortunately this change in scenery means that she and Will will have to be separated and live on different continents. 

Meanwhile, back in France Sir Walter, Mickie and Will try to piece together why Genesis Corp (run by Helmann) is slowly buying up various neighbourhoods in ethnic communities. As they begin to uncover Helmann's plot they are determined to stop Helmann and his 'Angel Corp' from destroying millions of lives.  Unfortunately, in order for Helmann to accomplish his mission he needs something from Samantha and will do anything in order to get it from her.  This puts Samantha and those around her in extreme danger as they race to stop this madman.

My Thoughts: This being the last book in the Rippler trilogy I was hoping for something big.  You know with loads of suspense, action, sweet romance etc. For some reason, this book just didn't grip me. It was a little slow to start yet the ending felt a rushed and unfinished. Overall, this book just didn't hold my attention like the other two books in the series.

I think what would have made it a better read for me is if the Nazi plot was dealt with more. That is what riveted me to the first book and I think that some of that sinister feel was lost in the second book and pretty much devoid in the third book. In the first two books, Ripple and Chameleon, we have this truly evil guy and his horrible offspring who give off a uber creepy vibe. This time around they didn't feel as much as a threat to Sam.  They lost their sinister side and didn't seem like an immediate threat, I suppose.

That's not to say that I didn't like this book.  My favourite part of the book was a really intense scene where something (I don't want to give it away) is taken from Sam and I started to get all 'OK here we go, it's going to take off now' but that storyline fizzled out fairly quickly. It was such a great part of the book and I was hoping that it would spawn some new issue that Sam and Will had to deal with but sadly it really didn't take the storyline to the places I was hoping.

I like the fact that Samantha is a strong female main character who can hold her own (ie. the anti-Twilight heroine).  That said, I wish that Will was a little more of a hero in this book.  Not that Sam needed to be rescued (a la Bella Swan) but it would have been nice to have Will take the lead a bit more.


I do admit that I did question some of the plot lines.  Some seemed a little unrealistic or odd.  Why would Sam think that going back to her hometown be the safest option?  That's where Helmann found her the first time!  Wouldn't Helmann have someone scouting the area since her parents are still there?  And what's up with her parents??  Sam is supposedly really close with her dad and stepmom yet she never seems to spend time with them.

Don't get me wrong, this was a decent read.  Ms Swanson has a very unique take on a supernatural themed series.  This book just didn't conclude the trilogy as I would have hoped. 

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Note: My sincere thanks to Cidney Swanson for providing me with this complimentary copy of Unfurl for my honest review.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pumpkin Torte

I hope that my fellow Canadians had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  We spent it at my parents' cottage with 9 grandkids, 7 adults and 4 dogs.  Canadian chaos, indeed.  My youngest sister surprised us with the addition of a new Australian Shepherd puppy named Rosie.  Look at this face!


But don't let that squishably cute face fool you.  Behind that cute mug are some razor sharp puppy teeth that honed to a very fine point.  Sharp enough to make a grown-up squeal in pain as she tries to soothe herself by gnawing on your toe.  Luckily she's cute and we all got our puppy cuddle fix this weekend, for sure!

I'm also thankful that Mother Nature was in a good mood which meant that we were outside quite a lot this weekend.  She even provided the kids with loads of fallen leaves to jump in, bury themselves in and {sadly} even fight over.  Yes, leaf piles are treated with reverence and our youth can become quite territorial over them apparently. 

Boy 2 made use of this excess in tree dandruff by making his very own scarecrow by stuffing his clothes that he was supposed to wear for the next day.  I'd just like to give myself a big pat on the back for ignoring the Type A/Anal Beast that dwells within me.  This beast kept whispering "You're going to have leaf bits EVERYWHERE.  You'll have to wash his clothes tonight! Who knows what manner of critter is living in those decaying leaves!".  The inner dialogue within my head is sometimes staggering.  BUT, I ignored my anal self and let him have at it.  I was quite impressed with the detail he put into his scarecrow actually.  He was so devoted to making an excellent scarecrow that he was walking around in his WHITE socks so that he could stuff his runners with leaves for his scarecrow.  {DOWN Type A beast! Down I SAY!!}  Did I mention that his socks were white?  'Were' being the operative word in that sentence. {sigh}



Besides being amused by leaves we also stuffed ourselves with ridiculous amounts of appetizers (cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon, taco dips, Buffalo chicken dip) as well as the traditional turkey feast and desserts up the wazoo.  I brought 12 chocolate egg-free cupcakes with an Oreo cream cheese frosting for the kids and this Pumpkin Torte for the adults.  You cannot go wrong with a pumpkiny spiced cream cheese frosting in between four layers of pumpkin cake.  It ... is ... impossible.  This torte was very easy to make and, while my version wasn't quite as robust or pretty as the original recipe, I was quite impressed with the results and will definitely make it again.

I did make a change or two to the original recipe but not because I thought of some awesome way to improve the recipe.  I was just not paying attention and used more pumpkin pie spice than was called for but I also didn't want an overly mild spiciness to the cake/frosting so it worked out well.  Inattention sometimes can be useful.  And, sometimes it isn't because due to my pathetic attention span I forgot to drizzle caramel topping over the cake before serving (we opted out of the pecans due to allergies).  You win some, you lose some.  What I will guarantee is that you love this surprisingly light cake.  Now, that is something that I can add to my 'what I'm thankful for' list.




1 yellow cake mix (18 1/4 oz/two layer cake mix)
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 (16oz) carton frozen whipped topping -- THAWED

Topping (optional, apparently)
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper (set each pan on some parchment and trace around the pan.  Cut out the circles of parchment and place one in each pan.)  Grease and lightly flour the parchment lined pans and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl), combine cake mix, 1 cup of canned pumpkin, milk, eggs, oil and 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into your prepared pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans (removing parchment paper inserts) and allow cakes to cool completely on wire racks.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sifted icing sugar, 1 cup of canned pumpkin and 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice; beat until smooth.  Fold in thawed whipped topping.

Cut each cake horizontally into two layers.  {Brad did this for me and found that pivoting the knife around each cake worked really well and kept your layers pretty even}.  Place the bottom layer onto a serving plate; spread with one-fourth of the frosting.  Repeat layers three times ending with a top-side of one of the cakes with frosting on top of it. 

Store cake in refrigerator.  Before serving, drizzle top of cake with caramel topping and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Original Recipe from: Taste of Home - Pumpkin Torte

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Recipe from: Allrecipes.com "Pumpkin Pie Spice I"

I never buy pumpkin pie spice because it's just too easy to make yourself.  Here's my go-to recipe which can easily be doubled or tripled if necessary.

2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice

Mix well in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Lack of Temperance


Author: Anna Loan-Wilsey
Genre: Historical Mystery
Type: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) from NetGalley
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
First Line: "It was chaos."

SynopsisFrom author Anna Loan-Wilsey comes this first book in a new cozy mystery series featuring the amateur sleuth, Hattie Davish.  Hattie is a travelling typewriter (secretary) who is sent by her benefactor, Mr Arthur Windom-Greene, to various jobs around the country.

It's November 1892 and Hattie is on her way to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a secretarial job with Mrs Edwina Trevelyan.  Mrs Trevelyan is the leader of the American Women's Temperance Coalition (AWTC), a group that is passionate about banning the sale of alcohol.   Eureka Springs is well-known resort town that is known for the healing powers of its various springs and is the location of the AWTC's meeting.  Hattie, while eager to begin her new job, is also excited about being able to explore the local area to indulge in her love of botany.

When Hattie first arrives at the luxurious Arcadia Hotel her first priority is to find her new employer and get to work.  Hattie searches the small town and is shocked to find the elderly Mrs Trevelyan in the middle of demolishing and setting fire to the Cavern Saloon in the name of temperance.  As Hattie makes her way back to the hotel after the melee she attempts to finally meet Mrs Trevelyan face-to-face in order to assume her new role.

Unfortunately Mrs Trevelyan is a hard woman to track down.  With the local police looking for her to discuss her involvement in the saloon brawl Mrs Trevelyan seems to have disappeared.  Hattie decides to use this time to jump into her new role and begins to handle Mrs Trevelyan's correspondence.

Shortly afterwards, Hattie finds the murdered body of her employer.  In her role as temperance leader Mrs Trevelyan has made many enemies both within the temperance group and from outside it.  The police quickly zone in on one person for the murder but after Hattie receives various cryptic written threats, Hattie is certain that the local police have the wrong person behind bars. 

Now that her employer is dead Hattie is told, in no uncertain terms by one of the AWTC followers, that her help is no longer needed Hattie is told to go home.  Since she was paid upfront by Mrs Trevelyan and has a very strong work ethic, Hattie is determined to complete her task and find her employer's killer. 

Although her determination to complete her task is admirable unfortunately Hattie has attracted the attention of her employer's killer and has now put her own life in danger.   Now, with the help of the handsome local doctor, Dr Walter Grice, Hattie vows to find the real killer herself.


My Thoughts:  I really enjoy historical mysteries when I can learn a bit about history while enjoying an entertaining 'who dunnit'.  Kind of a two for one deal, if you will.  A little knowledge wrapped up into a nice, cozy mystery.  Well, this book fits the bill. 

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I have pretty much no knowledge of the temperance movement in the late 1800's.  When I say 'pretty much' I mean zilch.  Nada.  Rien.  Luckily for me, Ms Loan-Wilsey is very adept at vividly painting a picture of this highly emotional era.  It was a time of zealous actions of some of the temperance members in the name of their cause as well as the raw emotions from the people who wanted these busybodies to stay out of their right to imbibe or not.  Kind of a perfect era to place a murder, right?

If an author is going to snag me with their mystery I have to like the main character.  I like a strong main character who is relatable.  Hattie, I'm happy to report, is an interesting and confident main character who is refreshingly ahead of her time.  She's an intelligent young woman who is very non-nonsense about her job and has a strong work ethic.  She gets offended when she's referred to as 'just a typewriter' because she views herself as so much more and goes on to prove this by solving the murder of her employer.

The secondary characters, especially the deliciously gossipy sisters Miss Lucy and Miss Lizzy who seem to take Hattie under their wings, round out a good cast of characters.  There is mild romance of sorts which has begun between Hattie and Dr Grice but it doesn't hinder the pace of the mystery.  I'm interested to see if he will be able to be part of future books.

I look forward to reading more books in this series.  I'm intrigued by the era as well as seeing what other situations Hattie will be put in since her profession can lead to so many different possibilities for future storylines.  I'm also curious about Hattie's mysterious benefactor, the elusive Arthur Windom-Greene, and look forward to learning more of how they met.

The negatives that I had about this book are quite mild. The pace, at times, was a little slow and the identity of the murderer wasn't a big shock for me but overall I quite enjoyed this first book of this new series.  Recommended.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Note: My sincere thanks to Anna Loan-Wilsey and Kensington Publishing for providing me with this free Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for my honest review.

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