Everything a cozy fan could want—a strong and sassy female protagonist, some romance, and even a couple of scone recipes as...

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SMUGGLERS & SCONES

From the Moorehaven Mysteries series , Vol. 1

In this mystery series starter, a murderer is stalking Oregon’s tiny coastal town of Seacrest, and the quirky authors at Moorehaven Bed and Breakfast Inn couldn’t be happier.

Talbot’s (Nine Feet Under, 2013, etc.) delightful new series of cozy mysteries is set in the Pacific Northwest hometown of deceased crime novelist Raymond Moore. His Victorian mansion is now a B&B, owned and managed by the 20-something Pippa Winterbourne and operating under strict guidelines established by Moore’s estate. The most important one is that only writers may rent rooms there. In the middle of the night, Pippa hears a boat crashing up against the nearby cliffs; clad in her pink robe and fuzzy bunny slippers, she rushes down and rescues the young, handsome Lake Ivens from the Pacific’s turbulent waves. The next day, police discover the dead body of Cecil French in the wrecked boat, and Lake, who worked as a captain for Cecil’s charter business, is the main suspect. Unfortunately, Lake suffered a concussion and has no memory of what happened before the boat crashed. It becomes clear that it’s up to Pippa (who really, really hopes that blue-eyed Lake isn’t guilty), her team of authors, and her local cadre of grown-up gossip girls to identify the killer—but then there’s another murder. Pippa makes for a very capable narrator, as she’s funny, smart, and able to match the verbal swagger of her loquacious authors. Keeping them entertained and safe while also picking their crime-obsessed brains is a bit like herding cats, it turns out, although they can always be corralled for Pippa’s freshly baked scones. The abundance of secondary characters in this novel is initially confusing, but their backstories make compelling ingredients in the mix. Throw in a defunct Prohibition-era speak-easy, hidden in the basement of the town’s only nightclub, and the local legend of a hidden treasure, and Talbot provides more than enough puzzles to keep readers turning the pages until the very end.

Everything a cozy fan could want—a strong and sassy female protagonist, some romance, and even a couple of scone recipes as a bonus.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940215-87-7

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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