Ten years ago, Ella and Hank were both struggling actors with big dreams. Instead of taking a big role, Ella refused as a show of support for Hank. Instead of a proposal, she got dumped when Hank got a big break, something Hank has always regretted. He still loves Ella, but she has a new life.
She acts in community theater, but she’s also a matchmaker at Two Love Lane, doing her best to solve the problems of her clients’ love lives and see them happy. When Hank comes to town to shoot a leading role, he gets Ella a bit part, and wants to make things work between them. But Ella knows he’ll just leave her behind again when fame’s demands take him out of Charleston.
I didn’t realize this is the third book in the series, but they’re written as standalones, so that doesn’t affect anything. For me, the characters weren’t very fleshed out, and some of them came across more as caricatures than anything. Very one dimensional. The entire plot felt very bare-bones and too easy, and one of the subplots seemed rather pointless and did not add anything to the story.
Kieran Kramer is a USA Today best-selling author and has an MFA from The College of Charleston. Second Chance at Two Love Lane is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Quinn Bellandini runs a B&B with her grandfather, her sister Delilah, and the ghost of her late uncle Frank—whom everyone but Quinn believes in. She bakes scones, keeps the B&B running smoothly, and plays guitar in a band with her friends. She doesn’t even have time to date.
Her friend Drew runs a restaurant down the street with his brother, Jason, a surly, argumentative guy who fights with everyone—including his wife. When Quinn finds Jason’s body one night, she’s horrified—but not really surprised, considering how everyone disliked Jason.
What does surprise her is her presence near the top of the list of suspects, along with Drew. When Drew suggests they try to uncover a more-likely suspect to save their own necks, Quinn reluctantly agrees. She’s more suited to baking than investigating, but she finds her talent for killing people with kindness to thinly disguise her pointed remarks comes in handy. And she’ll need every trick she has to stay out of jail while she searches for a murderer.
I thoroughly enjoyed Southern Discomfort. I’ve never been to Savannah, but as a born-and-raised Southern girl, I found the setting believable and familiar (especially the popularity of sweet tea). Quinn and Delilah’s relationship was fantastic, and their interactions made the book even better! A great read for cozy mystery fans and anyone who loves Southern fiction.
Caroline Fardig is the author of the Lizzie Hart series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews series. Southern Discomfortis her newest novel, the first in the Southern B&B mystery series.
(Galley provided by Alibi in exchange for an honest review.)
Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.
Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.
The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories: the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.
The small town of Grace, Alabama might be highly named, but it’s a little short on its follow-through. Populated by rednecks, people haunted by regrets, and economic depression, the town is full of hurting people shadowed by darkness. Then bright spot Summer Ryan goes missing, and the entire town fears she’s been taken by The Bird, believed responsible for the disappearances of five other local, church-going good girls.
But as Raine Ryan—Summer’s twin sister—investigates her sister’s disappearance, she discovers that Summer wasn’t quite the good girl everyone thought. With the help of Noah, a local boy who adores Raine, she starts asking questions, and soon the darkness that’s been hidden in Grace is visible to the whole world.
All the Wicked Girls shows a good picture of life in a small Southern town: the town busybodies who want to know everyone else’s business, the good ol’ boys who think they know more than the guys in charge, the teenagers yearning to get out of town. In fact, the Southern gothic feel of the novel is so spot-on, that I was surprised to learn the author is English, not Southern. The setting is fantastically well-done.
I love how the story is told in alternating points of view, including the missing Summer telling of thing that happened before. Raine is a force of nature, and Noah is endearing as he struggles with his health issues as well as the loss of his father. There’s a lot of twists in this novel, and the suspense will keep the reader gripping the pages to find out what’s really going on.
Chris Whitaker was born in London and worked as a financial trader. All the Wicked Girls is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Zaffre in exchange for an honest review.)
Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.
Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.
I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here: the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.
Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.
(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Emma Laroux had it all in college: a shot at the Miss America title, a bright future, and a charming boyfriend she loved. But all of that disappeared because of a night she can’t remember, a night full of scandal that cost her her boyfriend and caused her to walk away from her title. Now she’s settled in her small home town, happy with her life as a pageant coach.
Except it’s been years since she dated anyone, and she’s not sure why. Sure, it would be nice to have kids, but the men aren’t exactly beating down her door. Then Matthew Pope arrives in town. He’s not happy to be back in the South, and when he sees Emma, he remembers that fateful night ten years before, when she was in trouble and he came to her rescue. But Emma doesn’t remember Matthew, and soon the past starts to haunt the two of them, interfering with the attraction growing between them.
I love book series set in the same location, where characters I loved in previous books appear in the current one, and you find out what’s going on in their lives. This is a series like that, and although I haven’t read Again, Alabama, I love the sense of family that links the two books. And the picture of small-town Southern life is scarily accurate, complete with nosy neighbors and former beauty queens with attitudes.
(Galley provided by Tule Publishing via NetGalley.)