RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER by Sally Andrew is a change of pace from J.D. Robb and Harlan Coban. Reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books with a smidgen of Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schultz mysteries, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER is an excellent debut book.

RFLAMTold from the first person point of view of Maria van Harten, a cooking columnist in Ladismith, South Africa, the story is heavy with descriptions of meals and food, but the mystery is compelling too.

Maria is called Tannie (Auntie) Maria by her friends. She’s a fifty-something widow whose husband abused her. She’s content now to be alone with her chickens, her column in the local paper, her cooking, and her friends.

The paper’s editorial staff decides to ditch the recipe column and replace it with an advice column, so Tannie Maria finds herself having to dispense wisdom to the lovelorn. She sees a need for a recipe in each answer, but the advice is sound and the recipes yummy.

One letter, from an abused wife, strikes Tannie Maria hard. When a woman is found dead soon after, Tannie Maria is certain her husband killed her. She soon learns the case is much more complicated.

Tannie Maria and the paper’s investigative journalist, Jessie, get drawn into the mystery, attracting the killer’s attention.

I enjoyed this one very much. The story moves a bit slower than I’m used to in American mysteries, but the writing is lovely and the story is compelling. The mystery is a fair-play, with clues and red herrings; challenging but not impossible or implausible.

I’m a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith and Precious Ramotswe, so I was somewhat used to the slower pace of the South African storytelling. The chapters are short, which made it easy to keep turning pages and thinking, “Just one more.”

Probably technically, a cozy, since the book includes recipes and humor, but there is some blood and death, making it a PG instead of a G rating.

Tannie Maria is a worthy addition to the halls of amateur sleuths/cooks, and I look forward to reading her next adventure. And to follow her developing romance with a certain police detective.





After a summer and fall foray into Happily Inc. Susan Mallery now returns us to Mischief Bay. Harper and her sister Stacey couldn’t be more different. Harper was a full time wife and mother, happily making home a haven for her family. Until her husband decided he SLUwanted a divorce. Harper wasn’t educated or trained to be anything other than a wife and mom and she had to scramble to put food on the table for her daughter. She opened a business as a virtual assistant and is now overworked and underpaid. Just like most personal assistants, 😉
Stacey is a brainiac nerd, who’s more comfortable in her medical research lab than with most real people. She’s pregnant with her first child and is terrified. She’s scared she won’t bond with the baby, that she won’t know what to do, that her husband will love the baby more than he loves her.
Harper and Stacey are opposites, but they stand together against their overbearing mother. Harper’s teenage daughter, Becca, is also a viewpoint character.
The three women navigate life and change in their own ways.

I loved this one! The characters are archetypes in some ways. Harper is the perfect homemaker, Stacey is the nerd, Becca is the temperamental teenager. But in Mallery’s world, they’re also real people I feel like I know. Harper knows she’s on a hamster wheel of perfection, but she can’t see how to climb off. I’ve been on that wheel a time or two myself.

There are some familiar characters who return from the previous Mischief Bay books. Lucas, the guy we’ve gotten to know for his penchant for dating twenty-year-olds, is back and even showing signs of maturing. Lulu, Pam’s Chinese Crested dog, has a cameo appearance.

Sisters Like Us is both new and familiar. In the best way. I highly recommend it!

I received a free copy of the book in return for a honest review. We both kept our side of the bargain.

Book Talk Tuesday: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT by Kristan Higgins

I’m a huge Kristan Higgins fan. I love her romance novels and her women’s fiction novels have been even better.

Higgins.NTYMINow That You Mention It is about Nora, an ugly duckling from a small Maine island who has turned into an amazing swan/doctor/aunt/human being. After getting hit by a truck and waking in the ER to hear her boyfriend flirting with a nurse, she decides it’s time for some changes and moves back to her island to recuperate with her mother and niece.

Nora’s backstory about what brought her to this place in her life is carefully dribbled out, a little at a time. There have been some awful things happen to her. But she not only survived, she learned to thrive.

I loved this book. The characters feel like people I’d hang out with. As Nora heals and as spring turns to summer, she learns a lot about herself as well as her hometown and her family.

I highly recommend this one!

Book Talk on a Thursday: Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters is the fourth in Susan May Warren’s Montana Rescue series. There’s also a prequel novella and a mid-series novella. Whew! She’s a busy writer. And an excellent one.

Troubled Waters is Ian and Sierra’s story. We’ve been following them and hoping for them to work out their issues in the previous books. Finally, this is their time.

Warren.TWIan Shaw is a billionaire. A driven and focused billionaire. Sierra Rose started as his assistant, became his friend, and then he fell in love with her. And she with him. But they couldn’t get past the secrets between them. She knew his niece ran away with her boyfriend and didn’t tell him. He spent millions of dollars searching for his niece, intent on finding her and bringing her home. In the previous books, Ian and Sierra’s relationship devolved and when Troubled Waters begins, they’re barely speaking, barely friends, and definitely not working together.

Now, Sierra has another secret: she found Ian’s niece. She agrees to keep the young woman’s location private for another month, to give her a chance to call her uncle.  In the meantime, Ian is facing huge governments fines for a drilling accident that decimated a town. He needs cash and decides to sell his properties and holdings, including his Montana ranch and his yacht.

Sierra’s working for the PEAK Rescue team at their base. A helicopter crashes and there’s no money for repairs or a new chopper. She appeals to Ian and some of his wealthy friends and they head to the Caribbean for a “three-day cruise,” so she can convince them to donate funds for a new helicopter. Just like Gilligan’s “three-day cruise,” Ian’s and Sierra’s trip ends badly, hence the troubled waters of the title. I won’t give away what happens, except to say it’s gripping and not-put-down-able.

Pete and Jess’s story has also been slowly evolving through the three prior books, and they continue in Troubled Waters. When we get to their story, it promises to be a doozy. I can’t wait!

I love Troubled Waters and I highly recommend it! Another winner from Ms. Warren’s smoking keyboard.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in return for an honest review. I honestly loved it!


I love love love this book! The attention to historical accuracy and detail makes it a cut above most historical romance. The Victorian mores and attitudes are captured perfectly. But instead of being dry or superficial, The Unseducible Earl is full of emotion, poignancy, and heart.

UnseducibleEarlVictoria Thorne is a Nightingale nurse recently returned from the Crimea and hired by the Earl of Cheriton to nurse his brother, also a Crimea vet, back to health. As Victoria cares for Jamie, she is also able to deal with her own issues that linger from living and working in a war zone. At Cheriton Court, she expected to work hard, to help patients with her skills, and to face some opposition. She never expected the intense attraction she feels for the earl–the betrothed earl.

Robben Merrick is betrothed to a woman who is perfect for him. On paper. He doesn’t love her, but he expects affection will come. It is time for him to marry and produce an heir. He’s grateful his fiancee is willing to postpone their announcement while his brother is still battling for his life, even though he’s out of battlefield danger and safe at home at Cheriton Court. His growing feelings for his brother’s nurse are not part of his plans. And he cannot act on them, even if it feels like he is sentencing himself to a loveless marriage and a broken heart.

Humphreys is a wonderful writer. I felt every bit of Victoria and Robb’s attraction and brokenness.

There are a couple of sub-plots that added to the depth of the story and made the ending even more satisfactory.


I finished this book two weeks ago but I needed some time to absorb it all before I talked about it.


I’ve read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers many times. Sometimes it’s my daily devotional for the year. Sometimes I just pick it up and read random days. But there’s always a copy nearby that I can easily get my hands on.

I had no idea the work, the calling, the sacrifice that went into making copies of this book so readily available to readers.

Michelle Ule has crafted a story that is part biography, part history, and part devotional in its own right.

Mrs. Oswald Chambers is, on the surface, a biography of Gertrude ‘Biddy’ Chambers, Oswald Chambers’ wife and widow. It starts with her early life, moves to meeting Chambers, falling in love, and their decision to marry and minster together. They married in 1910, had a daughter in 1913, and he died in 1917. A short marriage, but one with lasting and far-reaching impact.

Biddy trained as a secretary and took shorthand at 250 words per minute. She wrote 301838_MrsOswaldChambersUle_Posts11down all of his sermons, homilies, lessons, and talks, then transcribed them. After her husband’s death, she began to compile various selections and released them as books under his name.

I loved Mrs. Oswald Chambers! Michelle Ule crafted a story that is compelling, humbling, and thought-provoking. If I’d been widowed with a small child, while living in a foreign country near a war zone, I don’t think my inclination would be to continue to serve God while living in poverty. Biddy did that, not only willingly, but with a faith and a calling that never faltered.

I highly recommend this book and I suggest you run and grab your own copy. It will change you.


Book Talk Tuesday: The Engagement Plot

I’m working on a trilogy of novellas set on reality dating shows, so when The Engagement Plot appeared on my radar, I decided to request a review copy.

I’m glad I did.


Hanna is a charming heroine and Will is an appealing hero. The story begins after they meet and get engaged on a show call The Price of Love. Hanna is a Christian and she kept her virtue and values front and center during the show which ended with Will on one knee and offering her a ring. During the airing of the finale Will said something that caused Hanna to break off the engagement.

We catch up with them about eight months after the show’s finale when Will arrives at Hanna’s Minnesota home to apologize. Her first inclination is to throw him back into the blizzard, but as they spend a few days together, they see a way to save both her reputation and his job, so the engagement plot is on.

Overall, I enjoyed this a lot and it kept me turning the page. It is definitely a Christian romance, but the faith elements rise organically from the characters.

Hanna and Will each had their own reasons for going on the show, for ending the engagement, and for concocting the new engagement plot. I have a few quibbles with some plot points, but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

The Engagement Plot is a fun and charming story of romance, second chances, and true love persevering against all odds. I recommend it!

I received an advance copy of The Engagement Plot in return for an honest review.