Thursday, January 28, 2016

What I Read in August 2015 Part I

What I Read in August 2015 Part I ...

Murder At Beechwood (Gilded Newport Mystery #3) --Historical cozy mystery
Murder at Beechwood (Gilded Newport Mysteries #3)
A year after the events at Marble House, Emma wakes up suddenly to a strange wailing sound outside. She, and her household (which now includes Stella, the former prostitute) assume was a passing storm. When Emma opens the front door to retrieve the paper, she receives a huge surprise; the noise was a baby crying! Someone left a baby on Emma's doorstep because of the reputation Gull Cottage has for being a haven for those in need. Emma, Katie, Nanny and even Stella quickly fall in love with the infant, but Emma is determined to find the baby's family. Not only do the courts not allow spinsters to adopt children, there may be issues of inheritance at stake or someone is longing for their child or lost family member's child. She has only one clue to go on- a hanky trimmed in fancy Brussels lace threaded with gold. This child must belong to someone wealthy! In her duty as a society reporter, Emma tries to ferret out who was missing from Society this past Season. While watching a yacht race at Beechwood, a terrible squall actually blows in and some boats go down. Emma is terrified when some men go overboard, including her erstwhile beau Derrick Andrews. As the men return from the sea, one is missing. As Emma uncovers the clues, she feels certain this man's death is connected to the baby. She's determined to solve both mysteries which are easy compared to the mystery of Derrick's feelings for her and what she plans to do about them. She also tries to play mediator between her Aunt Alice, Uncle Cornelius and her cousin Neily who wants to marry the lovely, but "new monied" Grace Wilson.

I speed read half this book the night before going to Newport. I speed read the other half in Newport while my family ate lunch. I may not have absorbed everything but I started the day at Ochre Court, which in the novel is the home of the Goelets. I walked along the cliff walk and saw Beechwood in the distance (still sadly under construction). It really helped enhance my enjoyment of the novel walking in Emma's footsteps, literally. I felt the plot was not as good as the other two books. The mystery happens right away and there's two mysteries in one. There's too much going on in this story. I also thought Emma pondered too much on her feelings about matrimony and what to do about Derrick. Her feelings show she cares for him but her thoughts seem otherwise. She overthinks the situation too often. I missed the swoony romantic relationship she had while sleuthing with Derrick. The ending was far from satisfactory. The Vanderbilt family drama frequently overshadowed the mystery and dragged down the tone of the story, which was already sad.

I never guessed who the baby's mother was. It came as a surprise to me and the plot twist was very shocking. I guessed the same woman that Emma suspected. There seemed to be more grisly murder in this mystery than the previous two. I had the same suspicion about the murder that Emma did so when all was revealed I was as surprised as she was. The way everything tied together seemed a bit too coincidental and very surprising. This still didn't stop me from wanting to skip ahead to the end. I had to pause and wait an hour before I could finish the novel and the wait was tough.

An Afterward by the author tells the reader what happened to the real people featured in the novel. I knew half the story already. I hope this isn't the last Newport-set mystery. I enjoy them and I love visiting the places featured in the stories. Murder at the Elms sounds good. Or Murder at Belcourt Castle. Murder at Rosecliff...  

At the Drop of a Hat (A Hat Shop Mystery, #3)At  The Drop of a Hat  (A Hat Shop Mystery #3) by Jenn McKinlay-- Cozy Mystery

A bride comes to Mim's Whims with an unusual request- she wants Viv to fix her late mother's wedding hat. Viv is delighted to fix up one of Mim's creations and Scarlett and Viv are certain this is what Mim would want. When their client, Ariana Jackson, doesn't return their calls, Scarlett decides to go to Ariana. When she arrives at the building where Ariana works as an assistant to a sleazy lawyer, Scarlett finds Ariana standing outside over the dead body of hr boss. The police seem to suspect Ariana and are getting nowhere with the investigation. Scarlett and Viv are certain Ariana didn't do it and of course launch their own investigation. Scarlett also has to deal with her treacherous blushes whenever Harrison is around; hope her favored contestant on the Great British Bake Off wins or else she'll be stuck cooking dinner for all her friends and deal with Viv's secrecy regarding her love life.

This mystery isn't quite as engaging as the first two. I was certain I knew who did it, but the plot twist really surprised me. It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. I like the characters so I'm interested in their personal lives, of course, and why Viv doesn't confide in Scarlett. She doesn't ever give a reason which is infuriating for Scarlett and the reader. Scarlett's romance with Harrison is heating up more. It's so sweet and charming! I love the slow pace of it and I hope Scarlett can keep her vow of celibacy going. It makes the love story more interesting. I love Nick and Andre and they add a lot of great comic relief to the story.

As for the new characters, they're hardly in the book at all. Ariana strikes me as weak and meek. It's unclear at first why she continues to work for the sleaze bag hot shot lawyer. Her reason surprised me and didn't seem like a good reason. I loved her relationship with her fiance but I got a jealous vibe from him and wasn't sure he was totally in love or why they love each other. I also got a creepy vibe from Ariana's barrister who is a little on the sleazy side. Ariana's formidable soon to be mother-in-law also crossed my mind as someone not to tangle with who may be too protective of her son. These characters were hardly in the story. Mariska is a stereotypical aging beauty with a Russian temperament. I found her boring and irritating. Her lover, known as "towel guy," appears briefly on the scene but doesn't have any personality. We're told things about him but he hardly gets to speak for himself.

Overall, this is a cute, light mystery that's less distressing than the previous one. It ends with a huge shocker and I can't wait to find out what happens next!

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