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My Last Reviews of 2020

Lesley Eames, The Runaway Women (Silver Ladies) in London

A Sweet Diversion Set in the Early Nineteen-Twenties

Four young women, Ruth, Jenny, Lydia, and Grace work together in a household in a small town. Their employer is a wealthy woman with a temper to reckon with. As a necklace disappears – stolen – she accuses her employees of the theft and dismisses them without references.

The four women, disgraced, and therefore unemployable must think of other options for making a living. In this gloomy setting, there is one spark of light. Ruth has inherited some money together with a carriage house in London. It transpires that there is a bonus in the carriage house – a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. The four friends have the talents necessary to start a business, a car hire service that they dub the Silver Ladies.

Ms Eames is a dab hand at narrating and bringing her characters to life. The women meet unexpected trials and tribulations, their secrets and weaknesses help to keep the interest of the reader. There is a cast of lovers, villains, families, and friends to match the four protagonists, brave souls, who confront a male-dominated world to find a place in life. All in all, this is a charming confection of escapist delights.

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Mary Deal, Dead to Life

MIA, A Missing Key, and Mayhem

A key and a bunch of letters. That is all that Sara Mason and Huxley Keane possess to help them in their search for Huxley’s MIA brother Rocky. The key was found in Vietnam, but Rocky’s fiancée Emma Ellis has a matching key. During their search for Emma, they find out that her sister Evelyn committed suicide. The search takes Sara and Huxley from California to Hawaii and back in a perilous escapade that threatens their lives.

Ms Deal writes an efficient mystery with local colours and intriguing questions. Her dialogues are lifelike and her characters believable – whether agreeable or the contrary. There are many twists and turns before Sara and her friend find the truth.

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Katie Mettner, Granted Redemption

Poignant Love Story

Can two people who are scarred on their soul as well as on their bodies find love together? Carla and Grant both carry heavy burdens from their past, as they chance to meet at her coffee shop.

With the mellow fragrance of good coffee running through this romance, Ms Mettner creates a warm a fuzzy feeling inside her readers. Still, her writing doesn’t avoid the darker aspects in the lives of her protagonists, neither is the book without drama. There is a good balance between anguish and hope, and Ms Mettner’s writing is sufficiently powerful to make her characters stand out.

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JS Frankel, The Return of Master Fantastic

Montague is Gone and Mayhem Erupts

Paul and Myrna spend time on the watery world they visited in Master Fantastic. They need time to deal with all that has happened, but they can’t stay. Winged creatures are destroying the earth. Paul’s hearing has deteriorated, but Myrna goes through a transformation – she can hear and seems to have inherited her father’s magic.

JS Frankel takes us on another journey between the worlds. The fantasy returns and mayhem erupts as wild, weird, and wonderful happenings abound. Mr Frankel lets his imagination out to play in the sequel to Mr Fantastic. It is a fast-paced and sometimes extremely violent tale, but that is to be expected with evil creatures that want to destroy the world.

My only question to this is whether it was necessary to return to this fantasy. It appears to me as if there isn’t much scope for developing the characters, but that doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining and astute read.

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Carol Marrs Phips, Then

The Sequel to Wham.

When Wham ends nothing is resolved – and the same situation is true of its sequel Then. As I’ve already broadcasted my reflections on the use of hooks to sell books, it is only fair that I don’t reissue this now. There are many developments in this sequel, but the stakes are even higher as they were. The dystopia still reigns in a world that is already half destroyed by an underground sorceress, aptly named Pandora. At her beck and call, we find kidnapped Nia, still alive but placed in a dependent position to her kidnapper. Tess still fights to rectify the wrongs that mar the entire world, although the elf realm still is green and pleasant. Trolls, elves, humans, fairies, and the Greenwood family combine to fight Pandora, but the outcome stays uncertain.

In a multifaceted storyline with multiple points of views, a reader could lose the thread, if it weren’t for the Phipps’s firm control of the contrasting worlds and characters. This is admirable as is the world-building and character development in this second issue of Tess’s world.

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CA Asbrey, In All Innocence

Perfect Crime Thriller

I haven’t read all the parts of the Innocents series. When reading the third volume, I had no difficulty in catching up with the past. That doesn’t mean, I’m not tempted to read all there is about these innocents, although it would mean letting other books wait. Now, confronted with the fourth instalment, my appetite is growing.

Nat and Abigail move to Canada in the hope that it will give Nat a clean start. Not so, on a train heading across the mountains, a rock-fall stops them in their tracks. Worse, there is a murder committed on the train. This murder may stem from the theft of a moonstone, no doubt a homage to the first (nineteenth century) crime author, Wilkie Collins.

It is no surprise that Asbrey writes with her usual wit and expertise. Her characters develop convincingly, and Asbrey offers all the twists and turns an avid crime reader can wish for. A murder victim, a large group of English butlers, another victim, a nefarious business scheme, a kangaroo, and a cliff-hanger ending – combined with Asbrey’s excellent writing – make for a captivating read.

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CW Hawes, The Medusa Ritual

Works for Me

Special Agent Pierce Mostyn attempts to locate a rare book, which is forbidden for the good reason that it can unleash unthinkable terror on the world. He also works to rescue his partner Dr Dotty Kemper and so he is double engaged in solving this case.

A mysterious and mask-wearing man is part of the mystery, and Mostyn must confront him to find important clues. Not only that, but this old man is also the key to the mystery and the only link to Mostyn’s partner.

Mostyn fights against time and paranormal creatures through the seedy parts of La as well as deep in the crumbling tunnels beneath the city.

How come that I always start in the middle of a series? Not that it matters when the author knows what he or she is doing. The Medusa Ritual presents such a case.

The monster that confronts the people, who take part in the Medusa Ritual as it unfolds, combines Medusa’s snakelike tentacles (her hair) with some of the properties that are usually alleged to the basilisk. It possesses eyes that kill. All this helps to add to the horror that is worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos.

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Barbara Best, The Lincoln Penny

Time-Travel: Between Now and Savanna During the Civil War

An antique casket, a mysterious key, and a modern penny are part of this time-travel extravaganza. Jane Peterson is a normal girl in normal 2012. She is also a history geek and as a friend invites her to a Civil War re-enacting for her birthday, she happily prepares by making a costume. She takes her father’s birthday present, an antique jewellery box with her. In this box, she finds a key and carries it with her to the evening re-enactment party. Late in the evening, she opens a door and somehow gets transported back in time and into a raging battle.

It is beyond question that Ms Best did her research. She fills her narrative with detail that will interest a historically interested audience. What one might question is her narrative style. Why? One reason is the third person present tense and omniscient point of view. Sometimes Ms Best forgets in which tense she writes and that is unlucky. Other than that, she presents an interesting and captivating period, her characters are pleasant, but my greatest bugbear is the set up for another book in the series. It would be reassuring if authors like Ms Best would feel certain that they’ve engendered enough interest in their characters and ideas to sell volume two without leaving an obvious hook.

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Toya Richardson, The Festive Love Coach

Romantic Comedy

The Festive Love Coach opens with a bang. At a surprise visit to her boyfriend, Maya finds him entangled with his female business partner. She leaves him, and the flat, never to look back. The only difficulty is that it is close to Christmas and she has nowhere to go. The planned trip with her boyfriend is a smoking ruin and all the ‘interesting’ journey destinations are booked. What to do? Maya decides on a coach trip to Eastbourne.

Onboard there are quirky characters enough to satisfy any taste but worse, there is a young man who Maya already met – in unlucky circumstances. Honestly, the meet-cute between Maya and Carter is everything but cute. It gives Ms Richardson amble opportunity to exploit the antipathy that could lead to romance.

This is a festive romp that is both well-written and entertaining. A hotel in Eastbourne, loads or elderly but exceedingly alive characters, misunderstandings, mishaps, and rich food to die for – and fight to get rid of for the rest of the year. It was a quick but fun read – something to indulge in while enjoying a cream tea or with mulled wine and mince pies.

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David W Thompson, Possum Stew

Dark Poignant Short Stories with Holiday Themes.

Ten Stories, Ten Holidays

New Year, Miriam – a vampire’s honour code

Valentine’s Day, Eternal – a happy marriage or a ghost story

Easter, Possum Stew – don’t visit the shadow woods unless you’re prepared to withstand the test.

Mother’s Day, It’s Never Too Late – a mother’s love knows no boundaries

Father’s Day, The Phone Call – don’t be afraid to admit your love

Fourth of July, Let Freedom Ring – as love heals a broken heart so death renews the faerie kingdom

Happy Indigenous People’s Day (Columbus Day), The Saga of Running Deer – Little Fox the victim of schooling children at the tip of a bayonet. One way or another, Running Deer gives his life to save the children.

All Hallows’ Eve, When Dawn Breaks – Liam and Lola. The curse of life eternal, only to be ended through sunshine

Thanksgiving, Thank You, Edgar Allan Poe – older cousins, and a brother’s Dracula prank gone wrong

Christmas, Yuletide Spirits – Spirits come back to visit and comfort

A year may not last long, but the happenings in it determine how it touches the individual. David W Thompson shows humanity through the prism of monsters. Vampires, Ghosts, Faeries, Demons, Watchers of the Underworld, a Wendigo (a Native American avenging spirit) live in his ten short stories and help to show the deepest longings and pains as well as the horror, love, and redemption we humans share and live through. This is a tour de force of narrative mastery and leaves the reader thoughtful.

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Tia Fanning, Twelve Spankings from a Secret Santa

Folie à Trois?

Can Martha come back to the love of her life? What will be the consequences for her and for him? Nicholas accepts the ‘Christmas miracle’ but also works towards accepting that his business partner Peter takes an interest in Martha. The problem being that Martha also fancies Peter. Martha’s dawning feelings for Peter was what prompted her to leave. Now, she has lost her fight to deny her love for both men – and that is the reason she has returned. This is a dilemma that involves all three. Their solution is unique in many ways. Nicholas and Peter are long term friends, and they decide on the course to follow with regards to their mutual beloved. It is important for the understanding of the three to know that Martha expects discipline, administered by Nicholas. Peter is a Dominant and wants Martha for his Submissive. Hence the twelve presents: Martha must choose between one from each of her lovers during the twelve days of Christmas to get through her punishment for desertion.

This is a light-hearted tale looking at the ways people might enjoy sexual relationships. Ms Fanning does this with aplomb – showing the mutual respect between these three partners. Domination and spanking can’t take place without consent and it takes mature people to deal with the intricacies of this situation. It is admirable to portray this in such a wise and understanding manner. It isn’t always a smooth ride, but the characters live up to their mutual expectations and find a way of life that works for them. Twelve Spankings from a Secret Santa is an interesting and amusing tale about people with a difference.

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© HMH, 2020

12 replies on “My Last Reviews of 2020”

Two books–The Innocents, and the Silver Rolls–now on my list. You are so danged entertaining, Hanne! Heehee, have to drag out the Kindle as it gets colder outside. Thanks for great reviews! I might have to sneak you a couple of my books to see if they’re up to your standards. I love a reviewer who doesn’t pull punches–how else can a writer do better?

Your comment made me smile — really big. I find it vital to be honest in my reviews — otherwise — they’d be pointless. Wouldn’t they? I’d like to read and review one or a couple of your books, but my reading list is long — so it might take some time.

Normally, I buy the books I want to read. I think it is only fair to the author. The getting in line follows the buying date. . .

Would you like to recommend one or two of your books to me?

Thanks, Debi, I’ve visited Amazon and purchased Dragon Rings. Looking forward to reading it — when I reach it on my list. Good luck with editing your Summerbirds. . .

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