Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Jazz Age Mysteries by Ellen Mansoor Collier




Flappers, Flasks
Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play (Jazz Age Mysteries #1)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Jasmine Cross is a young journalist in 1920s Galveston, hoping to make a name for herself as a reporter, although the sexist attitudes of her colleagues threaten to consign her to working on fluffy pieces for the society pages. So when she accidentally finds herself mixed up in a gangland murder - and pursued by a charming federal Prohibition agent - she's delighted to suddenly have the opportunity to get involved in a real story. Aided by the paper's photographer (and her good friend) Nathan, Jazz must uncover the truth if she's going to get her half-brother released from jail.

Jazz is an excellent heroine; she's far from a natural at handling dead bodies, but in the interests of her fledgling career she's willing to force herself to face up to the criminal underworld. She's also fiercely loyal to her friends, and unwilling to compromise on her personal ethics.

I loved the colourful Prohibition-era backdrop, with its booze-running gangs and dodgy officials. It took me a little while to get the hang of the 20s slang, but that's more about me than the book (it was usually obvious what words meant from context). An easy, enjoyable read that introduced a fascinating world.

Bathing Beauties
Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets (Jazz Age Mysteries #2)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Bathing Beauties, the second Jasmine Cross mystery, sees young journalist Jazz tasked with writing about Galveston's annual beauty pageant. To begin with she's unimpressed by the assignment (and the pageant), but when a couple of female corpses are discovered, she spots the opportunity for a proper scoop that the city would prefer to keep hidden. And as she gets to know the bathing beauties on a more personal level, she begins to understand their motivations, and to see them as people rather than as mere bodies on display.

The first two novels in this series are fairly independent, and the only spoiler for Flappers found in these pages is that there was a successful resolution to the case - which can hardly be considered a surprise in what is basically a cozy mystery novel. Although there is a small amount of character and relationship development, I think it would be fine to read them out of order.

I really like Jazz, she's a great character and determined to make the most of things, although she has to put up with a lot in her sexist, old-fashioned (well, it is set in the roaring 20s!) working environment. I'll confess I was a little less enamoured of Agent Burton, who provides the romantic interest, in this novel. After the first book I was keen to see James and Jazz's relationship progress, but he says some things to her in this book which reveal a bit of sexist prejudice beneath the surface, and he'll have to work extra hard for her affections if I'm to forgive him.

Overall, these are perfect light-reading material for mystery fans - an intriguing historical setting, great characters, and plenty of plot to keep you turning the pages.

Gold diggers, gamblers and guns
Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns  (Jazz Age Mysteries #3)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Gold Diggers is the third mystery novel starring the wonderful Jasmine Cross, an aspiring journalist with a knack for finding herself involved in the cases she wants to report on. Despite her bosses' insistence on giving her society events to cover, Jazz is drawn to the darker side of Galveston life, and insists on turning up at the scene of every crime.

This time she arrives at the scene of a shooting, only to find evidence that her boyfriend (and local prohibition agent) is being framed. Her clumsy attempts at hiding the evidence only make things look worse, and when the local law enforcement take an interest, she's determined to find the real solution in time to get him off the hook. Meanwhile, her brother is becoming steadily more embroiled in dangerous gang business.

Jazz is one of my favourite amateur sleuths, and she's on top form here, steadily pursuing her professional ambitions while her relationship with Agent Burton is put through the wringer. Compelling cozy reading.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jill Mansell Romance Novels




To the Moon and Back
To the Moon and Back
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

Ellie is a young widow who's starting to wish people would stop smothering her with kindness. When she moves to a new flat and a new job, it seems like the perfect opportunity to start afresh, without necessarily telling everyone about her past. But she still talks all her decisions through with her imagination's conjuring of her late husband.

Zach falls in love with Ellie the first moment he sees her, and employs her in a desperate bid to stop her leaving his life, but now he's her boss and that means it would be horribly inappropriate for him to act on his feelings.

Unpredictable Consequences of Love
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

After a traumatic experience in her first relationship, Sophie has sworn off love for good, and she's been remarkably successful at sticking to her guns: she simply doesn't date. Her best friend, Tula, has her own demons in the shape of an absent father and a mother with a tendency to pick unsuitable men. For both women, it's these echoes of the past that cause them to turn down the otherwise very attractive men who come into their lives, giving Josh and Riley an uphill struggle to prove they're worth the risk.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is pining for ex-wife Dot, even though he knows it's entirely his own fault for leaving her, and author Marguerite is finding that a successful career doesn't compensate for the loneliness of three failed marriages.

There's enough going on with this interlinked ensemble cast to keep the pages turning at a remarkable rate. I loved the intelligent handling of the characters' various issues and secrets, and despite the apparently insurmountable difficulties, everything came together very neatly in the end.

A Walk in the Park
A Walk in the Park
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

As a pregnant teenager, Lara was thrown out of her father's house, and ended up running away to live with her aunt. She hasn't been back to Bath since, but when she returns to wrap up her father's estate she runs into her childhood best friend... and Flynn, the boyfriend she left behind.

Lara doesn't have a monopoly on the drama in this book: best friend Evie breaks off her wedding hours before it happens, when she catches her fiancé cheating; daughter Gigi has to adjust to having a father; and a superstar rapper launches the career of an unassuming shirt-tailor to a whole new level (no, really).

An engaging story, with plenty of interlocking threads to unravel.

Take a Chance on Me
Take a Chance on Me
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

Cleo thinks she's finally found the perfect man... right up until the moment she discovers he's actually already married. His wife isn't desperately impressed by this news, either, and slowly the two women form an unlikely almost-friendship. Finding out that her high school nemesis has returned to the area doesn't improve Cleo's mood at all, although this time around Johnny is nothing but nice to her, which makes her wonder what he's up to.

The star of the (extensive) supporting cast was undoubtedly Cleo's neighbour, Ash, a local celebrity whose looks were made for radio, giving him self-esteem issues despite his popularity.

Traditional love triangles have nothing on this novel, which has a love 'knot' of epic proportions: everyone seems to be in love with someone whose heart is already focused elsewhere. The end result is a charming romantic comedy full of misunderstandings and gradual adjustments as the characters grow and get to know one another better.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brides of Amish Country Series




Brides of Amish Country
by Patricia Davids
A Hope Springs ChristmasThe Amish Nanny


Hope Springs Christmas
A Hope Springs Christmas by Patricia Davids
My rating:         Romance
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)

In this gentle romance, set in the Amish community of Hope Springs, it's clear from the outset that young widow Sarah and her gruff neighbour Levi are meant to be together. The only question is, when will they work it out for themselves? Sarah has experienced a lot of tragedy around Christmastime, and is afraid to open her heart in case someone else she loves is taken away from her. But as she throws herself into matchmaking on Levi's behalf, she slowly starts to realise that she doesn't want anyone else to have him.

I love to read Christmassy books in the weeks before Christmas, and this was an enjoyable start to the season. I've recently visited Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, where we saw a number of Amish farms and businesses, so it was fascinating to get a glimpse behind the scenes of this unusual and peaceful society while taking in a sweet romance.

Looking for more Christmas reads? I'm keeping a list (and checking it twice) of all the seasonal books that I've reviewed.

The Amish Nanny
The Amish Nanny
My rating:         Romance
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Clara has applied for a teaching job, but when she sees Ethan struggling to tame his young, recently-orphaned niece and nephews, she wonders if she can help in the time she has before the new term starts. As the children's new nanny, she swiftly falls in love with her charges - but it isn't long before she's also feeling something for Ethan.

Clara and Ethan both have complicated histories that make them reluctant to start a new relationship, but it's obvious from the beginning that they can help one another to heal. The only question is how they will both realise it in time. A charming story.