I've been reading for several weeks now, and want to share the best of what I've read with you. Here are four novels: three are murder mysteries, and the fourth is a novel of love, and the beginning of a new series. Each of these has earned Five Star Reviews from me at Amazon.com, and here. Enjoy!
Eaton House by Melodie StarkeyEaton House by Melodie Starkey is the second book by this author that I have reviewed. This book is the beginning of a series focusing on generations of the fictional Eaton Family.
Melodie Starkey shows strong sensitivity to adolescent love resulting in an early but successful marriage filled with the couple's own children and foster children in need of a nurturing family home. The couple live in Eaton House, an ostentatious but tastefully decorated mansion occupied by the Eaton men, father and son, and housekeepers that come and go through the early years of Chris Eaton. Chris's fellow student, Megan, a stellar student two years younger than her classmates and innocent in the ways of dating and having relationships, soon falls in love with the handsome young man who has taken an interest in her.
In time, Chris and Megan have six children of their own, including two sets of twins. Chris pursues his college education while Megan stays at home with the children. She pursues her interest in writing, and while Chris is preparing his dissertation for a doctorate in psychology Megan publishes her first novel.
The couple are strongly bonded together but in time have to face the challenges of earl onset middle age. Chris has an aunt who is a visionary and she tells Megan that she sees Chris and her celebrating their fiftieth anniversary surrounded by a large, loving family ... such a contrast from the repressive home setting from which Megan came. I held on to this vision as I read through the struggles faced by this admirable young couple. As I approached the end of the story, I did not want it to end, and was reassured to remember that this is book one of a series. I'm looking forward to following this family through the decades that I have lived. Well done, Melodie! Five Stars without a doubt!
Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Highland Blessings is the first book I've read by Jennifer Hudson Taylor, but you can be sure I will look for more. Her story is set in the early centuries of Scotland and features two clans, the MacPhearsons and the MacKenzies. The clans have been enemies for generations, and no one truly remembers the kindling of their fiery battles. But when the two chieftains meet and discuss a peace, to end the bloodshed and loss of their people, they make a vow together that their clans will unite through the marriage of their children. Soon after, before their clans have had time to hear of the peace agreement, one of the chieftains is slain by a warrior of the other clan. Before he dies, he is found by his younger son, and shares the promise with him, asking him to be sure his older brother carries it out.
If that premise doesn't hook you in the story, the descriptions of the natural setting on the journey years later by the younger son to the MacPherson's castle and back to the MacIntyre's own with the young daughter of Chieftain MacPherson captured and thrown across his saddle ... well, the descriptions cannot be replicated here but will surely hold your attention and admiration.
Will he succeed in bringing the bride to his older brother? Will the brother accept her? Will their marriage take place, and if so, will it bring peace to the warring clans? When it is discovered that a murderer is hidden within the castle, and that the bride-to-be is in danger, will her father learn of it and come to fetch her back?
I give this one Five Stars ... and am planning to find more of these historical mysteries set in Scotland.
Lucy Stands on Her Principal by B.Z. HerculesLucy Stands on Her Principal. As a second grade teacher Lucy is happy in her job, falling in love with her principal, David, and spending many hours beyond her own classroom work helping David to complete work toward a higher degree.
But change is in the air: an opening occurs unexpectedly in the district middle school, where Lucy encounters students she describes as "Big, scary adolescents with bad breath and even worse attitudes ... and big ungainly bodies they are just learning how to use." She misses her second graders: "...cute and cuddly, with big, earnest eyes that look up at you with respect and trust"... unlike the seventh graders who "...do not look up at you - they get right in your face." Needless to say, she is having a difficult adjustment, and working with a principal she knew years before and with whom she had a difficult history. To complicate things further, her brightest student in seventh grade is the same girl whose difficulties in second grade were the root of the dispute between that principal and Lucy.
When the ornery principal, hated by most students and faculty members, is murdered just before a staff meeting, Lucy is a suspect as she has written an undelivered email resignation. Before the case can be solved, another principal must be transferred to replace the deceased, and David is chosen for the job. Lucy, still in love and waiting for him to propose, is in for a surprise. She has to hire a lawyer, and looks up a far-removed cousin who has just finished law school. She also is befriended by a special education teacher who decides to work with Lucy to find the true murderer.
The story has many suspects to consider, and leaves the reader wondering until the final pages. I enjoyed this school based murder, although Lucy's fearful views of middle-schoolers took longer than I might have expected to come around to appreciating her seventh graders for the wonderful beings I have recognized for years now. Still, I give this one five stars for the elements of a mystery and for excellent characterization.
Murder Goes Round and Round by Richard BrawerMurder goes Round and Round is written by a man who knows of what he writes. Richard Brawer is an expert at telling the history of antique carousels, and he adds this information delicately into the story, deepening characters and exploring their values.
I've been to the Jersey Shore once in my life, and remember it as a quaint, busy beachfront with boardwalks and storefronts, but this section of shore is a dilapidated shadow of what it once was. The one sparkling gem remaining is the antique carousel, which is located between the waterfront and the business district of the small city.
Ownership of the carousel is in question: the grandson of the original owner is trying to renovate the businesses in his city and sees the carousel as a key focal point in drawing families and their consumerism and tourism back to the city. But during its demise, the mob has moved into the city and taken over many of the now defunct properties and filled them with illicit activities, bringing in out-of-district contractors and workers and denying jobs to the local workmen. Poverty has settled in, crime is a nightly occurrence, and families do not want to bring their children to this setting when there are so many others to choose from.
A man is murdered, another man is jailed as the suspect, and a third man, a widowed brother-in-law of the accused, is on the scene to honor his beloved deceased wife's devotion to her brother. The city believes the carousel is now public property as the owner is in jail. They are considering raising money to preserve it and avoid its sale and dismantling. A million dollars is at stake, and authenticity of the beautiful animals that adorn the carousel is in question.
If you love woodworking, or carousels, or murder stories, or the Jersey Shore, this is your book. I give it Five stars easily!