Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Tincture of Murder

Title:  A Tincture of Murder (A Lord Danvers Mystery #4)
Author:  Donna Fletcher Crow
Pages:  164
Year:  2012
Publisher:  Greenbrier Book Company
                Donna Fletcher Crow doesn’t disappoint in the latest Lord Danvers mystery.  The story takes place mostly set in the Magdalen House, a charitable home for “wayward women”.  If you like historical British mysteries, you won’t want to miss this one.  Even if this isn’t your favorite genre, the book is still worth reading as you will definitely learn something from Donna’s in-depth research, historical details, and rich descriptions.
                The action starts right from the get-go.  Lord and Lady Danvers return home from a lovely evening out, just the two of them, to their house being on fire and their infant son trapped inside.  Lord Danvers is able to rescue his son and nursemaid, but in the process is injured.  As a result of the fire, their home is inhabitable.  Lord Danvers’ brother, Freddie, has recently written asking for his help in solving a mystery at the shelter his church operates.  Freddie is a vicar and believes in living where he serves, so he lives in this tenement-filled area where garbage and other refuse is thrown out on the street.  It is absolutely filthy and dangerous.  Lady Danvers loves a good mystery and persuades her husband to help Freddie.
                As Lord and Lady Danvers volunteer to help at Magdalen House, serving food, washing dishes, and whatever else may need to be done, they see the desperate need for help among these women and children.  They encounter stories and people that make your skin crawl!  In the midst of their charitable work, a very public trial is being held of a man who is accused of poisoning his wife.  Lady Danvers attends some of the trial where the question is to decide if an insane person is responsible for his actions in the commission of a crime and should he/she be punished for the crime.
                Death comes to Magdalen House.  The first death is deemed to be from natural causes, but then another death occurs and then another.  This many deaths can’t be natural can it?  Who would care enough about these poor women to kill them?  Children are dying at a nearby industrial school.  Are these deaths natural?  What about the maid who is killed where Lord and Lady Danvers are staying?  Is her death related somehow to the deaths at Magdalen House?
                I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in just a few hours!  I like the detail of how people lived and dressed that Donna uses in her books.  She always creates interesting characters and mysteries that intrigue her readers.
My rating is 4 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

Meet Friend & Author Donna Fletcher Crow

1. Beginning with the first book in the series till now, what was the catalyst for these novels?
I have always loved the Victorians and felt that they get rather unfairly bad press. Calling something “Victorian” is often a put-down meaning dated, stuffy and hypocritical. On the contrary, I see the Victorians as people of enormous creativity and energy and I greatly admire their (yes, sometimes rather rigid) moral code.
It’s true it was a time of enormous social problems. Something like one-fourth of the population of England moved from the country to the city in the 19th century, causing overwhelming
overcrowding and poverty. But as soon as the Victorians identified a problem, they set to work to solve it. Such Evangelical reformers as The Earl of Shaftesbury waged campaigns for child labor laws, Tractarian priests like Charles Fuge Lowder worked to clear the slums of hunger and disease, Prince Albert himself set about designing model housing for poor families.
Certainly, there was hypocrisy with people flaunting society’s ideas of right and wrong, but, frankly, I find it refreshing to think of a time when society as a whole upheld a code of behavior.
2. Is there any particular reason as to why these books are located in England?
Almost all of my stories are set in Great Britain. Even the ones set in Idaho have English and Scottish backstories. Part of that is my connection with my own heritage but the greater reason is my desire to see revival in Britain. I feel called to tell the stories of men and women of faith in times past in the hopes of inspiring today’s generation.

3. How do you begin writing your novels? Do you just start writing or is there a particular process that you go through to keep everything straight in your mind?
Since Lord Danvers is a true-crime series, weaving a fictional crime around actual crimes and trials, I start my research with finding the true crime I want to recount.  In the case of A TINCTURE OF MURDER I deal with two actual crimes. One, that of William Dove, established legal precedent that is still referred to in courts of law today. The other is a case far more bizarre than any invented by Charles Dickens.
I always write from something of an outlien or at least a summary of the story. The more detailed the outline, the lower my stress level and the faster I can write. But then there are always the moments when one must “launch out into the deep” and follow inspiration. That’s fun, too.
4. Is there any reason why you continue to write mysteries?
Although I have written many romances and straight historical novels, the old adage “write what you like to read” is true in my case. Especially when I am telling the stories of somewhat obscure saints of long ago as in my Monastery Murders, or sometimes very involved legal proceedings as in Lord Danvers, I need a good suspenseful plot underneath to keep my own interest up and, hopefully, to keep my readers turning pages.

5. Who are some of the authors you follow?
I love the authors of the Golden Age of mystery writing, especially Dorothy L. Sayers. Of those writing today my favorites are those who write in my subgenres of clerical mysteries and Victorian mysteries. To my mind the all-time best clerical mystery is P. D. James’ DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS. Anne Perry is the queen of Victorian mysteries.

6. What types of movies or TV shows do you watch?
Well, you can probably guess, we love British mysteries! And historicals— “Downton Abbey” and “Upstairs Downstairs” for example. And then wacky Brit humor like “Dr. Who.”  For movies the oldies. My husband records lots of black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s from the classic movie channel. We love to curl up in front of the fireplace with a bowl of apples and a classic movie.
8. How has your walk or relationship with the Lord molded your stories, characters, etc.?
Oh, what a good question! After publishing some 30 books I was 10 years out of the writing loop because of the changes I was undergoing spiritually. From a fairly simplistic faith I have grown far more traditional and sacramental and in closer relation to the wider Church and to God. This is definitely reflected in the subjects I choose to write about and in the way my characters worship and pray.

9. Are there any writing projects you are currently working on?
AN UNHOLY COMMUNION book 3 in my Monastery Murders will be released early in 2013. I’m now writing A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER, book 3 in my Elizabeth & Richard romantic suspense series. This is based on a trip I took this summer visiting the sites of all the places Jane Austen lived and reflects my lifelong love of her writing.

10. What dreams, goals or aspirations do you have for 2013?
Goodness, can you believe it’s almost a new year! My prayer would be that 2013 would be as good as 2012 has been. I am so grateful for my family, friends and all that the Lord has allowed me to do. I would like to keep on doing it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Safe in His Arms

Title:  Safe in His Arms (Under Texas Stars #2)
Author:  Colleen Coble
Pages:  297
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
                This is the second novel in the Under Texas Stars series written by Colleen Coble.  There are some characters from the first novel, Blue Moon Promise, who appear in this novel as a supporting cast.  The story takes place in Larson, Texas, in the year 1879.
                Daniel Cutler arrives at the Triple T ranch to take the job of foreman.  He receives a cool reception from the ranch owner’s daughter.  She has been working as foreman for the last several years and doesn’t need a man to come in and take over.  Daniel has left his life of crime to become a Texas Ranger.  He has come to the Triple T because his old gang is planning on robbing Larson’s bank.  Daniel has reappeared to his gang pretending to want to rejoin them, but in reality he is working with other Texas Rangers to arrest the gang.  The Triple T foreman job is the perfect cover for him.  Of course, no one on the ranch knows his real purpose in being there and he can’t tell them in case they tell someone else and put their lives in danger.  The owner’s daughter, Margaret, is prickly as a cactus, but Daniel sees her for the beautiful woman she is inside and out.  He not only has become a Texas Ranger, but a Christian as well.  He soon falls for Margaret despite his intention to leave once his old gang is arrested.  However, Margaret draws him like no other woman ever has.  He believes God means for them to be together.  Will Margaret be able to let down her defenses to let Daniel in?  Will she allow God to be the One in whom she trusts?
                Margaret O’Brien is a feisty, 28-year-old, spinster.  She knows no man will ever want to marry her and she has accepted that.  She is too tall and gangly with red hair.  Men want small, dainty and blond women, right?  What can Daniel possibly see in her?  He must just be pretending to like her in order to get her to fall for him so he can marry her and get control of the ranch.  Ranching is all Margaret has ever known and all she wants to do.  She can outwork any man, and she has the knowledge to run the ranch all on her own.  She needs no man to tell her what to do.  Her father decides differently and that it is time for her to marry and give up ranching.  Her father also changes his will, leaving the ranch to her cousin.  When everyone finds out, Margaret feels wounded beyond belief.  Someone else is angry too because her father is attacked, then the barn is burned down and her cousin goes missing.  What is going on?  Who is responsible for these crimes?  Is it Daniel’s old gang?  Margaret has put her faith in her father, the ranch and herself as an O’Brien for so long; she can’t trust God to take care of her.  Can Daniel show her she is loveable to God and to him?  Will she believe him?
                This is a wonderful story of coming to grips with a faith that must be put into action when the rubber meets the road.  Seeing Margaret grow in her faith and in her worth through God’s eyes was truly touching.  This story has romance, mystery and action so you won’t want to miss it!
                My rating is 5 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

Phoenix Rising: Firebase Freedom

Title:  Firebase Freedom (Phoenix Rising Book #2)
Author:  William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone
Pages:  340
Year:  2012
Publisher:  Kensington
My review of the first book in this series is posted at
The third installment to this series will be released later this year, and I cannot wait.  There is an uncanny way the theme in this work of fiction almost mirrors society today.  However, remember when you read this, that this is fiction.  Sometimes authors can get their story ideas from reality, experience or research.  I know many authors who are avid readers themselves on a variety of topics as well as readers of fiction.  Regardless of one’s political allegiance most people have in their heart the desire to see America become a great nation.
In this second installment, the story started in Phoenix Rising begins to expand the scope of events initially brought about when America is deemed a free nation no more.  A president who has radical views begins to slowly strip away all forms of government, suicide bombers take millions of lives and women lose all sense of being a human being.  Jake, being a former soldier, has gathered together in a fort people who are specialists in various fields of expertise.  Since this small group refuses to submit to the new regime and convert to Islam, they cannot buy basic needs.  In fact, their lives are in peril.  Not only this small group, but any who are found to not have a special ID card and following the ways of Ohmshidi’s form of dictatorship.  Is this man acting alone or under the orders of an Imam?
Children are taken away to new schools and separated by gender to be properly taught or indoctrinated according to Islam.  All forms of sports are banned.  Women must wear a certain covering otherwise they are considered guilty.  What are they guilty of and what is the penalty?  Jake’s friend Bob drafts a new Declaration of Independence and is elected the first President.  Many are coming together under the battle cry of “take back America.”
The novel has many characters that show the true heart of Americans who selflessly begin to act in ways contrary to the dictator’s orders.  There is violence, injustice, and swift executions being carried out immediately.  There is no due process of law and no presumption of innocence.  When I read the first novel in this series, it was so filled with suspense I had to remind myself to breathe.  Now, in this novel, there is a growing undercurrent of unrest and nonacceptance of being ruled and subjugated.  Small groups of people are beginning to come together to challenge authority at the cost of their lives.
What will happen now?  Resistance is mounting and the people who believed they have conquered America have won.  I loved the heart of this novel…that America is in the heart of her residents.  People remember what freedom cost so many times before.  In this novel, they are being called to choose to make the sacrifice again.  The tale is filled with suspense and it is a thriller to the max!  If swearing, violence or sexual innuendos offend you, know beforehand that is in these books.  It is told as part of the story, and there are no explicit sexual scenes at all.  If you like stories that touch the heart of the patriot in you don’t miss this series.  The Johnstones have shared a masterful tale that will keep you in suspense until the final book in the series is released.
My rating is 5 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

Beauty to Die for

Title:  Beauty to Die for
Author:  Kim Alexis & Mindy Starns Clark
Pages:  340
Year:  2012
Publisher:  B&H Publishing Group
                Beauty to Die for is the beginning of the new spa mystery series.  The story uses Kim Alexis’ supermodel background and Mindy Starns Clark mystery writing skills.  The setting is the Palm Grotto Resort and Spa in California.  The novel is classified in the Christian mystery/suspense genre.  There are two main storylines that are neatly wrapped up in the end.
                Juliette Taylor is a former supermodel from the 80s.  She is now 49 years old, single, and part-owner of a skin care line.  As part of her ministry, she offers retreats at various spas for women to rest and relax with a weekend of pampering, God-centered lectures given by Juliette, fellowship, and dining.  Upon arriving in California, Juliette runs into an old colleague.  After a quirky exchange, Juliette is off to the spa with her business partner Didi.  Who arrives at the spa and what do Didi and Juliette witness taking place between this guest and one of the employees?  Never far from her thoughts are thoughts of TOTGA…the one that got away.  She reminisces about Marcus Stone, the man who encouraged her to change her life, stole her heart and then left her high and dry for 25 years.  What is he doing now?  Does he ever think of her?  Why did he never contact her after their brief meeting like he said he would?  Juliette also has launched an internal investigation within her company to find out how counterfeit products are being distributed to clients.  Why is her company targeted?  One of the spa guests is murdered and Juliette’s skin care product may be the culprit.  Juliette wants to clear her name, her partner’s name, as well as her company’s name.  How could this have happened?
                Marcus Stone is a handsome, 50-something, single father.  He has just finished working on a case with the FBI involving a terrorist group using counterfeit products to earn money to support their activities.  They successfully capture the criminals, but find a list of names with no explanations as to why the criminals were targeting these particular people.  Juliette’s name is on the list.  Marcus recalls their brief meeting 25 years ago and how Juliette gave him the strength to leave his job and start his own business.  She also won his heart in that short time.  He eventually tries to contact her, but never makes a connection.  Why?  When he sees her name on the list, his protective instincts kick in.  He wants to see her again to protect her, but also to see if what they had so long ago still exists.  How is he going to handle their first meeting?  Can he keep her safe?  Will God finally bring them together again?
                I’ve read several of Mindy Starns Clark’s other mystery books and found them very good, but this one was just so-so.  It just seemed to drag at the beginning.  Hopefully, the next book in the series will have improved on the pace of the storyline.  This was not my favorite mystery, but I haven’t written off the series.  I’ll await the second book and give it a try.
                My rating is 3 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at