Bean to Bar Mysteries, Book 3
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: February 1, 2022
Number of Pages: 264 pages
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Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand has been the scene of two murders – both of which she has been instrumental in helping solve. So when she gets invited to demo her chocolate skills aboard a cruise ship sailing out of the local port, she’s excited at the chance to get away from the shop long enough to regain her equilibrium. She even brings her best friend along, and makes plans for time at the spa. But when she gets on board, she finds out that she’s been booked for a mystery-themed cruise, and said best friend, Autumn, has to finally deal with the real reasons she quit writing mysteries. Only – if that wasn’t stressful enough – it doesn’t take long before there’s a real murder on the cruise, and someone Felicity knows becomes the prime suspect. When said suspect asks her for help, she can’t exactly say no, can she?
Felicity finds herself surrounded by cruise goers who all had connections to the victim – and finds that both Logan (her business partner, whom she recently kissed) and Arlo (the cop who was once Felicity’s first boyfriend, before she moved away from Galveston) are dealing with the case until more official help can arrive. How will Felicity survive the ensuing awkwardness?
One thing that helps: the retired police dog turned therapy dog she meets on board. Satchmo helps Felicity deal with being back on the water after tragedy in her past – and also helps her uncover a vital clue to the case. Can Felicity unmask the killer and keep a friend from being framed before all the suspects leave the ship?
Out of Temper by Amber Royer is the third book in the Bean to Bar Mysteries series, but it is the second book in the series that I have read. After reading and thoroughly enjoying the first book, Grand Openings Can Be Murder, I knew that I had to get my paws on this one when presented with the opportunity to review it. I just wish that I had realized that I had not yet read the second book, 70% Dark Intentions, before cracking this one.
But that’s okay, because a good writer can fill you in so that you’re not floundering around confused, no matter what book you pick up in the series. And Royer is an excellent writer. She has fulfilled my expectations of a fun read filled with delicious chocolates, adorable furry sidekicks, colorful characters, and a conjecture that is tantalizingly just out of reach. Admittedly, the mystery in the first book had been easy to solve, but I couldn’t wrap my brain around why the killer did it. In this book, the victim wasn’t a cup of tea, so it wasn’t hard to imagine the many plausible scenarios that could have gone down.
Yet Royer had me convinced at least three times that I had finally nabbed the killer, and I was wrong each and every time. Just when you think that Felicity is about to uncover the final piece of the puzzle that will confirm your hunch, new clues will come to light that will send you spinning in a completely different direction. The intricate web of circumstances that ties this book to the other two is what really excites me about reading each installment of the series. Not to mention, I am dying to find out which love interest our amateur sleuth will end up with. I’m Team Logan all the way, just in case you were wondering.
I hope that Book Four has Felicity flying around in a plane with Logan to some exotic place to find obscure cacao beans and/or flavor combinations. I also would like to see tighter copy editing in the future. There were quite a few typos throughout the book. Maybe not enough to distract from a great mystery, but they were there and quite noticeable.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery read. As someone who usually savors the details in books, I am happy to report that the only place that Royer holds back a little is on gore. Other than that, prepare to drool a little when Felicity demos chocolate making… or perhaps when we catch Arlo or Logan sending longing glances in her direction. Either way, settle somewhere cozy with a snack or yummy beverage and enjoy the book.
Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
Genre: Historical Fiction / Ghosts
Publisher: Independently Published
Date of Publication: March 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 252
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Galveston Island, Texas, September 2008 Katie doesn’t believe in ghosts. And she certainly doesn’t believe the rumors that her family’s home is haunted, despite its tragic history: two young women who lived there in different eras died in hurricanes—one during Hurricane Carla in 1961, one during the Great Storm of 1900, the greatest natural disaster to befall the United States. But that was the past, a fact Katie reminds herself of when she returns to Galveston to await Hurricane Ike with her parents and boyfriend in her family’s Broadway mansion, hoping to rekindle her flailing relationship.
While Katie is not afraid of the ghost stories she’s heard, she is afraid of the monster storm approaching. As even die-hard Islanders evacuate, her fears grow—fear of the looming hurricane, fear that she’s talentless as a painter, fear that her relationship with her boyfriend is already over. As Katie struggles against her fears, the past whispers to her of the women who died there and the haunting similarities they share with Katie’s own life.
Through three different timelines, Storms of Malhado weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, and its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Katie, Suzanne, Betty, their lovers, and their confidantes.
PRAISE FOR STORMS OF MALHADO:
“Taking place entirely on a beautifully moody Galveston Island, Ms. Sandovici weaves three simultaneous stories with ease. With a timeless tale, ethereal language, and complicated characters, readers will be entranced by this modern ghost story. How many times can the past repeat itself? How do we recognize people through generations? The author tackles this topic amid a backdrop of violent nature and intangible dreamscapes.”
—Courtney Brandt, author of The Queen of England: Coronation, Grand Tour, Ascension
”Three women, three great storms, and one house, haunted by forbidden love and frustrated ambition. Get ready to be swept away by Sandovici’s foray into Galveston Island’s tempestuous history in this tale of lives intertwined across time.”
—Donna Dechen Birdwell, author of Not Knowing
Storms of Malhado is the second book that I have ready by Maria Elena Sandovici. I read Lost Path to Solitude almost exactly four years ago and remember being very impressed with Sandovici’s excellent storytelling and her talent for writing natural dialogue. Those two traits are present in this latest book and Sandovici has certainly honed her craft to create such a fascinating story.
As a Houston native (a far north suburbanite, at the least) I was a little annoyed with Katie’s decision to leave Houston in order to weather the storm of Hurricane Ike in Galveston of all places. When Ike was about to hit, distant relatives of mine left Galveston to hunker down with my family, so Katie’s reverse evacuation didn’t make sense to me. But alas, there would be no story if she acted rationally. The story spans three different timelines and takes place in the same mansion on the Island.
I recall wishing with Sandovici’s previous book that she had used character names at the beginning of chapters when she switched POV because it sometimes became confusing. I was happy to see that she gave us the year and a short description of what was happening at each break in this book. I also was delighted to see that her characters had names indicative of the times that they lived in. Names like Desmond and Esmeralda feel distinctly 1900s while names such as Betty and Edna are perfect for the 1960s. Details like those are among the many that Sandovici thoroughly researched so that the reader could be transported without the rude shock of glaring inaccuracies.
Authenticity is obviously important to Sandovici as her vivid details of Galveston across the timeline ring true when compared to the photographs I have viewed and the stories that I have read in museums and historical landmarks. The relationships between the characters within each era and spanning across the three time periods are intricate and bursting with color. Which makes sense when you take into account that the main character and the author herself are artists.
I don’t want to go into specifics and ruin the ending for you but I felt like the point where everything merged felt a little too perfect, for lack of a better word. When I have read about similar phenomena in real life accounts or fiction, there usually isn’t so much clarity, especially when multiple people are involved. There, I will zip my lips now and let you see for yourself.
I think that this book would resound with practically any reader, but I think that it would truly affect those who are into the supernatural or very realistic historical fiction (the kind that borders on nonfiction when it comes to details). This is not your fluffy historical fiction, which you might have guessed since it takes place during times of devastation. However, I like how it leaves you feeling hopeful, like seeing a rainbow after the storm.
Maria Elena Sandovici is a full-time writer, artist, and gallery owner living in Houston, Texas. After obtaining a Ph.D. in political science from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2005, her curiosity led her to Texas, where she taught at Lamar University for fourteen years. She felt attracted to Galveston Island from her first visit and lived there part-time for three years before her artistic career took her to Houston.
Sandovici is a 2008 graduate of John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program, a program that teaches artists business skills. She resigned from her tenured academic position in December 2018 and opened her own private gallery space. Her previous works of fiction are Dogs with Bagels, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, Lost Path to Solitude, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, and Lone Wolf. She is also the author of Stop and Smell the Garbage, a volume of poetry in the voice of her dog, Holly Golightly. You can follow her daily adventures on her blog HaveWatercolorsWillTravel.blog.
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