Book Review: Sunrise by the Sea (Little Beach Street Bakery #4) by Jenny Colgan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Willian Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2021
Pages: 368, paperback
Source: NetGalley

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of her beloved Little Beach Street Bakery series for a timely and heartfelt novel set in a Cornish seaside village.

Marisa Rosso can’t understand why everyone else is getting on with their lives as she still struggles to get over the death of her beloved grandfather, back home in Italy. Everyone loses grandparents, right? Why is she taking it so badly?

Retreating further and further from normal life, she moves to the end of the earth—the remote tidal island of Mount Polbearne, at the foot of Cornwall, hoping for peace and solitude, whilst carrying on her job as a registrar, dealing with births, weddings, and deaths, even as she feels life is passing her by.

Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the solitude she craves proves elusive. Between her noisy Russian piano-teaching neighbor, the bustle and community spirit of the tiny village struggling back to life after the quarantine, and the pressing need to help save the local bakery, can Marisa find her joy again at the end of the world? 

Possible spoiler alert.

In Sunrise by the Sea, Marisa has come to Mount Polbearne after being kicked out of her flat by her roommate for being too depressed after the death of her beloved grandfather. Caius, her former roommate, is the nephew of Reuben, the multi-millionaire friend of Polly and Huckle’s who has been in the other Beach Street Bakery books. Marisa suffers from an anxiety disorder, which only gets worse when she arrives only to find her new next-door neighbor is a loud music teacher who plays day and night, allowing her no peace until she is forced to kinda/sorta confront him. Since he resembles a large bear, this understandably takes her some time.

Not much has changed on Mount Polbearne otherwise. Polly and Huckle, now with two children, are still struggling to make ends meet. Reuben and Kerensa are still rich, and unfortunately, Kerensa has become a bit oblivious to her friends’ problems, as well as a tad bit obnoxious about her wealth-by-marriage.

Marisa’s recovery from anxiety seems a bit too pat. Yes, she does seek counseling and there are steps she goes through, but from seeing friends and family struggle with social anxiety and depression, I felt her journey was just too linear. 

Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I read this book. It felt like the same components were used as in the other books, such as a huge storm that damages the island, Reuben swooping in to throw money at things and save the day, and Polly and Huckle never having any financial security, but with a couple new characters, with problems of their own thrown in to spice it up. It’s a good book, but I think I just wanted something…more, especially for Polly and Huckle. Also, there’s just not enough of Neil the Puffin. 

Book Review: Death of an Irish Mummy (The Dublin Driver Mysteries #3) by Catie Murphy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: June 29th, 2021
Pages: 288, paperback
Source: NetGalley

Squiring a self-proclaimed heiress around Dublin has got limo driver Megan Malone’s Irish up—until she finds the woman dead . . .

American-born Cherise Williams believes herself to be heir to an old Irish earldom, and she’s come to Dublin to claim her heritage. Under the circumstances, Megan’s boss Olga at Leprechaun Limos has no qualms about overcharging the brash Texas transplant for their services. Megan chauffeurs Cherise to the ancient St. Michan’s Church, where the woman intends to get a wee little DNA sample from the mummified earls—much to the horror of the priest.

But before she can desecrate the dead, Cherise Williams is murdered—just as her three daughters arrive to also claim their birthright. With rumors of famine-era treasure on the lands owned by the old Williams family and the promise of riches for the heirs, greed seems a likely motive. But when Olga surprisingly becomes the Garda’s prime suspect, Megan attempts to steer the investigation away from her boss and solve the murder with the help of the dashing Detective Bourke. With a killer who’s not wrapped too tight, she’ll need to proceed with caution—or she could go from driving a limo to riding in a hearse . . .

American Cherise Williams has come to Ireland to find her long-lost ancestors and prove that her family are heirs of the local earl. Driver Megan Malone drops Cherise back at her hotel after Cherise fails to persuade the local priest to give her a bone from one of the earls in the crypt at the church, and goes to pick up one of Cherise’s daughters from the airport. Upon returning, they find Cherise dead, and Megan is plunged into her third murder mystery.

Megan’s superstitious boss thinks Megan is cursed, fires her, and evicts her from her apartment. Megan must juggle getting her job and home back with the search for Cherise’s killer. 

This is a great series. The characters are all well-developed, and the plots are solid. The relationships between Megan and the other characters are strong and make them fun to spend time with, except for perhaps Megan’s boss. Although, in fairness, even the local garda are eying Megan a bit askance, as she’s come across no fewer than three murders in less than a year. 

Long-suffering detective Paul, who is dating Megan’s best friend, reluctantly assists Megan with her investigation, while trying, unsuccessfully, to keep her out of his.

Cherise’s other two daughters come to Ireland to handle the funeral arrangements, and they join Megan on the hunt for their mother’s killer. One of them is hiding a secret from the others that may cause them to doubt what they know about their family. Does someone in Ireland not want the Americans to inherit the earldom, or was the motive revenge or money? 

Book Review: Of Mettle and Magic (The Magicsmith #5) by L.R. Braden

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date: May 14th, 2021
Pages: 340, Kindle
Source: NetGalley

Part fae, part human, all magic. . .

Now it’s time to choose a side.

When the Unified Church in Rome is destroyed by rogue sorcerers, tensions explode. Alex Blackwood will do whatever it takes to prevent a war between the humans, fae, and Earth paranaturals–even turn herself over to the PTF. But when a man she thought long dead walks back into her life at the head of a sorcerer army, surrender is no longer an option.

With all the world watching, and half hoping she fails, Alex and her friends scramble to find a peace that won’t cost them everything.

More than a decade after the Fae Wars, humanity and paranaturals coexist uneasily. Alex Blackwood has recently discovered that she’s a “halfer” – half human, half fae, and one of the few who can handle iron. In Of Mettle and Magic, Alex finds out that she may have even more reason to fear the PTF who police the paranaturals, and who are determined to drive them from Earth, or eradicate them entirely. Alex will have to sacrifice to keep the peace.

I had recently read the first two books in the series, and was approved for this one before I’d gotten to the third and fourth. I’m pleased to say that the storyline was easy to pick up (although I will go back and read the others to fill in a few details). Alex is a likeable heroine and she has a great group of friends. I do question the health of her relationship with the vampire James, but he shows in this book that he is committed to helping her, even at the cost of something he holds dear.

War is imminent. The various groups of fae, weres, and other paranaturals are being hunted by the PTF. A group of sorcerers commits an act of terrorism that sets Alex on a course to stop the war, but she has to make some hard bargains and give up some of her freedom to make it work.

Alex gets help from old friends, such as Kai, Maggie, and Morgan, and her uncle provides backup and support. Alex works well both autonomously and with the team, and it’s great to see the bonds she’s forged with the others have survived the turmoil of the last few months, especially her friendship with Maggie. I liked how Alex didn’t try to go it alone, and worked with everyone.

The series is great for readers who like urban fantasy and a spunky heroine, but a tad less snark than you find in a lot of UF novels.

Book Review: A Rogue’s Company (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #3) by Allison Montclaire

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Pages: 352, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

In Allison Monclair’s A Rogue’s Company, business becomes personal for the Right Sort Marriage Bureau when a new client, a brutal murder, two kidnappings, and the recently returned from Africa Lord Bainbridge threatens everything that one of the principals holds dear.

In London, 1946, the Right Sort Marriage Bureau is getting on its feet and expanding. Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge are making a go of it. That is until Lord Bainbridge—the widowed Gwen’s father-in-law and legal guardian—returns from a business trip to Africa and threatens to undo everything important to her, even sending her six-year-old son away to a boarding school.

But there’s more going on than that. A new client shows up at the agency, one whom Sparks and Bainbridge begin to suspect really has a secret agenda, somehow involving the Bainbridge family. A murder and a subsequent kidnapping sends Sparks to seek help from a dangerous quarter—and now their very survival is at stake. 

Things are looking up for Gwen and Iris in A Rogue’s Company, the latest Sparks and Bainbridge mystery by Allison Montclair. They’ve just expanded their marriage bureau and hired a new employee. Gwen feels she’s close to regaining custody of her son, and her relationship with her mother-in-law has become, if not close, at least no longer adversarial. 

The unexpected, and very unwelcome, arrival of Gwen’s father-in-law upsets them both, as it leads to trouble for Gwen, two kidnappings, and the making of some deals which may have long-term repercussions. Amidst this, Gwen and the her family are forced to reexamine the way their class views those of other cultures, and the way the British have treated their colonies.

While I love Gwen and Iris, Sally is my favorite character, and I was very glad to see him as an active character in this book. True, it’s still a case of him coming whenever either Iris or Gwen calls, but he seems content to hang on the periphery of their world, at least for now.

Iris is sassy, as always, but we do see a bit of a vulnerable side, as she faces what she had to do, and give up, during the war when she worked as a spy. She also interacts more with Gwen’s son, Ronnie, and we see that maybe she’s not the “tough broad” she makes out to be.

Readers may guess what’s behind the kidnappings before Gwen and Iris do, but the writing crackles, and the characters are so wonderful, that the mystery isn’t as important as the connections between them all.

Highly recommended, along with the rest of the series.