Scones and Scoundrels by Charlotte Graham

Scones and Scoundrels (Scheming Spires Mysteries Book 1) by [Charlotte Graham]

Scones and Scoundrels by Charlotte Graham is a cozy mystery novel that releases tomorrow! It is set in England’s Oxford University. It is the first of the “Scheming Spires Mysteries”series.

Laid off and recently widowed, Georgina Strange is beginning a new chapter in her life, attempting to fulfill a lifelong dream. However, after participating in a bake sale, Georgina becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. Her friend and confidante, Lucy, encourages her along the way, and even comes to her rescue on more than one occasion.

The outspoken Georgina had me smiling frequently as she spoke her mind. This delightful story kept me turning pages to find out “whodunit” until the very end. I was pleasingly surprised when the story didn’t end as soon as the mystery was solved, but instead gave me a taste of how Georgina’s life settled into a routine, as well as how her life changed because of her involvement in the murder mystery.

I enjoyed learning about Oxford University through descriptions and facts brought out in the setting. Georgina and Lucy were joined by a very interesting cast of characters, and Georgina learned something about herself as she learned the true characteristics of some of the college students and other characters she came in contact with.

Though there were two glaring errors in the story that really stuck out and distracted me a bit, they were small and brief. All-in-all, I really liked this story and I look forward to reading more of the “Scheming Spires Mysteries”. If you enjoy a good mystery with an amateur detective that is entertaining and easy to read, you will enjoy Scones and Scoundrels by Charlotte Graham.

I did receive a free Advance Reader Copy of this story in exchange for my honest review. However I was under no obligation to write this review, and this review is my honest opinion of the book.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Woman in the Strappy, Green Heels

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Miles Bradford, oldest son of the Duke of Chellingham, straightened his tie and put on his suit coat. Satisfied with his appearance, he stepped into the hallway and moved to the top of the stairs. He paused and pulled the slip of paper from his pocket once more. He read the intriguing message again, Avoid the woman in the strappy, green heels at all costs. There was no signature on the note and he didn’t recognize the handwriting.

His curiosity piqued, he determined to find the woman with the strappy, green heels. At the bottom of the stairs, he strode down the polished floor to the large double doors that now stood open. He stepped through the doorway into a large room filled with aristocrats dressed in their finest for tonight’s festivities – a coming out party for his sister and his cousin. There were to be some other very eligible young ladies present as well, and he would be looking for one he found pleasant company.

His mother had just quieted the room and all eyes were on her as she announced, “Welcome to our home for tonight’s ball. Please do enjoy yourselves. Let the first dance begin.”

The music began and gentlemen chose partners and moved to the center of the floor. Not knowing exactly what strappy, green heels were, Miles anticipated a challenge. However, with most of the ladies wearing long gowns, it could prove to be a bit complicated. He noted he’d caught the attention of several young ladies, and he moved to seek one as a dance partner.

As he danced with one woman after another, he looked down at their feet each time they took a step, in hopes of glimpsing their footwear.

“Is something wrong Miles?” Madeline Webster, daughter of a count, asked.

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You have yet to look upon my face. I had heard you were an accomplished dancer, yet you keep watching your feet.”

“I beg your forgiveness, Madeline. I’m just a bit distracted this evening.”

“Are you looking for someone in particular?”

“No. No. I am sorry. You shall have my full attention for the duration of this dance. By the way, did I tell you that you look lovely this evening?”

Madeline smiled. “I really didn’t think I was your type Miles.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Well, do you tell every lady you dance with that she looks lovely? My mother always says that’s a flirtatious line and I should expect to be called upon by a man who utters such a line.”

Heat crept into Miles’s face. “Well, I … I certainly didn’t mean to sound flirtatious. Again I must beg your forgiveness.” This dance seemed much longer than the previous ones.

Madeline chuckled. “I do believe I’ve unnerved you. Does that mean that I was right? I am not your type and you will not come to call?”

The music ended.

“I beg your pardon Madeline, but I’m afraid this conversation has me a bit befuddled. I was simply trying to make polite conversation. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course Miles. Think nothing of it. I won’t be offended when you don’t come to call. I simply enjoyed making you squirm a little.”

Miles strode toward the exterior doors to the ballroom, needing some fresh air. He stepped onto the veranda and inhaled deeply. He moved to the short wall of the porch and looked out on the garden.

He heard the sound of someone clearing their throat to his right. He turned his head and found a delicate-looking woman perched upon the veranda wall.

He looked toward her feet, and because of her position on the wall, he noticed a green shoe upon her delicate foot, held on by tiny straps, and the portion of the shoe beneath the heel of her foot was quite a bit longer than the rest of the sole of the shoe. Those must be strappy, green heels.

When Miles looked at the woman’s face, she was smiling at him.

“Clarice?”

“Hello Miles. Avoid the woman in the strappy, green heels at all costs.”

“But how did you…? Why did…?”

Clarice laughed out loud. “Why Miles, I’ve never seen you at a loss for words before.”

“My sister has something to do with this, doesn’t she?”

“When we talked about what we would wear tonight, it was her idea to write those words. I wrote the note, and Victoria made sure you’d find it.”

“But, why?”

Clarice quirked an eyebrow at him. She rose and moved closer to him. “Isn’t obvious? I’ve been trying to get your attention for years, but all you ever saw me as was your little sister’s best friend. You never took me seriously, and Victoria and I both knew if you were told to avoid someone, that would be whom you would seek.”

“What exactly are you saying?” Miles tugged at the tie around his neck.

“I’m saying that I want you to come to call on me. You could do much worse than the daughter of an earl. Have you ever taken notice of me?” She was standing right in front of him now.

Miles looked at her, and for the first time saw a grown woman instead of his little sister’s playmate. Clarice had emerald green eyes, greener than her shoes. The green of her gown made her eyes sparkle, and a green silk ribbon was woven in her long, wavy blonde hair, holding it up off her shoulders. He’d never noticed how beautiful she was until this moment.

“Miles?”

“No, I mean yes. Okay, no, I never noticed you as anything but my little sister’s playmate until this minute.”

“And now?”

“Your beauty is exquisite. I shall come to call. As you say, I could do much worse than the daughter of an earl.” He grinned and Clarice grinned back.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by [Lisa Wingate]

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a story that tells two stories, one from the past, and one from the present and connects the two. It is a historical fiction story.

The historical story line is set in 1939 United States. It tells the fictional story of a family that lives in a shantyboat on the Mississippi River. It’s a sad and tragic tale that, sadly, many people experienced in reality–their children wrenched from their homes and families and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, where they must face many cruelties. I was completely unaware of this orphanage and the cruel woman, Georgia Tann, who was behind it all. It is a heart-wrenching story, and I was appalled at how cruel Georgia Tann could be and how long she got away with destroying the lives of so many innocent children.

The modern day story line was set in Aiken, South Carolina and centered around a well-to-do family involved in politics. The main character in this story line was Avery Stafford, who was set to be married until she meets an elderly lady in a care facility who awakens uncomfortable questions in Avery’s mind and sets her on a journey to uncover her family’s long-hidden past.

The story of the Foss children living in the shantyboat captured my attention right from the start and the children captured my heart. Never having lived near water, learning about their life on the river and the river community was interesting and enjoyable. Ms. Wingate painted pictures in my mind of the Foss family, their neighbors, and their life. The story line of Rill, her parents, and siblings held me captive throughout the book as my heart ached for a happy ending for them.

Avery’s story, on the other hand, took me a while to get caught up in. At first I considered skipping the chapters about Avery to remain immersed in the story of Rill and her siblings, but I didn’t want to miss out on any of the connections between the two stories, so I continued to read about Avery as well. After about the third chapter about Avery, I finally began to be more interested in Avery’s life as well, and so continued to read, both to find out what would happen to Rill and her siblings, as well as how they were connected to Avery’s family.

Before We Were Yours was a slower read for me because it was very different than what I normally read, but it was written in a way that, even though it was slower, I didn’t want to abandon it. I was both appalled and fascinated by the true history of the story and so thankful that orphanages like the Tennessee Children’s Home Society are no longer allowed to function in the United States today. As someone who loves history and loves to learn, I found this book definitely worth reading.

If you are interested in history and enjoy learning about different time periods and the lives of people in those times, I recommend Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, and if you are like me, it will make you laugh and cry, and Rill and her siblings will find a permanent place in your heart.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: A Life Fulfilled

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A Life Fulfilled

by Kelly F. Barr

Sunlight prodded her eyelids, pleading with Clara to wake up. She groaned and pulled the blanket over her head. She moved her right hand to the other side of the bed. It was cold … empty, and suddenly the bed didn’t seem so comfortable. She pushed the blanket to her waist and sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and slipped her feet into her pink fuzzy slippers. She grabbed the pink terrycloth robe from the foot of the bed, stood, and put it on.

Clara shuffled to the kitchen. She stopped in the doorway remembering breakfasts of pancakes and sausage or french toast and scrambled eggs. There wasn’t any point in making so much for herself. She tottered into the room and turned the burner on beneath the teapot, put two slices of bread into the toaster, then pulled the jar of peanut butter from the cupboard and withdrew a knife from the drawer. Clara put a scoop of her favorite loose-leaf tea into her tea strainer in her pretty teacup with sprigs of lavender painted upon it. When the toast popped, she placed it on a plate and covered each slice with the nutty spread. The teapot whistled and she poured hot water into her cup covering the strainer. She carried the plate of toast to the little table by the window.

As Clara stepped across the kitchen to the counter to retrieve her tea, the telephone rang.

“Hello.”

“Mom, how are you doing?”

The sound of her son’s voice brought a smile to her lips. They spoke a few minutes—she assuring him she was fine, and he tossing more questions at her until he was convinced. He promised that as soon as the boys’ baseball season ended, they would drive down for a visit, then they ended the call.

She turned on the old radio on the counter on the opposite side of the room, wobbled over and dumped some of the tea in the sink so she could add hot water from the pot and a teaspoon of sugar. She ate her toast while Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin took her back to a happier time.

After cleaning up the few kitchen items, she picked up the phone and made a call. The lawyer on the other end had handled things so well for her in the past. She sought his assurance that all was in order, and he assured her it was. She thanked him and hung up the phone.

She returned to her bedroom and put on her gardening clothes: a pair of green clam diggers a little worn in the knees and a faded pink blouse. She slipped on a pair of socks and her old brown penny loafers, grabbed her wide-brimmed straw hat and plopped it on her head. She stopped in the mudroom and grabbed a pair of garden gloves and the little plastic bucket with her spade and hand rake and stepped out the front door. She eased herself down the two steps, then onto her knees on the lawn in front of the flower bed and set herself to weeding.

The sun beat down on her. She wiped the back of a wrist across her sweaty brow and licked her parched lips. She finished the weeding and stood up slowly. She paused a moment, then carried the little bucket of tools back into the house, placed it on the shelf in the mudroom and shuffled to her bedroom.

After returning the hat and shoes to the closet, she pulled out clean clothes and plodded to the bathroom. She turned on the shower and stood under the refreshing flow, then lathered up a washcloth and scrubbed herself clean. She stepped out of the shower, toweled herself off and dressed, then moved to the living room.

Clara sat in her favorite chair and pulled out the crochet project she’d been working on. She continued crocheting until the blanket was finished. She rose from her chair and wobbled to her bedroom, placed the blanket in a box and wrapped it. Then she wrote “Kendra” on a little tag and taped it to the top.

As she placed the box in her closet, her telephone rang. This time it was her daughter. They spoke for a few minutes, then her daughter let the three girls take turns talking to their grandmother. The girls told her about all the activities they were involved in. Clara grew weary just listening to it all. They were too busy to come for a visit.

Clara returned to the kitchen for another cup of tea. This time she took it to the living room, set it on the coffee table, and dropped onto the sofa. She withdrew a photo album from beneath the table next to her and paged through it. She was blessed with so many happy memories, but when she came upon a photo of Harold, she ran her fingers over it and a tear slipped from her eye. She closed the book, rose, and moved to look out the front window.

Jasmine’s car wasn’t in the driveway across the street. Clara frowned. That poor girl worked so hard for her babies.

Clara tottered to the kitchen. She busied herself making chicken noodle soup. As the soup simmered, she baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When the food was ready, she peeked out the front window once again. Still no sign of Jasmine. She returned to the kitchen to take care of the clean up.

When the kitchen was restored to order, Jasmine’s car was finally home. Clara took the pot of soup and the plate of cookies and placed them in a box. She lifted the box carefully and padded over to Jasmine’s house. Jasmine opened the door looking quite tired. She smiled and showered Clara with thanks for her generosity and kindness.

The sun was setting in the sky but Clara had one more place to go. She walked the block and a half to the cemetery. She moved between the headstones until she came to the one most familiar to her. She stopped and looked at the stone. “Well Harold, I think I’ll be seeing you soon. I miss you so much since you’ve gone. The children are fine, busy with their own families, jobs, and activities. I am a little concerned about Jasmine, but I trust the good Lord to help her.” She kissed the tips of two of her fingers and touched the top of the stone, then turned and strolled back home.

She sat in her favorite chair, placed her glasses on her face and her Bible in her lap. She read her favorite scriptures until her eyes grew tired. She placed her glasses upon the little table next to her and rested her head back against the chair. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply … then she died.

A New Look and a Few Changes

I hope that those of you who have been following my blog are still here and aren’t having any problems finding my posts. I have decided to change some things to transform it from a simple blog to a full website. That is why there are tabs at the top of the page that you can click on to navigate to what it is you are interested in, whether it is reading my blog posts, finding out “About” me, seeking my “Editing Services” or interested in having me read your book and write a review, or finding out more about writings I have published. It should all be easier to navigate.

In addition, I am working on cleaning up my categories as well. When I finish that, there will be no more than ten category choices for you to find particular posts you are interested in.

I also hope you noticed the change in the subtitle or quote of my website, which is now “A Story Without Love is Empty”. I came up with this quote and decided it fits my website and my writing very well, as I cannot seem to write any story, whether my novel-in-progress, or my flash fiction stories without including love in the story, whether it is a romantic love or love of another kind.

The one change I have decided to make as far as blog posts go, is that I will no longer be posting Tea and Poetry posts on Tuesdays. I really want my posts to be things my readers will look forward to seeing, and I want them to be relevant to the things I do: writing, editing, reading and reviewing books, and poetry is not something I believe I do well or am really comfortable writing. Therefore, beginning this coming Tuesday, the new Tuesday posts will be titled and under the category “Timeless Tuesdays” as the novel I am currently working on and those that will follow in the, hopefully near future, are historical romance stories. My “Timeless Tuesday” posts will be tidbits about the historical period, places, and other tidbits in regard to my upcoming novel. Monday posts will continue to be Book Reviews, Wednesdays will continue to be “Wordless Wednesdays” that feature my photographs of things that capture my eye when I get to be out and about, and Fridays will continue to feature my Flash Fictions stories which are usually more Contemporary Romance or Women’s Fiction, but in which I may also occasionally explore the YA Romance and Fantasy genres.

The last thing I want to mention, and hope you will look forward to, is that I will soon be creating an e-newsletter that you will be able to sign up for in order to receive special news, updates on my upcoming novel(s), Flash Fiction stories not posted on the blog, and occasional freebies.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

Before reading this book, I had heard a lot about it and then it became a movie and I saw previews. Based on what I heard and saw, I formed a presupposition and was afraid this book was going to be a book about race that was going to “bash white people”.

However, being a white woman with adopted black children, I have seen some of the prejudice, heard some of the racist comments, and gotten the “looks”. In all honesty, I also have fears and concerns in regard to the safety and welfare of my children depending on where they go. Also, being one who always does my best to keep an open mind and educates myself on cultural and world issues, I chose to read this book.

The Hate U Give is the debut novel of Angie Thomas and I have to say, it is an amazing story! She obviously knows what it’s like living in a black community as well as a mixed community.

She created such realistic characters and she did an excellent job of showing the struggles they face. She showed the family relationships and dysfunction.

But it wasn’t just a book about “blacks vs. whites”. She also showed how blacks and whites can get along and care about one another. She showed that not ALL people of any one race hate ALL people of another race. She also showed the prejudice some people don’t even realize they have.

Yes, this book is about a horrible issue in our communities — an issue that needs to be resolved. She shows the trauma this issue causes — the heartache and pain, both emotionally and mentally.

This book is powerful and I think it should be read, studied, and discussed. This story broke my heart, but it also showed the love and enjoyment in family and friend relationships in addition to the disagreements and struggles.

This story shows why we need to STOP the HATE and why EVERY LIFE MATTERS!

If you are reading this review, I encourage and challenge you to read this book and take a hard look at how you view the lives of ALL PEOPLE in this world.