Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Vintage Ranch-Themed #Romance ALWAYS ON MY MIND by Andrea Downing

Always on My MindAlways on My Mind by Andrea Downing

3.5 stars

Always On My Mind is a vintage ranch-themed romance. Taking place in the 1970s, the first part of the story is set in Wyoming. Ranch owner Copper is fascinated by a young hippie girl that he meets at a dance in town. She’s traveling with some friends but is not particularly happy, and Cooper offers her a place to stay.

Cassie grew up in Boston and knows very little about farming, but she is happy keeping house for Cooper. However, many local people disapprove of them living together as an unmarried couple.

Part two takes place in San Francisco.  Cassie has left Cooper and makes a new home in a city which embraces change. Although Cassie chose to leave Cooper, he’s often in her thoughts; back in Wyoming, Copper is devastated by her departure.

This is a sweet romance which considers the relationship challenges that people faced in the 1970s, an era which brought hippies, the feminist movement, and the war in Vietnam.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

1972 – Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies.
Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.

Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop’s inability to express his feelings.

Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, “You were ‘always on my mind’?”

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #RomanticSuspense PIVOTAL DECISIONS by Reily Garrett

Pivotal Decisions (Moonlight and Murder, #2)Pivotal Decisions by Reily Garrett

4 stars

Pivotal Decisions is book two of the Moonlight And Murder romantic suspense series.

This story is set in the Florida Everglades and involves virtual reality gaming technology. The book opens with a gruesome murder scene; a man so lost inside the gaming world behind his goggles that he appears not to notice his legs have disappeared. But why is he sitting on a chair in the middle of a swamp and why did the predator take only his legs?

Augee knew his best friend Jinx was worried, so when he received an odd text asking him to meet Jinx at a strange location, he invited wildlife ranger Sabine along too. What they found was horrifying. Concerned that his past might misdirect the police investigation Augee asks his estranged brother for help. Coyote Waylin hadn’t been back to Florida for six years, but he’d always tried to put his family first, even if it meant hurting the ones that he loved.

I liked this story, particularly how the animal life of the area enhanced the murder thread; it made me shudder several times. While you don’t have to know much about virtual reality gaming to follow the narrative, its theme just gives the story a ‘current’ touch. There are a couple of romance threads, one that overlaps from book one and a new one for Coyote. We first met Coyote in the previous book and I already liked his manner and principles; it was good to see him as a main character in this story.

Although this book could be read alone, I believe it would be more enjoyable when read as part of the series. Ideal for those who enjoy a murder investigation and who don’t mind mixing it with a reptile or two.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

She carries a gun for a living…
but never expected to be a target.

Sabine’s early morning hike ends with discovering her friend sitting in a chair by the canal and gazing at the sunrise. Peace and serenity pervade, except, he’s dead.
To discover the how and why of his death, she must first survive the shrewd killer intent on removing human collateral and regaining lost technology.
Coyote Waylin hasn’t set foot in the Everglades for six years, not since the night he broke his brother’s jaw and saved his sister’s life. After receiving a desperate call from his sibling, he rushes south to untangle a web of murder and intrigue.
Together, Coyote and Sabine sort the snarled web of lies and deceit while struggling to maintain their personal space. Failure to thwart the ingenious killer could result in untraceable mass murders.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Na #Paranormal #Horror SINNER by @bchorpenning

Today’s team review is from Shelley, she blogs here https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelley has been reading SINNER by Blakely Chorpenning

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My Review:

I’m a sucker for a vampire story (no pun intended!), so when I spotted Sinner on the RBRT list I jumped at the chance to read it.

The book blurb assures us that the main character, Alice, is a vampire without a sire, but the books begins with her journey toward becoming a member of the undead. Wow! I can’t remember any other vampire book I’ve read going into such fabulous detail about the transition from human to vamp. It’s well written – I almost wrote well researched before remembering this is fiction, yes it’s that good!! You are pulled along the path of fear and terror as Alice throws up her internal organs and struggles to understand what’s happening.

Aside from the transformation, we all know to be developing there’s a dark menace that haunts our mc. Alice can’t be left in the dark, something is lurking in the darkness, and this pulls the reader between two distinct threats.

We get introduced to the first group of vampires who help Alice as much as she will allow. A quirky bunch of vampires with stories of their own. I liked them all, and was Team Gesick for most of the novel! Swiftly we’re torn from the sanctuary of this small group to the turmoil, excitement, and terror of Wolf and her group of less than orthodox vampires.

I didn’t like Wolf (Team Gesick all the way here), but Chorpenning has written a complex character which allows you to hate her yet still feel drawn to the dark side. You can understand why Alice is attracted to her world.

There are references to drugs and overdosing, cutting, addiction, and anxiety, but it’s beautifully done and managed. I like books and authors that don’t shy away from the tough topics, especially when writing for a young adult audience.

Sinner finishes off in a neat and tidy way while leaving a couple of threads for more stories in the series. Who is Pope, what hold does he have over the vampires? Will Alice do what she promised? These were a few of my unanswered questions (possibly to be answered in book 2), but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I look forward to reading more from this author.

I read and reviewed Sinner on behalf of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Book description

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” ~Oscar Wilde

SINNER IS A GRITTY, CAMPY RIDE THROUGH THE HEART OF OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DARKNESS.

Alice’s life is spiralling out of control. After an accident leads to a tainted blood transfusion, Alice descends into the supernatural world of vampires, addicted to blood, destined to sin. Only, that’s her second largest problem. The first might kill her for real.

With no sire or formal keeper, Alice is among the feral vampires, marked by white eyes and the ability to live without drinking blood, unless the cravings prevail. Caught between old rivals, Alice doesn’t know what she wants to be, a sinner or a saint. Wolf, an enigmatic firecracker, has the power to make Alice embrace her troubles as strengths, no matter if she is wicked or kind. But Gesick cools Alice’s anxiety, accepting the paranormal activity surrounding her presence.

Will Alice choose Wolf, a woman with little standing in her way, or Gesick, a man who knows a little something about temptation?

Triggers: Addiction/Overdose, Anxiety/OCD, Grief/Depression

(*Please remember that Alice & her world are fictional. Her actions aren’t to be emulated. She is, after all, a vampire.*)

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #CliFi SINGULARITY SYNDROME by Susan Kuchinskas #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas

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4.5 stars

‘Finder’ is back, complete with dog/bird chimera The Parrott, and human/baboon Altima, as he uncovers a venture capitalist’s plan to rule the world by AI, making humans compliant by means of a nutritional energy drink. The idea that AI could eventually overtake humans is one I’ve read a fair bit about, also that its integration with humans (Numans, in this book) could be the next stage in our evolution. I find this hellish in the extreme, and it makes me glad I was born when I was.

We don’t know exactly when the book is set, but I imagine it is probably in about a hundred years’ time; Finder mentions helicopters being used in the wars of ‘the last century’. The state of the planet (the Big Change) is revealed to be not only down to the slow deterioration of climate change, but another disaster. I enjoyed the plot, but what I liked reading about most about is Finder himself, a most engaging character, and the world-building elements. Although the story paints a grim picture of human life in the future, it is not without a certain light touch that I wouldn’t exactly call humour; it’s more pathos mixed with astute observations, and off-the-wall characters.

In this book we find out a bit more about Finder’s life when he was younger, including his real name; I like the way his character is slowly building, and I’d love to read more about what has happened between now and the time in which the book is set – more background.

Having read the notes at the back, I know Ms Kuchinskas is well-informed about her subject matter, and this is evident; it is imaginative, clever and extremely well-written.  I’d definitely recommend it to fans of ‘cli-fi’, but you should read Chimera Catalyst first. I liked this more than the first book, and hope there will be more!

Book description

All humans have a complex colony of microorganisms living in our guts. This microbiome influences our health, our thinking and our moods. If you can change someone’s microbiome, can you control their thoughts?

That’s the plan of Thom Elliott, a power-mad tech titan who wants to create a new world order where humanity is ruled by Sekai, the most powerful artificial intelligence ever created. His weapon is Glorp, a nutritional energy drink beloved by the tech community that secretly includes genetically engineered microbes to transform human gut flora.

Finder is a brilliant detective who hates people. He might agree with Elliott that an AI could do a better job of running the world. But when Finder’s own microbiome is contaminated with Elliott’s brew, it’s up to him and his chimera sidekicks to stop him.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery THE ALEXANDRITE by Dione Jones

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Alexandrite by Dione Jones

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I purchased the book for review as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team.

This book covers multiple generations of the titled Scawton family of England. The center of the story is the current Lady Scawton, Pamela, who discovers the body of a stranger in the woods near the family home of Ashly House.

Pamela represents perhaps the last generation of the English upper class raised to be waited on and respected for their title alone, but she is, in fact, rather down to earth. She endured years of emotional and psychological trauma at the hands of her husband, CJ, and her only son, Charles, now Lord Scawton, is as selfish and overbearing as her husband.

In the pocket of the stranger is a letter addressed to Lord Scawton and an odd stone, one which changes color from green to pink, depending on the light. Pamela has no idea why the stranger, who had come to England from New Zealand, wanted to see her husband, what the abbreviated letter means, nor the reason for the stone. Eventually, she, against the strong wishes of her son, travels to New Zealand to get answers. The stone, an alexandrite, mined in Tsarist Russia, gives its name to the book.

The book has numerous flashbacks to scenes involving the family and their servants during the two decades after WWI, and from Ashly House to New Zealand farmland. Pamela’s trip reveals how the flashbacks to events after WW I are woven into the present.

I enjoyed the book, but for me it was a long read, with a great deal of exposition and some confusion with the many characters in the various time lines and places and multiple points of view. A character list at the beginning of the book would have been helpful. The site transitions within chapters also created some difficulties for me as I struggled to identify and remember the characters.

That being said, the author does a wonderful job creating the main characters. I felt pity for Pamela having such a difficult married life, knowing she was trapped there, and having a son who treated her disrespectfully. She is such a good character that I wanted to shake her and tell her to stand up for herself. It was gratifying that eventually she did. Her son Charles, the butler Godfrey, Ginny, the daughter of Pamela’s friend Di Williams and Theodore Cook, the brother of the dead man and a shambling old wreck in and out of his memories, made strong impressions. I also liked the scenes set in New Zealand, where the author resides, especially the sheep shearing and Karekare Beach.

Another strong element for me was the description of the different roles of women set against the British class system, class conflicts and changing societal values.

This book had much to recommend, but the numerous characters and their relationships are  difficult to sort out through the various stories winding within the book.

Book description

Who is the stranger found dead in the woods, outside Pamela Lady Scawton’s family home? Why was he carrying a stone that changes colour and a threatening letter?
The quest leads from World War One to the present day and from an English village to New Zealand farmland, to discover how past events are intertwined with the present. To unravel the mystery Pamela is forced to confront truths that shatter her beliefs about her family and their place in the world.
The Alexandrite is a story of class conflict, hidden sins, and deceit.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror HIGHLAND COVE by @dylanjmorgan

Today’s team review is from Shelley, she blogs here https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelley has been reading Highland Cove by Dylan Morgan

HIGHLAND COVE: a ghost story by [Morgan, Dylan J.]

My Review:

I’m a massive fan of this author and waited (im)patiently for the release of Highland Cove. It didn’t disappoint, and I devoured this in two sittings.

The book starts with a throwback to sixty years ago, setting the scene and introducing us to the reason for most of the horror that follows. We are then swept into the present day and introduced to our five main characters as they begin an expedition to film a documentary in a deserted asylum on a Scottish island.

Character development is vital to any novel as the ‘cast’ are the most significant part of any story. However, in Highland Cove, Morgan’s storm becomes a pivotal main character. You can almost taste the electricity crackling in each thunderclap and bolt of lightning, and feel the rain on your face. The descriptive prose adds another layer to the fear as it builds to the crescendo.

There’s a twist I didn’t see coming (no spoilers here) that raised the bar on the horror of this story. I physically squirmed in a few places, and I’m relatively sure I won’t sleep for a week!

As with all of Morgan’s novels, this would transfer beautifully to the big screen, and as I was reading, I could easily picture the terror and fear these characters were going through. You get caught up in the panic and terror of Highland Cove as Morgan weaves current day with occasional flashbacks into old inmates of the asylum.

When you’re nearly at the end of the novel, you dare to hope, but Morgan has a knack of blindsiding you with another twist or two leaving you with a book that stays with you for days, if not weeks after finishing.

I can’t recommend this enough.

I received an ARC copy of Highland Cove from the author in exchange for an honest review via Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Book description

Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder.

The tales of ghostly appearances are said to be more fact than fiction, but no one has ever documented the phenomenon. Codie Jackson aims to change all that. Arriving from London with his small independent film crew, they plan to make a documentary that will forever change their lives.

But when one of the crew disappears, things begin to spiral out of control. A storm closes in to ravage the island, and in the darkness Highland Cove’s true horrors are revealed. Now lost within the institution’s labyrinthine corridors, Codie and his team realize that their nightmare is only just beginning.

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HIGHLAND COVE: a ghost story by [Morgan, Dylan J.]

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Dark #Fantasy HARBINGER by Colin Bellairs

Harbinger (The Harrows Book 1)Harbinger by C. F. Bellairs

3.5 stars

Harbinger is a dark fantasy tale set in a vast castle filled with members of the Harrow family. As each male descendant reaches the age of twenty-one he must compete against the Harrowlord; most perish. Willem is desperate to find a way to survive the ordeal, and his search for an answer takes him deep into the bowels of the building where horror awaits.

The setting has a medieval tone. The short chapters each begin with a secondary narrative in italics, the idea being to give some outside perspective to the castle setting, but each time I found it took me out of the central story for too long a period.

The writing style is beautifully atmospheric, elaborate and showed off the author’s extensive vocabulary, but I felt it suffered from being over-written. I found it hard to find the story hidden behind all the adjectives and adverbs; it seemed that he chose not to use three words if he could stretch each sentence out to ten, which slowed the plot. It’s a shame because the writing itself and the storyline are basically very good, but areas of tension were diluted by the wordiness.

There were several intriguing characters with historical stories and backgrounds that I was eager to learn about in lots more depth, but in order to do so I did rather feel as though I had to plough through so much that was unnecessarily descriptive.  I see this is his debut novel and the first in a series; I would advise seeking a professional manuscript assessor/editor’s point of view before publishing the next episode.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Born into a feared royal family, and a bastard son of the infamous and immortal Harrowlord, Willem Harrow has proudly limped his way through the halls of the Hiltkeep his entire life. Within polished stones that more resemble a giant’s broadsword than a true keep, lies are the building blocks of discussion… and ancient history bleeds into the present in more ways than Willem could imagine. This secrecy extends to the most pondered mystery that the Hiltkeep houses: the Harrowlord’s motivation for famously, and on every birthday without fail, challenging his 21-year-old sons to a brief but deadly duel.

Despite his unwavering respect for the Harrow name, Willem has ever been at odds with his father. However, it seems that may change when he’s entrusted with a special task: rooting out and beheading a traitor whose ideals he secretly embodies. But Willem’s desperate plans could easily crumble around him even as he questions the very history he was taught; at the precipice of his understanding, an ancient evil lingers, eager to flourish once more…

Harbinger is the first book in The Harrows Series, and C. F. Bellairs’ debut novel. This is a dark fantasy story with adult language and scenarios, and is not intended for children.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror Novella NIGHT SERVICE by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Night Service by John F. Leonard

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Some places don’t appear on any maps. Newgate Wood is one of them.

Luke and Jessica are travelling home after a date and make the wrong choice. They should have taken a taxi, instead they hop aboard the night bus. Big mistake. Surrounded by a cast of colourful characters they soon notice that the bus doesn’t stop again, in fact it only travels faster and faster into a night they no longer recognise.

What waits for them at the end is the hellish nightmare of Newgate Wood.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of Leonard’s books that I have read, and this is no exception. This is another short one, but it needs to be. The story races along leaving you breathless, but I loved the building terror for poor Luke, the atmospheric descriptions and this author’s writing.

Highly recommended for all who enjoy a darker read.

Book description

It’s been a great night, but it’s getting late. You need to make tracks and cash isn’t king.

No worries… all aboard the Night Service. It could be the last bus you ever catch.

Every journey is a journey into the unknown, but this trip is an eye-opener, unlike anything that Luke and Jessica have ever experienced. They’re going to learn a few important lessons. Being young and in love doesn’t grant immunity from the everyday awful… or the less ordinary evil that lurks in the shadows.

There’s no inoculation from the horror of the world – it’s real and it’s waiting to touch you.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Memoir MY LIFE IN HORSES by @JanRuthAuthor

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading My Life In Horses by Jan Ruth

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My Life in Horses is a memoir and as such was hugely nostalgic for me. So many memories of my own life with horses resurfaced with its reading. Although I have to say that Jan Ruth was, for the most part, riding in considerably more beautiful parts of the country than I.

Jan Ruth’s riding was done at numerous riding stables, a sad fact being that over the years more and more of these have changed to become livery yards and it makes you wonder where people without access to horses in the future will be able to learn.

This relatively short book is full of stories that will bring a smile to your face and Jan Ruth’s telling of them keeps you reading as she builds in settings and atmosphere. If you love horses or have had any sort of background with horses, you will love this read. If you don’t then read it anyway, you might discover what you’ve been missing out on!

Book description

This is the memoir of an ordinary horse-girl. Fifty years of riding schools, borrowed horses and long lost dreamscapes. Fifty years of a passion which has seen considerable changes from the gradual demise of the public riding school, to the loss of access to safe bridleways. But My Life in Horses is not filled with sad nostalgia, it’s also a kaleidoscope of hope and inspiration. From the dappled sunlit lanes of Cheshire to the rugged mountains of North Wales, and beyond.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Paranormal #Thriller Madam Tulip And The Serpent’s Tree by @DaveAhernWriter

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Madam Tulip And The Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern

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My Review: 5 stars out of 5

She’s baaaack! I can’t binge on the absolutely bingeworthy Madam Tulip series because I obsessively grab each new book the second I can get my hands on it. Then I make a bowl of popcorn, pour my annual Guinness, and head back to Ireland with some of my favorite fiction friends. As I said in my review of Book 3, they include the (attractive of course) young actress, Derry O’Donnell—permanently broke and scratching for the next job in the Dublin theater scene, consistently dating the wrong flavor-of-the-week, while waiting for The Big Break—and her alter ego Madam Tulip, celebrity psychic and fortune-teller. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.)

Derry’s supporting cast includes her mother Vanessa—successful American art gallery owner, artist’s agent, and force of nature. Vanessa is divorced from (but still agent to) Derry’s father, Jacko—famous Irish artist whose painting skills are second only to his ability to gamble (and lose) money. Then there are Derry’s acting friends, Bella (black, Belfast-born actress with catch-phrase ‘Say No to Negativity!’), and Bruce (gay ex-Navy Seal, actor, computer expert, and total eye-candy). [note: and in case you didn’t get the gay part, his remarkably prescient parents did, in fact, name him “Bruce”.]

In the team’s latest adventure, Derry is (as usual) caught between her ever-competing parents as her father Jacko prepares his tell-all, career-destroying autobiography while her mother Vanessa bemoans the inevitable loss of his career (and, of course, all those lovely commissions).

But Derry has bigger problems. Her uncomfortable relationship with alter ego Madam Tulip doesn’t stand a chance against her even more troubled bank balance when she accepts a gig as member of a rock star’s entourage. As usual, Madam Tulip has barely started telling her first fortune when murder attempts and accusations begin to pile up.

“Derry wondered if the source of her inspiration wasn’t her years spent in Ireland, where believing anybody’s motives are anything but self-serving, dishonest, and probably criminal was universally viewed as the sign of a half-wit.”

But two things are different this time. First, this is a darker adventure in every way. Events are already set in motion, but Madam Tulip’s very real gift is quick to shed light on a cauldron of seething motives. And second, unlike the past events where Derry was always aware that Madam Tulip was just another character she’s playing as an actor, this time she finds the character taking over. ‘This time, Madam Tulip felt more real than I did. As if she were acting me, like she was the one truly alive. Am I crazy?’

Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree has all the pieces I’ve loved so far. Derry and her friends’ backstory and characters continue to become more complex and rounded. Her parents continue to provide comic relief. The affectionate yet honest descriptions of Dublin and surrounding countryside are beautifully written.

New characters are introduced with author David Ahern’s usual brilliant descriptions, such as Pat Kelly, band manager and aspiring nightclub developer, “He was short and overweight, his pudgy face strongly tanned, like he spent long hours on a sunbed or had just returned from a winter vacation. His hair was black and curly, longer than fashionable. His clothes were youthful, obviously designer, though his socks were white and his shoes were black slip-ons, cheap-looking and too shiny. His shirt gaped over his belly, straining the buttons.” We probably know everything we need from just those white socks and too-shiny shoes.

As Derry has already discovered, interpreting Madam Tulip’s intuition isn’t an exact science. Take the serpent symbol, for example. Is it a warning, as it seems when Derry first sees a mysterious bracelet? Is it a symbol of the end of the world, as her Viking-loving new friend Nils tells her? Perhaps it’s part of the message from the tarot cards, or even an incomprehensible vision beckoning her to safety in her single moment of greatest danger? Derry never decides, and maybe we won’t know either.

For anyone who enjoys plenty of wisecracking banter, a cast of offbeat characters willing to risk their lives for each other—even if not in ways I could have predicted, as when Bruce brings Derry back from brink of hysteria by insisting she recite Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy—and a rollercoaster thriller plot, I can’t recommend this series enough.

And for you lucky ones who are not (yet) addicted, Madam Tulip predicts a treat in store for you: the first three books in her series are now available as a box set at special savings. What could you possibly be waiting for?

Book description

Actress Derry O’Donnell, moonlighting as fortune-teller Madam Tulip, finds herself in a famous pop singer’s entourage. But at the star’s glittering birthday party in the Dublin mountains, Derry finds a band riven by rivalries and feuds. Behind the trouble is a mysterious Russian guru, a shaman hated by everyone but the singer whose life she dominates.

When the shaman mysteriously disappears, suspicion threatens to tear the band apart. Was she victim or poisoner? Guilty or innocent? Dead or alive?

Two brilliant and beautiful musicians; an ambitious band manager with a shady past; a sax player entranced by Vikings–each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.

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